Ocean Equity Research

Assessment of eco-labelling schemes for Pacific tuna fisheries

Publication Details

D. Kirby, C. Visser and Q. Hanich. Assessment of Eco-labelling Schemes for Pacific Tuna Fisheries. Marine Policy. 2014, 43, 132-142.


Developments in fisheries governance in recent decades—notably the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and its implementing agreements—have established a framework of principles, standards, institutions and regulations that is broader and more complex than traditional fisheries management, which has generally focused on individual target species. As this framework has evolved, a number of seafood eco-labelling schemes have also developed. These schemes aim to identify well-managed fisheries and give competitive advantage to their products, thus translating the environmental awareness of consumers into direct support for sustainable fishing practices. This paper evaluates a number of these schemes in the context of international fisheries governance principles and considers the conservation benefits that may result from sustainability certification of Pacific tuna fisheries. The paper briefly summarises developments in eco-labeling of Pacific tuna fisheries in relation to the evolution of fisheries management, where focus has shifted from the maximum sustainable yield of individual tuna species to ecosystem-based approaches that directly consider the broader environmental impacts of fishing. The paper discusses two different ‘Dolphin Safe’ eco-labels, the third-party scheme of the Earth Island Institute and the intergovernmental scheme of the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program, and two broader eco-labels offering sustainability certification of fisheries, ‘Friend of the Sea’ and the ‘Marine Stewardship Council’. The role played by seafood-industry associations with sustainability claims, such as the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, is also considered.

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