South Australian sardines earn the blue fish tick for sustainability

South Australian sardines earn the blue fish tick for sustainability

South Australian sardines earn the blue fish tick for sustainability

  • South Australia sardine fishery achieves certification against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standard for sustainability
  • Australia’s largest fishery by volume
  • 38 per cent of Australia’s marine wild catch is now MSC certified
  • First sardine fishery in the southern hemisphere to achieve MSC certification

The South Australia sardine fishery has become the first sardine fishery in the southern hemisphere to be certified to the internationally recognised Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable fishing.

The South Australian Sardine Industry Association (SASIA) will celebrate the MSC certification today in Port Lincoln, South Australia with an event for association members and stakeholders.

The fishery engaged independent auditing body MRAG Americas, Inc in early 2018 to conduct the assessment. Through a site visit, interviews, consultations, review of documents and publications, and peer review, MRAG found the fishery to be well managed with healthy stocks monitored through effective research programs.

“Marine Stewardship Council certification outlines the effort of the individuals and organisations involved with the South Australian Sardine Fishery over the past 25 years,” said Marcus Turner, South Australian Sardine Industry Association Executive Officer. “We have focussed on building a culture of sustainability, and take pride in achieving world’s best practice; as for the license holders, there is no other option.”

“We further attribute our success to a strong working relationship with government and scientists where, through co-management arrangements, we have been able to work collaboratively towards a common goal of continuous improvement within the fishery,” Marcus Turner added. “MSC certification is a natural extension of this commitment, and we are very excited to continue on this path of growth well into the future.”

The sardine fishery becomes the third fishery in South Australia to hold MSC certification, joining the Spencer Gulf king prawn and Lakes and Coorong pipi fisheries.

“The MSC welcomes the joint commitment of the South Australia sardine fishery and government, through the Department of Primary Industry and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), in joining the MSC’s global aspirations in transforming seafood markets to a more sustainable basis,” said Anne Gabriel, program director for MSC Oceania.

The South Australian sardine fishery targets Australian sardines (Sardinops sagax) with 8 vessels using the purse seine fishing methods.Most fishing activity occurs at night, with schools of sardines located by sonar. Nets are deployed around a school, then pursed and drawn into a smaller area adjacent to the vessel. Fishing operations are very selective with 99.17 per cent of the catch being sardines.

The commercial fishery began in the late 1990s and operates in all waters adjacent to the state of South Australia. Sardine fishing takes place on an annual basis with a peak fishing season from November to June when sardines are caught to feed southern bluefin tuna. The fishery is managed through a limited entry licensing system with a total allowable commercial catch (TACC) set for each 12 month period. Annual sardine catches have been between 27,500- 42,000 tonnes, making the fishery the largest by volume in Australia.

“The implementation of an Individual Transferable Quota management regime in 2000 has provided the framework for a sustainable fishery to develop” said Steve Shanks, the PIRSA manager of the sardine fishery.

“Since 2000 the fishery has expanded from a 5,000 tonne fishery to a 42,000 tonne fishery, due largely to the development of stock assessment techniques and harvest strategies in collaboration with industry,” Steve Shanks added. “The ability of industry and government to work together to develop the fishery within a sustainable framework has now led to Marine Stewardship Council certification. PIRSA looks forward to continuing to work with the sardine industry to develop the fishery for the local community and all South Australians.”

Australia-wide 18 fisheries are now certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard, representing 24 species of fish and shellfish.

To date, more than 350 fisheries worldwide are certified, accounting for around 12 per cent of the global marine wild catch. More than 1,200 improvements to fishing practices and environmental management have been made by MSC certified fisheries since 2000.

Fisheries are assessed by third party, independent auditors against the MSC Standard, which covers three core principles: fishery stock health, fishery impacts on marine environment, and management of the fishery. MSC certified fisheries are continually monitored and must complete annual surveillance audits, as well as being reassessed every five years.

About the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation. Our visionis for the world’s oceans to be teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations. Through the leadership of our engaged partners, the MSC is catalysing improvement in how our oceans are fished and managed, helping create more sustainable seafood in global markets.

Through purchasing choices in discerning markets, MSC’s ecolabel and certification programme recognises and rewards sustainable fishing practices.

The MSC ecolabel on a seafood product means that:

  • It comes from a wild-catch fishery which has been independently certified to meet MSC’s science-based standard for environmentally sustainable fishing.
  • It’s fully traceable from source to market.

The MSC programme could not exist without the many fishers around the world who work to safeguard stocks, ecosystems and their own livelihoods.Read stories about fishers working hard to safeguard our oceans.

For more information on the work of the MSC, please visit


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