Iceland's new seafood eco-label on display


Steven Hedlund

Published on
March 15, 2009

The Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture and Fisheries Association of Iceland on Monday unveiled the details of a program to certify the nation's fisheries as sustainable during a press briefing at the International Boston Seafood Show.
"We must strive to keep our house in order," said Dr. Kristján Thórarinsson, vice chair of the Fisheries Association of Iceland, which played a key role in developing the program. "The task is to meet the demand of buyers for documentation to show that Iceland is engaging in responsible fisheries and [that they] are considered sustainable.
There are three phases of the program, explained Thórarinsson. Phase 1 is the Statement on Responsible Fisheries in Iceland, adopted last year. Phase 2 is the creation of a seafood eco-label for use on products originating from sustainable fisheries. The circular blue logo, which says "Iceland Responsible Fisheries," was on display during the press briefing.
Phase 3, which in ongoing, is finding third-party, internationally recognized, accredited certification bodies to assess Iceland's fisheries. Their assessments will be based on the Food and Agriculture Organization's "Guidelines for Eco-Labeling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries," amended just a few days ago. Companies that market eco-labeled Icelandic products are required to attain chain-of-custody certification.
Iceland's first fisheries are expected to be certified in 2010.
Rupert Howes, executive director of the Marine Stewardship Council, questioned the timing of the new seafood eco-label, explaining that the market is moving toward a harmoniztion of seafood eco-labels, and that the MSC, a USD 50 million (EUR 38.4 million) to date, is already 10 years into the process. More than 100 fisheries are engaged in the London-based MSC program and more than 2,000 products worldwide carry the MSC label.
"I understand that the proliferation of eco-labels can lead to confusion in the marketplace," said Thórarinsson. "But competition is important."
Icelandic seafood landings totaled nearly 1.4 million metric tons in 2007. Cod, haddock, saithe and redfish are among the country's main seafood catches.
Also participating in Monday's press briefinf was Hjalmar Hannesson, Iceland's U.S. ambassador; Dr. Sigurgeir Thorgeirsson, permanent secretary of the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture; and Dr. Jóhann Sigurjónsson, director general of the Icelandic Marine Research Institute.

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