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The Ocean Stewardship Fund aims to increase the number of sustainable fisheries around the world.

MSC Funds Ocean Projects to Tackle Ghost Gear and Protect Threatened Species

  (UNITED KINGDOM, 5/6/2020)

Grants totalling more than GBP  650,000 (USD 808,700) have been awarded to fisheries and research projects working to protect oceans and safeguard seafood supplies.  

Fifteen fisheries and research projects around the world will receive up to GBP 50,000 (usd 62,000) each from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)’s Ocean Stewardship Fund. The inaugural awards include grants to Zoological Society of London, WWF South Africa and BirdLife South Africa and to fisheries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. 

The MSC’s certification and eco-labelling programme recognises and rewards sustainable fisheries and incentivises improvements in the way our oceans are being fished. Through the leadership of its partners, MSC is dedicated to ending overfishing and to increase the number of sustainable fisheries around the world.  

The Ocean Stewardship Fund grants in 2020 focus on reducing impacts on threatened species and tackling abandoned fishing gear, known as ‘ghost gear’.  

The Red Lobster fishery in Baja California is one of two fisheries receiving funding in conjunction with conservation organisation Pronatura Noroeste.

This initial round of funding is supporting seven scientific research projects looking into reducing the impacts of fishing on endangered, threatened and protected species. The ecological data gathered will improve understanding of some of the world’s most vulnerable habitats and species.    


A project run by the University of Windsor, for example, will look at measures to protect the world’s longest living vertebrate, the Greenland shark. Other projects include trialling a smartphone app to register the movement of threatened species; testing electronic monitoring devices to mitigate seabird interaction; and protecting coral reefs from ‘ghost gear’.  

Eight fisheries at different stages of sustainability will also receive funding. They include fisheries in the early stages of improving their sustainability – particularly those in the Global South – as well as fisheries that have already achieved MSC certification.  

Six of the awardee fisheries are part of the Dutch Postcode Lottery funded Fish for Good project which supports fisheries in Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa in improving their fishing practices. It is anticipated that future rounds of OSF funding will enable more fisheries that demonstrate a commitment to work towards achieving MSC certification to be eligible to apply for funding.


Around Greenland, trawlers moving into new habitats could pose a threat to the seabed floor if they do not have accurate data. The ZSL research will help to better inform fisheries of their overlap with these sensitive habitats.

MSC Chief Executive, Rupert Howes, said: “We are living through extraordinary times as the world reacts and responds to the health and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The need for humanity to maintain and enhance global food security for all has never been more apparent or acute.  

“The global fishing industry plays a critical role in this endeavour and we recognise the ongoing commitments made by fishers and retailers continuing to provide sustainable seafood to consumers despite the enormity of the challenges they are currently facing. 

“Congratulations to the awardees of the first round of the Ocean Stewardship Fund. We hope this fund can play a small part in catalysing further improvements in the way our oceans are being fished. The learning from these individual projects will be available to the sector more broadly and we hope this knowledge will further contribute to enhancing efforts at scale to restore ocean health and maintain food security.” 

The Ocean Stewardship Fund is dedicated to accelerating progress in sustainable fishing and contributes towards the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water. 


The mussel fishery is situated in Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape. It uses raft growing techniques to grow and harvest mussel spat (juvenile oysters) from the wild. The two mussels species are the indigenous black mussel (Chloromytilus meridionalis) and the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis).


Ocean Stewardship Fund awardees 2020 

1. Innovative methods reducing seabird bycatch             

BirdLife South Africa and the South African hake trawl fleet, £49,949. Research aims to develop bespoke bird mitigation plans using bird barriers, structural alterations, and the installation of electronic monitoring devices to monitor bird bycatch. Click here to read more.

2. Mapping Greenland's deep seabed         

ZSL (Zoological Society of London) ZSL, and Greenland halibut and prawn fisheries, £49,788. Climate change is driving fish stocks north requiring fisheries to adapt to new marine environments. This research aims to gather greater ecological information about vulnerable marine ecosystems living in the deep-sea around West Greenland. Click here to read more

3. Smartphone apps to identify protected species     

VisNed and Joint Demersal Fisheries, £50,000. A smartphone app (Mofi) currently tracks fisheries movements. It now intends to register endangered, threatened and protected species data, support photography uploads and will also be multilingual. Click here to read more.


The Greenland shark is a top predator that grows up to five metres and live for hundreds of years. This makes it especially vulnerable to accidental catch by fishers.


4. Saving the world's longest living vertebrate from bycatch -the Greenland shark


University of Windsor and the Greenland Halibut Fishery, £50,000. The Greenland shark is a common bycatch species in the northern hemisphere and this research will quantify mortality through tagging, explore fishing practices to reduce bycatch and develop best handling and safe release protocols. Click here to read more.


5. Do skate cut-off and release practices promote survival?

Fondation d’Enterprises des Mers Australes (FEMA) and the SARPC Toothfish Fishery, £27,000. Bycatch of elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and skates) is still a major problem for fisheries. This research will focus on improving knowledge of skate ecology, population sizes as well as understanding whether cut-off practice is promoting survival of skates. Click here to read more.


6. Trailblazing partnership set to upskill fishers 

Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority with Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Poole Harbour Clam and Cockle Fishery, £21,056. In a partnership bringing fishers and conservationists together, their project aims to reduce impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species by widening fishers’ species identification skills, submit recordings of interactions with species and habitats.  Click here to read more.

7. Growing sustainability in tuna fishing 

Echebastar Fleet SLU and Echebastar Purse Seine Skipjack Tuna Fishery, £49,980. Lost drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), also known as ghost gear, can cause issues for marine ecosystems. To better understand the impact silky sharks will be tagged and monitored. Part of the fund is designated to further support the FAD Watch initiative in the Seychelles to intercept lost FADs. Click here to read more.

The MSC certified Echebastar fishery targets skipjack tuna in the Indian Ocean.

8. Mexican lobster fishery with global mindset for sustainability

Pronatura Noroeste and the West Coast Mexico Red Lobster Fishery, £50,000. The fund will assist to transition the northern stock of the red lobster fishery to becoming MSC certified by developing a harvest strategy, measuring the impact on primary species used as bait, investigations around possible shark finning and threatened species impacts, among many other pledges.  Click here to read more.

9. Stock health of the nortwest Mexican red sea urchin

Pronatura Noroeste and the Pacific Red Sea Urchin Fishery, £50,000. The fund will assist to transition the red sea urchin fishery to becoming MSC certified by improving modelling and monitoring of stock assessment, implementing habitat recovery actions and establishing working committees to implement tasks and grow capacity.  Click here to read more.

10. Strengthening sustainability of wild mussel harvesting 

WWF South Africa and the Rope Grown Mussel Fishery, £49,993. The fund will assist to transition the rope grown mussel fishery to becoming MSC certified by developing ETP management strategies, monitoring risks and devising a biofouling management disposal strategy to minimise ecosystem impacts.  Click here to read more.

11.  Securing a future for Indonesian communities and tuna fishing 

International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) and the Kendari Pole and Line Skipjack and Yellowfin Fishery, £49,980. The fund will assist to transition the pole and line tuna fishery to becoming MSC certified by improving transparency of the Indonesian tuna supply chain, improving market demand and access for sustainable tuna fisheries by demonstrating the benefits well-managed fisheries can have to the livelihoods of coastal communities. Click here to read more.


Indonesia has a long tradition of catching tuna using pole and line methods, where fish are caught one at a time. The method is regarded as one of the most ecologically and socially responsible methods of harvesting wild tuna.


12. Making traditional fishing methods sustainable   


International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) and the Kendari Handline Yellowfin Fishery, £50,000. The fund will assist to transition the pole and line tuna fishery to becoming MSC certified by supporting national ambitions and efforts. This project aims to promote industry best practice and support advances in national and regional sustainable management measures. Click here to read more.


13. Maintaining South African albacore tuna stocks 

WWF South Africa and the Albacore Tuna Pole and Line Fishery, £50,000. The fund will assist to transition the albacore tuna pole and line fishery to becoming MSC certified by developing well defined Harvest Control Rules – that is actions to changes in management in response to stock status and training fishers in species identification, develop a system to collect at-sea catch information and strategies to minimise impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species. Click here to read more.

14. Rewarding long-term sustainability commitmens


Pacific hake midwater trawl fishery Grants totalling more than £650,000 have been awarded to fisheries and research projects working to protect oceans and safeguard seafood supplies. Click here to read more.


15. Canada Scotian Shelf northern prawn trawl


Client group members: Association of Seafood Producers IncL’Association coopérative des pêcheurs de l'Île (ACPI) and Northsyde Processing Ltd



About The Marine Stewardship Council


The Marine Stewardship Council  (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation. MSC's vision is for the world’s oceans to be teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations.  The ecolabel and certification program recognizes and rewards sustainable fishing practices and is helping create a more sustainable seafood market. The MSC ecolabel on a seafood product means that: it comes from a wild-catch fishery which has been independently certified to the MSC’s science-based standard for environmentally sustainable fishing and it is fully traceable to a sustainable source.          


Currently, 395 fisheries in 36 countries are certified to the MSC Fishery Standard. 


Source: MSC

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