Good news for our overfished and exploited waters: certified sustainable seafood is on the rise.
According to a new report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), certified seafood now accounts for 14 per cent of global production or US$11.5 billion. The figure represents a considerable jump from 2005 when sustainable product made up just 0.5 per cent of the market.
What’s driving change? The State of Sustainability Initiatives (SSI) Review: Standards and the Blue Economy report attributes the surge in certified seafood to demand from big retailers and restaurant chains, which are putting pressure on seafood suppliers to deliver sustainable fish.
Seafood products are one of the most important and valuable commodities traded globally and are worth about US$140 billion, says IISD. Seafood is also heavily consumed, with about 50% of animal protein consumed by humans coming from fish, making it a critical source of both food and jobs.
Big demand, however, brings big problems.
“Along with this booming seafood sector comes a number of sustainability issues such as the loss of aquatic ecosystems and habitats, over-exploitation of fish stocks [it is estimated that 88% of natural fish stocks are either fully exploited or overexploited] as well as unfair labour practices, which has come to the fore most recently with reports of slave labour on some fishing vessels,” said Ann Wilkings, an IISD researcher and report co-author, at a recent press conference.
But rapid expansion of sustainable seafood practices is helping to address decades of mismanagement, says IISD. The report, which studied the market and performance trends of the nine most prevalent seafood certification schemes—including the Marine Stewardship Council, Global G.A.P., Friend of the Sea—reveals that certified seafood production grew 35 per cent per year over the last decade, nearly 10 times faster than conventional seafood production over the same period.
“By giving fisherman an economic incentive to protect the environment,” said IISD senior associate Jason Potts in a statement. “These initiatives have the potential to help link sustainable livelihoods to sustainable production practices.”