In places such as North America, Europe, and Australia which have a large, environmentally-aware consumer base, ecolabelling is a possible mechanism for improving the sustainability of wild-capture fisheries and aquaculture. While several studies have now provided evidence that ecolabelling may improve the environmental performance of fisheries, it remains controversial. Interesting questions remain to be answered regarding ecolabel effectiveness, the mechanisms by which they drive change, and their unintended consequences.
Between 2013 and 2016 I helped co-ordinate the stock assessment component of a major government initiative to enable ecolabelling, or third-party certification, of Western Australia’s commercial fisheries. This initiative has so far led to the pre-assessment of all 47 of WA’s commercial fisheries through the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Several fisheries have subsequently made the transition to full assessment with a total of eight fisheries ‘certified sustainable’ by the MSC in WA in 2017.
Specific challenges in WA have included inconsistency in interpretation of the MSC standard, benchmarking of existing management practices, and the development of suitable empirical harvest strategies for small-scale, data-limted fisheries.