Nordic states back fish ecolabelling scheme

Ministerial agreement slammed by operator of existing global seafood ecolabel

Nordic agriculture and fisheries ministers, meeting on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard (Spitsbergen) in the high Arctic, have agreed in principle to create a regional ecolabel scheme for wild fish and fish products, ENDS Daily has learned.

A "Nordic technical working group on fisheries ecolabelling criteria" delivered its final report, "An arrangement for the voluntary certification of products of sustainable fishing", in June. Governments now appear set to take this initiative forward.

The working group based its recommendations on a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) code of conduct and the UN biodiversity convention. The report says the process "should be transparent, be based on scientific grounds and use verifiable criteria". It should be "a voluntary, consumer driven scheme for marine capture fisheries with state authorities establishing criteria which then can be used by private bodies and NGOs to ecolabel products".

Norway and Sweden already operate limited certification schemes for farmed salmon and organic food products respectively, which some ministers think could form the basis of a Nordic-wide system for seafood. In any case, existing labelling organisations would almost certainly be involved.

The Nordic ministerial agreement has been strongly criticised by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a private, charitable organisation that already runs a global ecolabelling scheme for seafood products (ENDS Daily 3 March). "It is just another attempt to undermine what we are doing," the body's chief executive Brendan May told ENDS Daily today.

Mr May said that a senior Norwegian government official resigned an advisory role to the MSC yesterday but was now leading the Nordic ecolabel development process. He alleged that Nordic countries were simply reacting to the presence of the MSC in the belief that ecolabelling initiatives should be government-run. "We are a real scheme, up and running," he said; "I suspect they will eventually come on board".

Follow Up:
Nordic Council of Ministers, tel: +45 33 96 02 00; MSC, tel: +44 20 79 05 25 32.

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