Evaluating seafood eco-labeling as a mechanism to reduce collateral impacts of fisheries in an ecosystem-based fisheries management context

Lead author: Rebecca Selden       Year: 2016      

Publication Abstract

By considering not only target species catch but also bycatch of non-target species and habitat damage, ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) has the potential to minimize the environmental impact of fisheries. Defining and benchmarking EBFM strategies for these incidental environmental impacts has been challenging, and this lack of consensus has, in part, resulted in a proliferation of eco-labeling schemes with variable and vague criteria for environmental targets. The performance of fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the most prominent eco-labeling certifier, was compared to non-certified fisheries and evaluated against target reference points for a suite of metrics derived from the EBFM literature. Specifically we compared marine mammal bycatch, finfish discard rates, and gear impacts between MSC-certified fisheries and non-certified fisheries. Discards of non-target finfish and bycatch rates of marine mammals were no different between certified and non-certified U.S. fisheries. Observer coverage was no higher in certified fisheries, and many fisheries failed to meet the coverage level thought adequate to document bycatch of protected species. MSC-certified fisheries did have lower average gear destructiveness scores than non-certified stocks when weighted by landings but not when weighted by the number of fisheries. Our analysis indicates that MSC-certified fisheries perform better on some ecosystem-based sustainability metrics but are indistinguishable from non-certified stocks on others, and improvement is needed for all certified fisheries to meet quantitative goals for the collateral impacts of fishing.


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  • Publication type:

    • Journal article
  • Other authors:

    • Rebeca Selden
    • Sarah Valencia
    • Ashley Larsen
    • Jorge Cornejo-Donoso
    • Amanda Wasserman