Get Market Measures Right
Market measures to support the sustainable harvesting of fish are becoming more popular in developed countries as a means to enhance the management process. Thus far, they have had limited effects in developing countries, but there is increasing pressure for these measures.
Markets have had profound effects on fisheries in many countries in recent years. Fish is now a significant source of foreign exchange for many countries, which has raised its profile among politicians. There is also a growing realization among consumers that fisheries are having profound effects on the environment. Sustainable fisheries labels are becoming an increasingly important marketing device, especially in developed country supermarkets. The extent to which this has influenced small-scale fisheries in developing countries is limited, but the number of cases is growing.
At the same time it is also becoming clear that despite consumers’ stated interests in the environmental impacts of their purchasing decisions, their actual buying behavior, especially in relation to food, is more likely to be determined by other factors. The current global financial crisis has seen consumer confidence fall and their behavior increasingly influenced by price. The industry therefore cannot, at the moment, rely on consumers being prepared to pay a price premium for sustainable fish and seafood.
While market demand can influence the way fisheries are managed, there is a need to ensure that the poorer fishing communities are not excluded from these benefits through the cost of certification. It is also necessary to ensure that the increased revenues that certification may bring do not act as an incentive for increased movement into the fishery.
The need for a better understanding of how market mechanisms such as eco-labeling and certification work across international market chains was highlighted during expert interviews. The experts noted that the expected premiums to producers from such schemes did not always seem to materialize or were insufficient to cover the considerable costs involved in compliance with such mechanisms.