/ ©: Oliver Lim

Sustainable Whitefish

Pollock, haddock, hoki, hake, cod, toothfish and orange roughy are all whitefish. Today, most commercially important whitefish stocks are overfished.

This is why we engage with fishing companies and the supply chain to transform whitefish fisheries into a sustainable, socially and economically viable business.
The widespread prevalence of whitefish around the planet, and the fact that some species like haddock and cod are among the ocean’s most formidable predators, make these fish a key component when it comes to the food chain.

However, most commercially important stocks are overfished. Some species could become commercially extinct if serious management measures are not implemented and enforced.
 
20-25% of the global whitefish catch comes from just 2 Arctic fisheries (source: WWF)

WWF approach

WWF commits to maintaining the whitefish population and growing it back to levels that have not been seen for several decades. Our work focuses on whitefish species in places such as the Arctic, the southern oceans and European waters. A core aspect of our work involves helping seafood companies adhere to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification scheme.
 

WWF Targets

2015: 25% of priority whitefish fisheries are either MSC-certified or seeking certification.
 
2020: priority populations of Alaska pollock, cod, hoki, orange roughy, toothfish and hake are MSC-certified, harvested without negative impact on the ecosystem and under implementation of a spatial area plan that protects vulnerable marine ecosystems.
 

Progress

45.9% of global whitefish is MSC-certified (June 2014).
WWF's priority whitefish species (Alaska pollock, cod, hoki, orange roughy, toothfish and hake) that carry the MSC label represent 35.4% of the global whitefish catch.

► Read more about how WWF works with the seafood industry
How can we move production to more sustainable practices? Find out about WWF's Market Transformation Initiative ►

Better Production for a Living Planet

 / ©: WWF

Markets and consumers today are more environmentally conscious. This is why the trawl industry pushed hard to obtain MSC certification for its target species, hake. The MSC label is very important to us as an exporter, so any issue that affects our accreditation is important.

Russell Hall, Trawling Division Manager, Sea Harvest Corporation

CASE STUDY: THE BIRD CONNECTION

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Terry Domico
Trawler net filled with hake.
© WWF-Canon / Terry Domico
The MSC-certified South African Hake Trawl Fishery shows that responsible fishing means more than maintaining healthy fish stocks.

The issue of seabirds getting caught up in fishing gear came to light when the South African Hake Trawl Fishery applied for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. A study found around 18,000 birds, including albatrosses, were being killed each year.

Reducing seabird mortality was a condition of the fishery’s MSC certification. Working with WWF and BirdLife, the industry reacted quickly to introduce measures to scare the birds away. As a result, what began as a voluntary initiative was incorporated into mandatory fishing permit regulations in 2006.

As it turns out, this was only the beginning of an ongoing process to reduce lethal bird interactions across the industry, and with government involvement.

► READ FULL CASE STUDY

CONTEXT

Threats
  • Overfishing due to unfit catch limits and illegal fishing;
  • Fishing down the food web;
  • Habitat destruction through use of unsustainable fishing gear;
  • Subsidies to increase vessel capacity and failure to set science-based catch quotas and recovery plans;
  • Wasteful discards and bycatch of marine birds and other mammal species.

Opportunities
Good management and responsible behaviour can result in:
  • Sustainable fishing quotas;
  • Reduced bycatch and discards;
  • Supportive legislation, effective monitoring and control;
  • Habitats and species protection;
  • Sustainable sourcing through credible MSC certification.

Be part of the solution

► Fish traders, processors, and retailers can stimulate more transparency in fisheries by selectively buying seafood products from fisheries with low or no bycatch, and that have been certified according to the standards of the MSC.

Consumers can search for MSC-certified products to find seafood caught and/or processed by companies that have taken steps to reduce their negative impacts on the marine environment.
  •  / ©: MSC
    The Marine Stewardship Council exists to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognizing and rewarding sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood, and working with our partners to transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis. msc.org

Priority Countries

  • Production
    Argentina, Chile, Canada, European Union, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, South Africa, USA, China.

    Markets
    European Union (Germany, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom), Canada, Japan, Norway and USA.

    Present focal regions
    Southern Africa (South Africa and Namibia), Latin America (Chile, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay) Arctic Seas (Russia, Norway, USA), North Atlantic (Canada, EU), New Zealand.

Trends

  • Demand drivers
    Income, population, consumption

    Future focus for success
    In the coming years MSC's whitefish work will focus on China, Japan, South Africa, Namibia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Russia, and Peru.

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