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Certification - ensuring sustainable seafood

The use of ecolabelling in the fisheries and aquaculture industry has become more prevalent during the last decade. Customers want to know their seafood products are coming from a sustainable source. Norway’s seafood industry has been keeping pace with this trend and certifying more types of fish and adopting new standards for assuring the quality of the fish we eat.

The Nordic seafood market is affected by this increased use of ecolabels. The main ecolabels of importance to Nordic fisheries are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), KRAV, Friend of the Sea, and Naturland, based on a 2008 study on ecolabels in the Nordic fisheries and aquaculture industry by Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a Norwegian classification company that certifies both wild and farmed fish worldwide. For aquaculture, there is GlobalGAP, KRAV, Friend of the Sea, Naturland, Bioland, Debio and Soil Association.

Part of the drive for more seafood certification has been the push by big retailers, such as Walmart, Tesco, and Carrefour, according to Sandhya Chaudhury, DNV Food and Beverage Senior Consultant. There are even governments that have actually specified they want certification. The Netherlands, for example, recently, required that all imported seafood be ecolabelled.

“Retailers need suppliers to be certified to show responsibility to the environment,” said Chaudhury. “Certification is very market driven. Consumers are increasingly looking to retailers for proof that their products are safe but also sustainable. Certification can also help retailers manage supply chain risk as it assesses how responsibly the suppliers in their supply chain operate.”

The first Norwegian fisheries to be certified as sustainable were the Norwegian North Sea saithe and Norwegian North East Arctic saithe in 2008.
© Norwegian Seafood Export Council

Fisheries Certification
A key ecolabel for the fisheries industry is by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in the UK. The MSC Fisheries Scheme gives fisheries a way to confirm sustainability and assure buyers that the fish come from a well-managed and sustainable source.

Since it was established more than a decade ago, 59 fisheries have been MSC certified worldwide and there are 100 fisheries under assessment. Fisheries already engaged by MSC record annual catches of 7 million metric tonnes of seafood, representing more than 12% of global capture production for human consumption. More than 3,000 seafood products traceable to certified sustainable fisheries bear the blue MSC label.

The first Norwegian fisheries to be certified as sustainable were the Norwegian North Sea saithe and Norwegian North East Arctic saithe in 2008. DNV has been accredited for MSC chain of custody since 2008 and took over MSC certification for these two fisheries, along with Norway North Sea and Skagerrak herring, Norway spring spawn herring and North East Atlantic mackerel. DNV also certifies fisheries in Denmark and the Faroe Islands.

“This certification is a hefty step towards achieving great, sustainable fisheries,” said Nina Jensen, WWF Marine Biologist, in connection with the MSC certification of three Norwegian pelagic fish types. “It is also encouraging to see that the market is now demanding ecolabel fish. The fishing industry, through its work with the MSC certification, has provided a significant contribution to ensuring Norwegian fisheries resources.”

Another example is Domstein Longline Partners cod and haddock longline fisheries, which became MSC certified in February 2009. Roughly 5,000 metric tonnes of Norwegian cod and 5,000 metric tonnes of Norwegian haddock are eligible to carry the MSC ecolabel. According to Rolf Domstein, Domstein Fish Managing Director, sales of MSC certified fish have surpassed all expectations.

The Skrei Standard guarantees that Norwegian Arctic cod was packaged within 12 hours of catching and stored on ice at a temperature between 0° and 4° Celsius.
© Norwegian Seafood Export Council
NSEC’s Seafood from Norway quality standard is used for Norwegian Arctic cod, white halibut, fresh cod, and cooked and peeled prawns.
© Norwegian Seafood Export Council

Quality Standards
One of the most recognized global certification standards in the aquaculture industry is GlobalGAP Aquaculture. DNV certifies salmonids, shrimp, tilapia and pangasius for GlobalGAP Aquaculture, including farmed Norwegian salmon. But there are other ways as well to put a quality stamp on salmon. These include Norway Royal Salmon, Debio and soon Seafood from Norway.

Seafood from Norway (Norsk Sjømat) was originally started by the NSEC in 2000 as a governmental marketing programme, but later developed into a quality logo. The first quality standard was made in 2006 for Norwegian Arctic cod (Skrei Standard). Since then, the NSEC has added white halibut, fresh cod, and cooked and peeled prawns. It is also working on a quality standard for Arctic char, salted cod, trout and salmon. Some 484 exporters sell their products under the Seafood from Norway label.

“It is mainly to document and give good information to markets about production and certify that we take good care of the product when we get it from our seas and deliver it to market,” said Bardon Steene, NSEC Executive Manager of Branding.

DNV certifies companies that have taken part in the Seafood from Norway quality standard. It ensures that fish are caught by vessels with a legal quota within Norwegian fishing zones and traces the fish to the region it was caught. The Skrei Standard goes further and guarantees that Norwegian Arctic cod was packaged within 12 hours of catching and stored on ice at a temperature between 0° and 4° Celsius.

Norway Royal Salmon is an integrated fish farming company representing 33 salmon producing companies, 81 salmon production licenses, six smolt producers and one Arctic char licence. Norway Royal Salmon is currently working on adopting the GlobalGAP standard for its production companies by the second half of 2010.

Debio is the Norwegian inspection and certification body for organic production, processing, distribution and import in Norway. Its regulations on organic aquaculture have been developed in cooperation with Swedish KRAV. The standards cover farmed salmonids (salmon, trout, rainbow trout and char), perch, pikeperch, cod and blue mussels. Debio also certifies wild catch, including herring, shrimp, haddock, cod according to KRAV standards.

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