In 2006, the late president of Polar Seafood, Kjeld Holmstrup, took the initiative of founding the association Sustainable Fisheries Greenland. Then, a small “club of idealists” developed to encompass all fishing activity and all processing plants in Greenland with the exclusive purpose of achieving sustainability certification of the fisheries. The standard chosen for certification efforts has been that of Marine Stewardship Council, MSC.
Greenlands authorities are well aware of the importance of avoiding overexploitation of the fish and shellfish stocks, and scientific research has always been a priority. Continued surveys, carried out by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, have provided for the longest time series of prawn stock monitoring in the North Atlantic ocean.
Although a small population with limited financial resources, decisions have been made by the Government of Greenland to follow up with extended benthic surveys of the fishing areas, aiming at monitoring possible damages by fishing gear, imposed on the fragile organisms of the sea bed, such as cold-water corals and sea sponges.
Funded by the fishing industry, such surveys have been carried out since 2012 by well reputed scientists of the Zoological Society of London. However from 2016, the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources is supposedly taking over to establish a Greenlandic benthic department.
Safeguarding of sustainable fishery will always be a process and not a static condition. With five species already fully certified (shrimp and lumpfish in Greenland; cod, haddock and saithe in the Barents Sea, Greenland halibut in pre-assessment and all other fisheries under strict scientific surveillance), we feel proud about the leading role we have played in the efforts of obtaining the MSC accreditation.
Facts about MSC:
- Founded in 1996 by WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and Unilever.
- International non-profit organisation which sets standards for sustainable fishing.
- Standards are based on FAO’s (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) “Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishery”.
- FAO: “The right to fish carries with it the obligation to do so in a responsible manner so as to ensure effective conservation and management of the living aquatic resources”.
The MSC standards are divided into three main principles:
* Principle 1: Sustainable fish stocks
The fishing activity must be at a level which is sustainable for the targeted fish population. Any certified fishery must operate so that fishing can continue indefinitely and is not overexploiting the resources.
* Principle 2: Minimising environmental impact
Fishing operations should be managed to maintain the structure, productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem on which the fishery depends.
* Principle 3: Effective fisheries management
- The fishery must meet all local, national and international laws and must have a management system in place to respond to changing circumstances and maintain sustainability.
- Currently (2019) there are 338 MSC certified fisheries worldwide. Another 87 are undergoing assessment to become certified.
- Close to 13% of the total harvest of wild-caught fish is MSC certified.
- More than 28,000 seafood products worldwide bear the blue MSC ecolabel.