One of the easiest ways that people can affect change is through their purchasing power. However, in today's global economy it is challenging to truly understand the ecological impact of our purchases. Increasingly many seafood products are seeking ecolabels to help promote their product. Most consumers generally do not have the time to fully understand the criteria used in a certification system and therefore there is trust that the public label reflects a genuine reality. If done properly ecolabels can provide economic incentives for industries to shift toward better practices.
Consumer awareness around seafood sustainability has grown rapidly over the last five years and so too has the desire of the fishing and aquaculture industry to distinguish various fish products with an ecolabel. At the David Suzuki Foundation we are closely monitoring certification schemes currently being used to certify Canadian and International products as sustainable.
The emerging leader in the field of wild caught seafood certification is the U.K. based Marine Stewardship Council. Several of Canada's marine fisheries are currently seeking certification by the MSC and many are already certified. Many of these fisheries are genuinely sustainable (e.g., troll caught albacore tuna, Pacific halibut) others are much more controversial. The David Suzuki Foundation is a registered stakeholder in many certification processes.
Marine Stewardship Council
The U.K. based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is currently the main global certification system involved in the ecolabeling of wild caught seafood products. Several Canadian fisheries are seeking MSC certification or have recently been certified. Some of these fisheries are very controversial such as sockeye salmon and longline swordfish. The David Suzuki Foundation has provided input into several certification processes.
The Aquaculture Dialogues are a multi-stakeholder process that was developed and convened by the World Wildlife Fund in 2003. The process seeks to identify the major impacts associated with the major aquaculture production species (e.g. tilapia, salmon, shrimp, trout, bivalves, catfish) via dialogue between the industry, ENGO's (environmental non-governmental organizations), and other stakeholders (e.g. scientists, retailers, etc.). Once the major impacts are identified, the process seeks to define performance based standards that will be used to certify aquaculture products for seafood buyers interested in "sustainable seafood". Performance standards are different from Best Management Practices because they allow the producer to innovate and conform to a sustainability target rather than stripping the farmer of their expertise and potential for innovation. This model has been used by WWF for other key agricultural products such as palm oil and soy.