A recent study by researchers in Newfoundland and North Carolina looks at new trends in eco-certification and the attendant power dynamics between the parties engaged on a global scale.
Sustainability Certifications for Fisheries
The study focuses on the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) administration of sustainability certifications for fisheries and newer programs that have followed in their wake in different places around the world.
Although the MSC’s guidelines have been written in a way that could be a global standard, different places are establishing different rules based on dominant relations of production and territorial claims. This creates a competition for establishing rules in a given place and showcases the interactions of NGOs, state actors, and the private sector.
Global Fish Production and Sustainability
On the other hand, sustainability endeavors like the MSC have been criticized as neocolonialist or imperialist. They are, however, voluntary and tools for influencing consumers rather than topdown control measures.
What the new certifications have in common whether based in Japan, the United States, Iceland, or Canada are appeals to ridding themselves of “outside influence” and maintaining a national reputation to retain control over their territory and a positive image in the eyes of consumers.
That outside influence refers primarily to MSC, whose guidelines deteriorate territorial boundaries and national control therein and are also costly to both industry and government.
Another influence is that, by expressing their certification in a placebased manner, these nations can showcase their sustainable practices not with the stamp of an NGO like MSC but with, for instance, one that reinforces in consumers a history of environmentally sound practices in Canadian fisheries.
The study wraps up their findings by saying that these new programs should not be viewed as simply authoritarian, and can be thought of as more accessible to the private sector and also introducing placebased strategies.
For more information, see the February 2016 edition of Geoforum.
Foley, P., & Havice, E. (2016). The rise of territorial eco-certifications: New politics of transnational sustainability governance in the fishery sector. Geoforum, 69, 24-33.