The looming-eyes buoy, one of the projects funded inder the MSC to drive progress in sustainable fishing. Photo: Andres Kalamees

The looming-eyes buoy, one of the projects funded inder the MSC to drive progress in sustainable fishing. Photo: Andres Kalamees

Grants totalling £650,000 including support for fishery observer safety and bycatch improvements have been awarded. 

Twenty fisheries and research projects around the world, including one with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) will receive up to £60,000 each from the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Ocean Stewardship Fund – a fund dedicated to enabling and supporting sustainable fishing around the world.    

The awards include grants to WWF India and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) while nearly a quarter of the funding has been awarded in support of fisheries in the Global South.    

Three grants will fund research aimed at reducing bycatch  a major cause of ocean biodiversity depletion – while other projects focus on fisheries’ harvest strategies and improvements in bait fisheries.  

The grant to the RSPB will test new ways to reduce unwanted bycatch of seabirds in the ISF Iceland Lumpfish fishery. As a condition of its certification, the fishery must develop a bycatch strategy that does not hinder the recovery of endangered, threatened or protected seabirds, in particular endangered species such as black guillemots.  

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To protect birds from gillnets, the RSPB, Birdlife International and engineers at Fishtek Marine Ltd have developed a prototype device called the “looming-eyes buoy” (LEB). This consists of a floating buoy that displays large obvious ‘looming eyes’ that can be seen from far away and is used as a bird deterrent.  

Yann Rouxel, Bycatch Project Officer at the RSPB, said: Besides the direct contribution to finding effective solutions to the seabird bycatch issue in gillnet fisheries, this funding will  

contribute to grass-root engagement with local fishing communities and provide fertile ground for collaboration between fishers and conservationists, during and after this project.”  

The Fund also supports fisheries that are in the early stages of improving their management practices. Six of the grants, totalling nearly a quarter of the funding (£157,724) are supporting fishery improvement projects in the Global South, including the deep-sea shrimp trawl fishery in Kerala, India and the blue swimmer crab fisheries, squid fisheries and snapper and grouper fisheries in Indonesia.  

Research into fishery observer safety is a special focus this year given the critical role observers can play in providing the data and evidence required to demonstrate fisheries are operating responsibly. An Ocean Stewardship Fund grant will support Saltwater Inc. – a US company which trains and deploys fishery observers – in collaboration with the IT consulting firm Chordata, LLC, to create a ‘one-touch’ communications platform. This will enable fishery observers to safely communicate with their home office, or alert emergency services to unsafe working conditions.  

The Marine Stewardship Council’s Chief Executive, Rupert Howes, said: Congratulations to all the 2021 awardees of the Ocean Stewardship Fund. The MSC established the Ocean Stewardship Fund in 2018 to fund credible projects and initiatives that will deliver real improvements in the way our oceans are being fished and importantly, will help fisheries around the world to progress on their pathway to sustainability.  

“The knowledge generated by these projects will inform the sector more widely and we hope, will catalyse and lead to further adoption and scaling of solutions beyond the immediate beneficiaries of the grants.   

“I was very impressed by the quality of all of the applications this year and have no doubt the Ocean Stewardship Fund’s focus on collaborative projects is driving innovation and creativity. Without doubt our collective efforts can help to ensure our oceans remain productive and resilient in the face of the growing pressures and demands placed on them but much more needs to be done and urgently if we are to deliver the UN strategic development goals by 2030.”  

Since 2019, the Ocean Stewardship Fund has awarded 35 grants totalling £1.3 million and the MSC hopes the impact of those projects will contribute to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water.   

For more information about the Ocean Stewardship Fund, including previous grant awards, visit:   

Source: Press Release

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MSC funds ocean projects to drive progress in sustainable fishing 

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