This publication was prepared as a background paper for an Asia–Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) Regional consultative workshop on "Certification schemes for capture fisheries and aquaculture" held in Viet Nam 18–20 September 2007. At the 29th APFIC Session (21–24 August 2006) in Kuala Lumpur, member countries recommended that APFIC's work should focus on "Certification in Fisheries" as one of the emerging issues for the fisheries sector in the region. To follow up on this recommendation, this paper assesses the potential costs and benefits of fisheries certification and branding for countries in the Asia–Pacific region. It does not examine certification of aquaculture production, which is to be covered under a separate publication.
The publication starts by providing a comprehensive review of existing and recent environmental and social certification schemes in fisheries, as well as some examples of branding. It then considers the hypothetical and actual evidence for the demand for, and benefits of, such initiatives. Related costs are also discussed, before considering the net benefits of such initiatives, i.e. benefits less costs. There is a dearth of studies and very little quantitative evidence published on the financial costs or the benefits of certification or branding schemes; this gap is even more pronounced when it comes to an assessment of the net benefits. There is some evidence that the conditions attached to certified fisheries do encourage improved institutional structures and operational practices, but to date these are largely restricted to established, well-managed fisheries.
The publication summarizes work by others that have highlighted the potential problems faced by developing country producers in engaging with both certification and branding initiatives, before presenting some possible solutions.
It is not easy to determine whether it is sensible to engage with certification and/or branding initiatives for particular products or fisheries. The net benefits are likely to be too specific to the particular country and product concerned, the end market, the characteristics of the supply chain and so forth. Generalizing about the actual costs and benefits is, in almost all cases, neither possible nor advisable. As a result, the main focus of the paper is attempting to provide some assistance to APFIC members on how to make decisions about whether engaging in certification and/or branding initiatives is a good idea. This assistance takes the form of suggestions on how to conduct cost–benefit analyses as well as a simple decision-making tree. The decision-making tree could usefully be field tested in a small number of countries. This would enable its refinement for later use and replicability, while at the same time providing some practical assistance to the countries concerned in making decisions about the feasibility of certification or branding for particular products or fisheries.
The publication concludes that certification and branding are only aspects of product promotion and that it is almost certainly more important to comply first with the basic mandatory requirements of food safety and hygiene (i.e. in terms of HACCP compliance). There are also many other ways (e.g. quality improvements, pricing strategies and improvements in logistics to meet client requirements) that may be at least as effective as certification or branding in helping producers and exporters to improve the net value-added of their business operations. Traceability is also expected to become increasingly important in this regard.