Shifting focus: The impacts of sustainable seafood certification

Citation metadata

From: PLoS ONE(Vol. 15, Issue 5)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Document Type: Report
Length: 11,622 words
Lexile Measure: 1530L

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

Author(s): Ingrid van Putten 1,2,*, Catherine Longo 3, Ashleigh Arton 3, Matt Watson 4, Christopher M. Anderson 5, Amber Himes-Cornell 6, Clara Obregón 7, Lucy Robinson 8,9, Tatiana van Steveninck 10

1 Introduction

Globally, fisheries make an important contribution to many national economies [1]. In many low- and medium-income countries fisheries underpin food security [1,2] and, more broadly, fisheries contribute to coastal community livelihoods. Despite the cultural, social and economic importance of fisheries [3], and even though there have been improvements globally, overfishing and unsustainable fishing still remains in some places and stocks [4]. National governments and global or regional institutions (such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)) have been pursuing many different management approaches [5-8], such as Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management [9,10] to improve fisheries outcomes. Implementation of these approaches is often complex, but further improvement of fisheries management continues to be essential [11]. Alongside government driven management initiatives, there remains a role for market-based mechanisms to further improve fisheries outcomes [12].

The option of fisheries certification as a potential market-based mechanism to improve fisheries outcomes was first raised in the 1990s [13] in response to the collapse of the cod fishery on the Grand Banks [14]. Market-based mechanisms are intended to create positive economic incentives that improve the status and management of fisheries [15]. A pathbreaker in the market-driven space, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) was established in 1997 jointly by the World Wildlife Fund and Unilever [15,16]. Unilever's intention as one of the world's largest seafood processors at the time was to buy all their fish from certified sustainable sources by 2005 [17]. As of 2018, 361 fisheries worldwide are MSC certified and 109 are in the process of becoming certified, accounting for 15% of global wild capture production [18]. In addition, many alternative fisheries certification schemes now exist, although the MSC remains the largest in number and geographical spread [19,20].

Obtaining MSC certification of a fishery requires meeting all MSC's Fishery Standard requirements, as verified by an independent third party (i.e., Conformity Assessment Body (CAB)). A certificate lasts five years, with a surveillance audit undertaken each year. Certified fisheries need to undertake and pay for all assessments and surveillance audits. At the end of five years, fisheries wishing to remain certified must begin the full cycle again (i.e., get recertified) [21]. To enable a product to be sold to the public with the MSC ecolabel, each actor involved in its supply chain (i.e., processors, traders, buyers, and retailers) must hold valid MSC Chain of Custody certificates in order to assure full traceability back to the certified fishery (or fisheries) it is sourced from.

There remains much discussion in the literature about whether the environmental and sustainability goals and objectives of the many existing seafood certification schemes are being achieved [19,22-28]. Despite the ongoing debate about the environmental outcomes, many different certification and rating schemes have entered the market [29] since the 1990s. Different certification programs take different approaches both in recruiting new fisheries...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A624475737