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Ecolabels have no affect on fishermen

There are many different ecolabels for wild-caught and farmed fish. However, the requirements for using eco-labels on seafood have little impact on Norwegian fishermen.

The harvesting patterns in Norwegian fisheries are controlled to a large extent by the migration patterns of the fish. The fishery takes place during periods of the year when the fish is easily accessible – near the coast and in large amounts. This adaptation involves the fishery being concentrated on certain areas in certain periods.

Eco-labelling of seafood has become widespread in many sales outlets and in many cases the customers are conscious that the seafood they are buying comes from sustainable fisheries. The demands for certification vary between the various eco-labels, and Nofima has analysed whether this will have an impact on the harvesting patterns of Norwegian fisherman.

During the project, scientists have assessed three eco-labels for wild-caught fish: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), KRAV and Friend of the Sea (FOS). These were the most important eco-labels for Norwegian wild-caught fish when the study was carried out in 2009.

Comparison of eco-labels

It is clear that the criteria for using the various eco-labels are different. However, all demand that the fishery must be sustainable. Differences are attached to factors including the type of products that are certified and in which country these products are sold. Another difference is that the duration of the certification processes vary. For instance, MSC certification may last for 14 months while FOS certification lasts for one day.

This is reflected in the length of the reports from these processes. This can indicate that MSC uses more time on the certification process compared to KRAV and FOS.

Little affect

Few of the criteria for using the three studied eco-labels affected the harvesting patterns of Norwegian fishermen. An exception was the requirement from KRAV concerning the catch area and season for certain fisheries. KRAV demands that many of the eco-certified fisheries shall for parts of the year take place a minimum 12 nautical miles from the coastline. The reason for this is safeguarding of the coastal cod stocks. In addition, KRAV demands a winter fishery of cod. This is unproblematic as the majority of cod is harvested during the winter months. However, it may be a problem for those wanting to move part of the winter fishery to other times of the year.

Approved fishing gear

The gear type that is utilized has been an important topic for environmental organisations. Discussions have involved whether some gear types have a greater strain on the seafloor than others and the degree to which some gear types lead to increased catches of fish that are under the minimum size. The study shows that no gear is excluded from the eco-certifications from these assessments.

Further information may be found in the article “Eco-labelling of seafood: does it affect the harvesting patterns of Norwegian fishermen?” in Marine Policy 36 (2012), 1123-1130 and in the report below.

 Norwegian seafood may be labelled with eco-labels without the fisheries needing to make major changes. Photo: Frank Gregersen
Copyright: Nofima

Norwegian seafood may be labelled with eco-labels without the fisheries needing to make major changes.