Fresh Seafood Trends:<br />MSC Ecolabel Evolves

In a bid to make it easier for eco-conscious consumers to choose seafood from sustainably harvested, well-managed fisheries, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has overhauled its ecolabel, which now prominently features the words “Certified Sustainable Seafood.”

During extensive work with global ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi (which is working with MSC on a pro bono basis for marketing and communications), the 14-month process has involved research with consumers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, and extensive consultation with MSC partners and stakeholders around the world.

While the label change is slight, it provides significant benefit to partners with the addition of the critical “Certified Sustainable Seafood” text alongside the blue oval with fish check mark while further allowing more flexibility in the ecolabel’s application. What’s more, the new design clarifies that the MSC ecolabel indicates independent, third-party verification that the product comes from a sustainable fishery, which has been shown to add value by benefitting MSC partners’ sustainability credentials.

Designed to minimize costs, MSC — the London-based international nonprofit organization established to promote solutions to the problem of overfishing — says the new and improved ecolabel, available in two design options, requires no additional space on packaging and materials. Further, in seeking to minimize inconvenience by the change, and help retailers and suppliers avoid unnecessary costs, the rollout plan for the new MSC ecolabel will be done on a gradual basis, which will likely mean that there will be two MSC ecolabels in the marketplace for two or more years. However, because the new ecolabel is an evolution of the current version, the similarity to the existing ecolabel will prevent customer confusion and avoid loss of sales or recognition in the market.

While the new design includes additional text next to the existing blue oval, MSC is not asking partners to print the oval in the same size they do now. The minimum size requirement will ensure the new ecolabel (including the text) will not require more print area on packaging or material than the current oval-only ecolabel.

The new ecolabel will be available in two formats: a landscape and a portrait version. Either version can be used, making it easier for designers to integrate the ecolabel into different materials, packaging designs and other formats.

Some 150 fisheries participate in the MSC program, with 50 certified and more than 100 under assessment. Another 40 to 50 fisheries are in confidential pre-assessment. Together, the fisheries record annual catches of more than 5 million tons of seafood. Of fish for human consumption, they represent more than 42 percent of the world’s wild salmon catch, 40 percent of the world’s prime whitefish catch and 18 percent of the world’s spiny lobster catch. Worldwide, more than 2,500 seafood products resulting from the certified fisheries bear the blue MSC ecolabel.

To help the transition go smoothly, MSC will use communication materials, including its Web site, to highlight the change to consumers and others. Retailers seeking further information can visit

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