Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

What's Behind the Label

October 2, 2017

The Canadian aquaculture and fishing sectors are increasingly keen to market their products as ‘responsible’ and ‘sustainable’ to environmentally and socially conscious shoppers. Seafood eco-labels are now common-place at our local supermarkets, with the most prominent eco-certifications being the global Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Our new report, in collaboration with our SeaChoice partners, reviews if and how these schemes are contributing to environmental improvements in Canadian aquaculture and fishery practices. The short answer – not enough.

Living Oceans reviewed all ASC certifications and audits to date. We found emerging patterns with the implementation of the Salmon Standard in Canada that suggest the ASC is lowering its sustainability bar to accommodate current industry practices. Despite the claim a farm must be ‘100 % complaint’ with the Standard, we found B.C. farms regularly rely on ‘variances’ to the Standard criteria in order to be certified. We also found up to a year of the production cycle is never assessed by auditors for compliance. Furthermore, due to inadequate suspension and revocation rules, farms in major breach of the Standard can and have sold their product with the eco-label. For example, a certified farm that experienced 7 sea lion deaths (5 above the Standard threshold), a breach that would have disqualified the farm from initial certification, has twice successfully harvested and entered the market with the ASC certification.

Likewise, problematic findings were found with the MSC certification. Several certified fisheries experienced significant timeline extensions and flexible interpretations of the application of the Standard requirements.   While SeaChoice’s analysis of requirements of certification to directly improve fishery practices’ impacts on habitat, non-target species and ecosystem function to be minimal.

Read the report at:

seafood labels