Is 'Ecolabelling' The Way Forward For Sustainable Fishing?

by nchis_1 on November 28, 2016 - 2:36pm

The decline of marine species is having troubling affects on fisheries around the world. In an interview with marine biologist Dr. Worm, Mike Adams uses his expert opinions and recommendations to document the issue in greater depth. The article and interview covers the problem of commercial fishing of every corner of our planets oceans, with many of the fisheries now failing. During the interview, Dr. Worm exaggerated how unsustainable the sea life population is as a leading food source of the world. He explains how a dangerous issue in this subject is the lack of balance in ocean life caused by the speedy reduction of crucial predator species including sharks, along with the loss of mammals like whales- all of which have vital parts to play in the system. Its clear that the interview concluded that ultimately, it is due to human practices such as the ‘fining’ of sharks or the harvesting of krill which are disturbing and changing the marine ecosystems in a negative way.

In the article, Dr. Worm’s main points included the fact that there is a decline of 90% in marine species populations, which is greatly due to how destructive human activity is on them. This results in fisheries worldwide being put in a troubling position. He made it clear that the main problem and the largest single impact on marine ecosystems today is overfishing. Our oceans have reached a limit, as us humans are taking out too much whilst adding a lot of waste. Ultimately, he warns that by 2050, global fishing could essentially be eradicated if major changes re not made in terms of sustainable fishing.

I think it is humans’ consumption habits that are the problem. Within Canada, fisheries are huge employers with around 40,000 people harvesting in the country and around 31/32,000 working in the packaging sector. It is evident that fishing accounts for a huge percent of the countries income and the process has become more about the economic benefit and income rather than as a natural resource or the biology of the animal. This is a result of a problem of management of the fisheries in the wrong way. It’s a case of administrative rationalism which still underlines the way fisheries are managed and how they’ve been used. The methods, tools and standards in practice have changed and the number of managers has decreased, but the approach towards fisheries and oceans as a means to exploit them has remained the same.

The article never covered many solutions to the problems discussed however, one that was emphasised was when Dr. Worm stressed the importance of consumers informing themselves about the origins of their seafood purchases as this may encourage them to be more inclined to make more responsible decision when buying it. I think this is a valid suggestion he puts across as by through ‘Ecolabelling’, we can work towards raising awareness of the origins of consumers purchases and therefore more sustainable fishing. It is (what I think) an impressive and efficient regulatory tool which benefits both the environmentally friendliness of fishing and also the producers financially.



The article by Mike Adams for Natural News can be found here:

His full-length interview (about 45 mins) can be found here if you are interested in listening to it:


I really enjoyed reading your post and informing myself on the state of fisheries. I was wondering if you consider eco-labeling to be in a position to really save all fisheries? There are many species of fish where quotas are followed however, they are still over fished beyond the rate of replenishment. Does there need to be structural changes to the agency itself or can eco-labeling address these challenges?

Hello there,

Great post! I think this is a very important issue that needs to be addressed and it is good to see that there are people out there trying to find solutions to this industry. As mentioned, the fishing industry has had a significant impact on marine wildlife, to the point where we are seeing major declines in fish stocks and larger marine species. I agree that eco-labeling is a great idea, it encourages to consumers to buy only from industries that work by their quo and in a sustainable manner. However, I find it hard that this can be applied to all fisheries. One of the biggest issues, besides loss of marine life, is the that there is a tragedy of the commons. Ultimately, the ocean is a common pool resource, it has a lot of stakeholders who are constantly taking from it. However, the number of stakeholders (fishing industries) is huge. Therefore, when you have multiple fisheries extracting from the same resource, there eventually is a loss for everyone. This is what is going on right now, I do not think the rate of extraction is at the same rate of replenishment. If it were than the fishing industry would not be experiencing a loss of fish stocks; this inevitably supporting the idea of the tragedy of the commons. Once that shared resource is taken, everyone loses out. I think one of the biggest contributors to this tragedy of the commons is that the ocean is at an open access. It spans globally, therefore everyone has the ability to access this. We cannot leave out that many countries have tried intervening on this issue be implementing fishing boundaries. However, the problem that resides is that some countries are not listening to the fishing laws and they are illegally fishing past these boundaries. The fish caught in these illegal areas are then sold on the black market. Not only is this one of the major contributors to loss of marine life, it is illegal. Furthermore, I think this is a major issue that needs to have multiple levels of government and stakeholders involved.

My question to you is how do you think we can resolve the problem of illegal fishing when the ocean is an open access resource? Do you think it is possible to control the illegal fishing? Again, thank you for the great and informative post.

This was a really interesting post – I think a lot of people forget how much fishing still contributes to Canada’s GDP, and how sensitive this makes this part of the economy to pressures from climate change and overfishing.

However, while I am normally a fan of approaches that use the power of consumers and public interest to help raise awareness and solve environmental problems, I have always been a bit skeptical of eco-labelling as a solution. For consumers that are relatively well-off, they have the opportunity to vote with their wallets and choose products that are pricier but leave them feeling more moral with their decisions. Unfortunately, for some people this is just not an option, and so the message likely never reaches them since they don’t have as much of a choice in what they buy as the average middle-class consumer. In addition, relying solely on eco-labelling can make retailers feel like they have “done their duty” and don’t need to go any further in corporate social responsibility. I also think that the current oversaturation of ecolabels in the market is an issue that should be addressed if we continue using ecolabeling for public education – if consumers don’t know the difference between the MSC logo and another certification with different standards, it makes it hard for them to choose a product that actually is sustainable.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how these certifications could be standardized in order to reduce consumer confusion, as well as some other ideas and management tools for managing Canada’s fisheries.

Great post regarding such a serious threat to our fisheries. Since the solution proposed was to make consumers more aware of where they are purchasing the commodity from using Eco-labelling, the use of third party organizations should be implemented to help in this effort. Third party organizations can govern and regulate where companies receive their products and if they meet a certain standard, than they can adorn the logo of an environmentally sustainable product. By having an eco-label on a product, consumers will be more willing to spend more money to purchase that product. This should motivate companies to change their methods in order to be able to sport the label themselves. Do you think that a company seeks to receive eco-labels for economic reasons rather than environmental ones?

This is such an important topic. I am a strong supporter of eco labelling myself and I believe it is the first steps towards informing consumers of their impacts and what happens before the consumption of products. As a former marine biology student I understand the importance of all phylogenetic levels of the aquatic ecosystem (or any ecosystem for that matter) form the krill to the whale and everything in between. Mass removal of one species sends everything out of balance and disrupts the former dynamic stabilized system. This impact is not often thought about when a consumer is looking for a tasty snack. Ecolabling cupped with education is the next steep to sustainbility!

Great post and Intresting article!


The caption of your post seemed like an interesting read to me. You provide some very compelling evidence that details how overfishing and inadequate management policies are disrupting marine ecosystems. I agree that human intervention is the leading cause of the decline of fish stocks that we see worldwide as there is overwhelming evidence. Previous examples like the collapse of northern cod in Newfoundland (1992) should be used as a lesson to affirm the notion that strict management policies be implemented and directly followed by governments and industries. Although, I was hoping to learn more about how 'eco-labelling' can help the transition into more sustainable management decisions. In my opinion, eco-labelling is a good way to inform consumers of where and how their product was produced so that they can make educated decisions when deciding what to purchase. However, this does not address the problems of overfishing, illegal fishing and other issues that we still see today. Governments should be more accountable for these types of problems because they are the one's who control the industries. Similarly, the fishing industry must also be held accountable for certain practices they use as well as their level of ignorance with regards to sustainable forms of extracting fish. In the end, I think using eco-labels does provide a good way to inform consumers, but I believe the root of the problem lies primarily on those who exploit this resource and those who are in charge of applying sustainable management decisions.