Community support for sustainable fisheries – Finding the right message

Where is the value of demonstrating you are fishing sustainably if the message isn’t getting out to those who need to hear it the most? This ‘sustainability message’ is a core concept of how MSC influences change in global fisheries. With this in mind, MSC are heading up to Geraldton in mid-west WA to speak at the Goodness Sustainability and Innovation Festival to talk sustainable fishing and how healthy fisheries help support local communities.

For the past 15 years, the MSC has worked to help transform the fishing industry towards a more sustainable footing. It has done this through market based incentives and with increasing consumer recognition of sustainable fishing practices. To date, over 265 fisheries have achieved MSC certification equating to roughly 11% of global wild capture landings. When a fishery achieves MSC certification, we really need to sing from the rooftops to celebrate this achievement especially when you consider the journey the fishery has taken to meet this level of best practice. Getting that message out to the consumer is key in rewarding fisheries that have demonstrated their sustainability and for incentivising other fisheries to follow suit.

Fisheries outreach with the MSC is so much more than working wholly with fisheries and their respective markets. Speaking in Geraldton on the 21st August is just one example of how the MSC reaches out to inform interested marine stakeholders, foodies, supermarket shoppers, chefs and even our consumers of tomorrow, about the importance of sustainable fisheries and the responsibility we all have in driving environmental change through our purchasing power. Away from markets, MSC certification has also been used by fisheries to let their communities know that they are operating sustainably. The value of this ‘social licence to operate’ is again intrinsically linked to the message being effectively communicated to stakeholder groups.

Does a fast car make you a bad driver?

Fisheries science is a notoriously complex subject. When faced with a time-limited slot to talk about sustainable fishing, it is very unlikely that I’ll dive into the complex science which links to acronyms such as BMSY, FLIM and CPUE to sustainable fisheries. Instead, I’ll try to find an analogy which may help to get my point across. Something I’ve been thinking through is the assumption that if a fishery operates by trawl or longline (two heavily featured examples in sustainability discussions), they are immediately assumed to be unsustainable. This assumption is as simple as saying that because you own a fast car, you are immediately considered to be a bad driver. Instead, the discussion in both cases should focus on who’s driving the car/boat and what rules are in place to minimise the possibility of reckless driving/poor environmental stewardship.  An MSC assessment explores those rules and regulations to consider everything from ways in which a fishery reduces levels of bycatch through to ensuring the impact on the seabed are within scientifically acceptable limits.

The Goodness Festival’s four key values.

If you are in the Geraldton area over the 14th-24th August and are passionate on matters around sustainability, then get along to the Goodness Sustainability and Innovation Festival! The Future of Nature event ( is where MSC will be presenting on Friday afternoon. The focus for this symposium is on four key values for festival goers…

  1. Engagement
  2. Energy
  3. Enquiry
  4. Enjoyment

Believing in your own organisations mission and vision is both inspiring and motivational when waking up every morning to head to work. But by using the festivals core values to motivate and inspire others, I hope that festival goers can realise the power they have in driving fisheries and supply chains towards a more sustainable future through their purchasing decisions.

Matt Watson
MSC Oceania and SE Asia Fisheries Outreach Officer

Goodness Sustainability and Innovation Festival


2 thoughts on “Community support for sustainable fisheries – Finding the right message

  1. Regarding Mandurah crabs.I have just been to visit the estuary at heron Mandurah on my annual visit from the UK.I was horrified to see a large number of earth moving diggers and tractors and fuel tankers stored right on the edge of the estuary in a rural residential area.not only does this spoil the views from the estuary it must also be a major pollution hazard for the crabs ,fish,and birds.this is located on southern estuary road near the junction with old coast road.please give this matter your attention before the crabs in Mandurah are lost for ever.

  2. Hi Alan,

    MSC primarily looks at the fishing impact on the health of a marine ecosystem. However, if in the assessment process, the impacts of industrial activities was deemed to have an impact on the health of the fish stock beyond which reproductive capacity was limited, the fishery would not meet MSC requirements. It would therefore be in the best interest of the fishery for the appropriate authority to risk manage possible impacts of heavy industry on the fishery and marine ecosystem. MSC can not pre-empt industrial incidents but as the fishery operates within a RAMSAR site, the Peel Harvey Catchment Council ( would have an management plan for industrial land use around the Peel Harvey Estuary. Worth speaking with them.


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