A Protocol for the Asian Seafood Industry
There is a growing awareness in the Asia seafood industry of the importance to improve the sustainability of fisheries and promote responsible fishing practices in a way that continues to support food security and safeguards the livelihoods of small-scale fishers. Currently, significant gaps exist for fisheries to meet these standards and pay for the certification programs. Few fisheries in the Asian seafood industry have the ability to achieve certification by existing international or best-in-class sustainability standards, such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil (IFFO) Responsible Sourcing Standard. The performance requirements and high cost of these certification programs are significant barriers for most fisheries in region to achieve certification. Given these gaps, an interim solution that fosters regional engagement can be useful to start fisheries on the pathway toward sustainable and responsible fisheries practices. ASIC is developing such a solution.
Fishery Improvement Projects or FIPs are a relatively new approach to generate and provide incentives for improvements in fisheries. This tool can allow industry stakeholders to work collaboratively to improve a fishery and FIPs are increasingly being recognized by international buyers as an interim step to certification. FIPs are normally designed to meet internationally recognized standards for environmental sustainability such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Responsible Fishing Scheme.
The FIP Protocol for the Asian seafood industry is designed to be a workable tool to improve the environmental and social performance of fisheries. Aligned with globally significant sustainable fisheries certification schemes, the FIP Protocol could receive recognition in key export markets and/or could be used as a structure by investors or philanthropic organizations interested in supporting fisheries improvement.
It is not the objective of the ASIC Steering Committee to create a standard, eco-label or lower bar that fisheries can use to avoid the tough but necessary challenges that existing certification schemes are addressing to ensure the long-term sustainability of fisheries and ecosystems. Rather, the FIP Protocol for the Asian seafood industry aims to define the starting point for fisheries improvement and to be a tool that offers fisheries clear and verifiable interim improvement steps that are easily understood and to provide clear and logical pathways into existing schemes to foster credible and verifiable fisheries improvement.
ASIC is working to build a FIP Protocol that couples the realties of the Asian seafood industry with the most important sustainability and social responsibility requirements to provide fisheries firsthand experience with the benefits of the improvements, and ideally lead to a greater willingness by fishers and other supply chain actors to make the investments required to ensure the long-term social, environmental and economic sustainability of fisheries in the Asian seafood industry. ASIC knows that it is critical that the benchmarks set are achievable by a sufficient number of fisheries in the Asian seafood industry, including at the small-scale, and offer manageable targets to serve as a catalyst in encouraging compliance with set requirements.