Public Release: 

New DNA results answer consumers' demand for trust in seafood

Marine Stewardship Council

Washington - More than 99 percent* of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) ecolabeled products are correctly labeled, according to DNA test results released by the MSC today. By comparison, Oceana's nationwide survey in 2013 found one-third (33 percent) of U.S. seafood samples genetically analyzed were mislabeled. In 2015, the MSC commissioned the Wildlife DNA Forensics unit at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) to conduct DNA tests on a random sample of 257 MSC ecolabeled seafood products from 16 countries. The test verifies that the species described on the packaging is the same as that in the product.

Two-thirds (67 percent) of U.S. seafood consumers say they want to know that their fish can be traced back to a known and trusted source, with 58 percent saying they look to ecolabels as a trusted source of information. Globally, 55 percent doubt that the seafood they consume is what it says on the package. These findings are from the MSC's latest survey of more than 16,000 seafood consumers across 21 countries.

Commenting on the results, Brian Perkins, MSC Regional Director - Americas, said, "The MSC's DNA results prove you can trust that seafood sold with the blue MSC ecolabel really is what the package says it is and can be traced from ocean to plate. Last month, the U.S. government announced proposed rules that would require tracking to combat illegal fishing and fraud. Many businesses are left wondering whether they're selling seafood that was produced legally and sustainably. MSC certification means consumers and businesses can be confident that MSC ecolabeled fish has been caught legally and can be traced back to a sustainable source."

The latest round of DNA testing is the fifth to be commissioned by the MSC. Previous results also showed very little mislabeling of MSC ecolabeled seafood. The MSC's DNA testing program and results are captured in a new report, Ocean to plate: How DNA testing helps to ensure traceable sustainable seafood.

MSC ecolabeled fish is sold and processed by certified organizations operating in more than 38,000 sites in over 100 countries. Fishers, processors, retailers and chefs handling MSC certified seafood must follow strict requirements to ensure that seafood is traceable and correctly labeled. The MSC Chain of Custody Standard is used by leading brands in driving awareness and consumer education on sustainable seafood such as Whole Foods Market, McDonald's and IKEA to ensure the integrity of the products they sell.

Carrie Brownstein, seafood quality standards coordinator for Whole Foods Market said: "Traceability is a critical part of bringing sustainably-caught and responsibly-farmed seafood to Whole Foods Market stores. We have rigorous quality standards and labeling requirements, so tracking our products through the supply chain gives us the assurance that each item comes from sources that truly meet those standards. At the end of the day, traceability helps build customer trust and provides the information people need to make more informed choices."

Susan Forsell, Vice President, Sustainability, McDonald's USA said: "We know our customers care about where their food comes from, which is why McDonald's USA is proud to only serve fish sourced from a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fishery. This means that our customers can confidently know that the wild-caught, Alaska Pollock they enjoy on our Filet-O-Fish sandwich can be traced back to sustainably managed fisheries, direct from the pristine waters of Alaska."

All MSC certified seafood comes from fisheries which have been independently certified to the MSC's standard for sustainable fishing, widely recognized as the world's most credible and robust seafood sustainability certification.

There are now more than 20,000 MSC ecolabeled products available in 100 countries. To accompany the test findings, the MSC has released a new animation for consumers showing the journey of MSC certified seafood from ocean to plate.

Follow the conversation: #OceanToPlate.

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Notes for editors

* 99.6 percent were correctly labeled with 0.4 percent mislabeled. Of 257 samples taken, one failed to yield a result after four attempts. One other sample, labeled as containing southern rock sole, was discovered to contain northern rock sole. The species are very similar and both are MSC certified. A full investigation found errors with documentation in the supply chain. Actions have now been taken to ensure that this error does not reoccur.

Research figures were provided by independent research and evidence-led insights company, GlobeScan. The total sample size was 16,876 consumers who said they or someone in their household had purchased fish or seafood in the last two months. Respondents came from representative samples in 21 countries: Australia; Austria; Belgium; Canada; China; Denmark; France; Finland; Germany; Italy; Japan; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Singapore; South Africa; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; UK and USA. The survey was carried out online between January and February 2016. The figures have been weighted equally in each country and are representative of all fish consumers in the countries surveyed.

About the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organization. Our vision is for the world's oceans to be teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations. Our ecolabel and certification program recognizes and rewards sustainable fishing practices and is helping create a more sustainable seafood market.

he blue MSC label 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.
  • It's fully traceable to a sustainable source.

More than 280 fisheries in over 35 countries are certified to the MSC's Standard. These fisheries have a combined annual seafood production of almost nine million metric tons, representing close to 10 percent of annual global yields. Over 20,000 seafood products worldwide carry the blue MSC label. For more information visit www.msc.org.

About GlobeScan

GlobeScan is an evidence-led strategy consultancy focused on stakeholder intelligence and engagement. GlobeScan provides global organizations with evidence-based insights to help them set strategy and shape their communications. Companies, multilateral institutions, governments and NGOs trust GlobeScan for its unique expertise across reputation management, sustainability and stakeholder relations.

GlobeScan conducts research in over 90 countries and is a signatory to the UN Global Compact. Established in 1987, GlobeScan is an independent, management-owned company with offices in Cape Town, London, San Francisco, Sao Paulo and Toronto. For more information, please visit www.GlobeScan.com

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