Availability of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)  certified seafood is set to increase on South African retail shelves following the announcement yesterday by Pick n Pay  that they intend to sell only sustainable products across their entire fresh, frozen and canned seafood range, by the end of 2015. Pick n Pay becomes the first African retailer to follow the growing international trend by making a formal commitment to source only from sustainable fisheries, thereby transforming their seafood operations. South Africa’s second largest retailer already currently stocks a variety of frozen South African hake products bearing the globally recognised MSC eco-label and through this initiative the number and range of certified products is likely to expand further.
A partnership towards sustainability
The announcement builds on a close relationship between Pick n Pay, the World Wild Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI)  and the MSC, and coincided with National Marine Week celebrations in South Africa. The theme for this year’s annual awareness campaign is “Changing Climate, Changing Oceans and Changing People”.
Pick n Pay Marketing and Sustainability Director Bronwen Rohland said: “As one of the country’s largest retailers, we cannot ignore the fact that seafood is inextricably linked to food security and that it provides the primary source of food or income for 2.6-billion people globally. As a retailer and significant role player in the seafood industry, we will help to drive positive change in fisheries by supporting and promoting sustainable seafood choices from legal and responsibly managed sources.”
Pick n Pay’s commitment stipulates that by the end of 2015, it will only sell seafood products that are either:
- Certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for wild-caught products;
- Certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) for farmed products, or equivalent standards;
- Categorised as “green” by the WWF’s SASSI. Fish species on SASSI’s “green” list are considered the most sustainable choices (from the healthiest and most well managed populations). These species can handle current fishing pressure, or are farmed in a manner that does not harm the environment; or
- From fisheries or farms which are engaged in credible, time-bound improvement projects.
Dr Morné du Plessis, WWF South Africa’s chief executive officer, said: “This is a giant leap forward in our ongoing efforts to keep our fish stocks at healthy levels. WWF believes that corporate engagement is key to transforming markets and for adopting and promoting sector-wide shifts to sustainable development and corporate best practice. Many marine ecosystems are currently facing unprecedented threats from human activities such as overfishing and climate change. We congratulate Pick n Pay for leading the way in setting these tangible conservation goals for the retail sector.”
What the MSC says
The Southern Africa office of the MSC is working with a number of fisheries in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar towards certification and is also actively engaging with retail and food service partners in the region.
MSC Southern Africa Programme Manager Martin Purves strongly supported Pick n Pay’s commitment, saying, “The MSC congratulates Pick n Pay for the leading role they are taking among African retailers on the path towards sustainable seafood and providing their customers with the best environmental choices. The MSC works with a number of retail partners in the region to assist them in offering a greater choice of sustainable options to shoppers. It’s great to know that Pick n Pay is very serious about using their influence as a leading retailer to help address the threats of overfishing and the degradation of marine ecosystems caused by unsustainable fishing practices. This commitment is a huge step forward in raising awareness of sustainability issues in Africa and follows in the footsteps of the Shoreline Café at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town recently becoming the first MSC-certified restaurant in Africa. It shows that South African businesses and consumers are becoming more responsible about the environmental impacts their choices are having.”
For any product to carry the MSC eco-label all companies in the supply chain must have a valid Chain of Custody certificate. MSC Chain of Custody certification is a comprehensive audit programme that allows seafood to be traced from final packaging back to a MSC-certified fishery. It ensures that MSC-labelled products are sourced from a fishery that is MSC-certified, and it protects buyers and the fishery from fraudulent labelling and risks from fisheries carrying products from illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activities. Sustainability of the seafood is thus assured and the fishery of origin receives well-deserved recognition for its environmentally responsible fishing practices.
Notes to editors
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 The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation set up to promote solutions to the problem of overfishing. The MSC runs the only certification and ecolabelling programme for wild-capture fisheries consistent with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation guidelines for fisheries certification. The FAO ‘Guidelines for the Eco-labelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries’ require that credible fishery certification and eco-labelling schemes include:
- Objective, third-party fishery assessment utilising scientific evidence;
- Transparent processes with built-in stakeholder consultation and objection procedures;
- Standards based on the sustainability of target species, ecosystems and management practices.
The MSC has offices in London, Seattle, Tokyo, Sydney, The Hague, Edinburgh, Berlin, Cape Town, Paris and Stockholm.
In total, 262 fisheries are currently engaged in the MSC programme with 132 certified and 130 under full assessment. Together, fisheries already certified or in full assessment record annual catches of close to seven million metric tonnes of seafood, representing over 12 per cent of global capture production for direct human consumption. The fisheries already certified catch close to five million metric tonnes of seafood annually – over seven per cent of the total wild capture for direct human consumption. Worldwide, more than 11 500 seafood products, which can be traced back to the certified sustainable fisheries, bear the blue MSC ecolabel.
For more information on the MSC, please visit: www.msc.org.
 The Pick n Pay Group is one of Africa’s largest and most consistently successful retailers of food, general merchandise and clothing. Today, the Pick n Pay Group has a total of 775 stores, made up of Hypermarkets, Supermarkets and Family Stores (which are franchise stores). Pick n Pay employs over 38 000 people, and generates an annual turnover of US$6.76-billion.
Visit Pick n Pay’s website to find out more about the Pick n Pay commitment to sustainable seafood sourcing.
 The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) was initiated by World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa in collaboration with other networking partners in November 2004 in order to inform and educate all participants in the seafood trade, from wholesalers to restaurateurs through to seafood lovers. SASSI has three primary objectives:
- Promote voluntary compliance of the law through education and awareness
- Shift consumer demand away from over-exploited species to more sustainable options
- Create awareness around marine conservation issues