Ecolabelling as a Tool for Sustainable Aquaculture.

T.N. Venugopalan Vighneshwara Enterprise Introduction. Aquaculture is world’s fastest growing food production system. During the past two decades aquaculture production has increased by 10% per annum. This sector is rapidly gaining importance as a result of dwindling catches of fish from natural water bodies and increasing global demand for seafood. However, the tremendous growth in aquaculture sector is accompanied by a number of environmental and social problems that could undermine the future development of this sector unless suitable remedial measures are taken. In order to address the negative impact of aquaculture development on environment a number of management measures have been taken. Ecolabelling is one such management measure which is a market based economic instrument that seeks to direct consumers’ purchasing behaviour so that they consider product attributes other than price. Such attributes can relate to environmental, social and economic objectives. Market-based approaches have become a prominent strategy of environmental movement organisations. Using such market-based approaches, sustainable seafood organisations contribute sustainable aquaculture and fisheries. However, there is a view that such market based approaches leads to capitalist accumulation which is counter-productive to environmental sustainability. There has been growing realisation among national governments and multinational institutions that economic development and environmental issues are inseparable; many forms of development erode the environmental resource upon which they must be based and environmental degradation can undermine economic development. Sustainable development. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are grounded in a sound evidence-based approach that takes into account three dimensions sustainability such as economic, social and environmental. The term ‘sustainable development’ has different connotation and is defined variously by different organisations. However, there is no single agreed definition. In 1980 FAO defined sustainable development as “the management and conservation of the natural resource base and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development (in agriculture, forestry, fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable”. The most well-known definition of sustainability was coined by the 1987 Brundtland Commission of the UN; which was constituted to study the impact of development on the society, the economy and the environment. The commission defined sustainable development as “development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987) In recent years the concept of sustainable development has been widely discussed in many national and international fora and as a result a vast literature on the topic emerged. Sustainable Aquaculture. All fisheries and aquaculture activities generate some kind of impact on the environment. The concept of sustainable aquaculture is based on the extraction of resources in such a manner as to minimise the environmental impacts to an acceptable level. It may be defined as aquaculture systems which are environmentally sound, economically profitable and productive and maintain the social fabric of the rural community. The sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture production is vital for the livelihood, food security and nutritional requirements of billions of people. Importance of aquaculture Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food production systems, and presently this sector contributes around 13% of world animal protein supply. With the world’s capture fisheries in deep crisis and their restoration in many cases appears to be difficult or impossible, aquaculture has emerged as a viable alternative for many countries for increasing and sustaining their fish supply. The world aquaculture production increased drastically from 49.9 million tonnes in 2007 to 66.6 million tonnes in 2012 and 73.8 million tonnes in 2014.(State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, SOFIA 2016). During the same period the global capture fishery production was 90.8 million tonnes ; 91.3 million tonnes and 93.4 million tonnes respectively (SOFIA,2016). However, the rapid growth of the aquaculture has caused a wide range of concerns about the harmful environmental and social impact of culture system. These include: Biodiversity, critical habitats like mangroves and ecosystems Genetic diversity including GMOs Endangered species, exotic species, alien and migratory species. Natural fish stocks and species and the associated ecosystems Water, soil and air quality. Other environmental and social concerns of aquaculture arise from the unscientific use of banned antibiotics and veterinary drugs for prophylactic and therapeutic purposes, use of fishmeal as feed and restricting traditional access to local inhabitants. Many investigators questioned the merits of farming high priced carnivorous species such as shrimp, salmon, tilapia and Pangasius fed on fish meal and oil. These species consume huge amount of fish meal and oil derived from the output of wild fisheries, thereby putting more pressure on the already overexploited wild fish socks. This is a major issue of concern as fishmeal and oil are mostly derived from small pelagic species that are highly fecund, fast growing, short lived and occupy low trophic level in the food chains. It is expected that fish meal and oil consumption in aquaculture feeds will actually decline in the long term because of high prices; there will be better substitutes with plant derived protein and lipid sources and consumer resistance to eating farmed fish fed on other fish. Environmental labelling. The 1992 Earth Summit endorsed environmental labelling as a legitimate environmental management tool. Since then it had been seriously debated in a number of international fora, including the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP), United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Codex Alimentarius Commission and ISO besides a number of regional and national bodies. Aquaculture certification schemes. In the past two decades, the concept of ecolabelling and certification schemes for aquaculture has gained significant importance in the global trade and marketing of fish and fish products. The demand for ecolabelling and certification for both aquaculture and capture fishery are driven by large-scale retailers and food business operators (FBOs) with focus on food safety, environmental sustainability and social criteria. The label enables the retailers and brand owners to meet the growing consumer demand for products which originate from sustainably managed fisheries and aquaculture systems. Retailers use ecolabels as a tool to express their Corporate Social Resposibility (CSR) and thereby promote the sale of such labelled products. In 1996 FAO Committee on Fisheries (CoFi) discussed the possible role of ecolabelling as a tool for sustainable fisheries management. However, several members were apprehensive about the possible use of ecolabelling schemes as non-tariff barriers to trade. In 1991 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defined environmental labelling as “the voluntary granting of labels by a private or public body in order to inform consumers and thereby promote consumer products which are determined to be environmentally friendlier than other functionally and competitively similar products”. Ecolabelling schemes entitle a fishery product to bear a distinctive logo or statement which certifies that the fish has been harvested in compliance with conservation and sustainability standards. The logo or statement is intended to make provision for informed decisions of purchasers whose choice can be relied upon to promote and stimulate the sustainable use of fishery resources. Ecolabels are defined as marks on products that are “deemed to have fewer impacts on the environment than functionally or competitively similar products”. Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) defines an ecolabel as “a label which identifies overall environmental performance of a product (i.e. goods or service) within a product category based on life cycle considerations.” An ecolabel is a mark, logo, a label or a product endorsement affixed to a seafood product at the point of sale that implies to a purchaser that the product has been produced through ecologically sustainable procedures, and is from a source that is well managed. . Ecolabels are normally applied as labels or tags, such as a recognisable logo to a seafood product as a product endorsement at the point of retail sale. Where individual products are small or where they are marketed in a combined or processed pack (such as a canned product), the label may be applied to the pack rather than the individual product itself. The consumer facing label is an assurance to the consumer that the product they purchase is produced in a manner which has less impact on the environment in comparison to an unlabelled product. Thus the message that the ecolabelled product is more environmentally sustainable is conveyed to the consumer. International Organisat