14 August 2015
A European eco-label for aquaculture and fisheries products?
14 August 2015
The consultation on an EU eco-label for aquaculture and fishery products ended on July 31, 2015, after being available three months on the Commission’s website.
BLOOM submitted a note to express its views on this topic and noted the stalemate in the debate since its inception 10 years ago by the Commission.
See BLOOM’s contribution to the public consultation:
The idea of creating a European eco-label for fishery products is not new. Most eco-labels that are currently found on seafood (e.g., surimi, Alaska pollock, plaice …) belong to private organizations, be they NGOs (e.g., the Marine Stewardship Council, launched in 1997) or industrials (e.g., the “responsible quality” label created by two branches of the Bolton Alimentari group, i.e., Rio Mare and Saupiquet).
These initiatives are based on the use of the market to encourage consumers and distributors to choose “sustainable” products. They were developed independently of public institutions. Concerns have been raised for some time due to the proliferation of such market tools in the absence of state control.
In 1997, the European Commission considered it “necessary (…) that a legal framework be established by the public authorities in the Community which (i) would determine the circumstances in which voluntary certification schemes, accessible without distinction to operators in the Community and in third countries, could be developed and (ii) would allow these schemes to receive legal protection and ensure that they can be monitored.“
During the launch of the debate on a public eco-label for aquaculture and fisheries products in 2005, it was repeated that a “coherent EU policy on eco-labeling for fish and fishery products is required to deal with the consequences of the appearance of different eco-labels.” 
The objectives of this policy were clearly established:
- “sustainable fisheries and an adequate level of protection of the ecosystem;
- a harmonised approach throughout the Community;
- transparent and objective information for consumers. Information must be clear and verifiable in accordance with the consumer protection policy;
- fair competition;
- labelling schemes are not prohibitive for small and medium enterprises or developing countries.”
An analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the three options (business as usual; create a European Eco-label; set minimum requirements) led the Commission to the following conclusion:
“The Commission believes that, all in all, the third option of establishing minimum requirements for voluntary eco-labelling schemes would be the most appropriate one at this juncture. This option would offer enough flexibility and would be proportionate in terms of costs. It would make it possible to take appropriate action for greater sustainability, while allowing a gradual approach. It would also offer adequate protection to consumers.”
Since then, there has been little progress made on this topic:
November 2006, “Le Marin” newspaper
“Meanwhile, in late June 2005, the Commission launched the debate on a Community approach to eco-labelling of fisheries products. To date, it has not decided on the position it will adopt in terms of regulations. While experts are debating, the market takes action, and several large retail chains (Carrefour, Auchan, Intermarché) establish and announce sustainable supply programmes for fisheries and aquaculture products.”
February 2010, “Le Marin” newspaper
“Meanwhile, the debate in Europe is stalling. The consultations and the many back and forths between the Commission and the European Parliament have still not resulted in a list of minimum standards that should be guaranteed by any eco-label, regardless of the owner organisation. These criteria were announced for the fall of 2009.”
The CFP reform and the come-back of a public eco-label
After the launch of the French public eco-label last May, which was pending since 2007, the European eco-label is also back on track. This “come-back” is due to the recent regulatory text on the organization of the common market (one of the pillars of the Common Fisheries Policy), which brought the previously-absent eco-labels in the CFP discussions:
“Article 36 – Eco-labelling reporting
After consulting Member States and stakeholders, the Commission shall, by 1 January 2015, submit to the European Parliament and to the Council a feasibility report on options for an eco-label scheme for fishery and aquaculture products, in particular on establishing such a scheme on a Union-wide basis and on setting minimum requirements for the use by Member States of a Union eco-label.” 
October 15, 2014: Conference organized by the European Commission: “New Labels for Consumers: New Opportunities for the Industry”
June 16, 2015: Public hearing by the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament: “The Single European Eco Label: Setting Minimum Criteria”
05/08/2015 – 07/31/2015: Public consultation of the European Commission: “EU eco-label for fishery and aquaculture products.” All “stakeholders”, i.e., all those with an interest in the subject, citizens or professionals, can express their views on the topic. What do they think of eco-labels? Do they use them? What do they expect from them? What role should the EU have?
BLOOM’s minimum criteria:
- a) No logo suggesting the sustainability of a seafood product should enter the market without a minimum of transparency (i.e., certification requirements should be readily available)
- b) Eco-labels should be in line with international and EU regulations
- c) “Destructive fishing gear” should be excluded from certification and fisheries using those gears should not be able to even enter the pre-certification stage
- d) Forage fisheries should be excluded from certification
- e) Heavily subsidized and economically unviable fisheries (i.e., those unable to operate without subsidies) should be excluded from certification
We also raised some points that seem important to us:
- f) Alternatives to certification by private certification bodies should be authorized
- g) Ensure that disenfranchised groups can access eco-labelling
- h) Recognize eco-labelling as a tool that serves a political vision
 Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament – “The future for the market in fisheries products in the European Union: responsibility, partnership and competitiveness” [COM/97/0719 final]
 Commission Communication to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee – “Launching a debate on a Community approach towards eco-labelling schemes for fisheries products” [COM(2005) 275 final – Not published in the Official Journal]. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=URISERV%3Al66027
 November 24, 2006. Eco-étiquetage : un outil au service de la pêche. Le Marin. p32 http://www.bloomassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Le-Marin-24-nov-2006.pdf
 February 12, 2010. Eco-certification des produits de la pêche : que faut-il en attendre ? Le Marin. p22 http://www.bloomassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Le-Marin-12-02-2010.pdf
 December 28, 2007. La pêche fait route vers les écolabels. Le Marin. p17
 Regulations (EC) no 1184/2006; (CE) no 1224/2009 (amended) and Council regulation (CE) no 104/2000 (repealed)
 Regulation (EU) n ° 1379/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products. Available at : http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32013R1379&from=FR