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MSC Inside Story: Developing World Program

Three people on a small boat off with video camera, of the coast of the Gambia
Cassie Leisk talks about the latest MSC film and how her team work with developing world fisheries to improve resource management and enhance welfare.
Marine Stewardship Council on May 14, 2014 - 3:37 pm in Developing World, Economic impact, Improving fisheries, Sustainable seafood
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Did you know the MSC has a dedicated developing world program? Recently the program came to the forefront of the organisation’s work with the production of its film Our Fisheries, our Future. The film follows three developing world fisheries as they discuss the importance of sustainability and how the MSC program is helping them improve the management of their resource, access to markets and enhance their economic welfare. The fisheries features lessons learned from a range of stakeholders involved with the fisheries, where they talk about the benefits and challenges of sustainability and MSC certification.

We asked engagement manager, Cassie Leisk about the making of the film.

Why make a film about the MSC in the developing world?  

The Developing World Program aims to ensure that the MSC program and benefits are accessible to all sustainable fisheries, regardless of size, or region. Through our experience working in developing countries, we’re able to identify challenges that might prevent fisheries from having access to the MSC program, and work on solutions to overcome them. One such challenge is the lack of awareness and understanding of the MSC program in developing countries. Our Fisheries, Our Future aims to increase that level of understanding by sharing the experiences of stakeholders engaged with developing world fisheries.

Tell us about the fisheries involved in the film

The film follows three developing world fisheries, one from each of the regions that we work with: Asia, Africa and Latin America. Each fishery has very different characteristics and is at a different stage of engagement, but it shows how they are all using the MSC Program to improve the environmental performance of their fishery and achieve certification.

What did you learn from making the film?

I learned first-hand just how important it is to secure a sustainable source of seafood for the people reliant on the resource for their income, livelihoods and food.

For instance, on our trip to meet fishers and people involved in the Maldives skipjack tuna fishery, I experienced a side to the Maldives that most tourists might not know exists.

Thinking about the Maldives usually conjures up images of  sea planes, huts in the middle of the sea and cocktails on the beach. There is in fact a whole different use of the atolls that make up one of the world’s largest island chains. As fishers return from their morning fishing trips, they retire to one of the 200 inhabited islands. This is where the fishers and their families live, so each island has its own school, pharmacy, café and infrastructure. The whole community is supported by fishing. Sustainability doesn’t just mean sustaining fish, but also sustaining people’s livelihoods, food security and ensuring they have a resource, now and for the future.

Do you have any good anecdotes from your trip?

When the Maldives fishers catch tuna by pole and line, it’s flung over the tops of their heads, landing on the deck behind. I quickly learned that the fish don’t always land quite where they should. One came hurtling towards me at terrifying speed while I watched from the top deck and the shock induced by this encounter meant I just threw the fish back into the sea, much to the fishers’ annoyance.

Image showing Maldivian fishermen pole and line fishing for tuna on a boat

Maldivian pole and line fishers catching tuna

So, aside from making films, what does the developing world team do?

The developing world program was set up to help promote equal access to global markets for sustainable seafood for all fisheries, regardless of size, scale, type, intensity (how much fishing goes on), or region.

Aside from regional offices, we have a small team based at our London headquarters who work hard to ensure that fisheries from developing countries can access the benefits of the MSC program.

Yemi is the manager of the Developing World program, a key project she led was MSC’s Speed and Cost review that ran in 2013. The goal of this review was to reduce the time, cost of complexity of the fisheries assessment process. While complexity and costs can be a constraint for any fishery seeking to engage in the MSC, this review was carried out with developing world and small-scale fisheries in mind.

I (Cassie) focus primarily on engagement with fisheries that don’t yet meet the MSC standard. We offer support to fisheries and Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIP) by providing training and through the development of tools that can help fisheries successfully improve towards MSC certification. We recently developed a new tool called the Benchmarking and Tracking tool (BMT). This tool benchmarks fisheries against the MSC and allows them to track progress as they improve towards certification.

Mandy coordinates the team’s communication material include the Developing World Program newsletter – CommunityCatch.  She provides support on a range of projects which include MSC’s Risk Based Framework (RBF). The RBF methodology was developed to allow fisheries that do not have extensive data to show that they meet the MSC standard.

Find out more about the MSC Developing World Program.

This is a translated and updated version of a post originally published on the MSC en France blog.

Header image © NASCOM

Marine Stewardship Council

Our mission is to use our ecolabel and fishery certification program to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognising 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.

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