The promise and pitfalls of Marine Stewardship Council certification: Maine lobster as a case study
As worldwide population continues to grow, so does demand for seafood by consumers. With this trend, interest in sustainably certified seafood is also increasing. The Maine lobster fishery is currently considering certification based on the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. Although certification is argued to provide a market-based incentive to improve sustainable fishing practices, it is a costly and time-consuming process, and often imposes additional requirements on fisheries in order to meet certification standards. To evaluate whether the costs of Maine lobster fishery certification are worth the presumed benefits, lobster industry members were interviewed to learn their opinions of MSC certification, seafood consumers were surveyed to understand their attitudes and purchasing preferences related to lobster, and lessons learned from other MSC-certified fisheries were compiled. MSC certification of the Maine lobster fishery could potentially provide benefits to the industry by differentiating Maine lobster and maintaining access to markets that are looking to exclusively source certified fish products. However, certification is unlikely to provide price premiums for the fishermen, and does not necessarily represent to consumers the most desirable aspects of Maine lobster. Certification programs may need to adapt to consumer preferences and market conditions if they are to continue to provide incentives for the sustainable management of fisheries.
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