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Guide for consumers: labels

Sustainable labelling of seafood is meant to be a win-win process for both consumers and certified businesses. Which are the eco-labels to look for?

Three-quarters of European consumers are concerned about the global environment and motivated to live a sustainable life.[1]

Sustainable labelling of seafood is meant to be a win-win process for both consumers and certified businesses. It makes it more convenient for consumers to choose sustainable seafood, while businesses get rewarded for their sustainable practices through promotion and gaining attention. Which are the eco-labels to look for? And why hasn’t all fish been certified yet?

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is the world’s biggest eco-label provider for wild-caught seafood. The equivalent certificate for cultivated seafood is offered by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). They meet best practice requirements set by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) and ISEAL, the global organisation for ambitious and transparent sustainability systems.[2,3] In both cases, fish is traceable from catch to plate.

MSC’s blue logo for fisheries

Founded by one of the largest international consumer goods company (Unilever) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 1997, MSC is now an independent non-profit organisation. In 2020, about 15% of the global wild marine catch was MSC-certified.[4]

MSC blue logo for seafoodMSC logo

ASC’s green logo for aquaculture farms

ASC was founded in 2010 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) to trace and certify seafood that comes from environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture farms.[5]

ASC logoASC logo

Other eco-labels

Several other eco-labels populate the global or regional seafood market. The International Trade Centre (ITC) lists 66 certification standards for fisheries,[6] while the Vancouver-based Ecolabel Index lists more than 460 labels, issued by governments, industry bodies, companies, and nonprofits.[7] For example, other certification schemes are Friends of the Sea, GLOBALG.A.P., Best Aquaculture Practices, Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) and Seafood Watch, among others.

Other eco-labelsOther eco-labels

In Europe, only farmed fish and seafood can be certified as organic (see below).[8] Furthermore, the species must be native to the place where they are farmed. In other words, organic Pacific white shrimp can only be sourced from the Americas, while organic black tiger shrimp can only come from their natural habitats in Africa and Asia.

EU Organic logoEU organic logo

Author: Jessica Tengvall

What we would like to do:

  • Does your go-to supermarket or restaurant sell fish with sustainable labels? Take a photo and share it with the other Learners on this padlet dashboard
  • Some retailers and distributors procure seafood only from schemes that have been benchmarked and approved by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI). Which are the 9 approved certificates? Click on this link to find out: Benchmarking – GSSI
  • Are you curious to know where sustainable fish farms are located? Consult the ASC certification map
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Sustainable Seafood: Barriers and Opportunities in the Fishing Industry

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