- The participants were divided into two working groups namely; 1) Fisheries certification issues and 2) Aquaculture certification issues. The two groups were tasked with developing an action plan and recommendations for APFIC members and the APFIC Secretariat on steps to implement the actions, in the context of certification of capture fisheries and aquaculture. To focus the discussions in the working groups it was recommended to focus on not more than five issues in each group. The working groups were asked to give comments and recommendations for each of the issues identified.
Working Group 1 on Fisheries
- It is widely recognized that fisheries management is underfunded in the Asia-Pacific region, and the workshop agreed that environmental and social certification offers an effective approach to identifying deficiencies in fisheries management and practical solutions to address them.
- Small-scale fisheries have particular potential as being sustainable and socially-equitable, especially if linked to co-management arrangements. However, the certification of small-scale fisheries offers some unique challenges and is vulnerable to negative interactions from external operations particularly when regulation is weak and cannot protect inshore or small-scale fisheries.
- 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 workshop 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 can all support the entry of fisheries into certification schemes. Indeed it is clear that fisheries are less of a driving force for certification than these other bodies at the moment, possibly due to the lack of immediate/apparent benefits accruing to them. It was emphasized that long-term sustainability will 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. There is also a need to support the national capacity to implement the FAO guidelines for ecolabelling of fisheries products in order to ensure a harmonized approach to certification and its use as a tool to improve fisheries management.
- 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 mandatory food safely issues from other desirable fisheries management objectives that 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 assessed 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 is recommended that there should be 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.
Working Group 2 on Aquaculture
- 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 producer's especially small-scale producers.
- The working group on aquaculture identified six main issues of particular importance for aquaculture certification in the APFIC region. Throughout the discussions there were a whish to see more regional involvement in setting certification schemes.
- Small-scale producers where considered as a main issue for the region. It was discussed how small-scale farmers can adapt to certification or how certification can adapt to the small-scale sector. It is clear that there are difficulties in compliance and that there is a need to ensure benefits for small-scale producers with limited financial resources and knowledge. It was concluded that there should be recognition of the regions traditional aquaculture practices and knowledge. There was a need to ensure better access to information and technology for the small-scale producers.
- It was mentioned that there are a large number of especially voluntary certification schemes, and to some extend there seems to be an overlap in scope with mandatory schemes. The working group agreed that the present number of certification schemes is troublesome for producers and they are potentially confusing for consumers. A higher degree of harmonization and equivalence can reduce confusion among producers and consumers. At the same time there is a potential cost saving through harmonization both for producers and consumers. It was recognized that equivalence might be difficult to reach whereas harmonization might be reachable.
- Limited capacity of small-scale producers both economic and technical knowledge. Is a constraint and it was noted that within the APFIC members there are different levels of capacity. Regional networking should be encouraged and support from both member countries and funds from donors should be approached. There should be capacity building on better management practices (including BMP, GAP, CoC) and certification issues related to: i) schemes, ii) requirements, iii) standards, iv) auditing processes, and v) monitoring.
- The working group generally considered certification and the changes needed in order to comply as expensive especially with reference to the small-scale producers. Often certification schemes do not offer premium prices especially for the producers. It should also be recognized that there can be a considerable cost associated with establishing the facilities to perform tests relevant to compliance with certification schemes. At the same time it was acknowledged that certification can provide benefits to environment and local communities.
- The working group noted the need for more regional involvement in especially setting the standards. The region account for 80 percent of the global aquaculture production and there is a notable technical knowledge and expertise available which is of relevance for aquaculture certification. The region already has a number of national certification schemes operating. It was also commented that an increasing number of certification schemes from outside the region are operating within the region. These certification schemes should acknowledge the cultural and socio-economic setting in the region which might be different compared the countries or regions from which some of the international certification schemes originate.
- The working group underlined that there was a need to involve all stakeholders who are potentially affected by aquaculture practices. It was noted that all involved stakeholders, especially small-scale fisheries and directly impacted communities, have a role to play in the development of certification standards and procedures.
- The Workshop recommended that this capacity and experience would be used by APFIC members to develop a regional certification scheme, which could be a harmonization with other schemes operating in the region. The Workshop emphasized that any schemes developed or operating in the region should be in compliance with the forthcoming FAO Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification.
- 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 allow for incremental improvement against targets.
- The Workshop recognized that the costs associated with compliance with most certification schemes, which are typically not offset by premium prices and/or other clearly documented benefits. 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. 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 recognized that most APFIC countries have significant resourcing and capacity constraints, at the producer level and within fishery institutions to implementation certification. 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).