Adapting the marine stewardship council’s risk-based framework to assess the impact of towed bottom fishing gear on blue carbon habitats

Katherine Morris, Graham Epstein, Michel J. Kaiser, Joanne Porter, Andrew F. Johnson

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Wild capture fisheries are of economic and social importance, providing a primary source of protein to people globally. There is a broad research base on the environmental impacts of fishing gears and processing methods yet, the impact on the global CO2 budget is less well studied. Evaluating the risk that wild capture fisheries pose to ecosystem health is vital to sustainably managing fishing practices to meet increasing global nutritional needs and reverse declines in marine biodiversity. At the same time meeting net-zero ambitions by reducing direct and indirect GHG emissions is vital. Ecological risk assessments, trait-based assessments, and vulnerability assessments have long supported fisheries management systems globally but do not yet provide any representation regarding the impacts that fishing gears have on the ability of the habitat to capture and store carbon. Considering the importance of accessibility and transparency in approaches necessary for fisheries sustainability certifications, this paper describes a method to integrate habitat carbon capacity attributes into the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Consequence and Spatial Analysis (CSA) framework. Applying the CSA carbon extension developed herein produces different CSA risk scores compared to the MSC CSA that does not account for carbon. This has potential consequences for certification schemes as carbon becomes more important in the fisheries sustainability conversation. The CSA carbon extension tool developed here is an important first step in incorporating carbon indicators into evaluations of fisheries that consider fishery carbon impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0288484
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2023


  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Natural Resources - methods
  • Ecosystem
  • Fisheries
  • Humans
  • Hunting


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