News Trawl 14: Something Fishy in Eco-Labeling?

eco-labeling - fishing - Photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via Visualhunt / CC BY
Photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via Visualhunt / CC BY

On the surface, eco-labeling of seafood products seems to be a helpful guide. It tells you whether the fish is from a sustainable source, how it was caught, etc. But beneath this calm surface there are cross-currents of nuance and conflicting claims.

The most useful guide to this confusion that we have seen so far is this set of guidelines from Oceana. It asks and answers these pertinent questions:

  • Why do we certify seafood?
  • What factors do eco-labels look at?
  • If a fishery isn’t eco-certified, does that automatically mean it’s not sustainable? (Answer: not necessarily)
  • Are all certification schemes the same? (Answer: No!)
  • Does an eco-label mean you can compare seafood across species or production methods?
  • Do eco-labels actually help? (Given that only 14% of seafood products carry them, and given that some try ‘greenwashing’ their claims, the answer is… difficult!)
  • So, should I buy certified seafood or not?

In response to the last question, Oceana says: “When it comes down to it, eco-certification is a work in progress. A simple stamp of approval leaves little room for nuance. But this doesn’t mean seafood lovers should stop looking for ecolabels.”

View from the EU

Bearing these issues of sustainability and consistency in mind, it was very encouraging to see the European Commission, the EU Parliament and the EU Council of Fisheries getting together to reform the chaos of the European fishing industry. If all goes to plan, the EU’s external fishing fleet will become “the most transparent, accountable and sustainable globally”.

Amongst the internal reforms, the new laws now require the same stringent standards for all private fishing enterprises, and for any vessel seeking authorisation to fish outside EU waters. They also attempt to bring an end to abuses of the law, whereby vessels circumvent conservation measures. Good news indeed.

“Europe is demonstrating its commitment to lead on sustainable and equitable international fisheries governance and to combating illegal fishing activities anywhere in the world,” comments Dr Samantha Burgess, Head European Marine Policy at WWF-EPO.

Mackerel - good source of omega-3
Photo via VisualHunt

More Fish to Fry

The benefits of eating seafood have been discussed many times on our website. Much of the research we have covered examines the importance of omega-3 DHA and EPA fatty acids for the health of the human brain. But new research appears on an almost weekly basis.

One claim that caught our eye this week was “Eating fish at least twice a week may significantly reduce the pain and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis”. This is according to a new study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, US.

“We wanted to investigate whether eating fish as a whole food would have a similar kind of effect as the omega 3 fatty acid supplements,” said the study author, Dr. Sara Tedeschi.

And it did.

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