© MSC

Fisheries in transition

WWF works with retailers and seafood companies to responsibly source from fisheries that are certified according to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard.

WWF’s corporate partners can also support the advancement of their fisheries toward MSC certification through Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), or participate in a Fishery Conservation Project (FCP).

FIPs can open new market opportunities and help reduce the impact of fishing on our seas and oceans. They are particularly valuable in developing countries where small-to-medium scale fisheries are fishing under circumstances where there is very little governance.   

Fishery Improvement Projects

  • Use the power of the private sector and markets to incentivise positive changes toward sustainability in the fishery.
  • Include fishers/producers, non-governmental organisations, fishery managers, governments and members of the whole fish supply chain
  • Enable a fishery to reach the necessary sustainability requirements in order to enter full assessment for MSC certification. 

Fishery Conservation Projects

  • Focus on improving the environmental performance of a fishery and reducing key impacts on marine ecosystems
  • haven´t developed yet a strategy for improvement against full MSC standards. 

Key characteristics of a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP):

  • They draw upon market forces (e.g., suppliers, retailers, food service, fishing industry, etc.), to motivate fishery improvements;
  • They have a workplan with measurable indicators and an associated budget (i.e., FIP Action Plan);
  • There is explicit willingness from participants to make improvements (e.g., a signed memorandum of understanding, email correspondence stating a commitment, etc.);
  • There is willingness from participants to make investments required for improvements as outlined in the workplan and budget; and
  • There is a system for tracking progress.  

WWF´s Position Paper Fisheries in Transition can be downloaded here. 
	© Wetjens Dimmlich/WWF
WWF Brochure Fishery Improvement Projects
© Wetjens Dimmlich/WWF
WWF's Brochure Fishery Improvement Projects can be downloaded  here.
Atlantic cod
© Erling Svensen WWF

Increasing sustainability of Newfoundland cod

When WWF-Canada embarked on a Fishery Improvement Project to increase the sustainability of the Newfoundland and Labrador cod, the fishery had not yet met MSC certification standards. WWF partnered with the largest North American cod processing company Icewater Seafoods Inc. (Icewater) that supplies to EU retailers with a focus on those who have pledged to source only certified sustainable seafood.

The Newfoundland and Labrador cod FIP was a watershed moment in Newfoundland and Labrador’s rich fishing history. The FIP co-client group included all sectors of the fishing industry: WWF; Icewater, Ocean Choice International (OCI), Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union; Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture of Newfoundland and Labrador and Fisheries and Oceans of Canada.

The approach was collaborative and inclusive, with a high engagement of the stakeholders. In March 2014, close to the end of the FIP’s 3-year timeline, Icewater and OCI took the next step to securing the long term sustainability of this Atlantic cod stock by entering it into the MSC certification process.

The first Canadian Atlantic Cod from the Newfoundland fishery received MSC certification in March 2016.


WWF's three step approach for FIPs implemented

The Newfoundland and Labrador cod FIP followed WWF's three-step approach and successfully implemented three high priority work plan activities such as addressing the MSC principles:

1. the FIP catalysed the development of the first conservation strategy and rebuilding plan for any cod fishery in Canada

2. the FIP catalysed a collaborative inshore cod tagging programme to get a better understanding of exploitation rates and stock status;

3. the FIP led to a bycatch analysis that is currently underway.
Mahi mahi male and female fish species
© Molly Edmonds WWF US

Joining forces for sustainable mahi mahi

Ecuador is a global leader in the production of mahi mahi, a popular fish dish in the Americas, supplying many countries particularly the US.

In 2010, WWF, together with the Sub-Secretary of Fishery Resources (SRP) of Ecuador, the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives of Ecuador (FENACOPEC), the National Fisheries Institute (INP), Fresh fish Exporters Association (ASOEXPEBLA), and independent artisanal fishermen initiated a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) with the aim to prepare the fishery for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. 

An MSC pre-assessment of the country's mahi fisheries identified several areas for improvement, such as uncertainty of stock stats, a lack of a formal harvest strategy, a lack of bycatch data and poor management of the fishery. 

In February 2011, a National Fishery Improvement Action Plan (FIP) for the Conservation and Management of the mahi mahi Fishery was adopted in Ecuador. Several reviews of the FIP action plan took place between 2010 and 2015 which allowed to perform adaptive management measures. Latest progress includes the development of stock assessment methodologies and an international management regime to safeguard the future of mahi in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The fisheries authorities of Ecuador also officially ratified their support to the FIP and have taken a major approach with their counterparts in Peru, looking for cooperation agreements on science and management.

If all goes well, the fishery is expected to enter in the short term in a full MSC assessment. 

New Fishery Improvement Project launched in the Indian Ocean

  • A Memorandum of Understanding to launch a Fishery Improvement Project for the Indian Ocean was signed in October between the Republic of Seychelles, Republic of Mauritius, WWF; and industry represented by Princes Limited, Thai Union Europe, purse seine fleets and their association. The aim of the FIP is to meet the sustainability standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).  
    The FIP will cover catches of skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna from 40 French, Italian, Spanish, Mauritius, and Seychelles-flagged purse seine vessels. Read more here.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.

Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions
Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions