How Important Is Ecolabeling?

There is a growing trend for products to carry some type of eco-label that certifies the resource is sustainable.  It's become mainstream in fisheries to have such a label certifying the product comes from a sustainable fishery that both minimizes bycatch and doesn't harm the environment.  As the following article demonstrates, not having an ecolabel puts some fisheries at a huge disadvantage.

This trend is limited to seafood. Increasingly more consumers are looking for some kind of ecolabel on items ranging from home house cleaning products to tropical vacations.  Imagine what happens when an environmentally friendly tourism certification hits vacation destinations.  It's already begun with websites certifying travel companies and locations for their level of eco-friendliness.

Icelands seafood industry has taken a hit lately because of failure to gain sustainable certification.  That's something that can easily be fixed, unfortunately whaling only adds to that very problem.  Check out the article on Iceland's fishing industry and seafood ecolabeling below.   

THE value of fish catches landed in Iceland has fallen by a worrying 13.5 per cent during the first quarter of 2008.

The latest figures published by Statistics Iceland shows that total landings for January, February and March totalled 21.8 billion Icelandic kronas, compared with 25.2 billion kronas over the same period last year. The 2008 figure is the equivalent of 215.5 million euros at current exchange rates.

The big cut in cod quotas introduced last September is thought to be largely to blame for the drop, but there are other factors such as fleet contraction and a reduction in capelin. The figures show that more than 60 per cent of fish landed in Iceland is processed in that country, while 25 per cent is frozen at sea. Just 13 per cent is exported fresh in containers, mainly to the Humber Markets.

Meanwhile, Dr Kristján Thórarinsson of the Icelandic Federation of Fishing Vessel Owners, has said there is no let-up in the relentless pressure on retailers from green organisations.

He said on the owner's website (LIU.is): "These organisations, including Greenpeace and WWF, have been vying to get retailers in Europe and the US to stop selling cod and haddock on the grounds that these species are overfished. There is a similar situation regarding redfish," he says.

"There has to be some response to this if we intend to maintain our rights to our own stocks and market products to the most productive outlets. Of course a lot has already been done with companies, organisations and public bodies all involved, but there is still a need for more to be done."

He comments that several organisations offer eco-labels and in this way take on the role of guardians over retailers, apparently looking for a monopoly position while having a limited understanding of the issues at stake.

"Co-operation with these organisations has not been interesting for the Icelandic seafood business, for a variety of reasons, in particular the methods that these organisations use and the demands they make for accreditation to be approved."

He points to the example of Friends of the Sea, an organisation that has refused to accredit cod and haddock from the eastern north Atlantic, taking a lead from the ICES website.

But, he says, a closer look at ICES data states that a 2007 assessment says that the haddock stock in Icelandic waters is very large and the spawning stock the largest for 25 years and above all possible danger points.

"It's not easy for someone without experience to read the ICES data, but it's a serious matter if someone without the right knowledge is taking it on themselves to make decisions regarding accreditation. The Icelandic Fisheries Society is currently working on an Icelandic eco-label to accredit the responsible nature of Icelandic fisheries. The guidelines being followed are those laid down by the FAO and the aim is to work with a neutral, professional and internationally acceptable institution to carry this out. The project is run by a working group at the Fisheries Society and a full-time staff member has been taken on to manage this.

"Labelling and accreditation is important to Iceland. In my opinion it is clear that more is needed," he added.

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