Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) current work - global guidelines on ecolabelling and certification in capture fisheries and aquaculture

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1 9 August 2012 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) current work - global guidelines on ecolabelling and certification in capture fisheries and aquaculture FAO descriptor on what eco-labels do: Large-scale retailers and food services now drive the demand for certification of both aquaculture and capture fishery products in relation to food safety and quality, sustainability and social criteria. The presence of an ecolabel, for example, helps retailers and brand owners meet the growing consumer demand for products originating from sustainably managed fisheries. In some markets, retailers look for niche products that are certified as organic fish, or for a degree of social responsibility in the production systems and practices. In addition, ecolabels and certification help retailers by ensuring that the products delivered by a range of certified international suppliers, at times operating in different continents, are standardized in terms of sustainability, food safety, quality and traceability depending on the specific ecolabel or certification. Ecolabels and certification schemes arose in response to concerns for environmental sustainability and a perceived decline in the abundance of many of the world s major fish stocks. Owing to heightened consumer awareness and interest in environmental issues, it became clear that ecolabels and certification schemes could improve access to certain markets and provide a price premium for fish or fish products. It appears that ecolabelling and certification schemes have resulted in increased market share and price for some fisheries and suppliers. Programmes to develop ecolabelling schemes have recently been initiated by a number of States, e.g. Iceland Responsible Fisheries (Iceland), and the California Sustainable Seafood Initiative and Alaska FAO-based Responsible Fisheries Management Certification (both in the United States of America). These initiatives have been partially driven by concerns about the costs associated with private ecolabelling schemes. However, public schemes may be perceived as self-serving. National administrations could be seen as certifying themselves, running the risk of being accused of a conflict of interest. Nonetheless, those national ecolabelling schemes assessed as being in compliance in the evaluation framework would significantly increase their legitimacy and the likelihood of receiving national and international recognition. FAO Guidelines on ecolabelling in the absence of global initiatives to standardize the development of the use of ecolabelling and certification schemes in fisheries and aquaculture, and with a growing number of such schemes, the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) agreed in 2003 that FAO should develop guidelines on ecolabelling. Since then, FAO has developed the following guidelines: Guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries (Marine Guidelines). 2005, Guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Inland Capture Fisheries (Inland Guidelines)

2 Guidelines on Aquaculture Certification (Aquaculture Guidelines) The FAO COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade recently discussed a draft Framework for assessment of ecolabelling schemes in inland and marine capture fisheries. (February 2012). Progress re wild capture Wild capture - FAO Marine guidelines (2005, revised in 2009) The revised guidelines call for the minimum substantive requirements and criteria of ecolabelling schemes to include the following elements: The fishery is conducted under a management system that is based on good practice, including the collection of adequate data on the current state and trends of the stocks and based on the best scientific evidence. The stock under consideration is not overfished. The adverse impacts of the fishery on the ecosystem are properly assessed and effectively addressed. Furthermore, the procedural and institutional aspects of ecolabelling schemes should encompass: the setting of certification standards; the accreditation of independent certifying bodies; the certification that a fishery and the chain of custody of its products are in conformity with the required standards and procedures. Because FAO is developing benchmarks to assess whether private schemes comply with these guidelines, consideration may need to be given to revising the Marine Guidelines in order to address explicitly the issues of stock enhancement and species introductions. Wild capture - Evaluation framework In 2009, COFI asked FAO to develop an evaluation framework to assess whether private or public ecolabelling schemes were in conformity with the Marine Guidelines (Inland Guidelines were to follow). An Evaluation Framework was developed and submitted to the COFI Sub- Committee on Fish Trade in February The Evaluation Framework includes a very large number of benchmark indicators (155 in total, six of which apply only to the inland fisheries guidelines). All indicators are treated equally. Conformance by the scheme is determined only when the scheme is in conformance with all the indicators in the evaluation framework (Appendix D of the Report). The Evaluation Framework may be used to assess conformity with FAO Guidelines through a variety of means. It could be used as a self-assessment tool by the ecolabelling scheme holder; it could also be used by third parties with an interest in assessing the conformity of ecolabelling schemes with the Guidelines. FAO will not actually undertake the conformity assessment of ecolabelling schemes. A paper on this Evaluation Framework was tabled at the July 2012 COFI meeting for discussion. This raised a number of issues: Issue 4: It will be difficult for developing countries to implement the Evaluation Framework. Clarification by the Secretariat: The main purpose of the Evaluation Framework is to assess the conformity of ecolabelling schemes with the FAO Guidelines. This can be 2

3 achieved through a variety of means and for a variety of purposes. There is, however, not a requirement for developing countries, or any other FAO member, to implement the Evaluation Framework. It will be, in particular, the responsibility of the owners of ecolabelling schemes to implement the evaluation framework to substantiate their claims of conformity with the FAO ecolabelling guidelines. The following sections illustrate situations where the Evaluation Framework can be used: Ecolabelling scheme X has asserted that it is in conformity with the FAO Guidelines but there as been no internationally recognized mechanism to demonstrate this assertion. If the Evaluation Framework is adopted, ecolabelling scheme X will be able to assess its conformity with the FAO Guidelines through the application of the Evaluation Framework. The most robust manner to undertake the assessment will be through an independent third-party assessment. Fishery A would like to certify its fisheries as being sustainably managed to satisfy consumer demand. Several ecolabelling schemes are available but Fishery A s primary requirement is that its fisheries are certified by an ecolabelling scheme that is in conformity with the FAO Guidelines. Before selecting an ecolabelling scheme to assess its fisheries, Fishery A can require that existing ecolabelling schemes undergo a third party assessment to determine the ecolabelling scheme s conformity with the FAO Guidelines. Fishery A can then select an ecolabelling scheme that is consistent with the FAO Guidelines. Country Y has developed a national ecolabelling scheme but wants to ensure that its scheme is in conformity with the FAO Guidelines. Country Y has the option of undergoing a self-assessment using the Evaluation Framework or, if it is looking for a more robust assessment, to undergo an independent third-party assessment of its national ecolabelling scheme using the Evaluation Framework. Issue 6: Need a pilot program to assess the Evaluation Framework. Clarification by the Secretariat: A pilot program to assess the Evaluation Framework would be useful. This would, however, imply a de facto evaluation of an ecolabelling scheme. This could be an expensive and lengthy undertaking. Furthermore it may be inconsistent with FAO s mandate. Wild capture - Next steps At the July meeting there was a wide ranging discussion. The FAO Secretariat remarked that problems associated to private eco-labeling initiatives falsely claiming to be FAO based would be reduced if members endorse the FAO guidelines. There did not appear to be full agreement on next steps. Progress re aquaculture Aquaculture - FAO Aquaculture guidelines In the absence of a precise international reference framework for the implementation of some of the specific minimum criteria contained in the Aquaculture Guidelines, COFI recognised the importance of developing appropriate standards in order to ensure that aquaculture certification systems do not become unnecessary barriers to trade. The Guidelines were approved February

4 The Aquaculture Guidelines provide guidance for the development, organisation and implementation of credible aquaculture certification schemes. Minimum substantive criteria for developing aquaculture certification standards are provided for: (i) animal health and welfare; (ii) food safety; (iii) environmental integrity; (iv) socio-economic aspects. The extent to which a certification scheme seeks to address the issues depends on its objectives. Therefore, the scheme should explicitly and transparently state its objectives. The Aquaculture Guidelines, which apply to voluntary certification schemes, are to be interpreted and applied in a manner consistent with their objectives, with national laws and regulations, and, where they exist, with international agreements. The Aquaculture Guidelines make it clear that credible aquaculture certification schemes have three main components: Standards, Accreditation and Certification. The Aquaculture Guidelines cover: Standard-setting processes, which are needed to develop and review certification standards; Accreditation systems, which are needed to provide formal recognition to a qualified body to carry out certification; Certification bodies, which are needed to verify compliance with certification standards. ftp://ftp.fao.org/fi/document/aquaculture/tgac/guidelines/aquaculture%20certification%20 GuidelinesAfterCOFI _E.pdf Aquaculture - Evaluation framework COFI recommended that FAO develop an Evaluation Framework to assess the conformity of public and private certification schemes against the Aquaculture Guidelines. The COFI Sub- Committee on aquaculture considered the implementation of the FAO Technical Guidelines on aquaculture certification in March in the absence of a precise international reference framework for the implementation of some specific minimum criteria contained in the Guidelines, the Committee recognized the importance of developing the appropriate standards in order to ensure that the certification systems do not become unnecessary barriers to trade. The group proposed: The development of appropriate standards on socio-economic aspects and environmental integrity for certifying aquaculture; The development of an assessment framework to evaluate conformity of aquaculture certification schemes with the FAO Guidelines; To review selected aquaculture certification schemes to better understand their conformity with the FAO Guidelines; The development of tools for capacity building to assist stakeholders in the implementation of aquaculture certification. Meeting reports are not yet published on the FAO website. Aquaculture - Next steps In July 2012 the FAO Secretariat noted that a technical workshop in November 2012 will discuss an assessment framework to evaluate aquaculture schemes in line with FAO instruments. 4

5 Sources FAO: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012 (230 pages) FAO website (COFI) Prepared by: Karen Green, Industry Environmental Communications, Seafish. T: E: 5

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