Wal-Mart has announced plans to purchase all of its wild-caught fresh and frozen fish for the North American market from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fisheries within the next three to five years.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent non-profit organisation set up to promote solutions to the problem of over-fishing.

The first step toward this goal will be to have product that currently comes from MSC-certified fisheries carry the MSC eco-label starting later this year.

“We believe it’s absolutely essential to take a leadership role in working with suppliers to ensure that the world’s wild fish populations can grow and replenish themselves,” said Peter Redmond, Wal-Mart vice president and divisional merchandise manager of deli and seafood. “The MSC label assures our customers that they are buying from a retailer that is taking concrete steps to keep wild-caught fish available to present and future generations. This is both environmentally responsible and responsive to our customers.”

Wal-Mart said it currently works with a number of MSC-certified fisheries and is giving non-certified suppliers three to five years to develop plans and programs to become certified. If these suppliers commit to this initiative and succeed within that timeframe, Wal-Mart will continue to work with them.

“This is a big and exciting development, demonstrating a leadership position,” said Rupert Howes, chief executive of the Marine Stewardship Council.”