Environmental Schemes and the Emergence of the Marine Stewardship Council

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The problems surrounding depleting fish stocks around the world has been steadily increasing, and many companies are facing increasing pressure to promote environmentally friendly practices. A major high street retailer in Europe, Marks and Spencer has taken a step in this direction, as the company is collaborating with WWF to sign a charter to protect Europe’s waters from overfishing.

There are many third-party fishery environmental schemes in place around the world to tackle the dwindling fish stocks. The Friend of the Sea was initiated in 2005, works by approving products if target stocks are not overexploited and the seabed is not impacted by certain fishing methods. The Naturland Association promotes organic agriculture. Up till now they had only been concerned with aquaculture certifications. However, recently they initiated a wild fisheries certification scheme, starting with a trial certification programme in Tanzania on Lake Victoria.

Before the enactment of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 1972, as many as half a million dolphins died. By the late 1980s, increased pressures by consumers led to the initiation of the ‘Dolphin Safe Label’. This label was designed to certify that tuna was caught in a way that protects dolphins. This is based on the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP), a multilateral agreement under the IATTC Regional Fisheries Organization, or in line with a programme promoted by the Earth Island Institute (EII) a US based non-governmental organization.

In response to the growing demand in Japan for eco-labelled products, MEL-Japan was established in 2007 to support fisheries that work to conserve marine resources and the oceans. The objective is to foster and advance fisheries that actively address protection of marine resources and ecosystems by certifying such fisheries and differentiating their products from others with the Marine Eco-Label. The Krav is the Swedish certification for organic products. It includes all parts of the chain of custody, from the fishery to the retailers, and certification involves assessment of the
fishery followed by individual vessel certification.

However, it was the Marine Stewardship Council that came out on top, in comparison to other assessed seafood eco-labelling schemes by a report commissioned by the WWF. According to the report, the Accenture Development Partnerships compared and ranked seven fishery certification schemes, including Friend of the Sea, Naturland, and Krav. The report found that except for the MSC, the other assessed schemes do not evaluate fisheries across all criteria to the extent required to support sustainable fishing and healthy oceans.

The Marine Stewardship Council is arguably the best known of the environmental schemes. It incorporates a process of third party certification of fisheries and supply chains, in addition to the use of labels. The MSC is an independent, global, non-profit organization and meets the highest benchmarks for credible certification and ecolabelling programmes.

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