This month, McDonald’s will feature the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) blue ecolabel on the packaging of all of its fish menu items in the United States. McDonald’s will be the first U.S. chain restaurant to carry this label.
The MSC was founded by the World Worldlife Fund and Unilever in 1995 and runs one of the world’s leading sustainable fishing certification programs. Its ecolabel has been on McDonald’s packaging in Europe’s more than 7,000 locations since 2011, and now it will appear in U.S.’s more than 14,000 restaurants. MSC Chef Executive Rupert Howes hopes this will increase consumer awareness of sustainably sourced fish, such as Alaskan pollock used in McDonald’s fish menu items.
“Through this partnership with McDonald’s,” Howes says, “millions of McDonald’s U.S. customers each day have an opportunity to recognize and reward sustainable fishing practices that not only preserve fish stocks, but support seafood industry livelihoods and communities that depend on fishing.”
While McDonald’s adoption of MSC ecolabeling has been praised by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, some of the MSC’s decisions have raised criticism. In particular, the organization has been criticized by Food & Water Watch for its approval of the overfished New Zealand hoki, which is found in many of McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches outside of the U.S.
In the U.S., all Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and Fish McBites, a new menu item, are made from MSC certified wild-caught Alaska pollock. The National Marine Fisheries Service has called the Alaska pollock fishery “one of the best managed fisheries in the world,” but others disagree. Some Alaskan fishermen plan on boycotting McDonald’s because pollock fishing fleets end up killing thousands of king salmon every year. Also, according to a 2012 U.N.Food and Agriculture Organization report, Alaska pollock is “fully exploited,” meaning its production will not increase.