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GSSI To Start Comparing Seafood Sustainability Certifications

The Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) officially started work this month on creating a benchmark for sustainable certification programs. In the tuna industry, this would encompass eco-labels such as the Marine Stewardship Council, Friend of the Sea, pole-and-line logos and the many dolphin-safe and dolphin-friendly labels.
GSSI plans to evaluate seafood eco-labels against a set of criteria it deems critical for credible programs. The exact benchmark has yet to be determined, but it will be based on at a minimum, the FAO Guidelines for Eco-labelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries, and FAO Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification. The benchmark is expected to take three years to develop and to put into practice.
The goal is to streamline the sustainability claims being made by labels, so as to “reduce costs and increase the affordability of effective sustainability standards” for buyers and suppliers in the global seafood supply chain, says GSSI. The purpose of the benchmark is also to ensure consumer confidence in sustainably certified products.
For the tuna industry, there already seems to be a clear frontrunner in terms of rigorous standards, but the GSSI benchmark could level the playing field for certification programs. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is widely regarded as a robust certification scheme and if a less thorough program meets GSSI criteria, it seems more products could be sold as “sustainable.” The MSC does have its fair share of critics who argue the program has a lengthy assessment process that costs too much.
The MSC previously welcomed the GSSI initiative with “caution,” stating that the various programs should be graded against a scale, rather than a simple pass/fail system, to recognize the best performers and to drive improvement. 
The GSSI is made up of 17 leading companies in the seafood industry and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internatio-nale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), an enterprise of the German government committed to sustainable development and international education.
The GSSI project partners, which include seafood harvesters, producers, processors, manufacturers, retailers and foodservices, are: A. Espersen A/S, Ahold N.V., American Seafoods Group, Bumble Bee Foods LLC., Gorton´s, Darden, Delhaize, High Liner Foods, Iglo Foods Group Ltd., Kroger, Metro Group, National Fishery Institute, Sainsbury’s, Sea Fish Industry Authority, Sodexo, Trident Seafoods Corperation and Wm Morrisons Supermarkets PLC.