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Special Report on Eco-certification
Choosy consumers
Fish store counter
DFO   P. Dionne

To help them pick food products, consumers have access to ever more information about such things as nutritional value, claims, the provenance of products, etc. There’s also information about the sustainability of industries in environmental terms.

Consumers have a lot of information to help them make informed choices. This tendency of consumers to be hyper-informed is bolstered by the promotional campaigns organised by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that try to encourage consumers to avoid some products considered to be non sustainable. In the fisheries and aquaculture world, a number of such campaigns have hit home; targeted products include bluefin tuna, Atlantic cod and farmed salmon.

Given this, several initiatives to guide consumers when choosing aquatic products have been introduced in recent years. These guides provide detailed information about the aquatic species to avoid or to choose, based on the findings of assessments conducted by ENGOs. Some suggest that certain Quebec products be avoided. Not only do these guides provide information to consumers, they are also used to assess the aquatic product buying practices of major grocery chains. These ENGO programs together with the development and growth of organizations that eco-certify fisheries appear to be successful since most major Canadian grocery chains have developed their own green purchasing policies.

The marine product purchasing policies of the main food chains in Quebec comply with the following three broad principles:
  • Require product traceability, so buyers can see where products come from and follow their path from initial capture to the consumer.   
  • Purchase products from healthy, well-managed stocks, which at the same time excludes products derived from illegal or unregulated fisheries.
  • Demand sustainable harvest methods in fisheries and aquaculture, which limits impacts on the marine environment and wild species.

In addition to these three principles, some buyers have requirements regarding community and industry development; examples include requiring products of more local provenance and respect for workers’ rights.

Sustainable aquatic products… The new market reality (other articles)

Maité Chavez et Cédric Arseneau
Policy and Economics / Fisheries Management
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