Eco-labels: What are they and how do they protect the ocean?
What are eco-labels, and how do they protect our oceans? In this post, Shani breaks down some of the basics to help us navigate seafood sustainability.
Food and products that come from the ocean often have eco-labels on them, which tell you if they’ve been harvested sustainably. The problem is, there are so many governing bodies and labels that it’s hard to know which labels mean what.
But first off, what’s an eco-label? These labels that appear on the packaging of food or products that assure the consumer they have been harvested or gained in a specific way. This isn’t limited to ocean products - they appear on meat, products with palm oil, products containing wood, and more.
Different governing bodies have been created worldwide to ensure that producers do not abuse or over-exploit these resources, and eco-labels are able to inform consumers in a quick and visual way.
So let’s get into them. Below are some eco-labels, organized alphabetically, that vary from regional to international that can help you shop more sustainably:
BAP is a third-party certification through Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), used by companies worldwide from Amazon to Disney.
Their mission is "to be the most trusted certification for farm-raised seafood", and through their partnership with GAA they are the only aquaculture organization that offers certification and membership. Combined, they are able to examine and certify every step in the production chain, starting with hatchers and ending in a processing plant. They address
the four key areas of sustainability: environmental, social, food safety, and animal health & welfare.
Their logo, as seen here, ensures the product has been thoroughly vetted against rules agreed on by globally-recognized third parties.
Different versions of the logo indicate what level of compliance the product has achieved.
Businesses are certified as B corporations as a result of meeting ‘the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose’. Though they aren’t ocean specific, the requirements are inclusive of this area.
The B Corp Certification evaluates the product or service and assesses the overall positive impact of the company on their workers, customers, community and environment. There are now over 3,000 Certified B Corporations in more than 60 countries. Their simple but memorable logo, seen here, should be clear to see on any products you purchase.
It is estimated that more than 90,000 dolphins are killed as bycatch in tuna fishers each year. The Dolphin Safe label was launched in the US in 1990, spreading across the world fast and reducing dolphin deaths considerably.
Dolphin Safe tuna is defined as tuna that is caught without setting nets on or near dolphins, as well as noting that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in said nets. Companies that are certified by the Dolphin Safe label may lead consumers to believe that the tuna is environmentally friendly, but sadly this is not a consideration.
The most commonly used label is seen here, but in Europe and Australia, there are slight variations.
Friend of the Sea is founded by the Director of International Programs at the Dolphin Safe Project, and has become ‘the leading certification standard for products and services which respects and protects the marine environment’.
It is the only sustainable fisheries certification programme that is recognised and supervised globally by a National Accreditation Body.
Some of the criteria included under the Friend of the Sea certification are having no significant impact on the seabed, waste and energy management, and require no bycatch listed as vulnerable or worse in the IUCN Redlist.
The Marine Ingredients Organisation, or the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO), has members in over 50 countries and accounts for more than 55% of world production of marine ingredients, and 75% of the fishmeal and fish oil traded internationally. They focus on the whole value chain and partners with international organisations.
The IFFO has now certified 40% of the global production of fishmeal and fish oil as responsibly sourced and manufactured. Their work also spans across the increase in demand for fish products, and how this supply chain can be managed effectively.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation, recognising and rewarding efforts to protect oceans and safeguarding seafood supplies for the future.
Their mission is to use their ‘eco-label and fishery certification program to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognising and rewarding sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood and working with partners to transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis’.
There is an enormous amount of information and resources on the website, as MSC is one of the largest international organisations working towards this cause, so we recommend you take a look yourself.
Ocean Wise is a conservation program that allows customers to easily identify sustainable seafood in Canada. Through engagement, research, education, and visitor connections, Ocean Wise aims to mitigate the effects of overfishing, climate change, pollution and urban development.
Partners of the organisation commit to labelling all Ocean Wise products or include it on menus. To include this logo partners must source sustainable seafood, defined as ‘species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem’.
This list is not exhaustive. There are more eco-labels that pertain to ocean life across the globe, and many that are country-specific. If you are purchasing food or products in another country, conduct a bit of your own research on what eco-labels are established there. As always, shopping local is usually the best option, but next time you buy seafood, see if the package has an eco-label.
Shani recently relocated from London to Canada, lured in by nature, people and general outdoor spirit that flourishes here. Her combined experience in communications and sustainability led her to Stop Trashing It, and she enjoys regularly telling people to stop using cling wrap and make apple peel into chips instead of throwing them in the garbage. Shani is a big fan of digital and film photography, check her out at @shanikotecha.