Going Dutch: How the Netherlands Created a Sustainable Fishing Industry How Dutch Fishing Got Fixed Going Dutch: How the Netherlands Created a Sustainable Fishing Industry How Dutch Fishing Got Fixed
The GOOD Life

Going Dutch: How the Netherlands Created a Sustainable Fishing Industry How Dutch Fishing Got Fixed

by Green Futures

July 15, 2011

It was the perfect storm. Four years ago, much of the Dutch fishing industry was foundering. Fuel costs were rising, and the expense of lugging heavy beam trawls around the North Sea was bankrupting many companies and driving others to decommission their boats.

Since then, progress has been dramatic. In 2008, only the herring fishery was MSC-certified; now, six Dutch fisheries are, with five more under assessment. North Sea plaice, once red-listed by the NSF and WWF, is back in the shops. One certified supplier is Ekofish, which has a strict quota, avoids areas with vulnerable seafloors and closes during the spawning period. It has also proven that its (significantly reduced) bycatch comes from healthy stocks.

"If you had told me four years ago that the flatfish fishery would make such huge changes, I would have said you were crazy," says Dr. Steins. Even Greenpeace (though it insists that bottom-trawling can never be sustainable) has acknowledged that improvements have been made.

Today, nearly 800 products in Dutch shops carry the MSC label. Public awareness is growing. A survey in March 2010 found that 40 percent of fish-buying Dutch shoppers recognized the MSC logo and 21 percent knew what it meant. A new survey this spring is expected to return much higher figures.

Can the MSC carry such weight in other cultures and economies? "Obviously, the drivers vary in different markets," says MSC's CEO, Rupert Howes. "But the take-up of our independent certification and labeling program in countries such as Japan, Vietnam, South Africa and elsewhere goes to show that the MSC concept is transferable. And there's a growing evidence base for the positive change it drives in the way our oceans are fished, too."

The priority now is to go to scale. There's no silver bullet to the global challenge of overfishing, but the MSC has a significant role to play. By recognizing and rewarding good practice, its program creates incentives for other fisheries to improve their performance. And if you add policy reform, advocacy and industry leadership to the bait, there's a good chance of a healthy catch.

A version of this article, by Huw Spanner, also appears on Green Futures.

+
Join the discussion
Recently on GOOD
The
Daily
GOOD
Sign up to receive the best of GOOD delivered to your inbox each and every weekday
.@GOOD and @ctznapp are joining @USArtsDept to imagine a new world through art. Sign-up at http://t.co/MSvtgK1fmk to #DareToImagine #GOODHQ
Going Dutch: How the Netherlands Created a Sustainable Fishing Industry How Dutch Fishing Got Fixed