The Workshop recognized that fisheries and aquaculture certification could offer tangible benefits to the APFIC Member Countries, but also recognized that a number of issues should be addressed for certification to effectively contribute to the sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture in the region. These issues concern:
It was widely recognized that fisheries management is underfunded in the Asia-Pacific region, and the workshop agreed that environmental and social certification offered an effective approach to identifying deficiencies in fisheries management and practical solutions to address them. The Workshop emphasized that any schemes developed or operating in the region should be in compliance with the FAO guidelines for the ecolabelling of fish and fishery products from marine capture fisheries.
Small-scale fisheries have particular potential for being sustainable and socially-equitable, especially if linked to co-management arrangements. The Workshop recognized that small-scale fisheries can be certified, especially through innovative adaptations of certification methods (e.g. incorporating traditional knowledge and non-data intensive approaches, etc.).
The certification of small-scale fisheries presents some unique challenges and is vulnerable to negative interactions from external operations, particularly where regulation is weak and does not protect inshore or small-scale fisheries. The Workshop also noted that small-scale fisheries might also benefit from other initiatives, such as first or second party verification or possibly branding. However, it was strongly emphasized that non-ecolabel/non-third party approaches run the risk of driving unsustainable practices if they are not closely associated with fisheries management objectives and a degree of monitoring.
The Workshop recognized that government and regional organizations as well as the private sector could support the entry of fisheries into certification schemes. Indeed, it is clear that fisheries were currently, less of a driving force for certification than these other bodies, possibly due to the lack of immediate/apparent benefits accruing to them. It was emphasized that long-term sustainability would require the move towards consumers bearing more of the costs than they do presently and more effective transfer of benefits to producers.
The Workshop acknowledged the need to build capacity in the region to identify and promote the certification of sustainable fisheries and the need to support national capacity to implement the FAO guidelines for the ecolabelling of fish and fishery products from marine capture fisheries. This is in order to ensure a harmonized approach to certification and its use as a tool to improve fisheries management.
The Workshop recommended the following:
At national level, there is a need for APFIC members establish a strategy for rolling out certification as both a market development tool as well as one to use certification methodologies to target fisheries management interventions. The national strategy should clearly distinguish the mandatory food safety issues from other desirable fisheries management objectives, which may be voluntary in nature.
As part of the above strategy, APFIC members should conduct a national `stock takes' into the status of the management of their key fisheries. This should identify those fisheries with either good management, or those with weak management but with a potential to improve. These could be classified either (i) as fisheries with potential for market-driven ecolabelling or, (ii) fisheries that might not require an ecolabel but would benefit from a holistic assessment of its fisheries management strengths and weaknesses to prioritize future management initiatives and work planning.
Recognizing the general inadequate allocation of resources for fisheries management, it was recommended that there should be deliberate targeting of resources or incentives for sustainable practice, thus rewarding those with a will to move towards good management. The stock-taking of fisheries could be used to mobilize and direct resources towards those fisheries where there is the will to manage.
It was noted that small-scale fisheries which had (i) existing sustainable management methods and (ii) a recognized and distinguishable product, may not be able to undergo full third party certification. In such cases, there may be opportunities for branding and/or labelling of their products. However, such approached may also drive unsustainable practices if there were no associated fisheries or environmental management objectives and associated monitoring.
The APFIC region accounts for a significant proportion of global aquaculture production and represents a wealth of technical knowledge on sustainable aquaculture which is of relevance to certification. This capacity has prompted the development of a number of national certification schemes which are tailored to the socio-economic status of producers, especially small-scale producers. The Workshop emphasized that any schemes developed or operating in the region should be in compliance with the forthcoming FAO Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification.
The Workshop recommended the following:
The Workshop recommended that existing regional capacity and experience should be used by APFIC members to develop a regional certification scheme, which could be harmonized with other more specific national or commodity/system focused schemes already operating in the region.
In view of the predominance of small-scale producers in the APFIC region and their constraints in complying with many certification schemes, the Workshop recommended that schemes operating in the region should be developed and/or revised to be beneficial to producers, allow for cluster certification and incremental improvement against targets.
The Workshop observed that the costs associated with compliance with most certification schemes, are generally not offset by premium prices and/or other clearly documented benefits. Thus the Workshop recommended that APFIC members promote the development and/or revision of aquaculture certification schemes in order to ensure that benefits are maximized and cost controlled, whilst maintaining compliance with the FAO guidelines on aquaculture certification. To achieve this objective the development and accreditation of both private and government certification bodies should be promoted.
The Workshop recognized that aquaculture sustainability is a responsibility shared by a broad range of stakeholders. Therefore, the Workshop recommended that certification should be developed in compliance with international norms on development of standards, transparency and the FAO guidelines, particularly with respect to including directly affected stakeholders.
The Workshop acknowledged that most APFIC countries have significant resourcing and capacity constraints to implement certification at both the producer level and within fishery institutions. The Workshop recommended that APFIC members support capacity building on better management practices and certification issues, in addition to developing mechanisms that facilitate capacity building (e.g. financial, insurance based).