Environmental improvement of seafood through certification and ecolabelling: theory and analysis


Michael F Tlusty, New England Aquarium, Boston, MA 02110, USA
Tel.: 011-617-973-6715
Fax: 011-617-723-6207
E-mail: mtlusty@neaq.org


The study of environmental impacts of seafood production as a result of ecolabelling and certification is a young yet rapidly growing discipline that lacks theoretical models. Pieces of the model have been suggested in the literature, and these pieces are formalized here realizing the current operating parameters of the global seafood industry. The derived pull-threshold model assumes that if producers exceed the threshold, there is no incentive to improve while if too far below, improvement is most likely beyond technical or financial means. Thus, a single certification is only a marginal solution to the larger picture. Those producers immediately below the certification threshold are within range or ‘pull’ of the threshold to improve as a result of certification. Results from a single threshold model applied to compliance data indicated that a maximum improvement of 12.5%, achieved when the pull was the greatest and the threshold was at the lower end of the impact distribution. When impacts were continuous (e.g. escapes in aquaculture), greater improvement was observed with thresholds targeting the producers at the higher end of the impact distribution. In all cases, improvement was maximized with a triple threshold model, indicating that single threshold scenario will not drive the greatest movement towards environmental improvement throughout the industry. Innovation is potentially more important in reducing environmental impacts of seafood production and needs to be accounted for as the seafood certification or ecolabelling continues to mature.