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Fisheries Certification: A study on Pros and Cons

Tim Huntington (APFIC Consultant)

  1. 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. A review paper was prepared to assess the potential costs and benefits of fisheries certification and branding for countries in the Asia–Pacific region. This does not examine certification of aquaculture production which was covered under a separate review paper.
  2. The paper started 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 considered the hypothetical and actual evidence for the demand for, and benefits of, such initiatives. Related costs were also discussed, before considering the net benefits of such initiatives i.e. benefits less costs. It was noted that there have been a lack of studies and very little published quantitative evidence on the financial costs or the benefits of certification or branding schemes. This lack of evidence 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.
  3. The paper also summarized work by others which have highlighted the potential problems faced by developing country producers in engaging with both certification and branding initiatives, before presenting some possible solutions.
  4. The presentation emphasized that there is no straightforward way 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 and the characteristics of the supply chain. Generalizing about the actual costs and benefits is, in almost all cases, neither possible nor advisable. As a result, the review attempted to provide some assistance to APFIC members in how to make decisions about whether engaging in certification and/or branding initiatives is a good idea. This assistance took the form of some suggestions about how to conduct cost benefit analyses, as well as the presentation of a simple decision-making tree. This could be refined to ensure its practicality and replicability, and thus provide some real assistance to the countries concerned in making decisions about the feasibility of certification or branding for particular products or fisheries.
  5. The paper concluded with the following:
  6. a)There are many social and environmental certification schemes, but these are limited in terms of suitability for APFIC producers/retailers.
    b)MSC and other environmental certification schemes are growing but still small in terms of overall global values.
    c)To date, social certification schemes for fisheries have generally not been successful.
    d)Seafood product branding is growing in importance.
    e)Demand by different interest groups is very dependent on particular species, end consumer, country, sector (retail/food service), etc. In general (i) social schemes are not in strong demand, (ii) consumers are selfish in their buying behaviour, (iii) price premiums from certification in the long term may be unlikely, with benefits more likely in terms of market access and (iv) branding can be effective, but is costly and takes time.
    f)APFIC members must be rational in initiating certification and branding initiatives, and must consider the net benefits.
    g)Certification and branding are not the only potential methods for product promotion and there may be at least as much net benefit in working on other aspects (pricing, quality, new products, logistics improvements, etc.).
    h)It is important to comply with basic mandatory requirements first before becoming concerned with other non-mandatory aspects.


  1. A question was raised if there were other sectors where certification has been successful. Several examples from the agriculture production were mentioned (e.g. coffee, bananas). Branding of domestic products was also mentioned as an alternative or a supplement to certification. This is normally targeted at a processed product and might be more for commercial-scale operations.
  2. It was asked why there was no focus on food safety and certification of food safety. The reason is that the study is only on voluntary schemes and hence not covering the mandatory food safety certification. It was noted that most food safety regulation is mandatory and therefore not a certification scheme. There are examples of non-mandatory food safety schemes. Many consumers do consider voluntary organic certification as a food safety certification (no pesticides, antibiotics etc.).

Fisheries Certification in Asia–Pacific: A certification schemes perspective

Duncan Leadbitter and Kozo Ishii (Marine Stewardship Council, MSC)

  1. The Marine Stewardship Council is now ten years old and has grown enormously since its inception. The MSC is an international standard setting body established to assist the improvement of fisheries management around the world. It relies on an ecolabelling programme, linked to a certification programme to identify products from sustainable and well managed fisheries in the market place. To date there are nearly 900 products available in 28 products from 23 certified fisheries. An additional 30 fisheries are in the public phase (called full assessment) of the MSC process.
  2. In terms of the Asia–Pacific region the MSC has products available in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong SAR. Chain of custody certificates (traceability) are in place in China, Malaysia, Thailand, Viet Nam, Australia and New Zealand. Certified fisheries and fisheries in full assessment are currently to be found in Viet Nam, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, whilst fisheries in pre-assessment are known to have occurred in Australia, Japan, Russian Far East and the Pacific Island Country members of the Forum Fisheries Agency.
  3. The MSC has long been aware of the challenges posed by small-scale and data poor fisheries and has invested significant resources in creating an assessment system that can better evaluate such fisheries in a robust and credible manner. In 2007 and 2008 some trials of this new methodology are to be carried out. One such trial site is the Ben Tre clam fishery in Viet Nam which is to be subject to both the existing assessment methodology and the new one (as a trial only).
  4. The MSC is also aware of the issue of costs and has taken a number of steps to reduce costs. This includes seeking an increase in the number of certification bodies, especially in regional countries and efforts to streamline and speed up the assessment process, without compromising quality or compliance with the FAO guidelines. Ecolabelling requires a presence in the market sector and brand awareness. The involvement of the private sector is critical to success. The motivations for private sector involvement are varied and not always driven by expectations of price premiums. However, there is a clear link between the level of private sector investment in product promotion and its performance in the marketplace.
  5. The MSC believes it has strong potential in the Asia–Pacific region and has recently established an office in Japan. The MSC is willing to collaborate with national and regional companies and organizations to ensure its systems are relevant and its programme generates benefit for fisheries in the region.


  1. There was a question related to the cost of certification and how small-scale fisheries can afford to pay for getting certified and do the changes needed. There has been government support in some cases, but there is also increasingly private sector investment in certification e.g. Young's in the UK.
  2. A question was raised on information on how data-poor fisheries can be certified, or if they qualify at all or if they qualify for the same label as the data sufficient fisheries? The answer was that there will only be one label. For data-poor fisheries there will be a risk-based process that generates an understating of the fishery that is both robust and credible. Regarding Chain of Custody, there needs to be a traceability certificate which gives a clear demonstration where the product has come from and guarantees the separation of product from non-certified equivalents. There must be appropriate technological approach to the fishery and this is especially for small-scale fisheries, risk-based approach offer potential ways to address this.

Product marketing and market access through use of labels – opportunities and potential restrictions

Sudari Pawiro (INFOFISH)

  1. The global seafood trade grows steadily over the years reaching almost US$83 billion in 2005 (import value), representing an increase of around 4.6 percent annually over the past five years. The bulk of the fishery products import went to developed countries taking more than 80 percent of the market share (in value term) with Japan, USA, China, Italy, Spain and France were among the top importers.
  2. Demand for seafood in Japan, the largest single importing country in the world, however, has been in declining trend due to several factors: Slow economic growth in Japan since the 1990s, changing life style and taste among younger generation who increasingly prefer western food, changing household structure and stiff competition from other animal protein food products such as poultry and meat. The declining demand has been reflected in declining import trend for fishery products.
  3. Conversely, demands for seafood in other major markets like the USA and EU has been growing steadily resulting in increasing imports into those countries. Around 80 percent of seafood consumed in the USA is from import which reached around US$13 000 million last year with shrimp being the most popular product in the USA market. Another farmed fish which is gaining increasingly popular is tilapia which is among the top five most popular seafood products consumed in the market after shrimp, tuna, salmon and Pollock. Similarly import of seafood into the EU has also increased from US$14 000 million in 2003 to US$20 200 million last year (import from third countries only). There was also an increase in imports of frozen fish fillet, shrimp and canned seafood particularly canned tuna into the EU from Asian countries. The main trends in both developed and Asian markets are that consumers are increasingly looking for ethnic based food products (such as Japanese, Indian foods), healthy foods, organic foods, convenience foods and green products.
  4. In order to tap the growing demand for seafood in the global market, many seafood exporting countries have been trying hard to get better access for their products especially in the developed markets. This is done mainly through bilateral, regional or multilateral trade agreements to reduce or minimize barriers to trade, both non-tariff and tariff barriers. Tariffs barriers in developed markets such as Japan, USA and EU are generally lower where by average applied import tariff is only around 4 percent (FAO). However, there is an increasing number of non-tariff barriers erected in the developed markets especially measures related to seafood quality and safety issues.
  5. Government labelling regulations are usually very straightforward and aimed mainly to protect the consumers and mandatory in nature. Private labelling schemes are mainly market-driven labels such as ecolabel, organic label and private/supermarket labels. The mushrooming of ecolabel and organic label in recent years is mainly driven by supermarket chains as a result of pressure from green or environmental groups as well as consumer groups.
  6. Supermarkets are increasingly becoming the main trend-setter in ecolabel products in the global market. This is due to the fact that supermarket chains are expanding very quickly all over the world that give them power to pressure producers to reduce prices, set quality standard, enforce voluntary measures (e.g. ecolabel) and cut off or eliminate traditional channels. Many multinational supermarket chains have adopted ecolabelling schemes, set up their own ecolabel scheme and enforce measures related sustainability in fisheries such as ban certain species to be sold in their outlets.
  7. Research done in the USA showed that consumers give more priority on quality and price when buying seafood in supermarkets. However, recent research done by the Hartman Group, USA found that around 71 percent of consumers said that they were likely or very likely to pay 10 percent more for sustainable products.
  8. There are however other constraints and issues with regard to ecolabel such as: consumers tend to confuse with the existing different ecolabel currently in the markets; cost related to obtaining ecolabel scheme that currently cannot be passed on to consumers; ecolabel as a barriers for small players to enter lucrative market in developed countries (supermarkets); unilateral action taken by supermarkets that affect market access for certain products; caterers/restaurants are still slow in adopting ecolabel; potential conflict between producers and buyers (supermarkets, agents etc.).
  9. In conclusion, even though the market for ecolabel products is still relatively very small, it is expected to grow further mainly driven by supermarket chains.


  1. It was noted that there was a lack of response to consumer surveys on labels, therefore who actually demands ecolabelled fish? It was noted that there was some consumer demand for ecolabelled fish.
  2. A second question was raised regarding voluntary labels and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Is there any information available on trade disputes that might demonstrate conflicts or disagreements over market access? The presenter was not aware of any disputes or any basis for bringing this to WTO.
  3. In the discussion it was mentioned that India and China are investing in shrimp production, especially at high-level products for the increasing middle class. Will this be a growing trend in Asia? China has a growing demand for domestic consumption, including a higher proportion of high value species such as live grouper and lobster which are in greater demand. However this will exert pressure on limited stocks such as tuna. The food service sector is also developing in China, as well as large retailers which are driving up demand, especially for high value products. In India there is a large market, but the main problem is the difficulty by other countries to penetrate Indian domestic markets.

Ecolabelling in small-scale fisheries

Martin Bjerner and Magnus Torell (SEAFDEC and Sida)

  1. The reliance on fisheries and aquaculture in the Southeast Asian region for food security is evident as is the contribution to poverty alleviation. Furthermore, aquatic products also bring large amounts of foreign revenue to the region. However, there is a general concern that overexploitation of the marine and inland resources have led to a continuous decline in fisheries productivity. At the same time, aquaculture has, by some, been perceived as a potential to compensate for the reduced marine productivity so as to meet the demand in local and global markets. The dependency of fisheries and aquaculture on natural resources – and the need for a healthy environment – and the importance of these sectors when it comes to national economies are well recognized. Hence, a common concern in the region has been raised over how to maintain sustainable trade of fisheries and aquaculture products while at the same time ensure sustainable livelihood of the local people.
  2. During the last decade increasing reference has been made to the use and prospects of "ecolabelling" with regards to fish, fisheries and fish products. At the ASEAN-SEAFDEC Conference on Sustainable Fisheries for Food Security in the New Millennium: "Fish for the People" (November 2001), ASEAN-SEAFDEC member countries agreed upon a Resolution and Plan of Action on Sustainable Fisheries for Food Security for the ASEAN Region. In the Plan of Action it was recommended that ASEAN countries should "Anticipate and address the potential impacts of ecolabelling of ASEAN fish and fishery products".
  3. Without trying to define "ecolabelling" in the ASEAN region, there are a variety of different initiatives that if "standardized" could be considered as ecolabels or attempts at developing ecolabels. Examples of this include "mangrove friendly aquaculture", production in accordance with a "code of conduct for sustainable shrimp farming", "dolphin and turtle friendly tuna", etc. At corporate level, attempts are made to provide green labels to meet increasing domestic demands for products developed in more sustainable ways.
  4. At the 26th Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries, (COFI) (March 2005), ecolabelling was one of the important points on the agenda. This was subsequently discussed at the Seventh Meeting of the ASEAN-SEAFDEC Fisheries Consultative Group (FCG) and at the 37th meeting of the SEAFDEC Council (April 2005). After discussions and deliberation on the outcomes of the fisheries related issues at the COFI-meeting, the SEAFDEC Council requested SEAFDEC to conduct a regional study on ecolabelling from the regional view point as a basis for future consideration.


  1. It was noted that the capacity building efforts mentioned were very comprehensive and the presenter was asked who the future specific capacity building efforts would be aimed at. The capacity building from SEAFDEC and Sida are targeting all through the production and marketing chain so also in the future the efforts will be broad and comprehensive.
  2. In the presentation there was a mention about a case study in Thailand and some participants were interested in more information about what issues there would be the focus of Thai inland fish certification pilot study. There would be a focus on contamination but also biodiversity issues.
  3. Several of the participants mentioned the relevance of supporting small-scale fisheries certification development as it is seen as very relevant and important to the region.

Guidelines for the ecolabelling of fish and fishery products from marine capture fisheries

Rolf Willmann (FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department)

  1. In introducing this agenda item, it was explained that the FAO marine fisheries ecolabelling guidelines were developed against a backdrop of the increasing overexploitation of a growing number of commercially important fish stocks, concern with incidental bycatches and disappointment about the slow progress made with the implementation of conventional fisheries management. The immediate impetus for addressing the issue of fisheries ecolabelling in FAO arose from the launch of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) initiative by Unilever and WWF in early 1996. The reactions to this initiative were mixed. While it was applauded by some industry groups, conservation organizations and governments, many fisheries stakeholders and governments were initially sceptical about it.
  2. At the behest of primarily several Scandinavian countries, FAO convened a first technical consultation in October 1998 to examine the practicality and feasibility of FAO drafting technical guidelines for ecolabelling of marine fisheries products. While it could not reach a consensus on this matter at that time, the consultation developed some principles for ecolabelling and agreed that any future guidelines needed to be consistent with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. It was only at the 25th Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in 2003 that FAO members reached a consensus on the development of guidelines, which then over a period of two years were developed in a series of expert and technical consultations and adopted at the 26th Session of COFI in 2005.
  3. Underlying the call for international guidelines were a number of concerns including
  4. (i)The threat that ecolabelling schemes could be used as new forms of barriers to trade;
    (ii)The scientific basis of certification standards and criteria;
    (iii)The potential difficulties for developing countries to participate in such schemes, especially the small-scale producers; and
    (iv)Last but not the least the potential confusion among traders and consumers which may derive from the utilization of a number of various and diverse product labels, themselves relating to different criteria and standards.
  5. The principal contents of the FAO guidelines include principles, general considerations, terms and definitions, minimum substantive requirements and criteria, and the procedural and the institutional aspects relating to governance arrangements for ecolabelling schemes and provisions for the setting of standards, accreditation and certification. It was stressed that the focus of the guidelines was on issues related to the sustainable use of fisheries resources. Social aspects including conditions of work were excluded from the scope of the guidelines as consensus on them may have been difficult to attain among FAO member countries.
  6. The FAO guidelines contain a set of principles relating to aspects such as consistency with all relevant international laws, recognition of the sovereign rights of states, the voluntary and market-driven nature of ecolabelling, transparency and fair participation by all interested parties, non-discrimination and avoidance of unnecessary obstacles to trade, fair trade and competition, clear accountability for the owners of schemes and the certification bodies, incorporation of reliable, independent auditing and verification procedures, equivalence, based on the best scientific evidence, also taking into account traditional knowledge, ensure that labels communicate truthful information, provide for clarity, and be based, at a minimum, on the minimum substantive requirements, criteria and procedures outlined in the FAO guidelines. The principle of transparency should apply to all aspects of an ecolabelling scheme including its organizational structure and financial arrangements.
  7. The section on general considerations of the guidelines seeks to create, to the extent possible, an equal playing field among countries by, inter alia, recognizing the special conditions and requirements of developing countries and countries in transition on the one hand, while calling for one unique minimum standard on the other hand, in order to avoid any notion of superior or inferior categories of ecolabelled fish and fishery products. The section also addresses the view of many governments that they should be fully involved, not just individually but also as members of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), in ecolabelling schemes. It recognizes that governments play, or need to play, a paramount and often indispensable role in fisheries management.
  8. The section on terms and definitions draws heavily on terminology, definitions and standards agreed within the framework of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) dealing with general requirements on accreditation and certification. It also contains a series of definitions that were specifically developed for capture fisheries ecolabelling.
  9. The guidelines set out the minimum substantive requirements and criteria for assessing whether a fishery can be certified and awarded an ecolabel. It keeps open the option for ecolabelling schemes to apply additional or more stringent requirements and criteria. The section was largely informed by the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Minimum requirements are specified for each of the three areas: management systems, target stocks, and ecosystem considerations. This is in keeping with the idea that both the process and the outcome of management need to be considered. The requirements acknowledge that conventional stock assessment methods may not be possible nor necessarily appropriate in all cases, especially small-scale fisheries, and that "less elaborate" methods may be used.
  10. There was considerable concern amongst some countries, especially some developing countries about the inclusion of ecosystem considerations. In many countries current knowledge on ecosystems and ecosystem impacts is weak because of the lack of data and research due to financial and human resources constraints. The inclusion of ecosystem considerations could therefore become an effective barrier to obtaining an ecolabel and consequently a barrier to trade. The ecosystem provisions of the guidelines represent a reasonable compromise between the position of some countries seeking more stringent requirements and criteria and others that wished to see ecosystem considerations entirely omitted from the guidelines.
  11. The guidelines addressed the three principal procedural and institutional matters that any ecolabelling scheme should encompass: (1) the setting of certification standards, (2) the accreditation of independent certifying bodies, and (3) the certification that a fishery and the product chain of custody are in conformity with the required standard and procedures.
  12. The guidelines are not overly prescriptive on the governance structure beyond the need to keep apart the ownership of the ecolabelling scheme from accreditation and certification functions. Ecolabelling schemes could be established by government, an intergovernmental organization, a non-governmental organization or a private industry association. There are also various options for the geographical range of a scheme-national, regional or international.
  13. The setting of standards is among the most critical tasks of any ecolabelling scheme. The standards reflect the objectives for sustainable fisheries that are being pursued through the scheme. At the core of standard-setting norms are the ideas of consultation and participation of interested parties in a transparent and well-informed process of standard setting that provides for appropriate notification and minimum time periods for commenting.
  14. The purpose of accreditation is to provide assurance that certification bodies responsible for conducting conformity assessments with sustainability standards and chain of custody requirements are competent to carry out such tasks. The guidelines lay down the requirements for accreditation organizations to perform this task professionally in a transparent, impartial, independent, and accountable fashion.
  15. Certification is an integral and indispensable part of any ecolabelling scheme. In fisheries, ecolabelling provides assurance to buyers and consumers that a certain fish or fishery product comes from a fishery that conforms to the established standard for a sustainable fishery. The guidelines provide for two types of certification, certification of the fishery itself and certification of the chain of custody between the time the fish is harvested and the time the fish or fishery product is sold to the final consumer. To ensure non-discrimination, the access to the services of a certification body should be open to all types of fisheries whether managed by a regional, governmental, or non-governmental fisheries management organization or arrangement. Access to certification should not be conditional upon the size or scale of the fishery.
  16. In concluding, it was stressed that the FAO guidelines are a unique voluntary international instrument that establishes minimum standards in procedural and substantive terms. The guidelines can help to prevent the proliferation of non-credible ecolabels, contribute to the creation of an equal playing field by recognizing the special conditions and requirements of fisheries in developing countries and countries in transition, provide clarity on equivalence of ecolabelling schemes and non-discrimination, avoid unnecessary barriers to trade, and establish the legitimacy of ecolabelling applied to fisheries. The presentation emphasized the mutually beneficial nature of sustainably managed fisheries to consumers and producers alike. What was needed are much greater efforts and investments into fisheries management. Ecolabelling and certification can help to raise widespread awareness about the urgency of introducing better management practices and mobilizing greater financial and technical resources. In this context, it was mentioned that in the context of the ongoing WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies, management related subsidies by government were explicitly listed among the group of "good" subsidies.


  1. It was noted that MSC have spent US$30 million developing the standard to date and now spend US$4-5 million per year. It was noted that the MSC scheme comply with the FAO guidelines but this is rarely recognized. Has FAO analysed what schemes do – and do not comply with their guidelines? It was noted that it was not the role of FAO to control certification schemes. Some countries considered this as a potential mean towards reducing schemes which are not based on the best scientific information. This depends upon FAO members – if FAO is asked to make a judgment, then FAO can provide technical support to the member country.
  2. Regarding standard setting and equivalence, trade dispute are to be resolved by WTO, but if there is a standard that you believe is incorrect or a barrier or biased, how do you resolve this matter? Where is the forum to take this up? It was noted that if a private company or label apparently is at fault, it is difficult to take any punitive action. However it was noted that that there is not much incentive to default as it will damage its profit over the long term.
  3. Two points were raised namely that food safety should be outside of certification. Could aquaculture include food safety and if so, how will this impact management of the scheme. The second point is that the benefit of the scheme has to be shared by the producer and the society as a whole. How do we enable this? Firstly, regarding the benefits. Social benefits and private benefits are different. Society benefits as a whole, so more public subsidies might be appropriate. FAO has studied how much countries invest in fisheries management and as a percentage of the value of the gross revenue of the catch; Asia is much lower compared to the world average (around 1–2 percent compared with 35 percent). It is clear therefore that countries not invest enough in fisheries management in the Asian region. The current discussion concerns apparent high cost of certification, yet this is actually a fraction of the real management cost.

Social dimensions of ecolabels on fisheries and aquaculture: how can coastal communities benefit?

Sebastian Mathew (International Collective in Support of Fishworkers)

  1. The presentation looked at what could possibly be undertaken in the realms of labelling and certification from a bottom up perspective, building upon the strengths, not the weaknesses, of marine fisheries in the region. After taking a look at various types of first, second and third party certification schemes as well as mandatory food safety schemes, the presentation looked at why ecolabelling has limited chances of success in the short run and spelt out what could possibly be done by APFIC member countries in the realms of labelling and certification.
  2. In the realms of capture fisheries, a third party certification might apply to a particular fish and fish products based on it, as being originating from a well managed fishery and subscribing to chain of custody, as in the case of MSC. There are certification schemes to certify fish originating from fishing vessels registered under the auspices of a regional fisheries management organization. Similarly, there are certification schemes to discriminate against fishing vessels that are not recognized by the association of producers.
  3. Mandatory labels, in addition to food and hygiene safety standards, for fish production would also include certifying that the turtles/dolphin/protected species are not harmed in the process of catching the fish for the export market, and that fish in question does not contain traces of heavy metals above permitted levels.
  4. First and second party certification could apply to sustainable fishing method (as in the case of line fishers of Breton, France, for example) or to claiming that a fisheries management system is in place, although it may not certify to the effectiveness of management measures. The fish production could also be certified as originating from unpolluted waters, again, as in the case of Breton fishers who certify their clams and scallops are originating from cleaner coastal waters. Another possible first party certification is of fish as being caught by traditional fishers who have long history of association with the fishery. Fisheries that are dependent on traditional knowledge, fish caught by traditional fishers and fish that are processed, especially by women using traditional techniques, can thus be certified.
  5. At the level of fish processing, geographic indications are recognized (as in the case of fish sauce produced by women processors in Phu Quoc Island, Viet Nam).
  6. In the realms of social labelling, it was proposed that third party certification of fish products could be based on the International Labour Organization (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention, 2007, that working and living conditions of fishers on board fishing vessels are adequately safeguarded. Similarly, social labelling can be resorted to certifying working and living conditions in aquaculture operations.
  7. The poor status of commercially important fisheries of Asia, especially poor state of management of fish stocks, may not permit Asian fisheries to benefit from ecolabelling schemes in the short run, it was argued. Moreover, costs of certification and establishing chains of custody would be onerous, especially for artisanal and small-scale fishers.
  8. Considering the diversity of fish culture in the region, innovative labelling initiatives would help fishing communities to market their fish and fish products at the national, regional and international level. The Asian region has a wide variety of processed fish such as smoked crab (India) and boiled anchovies (Thailand), and it was argued that geographic indications can be one way to add value to local production and processing in the national, regional and international seafood market. It was also proposed that there should be an attempt to compile examples of such fishing and fish processing methods in the region as well as fish products from such fisheries in the region that could be considered for recognition under geographic indications.
  9. Instead of certification of fisheries, it was proposed that Asian countries, in the short run, should invest in initiatives to label selective fishing gear and practices, traditional ecological knowledge systems, and age-old fish processing techniques and products, and thus valorize coastal fishing communities in the region, with the participation of fishing communities, fishers' cooperatives and trade unions, as a precursor to moving towards certification schemes if deemed necessary.
  10. The importance of developing innovative and flexible labelling and certification schemes – social, environmental, ecological, or cultural – that are built upon the comparative advantage of Asian fisheries such as traditional knowledge, sustainable fishing methods and unique fishery products is important. As far as markets for labelled fish is concerned, it was highlighted that it was important to consider not only south-north trade but perhaps more importantly, the importance of south-south trade amongst people who share similar culture and cherish more or less identical values.


  1. It was questioned if social responsibility is a more important issue for small-scale fisheries or if there should be options for supporting small-scale fisheries. It was replied that there is no substitute for good fisheries management. With labelling, anyone can set up labelling, whilst the government must be responsible for the fisheries management. An example in the UK is the Seafish responsible fishing scheme, where individual vessels are certified based on their environmental awareness and management. This is a cheap but effective approach to improving the environmental performance at fleet level. It can be easily replicated through `training of trainers' approach for coaching and auditing.

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