University of Tasmania

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Review of ecolabelling schemes for fish and fishery products from capture fisheries

posted on 2023-05-25, 06:08 authored by Sainsbury, K
This review is part of a process by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to refine the minimum substantive requirements of the FAO guidelines for ecolabelling of marine capture fisheries, and also to consider whether a single set of requirements could be developed that was adequate to assess both marine capture fisheries and inland fisheries. Ecolabels in this context are the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Type I environmental labels, and so are voluntary with certification based on third party assessment of the environmental effects of the product. The minimum substantive requirements are the measurable or operational requirements for assessing whether a fishery can be certified and an ecolabel awarded, and they relate to the management system, the stocks under consideration and the relevant ecosystem. This review summarizes the standards, requirements and practices for well-managed fisheries as applied through internationally-managed fisheries and through national management of fisheries. The standards, requirements and practices of existing fishery ecolabels are reviewed, including government-linked ecolabels, non-governmental ecolabels and seafood guides. Seafood guides are mostly ISO Type II or Type III ecolabels that provide self-declared claims or product descriptions against preset indices, and so are not strictly comparable to the ecolabels covered by the FAO guidelines. However, these guides are reviewed here because they are increasingly widespread, sometimes used in business procurement policies, a source of information on public expectations about sustainable fisheries and some use the results of third party assessments. The special requirements of the assessment of small-scale fisheries and developing countries fisheries are considered. The primary difficulty in relation to ecolabelling of these fisheries is also the primary difficulty with their management, generally that the cost of monitoring, assessment and management can be out of proportion to the value of the fishery and/or beyond the human and infrastructure capacity that is available. However, ecolabelling requires evidence that is verifiable and auditable through third party assessment. Methods to develop, test and apply proxies, empirical indicators and risk-based assessments are available and have been applied in both small-scale and developing state fisheries. While these assessment and management approaches have not been widely applied, and they require further development, they provide promising methods to manage fishery performance in circumstances where formal (statistical) estimation of stock condition is not possible. Inland fisheries often involve significant artificial enhancements and practices that are characteristic of aquaculture, such as species introductions and translocations, artificial breeding or feeding, disease control and animal husbandry, nutrient fertilization and intentional habitat modification. These practices are counter to the current norms and requirements of wild capture fisheries, which emphasize use of naturally occurring species and the maintenance of natural biodiversity, productivity and ecosystem processes. The importance of distinguishing between wild capture fisheries, enhanced fisheries and aquaculture in ecolabelling schemes is emphasized, because otherwise products with very different ecological impacts and performance standards could appear in the marketplace with the same ecolabel. Presently, the extent of aquaculturelike enhancements that would be acceptable in a capture fishery ecolabel is unclear, and this requires further development. But suggested interim criteria are provided for enhancements that are consistent with modern capture fisheries management and that could be acceptable in a capture fishery ecolabel. Based on this review, minimum substantive requirements are suggested for the FAO guidelines on ecol


Commissioning body

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations






Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems

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