GSSI compliance does not indicate sustainability certification, WWF warns
WWF today raised caution about the newly released Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) benchmarking tool.
GSSI reviews whether fishery certification schemes are at a minimum compliant with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) and the FAO Guidelines for Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine/Inland Capture Fisheries or the FAO Technical Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification (the Guidelines).
These “essential components” designated by GSSI, WWF warns, can be used to evaluate whether certification schemes are consistent with the FAO CCRF and Guidelines, but not whether they certify sustainable fisheries or farms. The GSSI tool also does not evaluate actual performance of certification programs or metrics used, and does not consider social issues impacting the sustainability of fishing operations.
GSSI has the potential to provide the market with needed clarity regarding certification programs, but the GSSI essential components are not a sustainability benchmark and, as such, do not reflect best practice, WWF says. Companies wanting to source sustainable seafood will need to consider additional criteria, including but not limited to the GSSI “supplementary” criteria.
WWF serves on the steering board of the GSSI and has provided feedback on the process and requirements over the course of the past two years.
“The market is very interested in having more than one certification programme that can serve as the basis for sustainable sourcing commitments,” said Richard Holland, Director, WWF Market Transformation Initiative. “This is understandable from a business perspective. However, in order to ensure credible claims about certified sustainable seafood and to help drive improvements in weaker certification programmes and, therefore, fisheries and farms, it’s important that we keep the bar reflective of scientifically based best practice.”
In addition, the GSSI benchmarking process will lump certification programmes into broad categories, potentially losing a view into their individual strengths and differences.
“WWF is concerned that the GSSI tool will lead to further confusion in the marketplace and sustainable sourcing claims that aren’t credible,” said Holland. “We hope that GSSI will continue to strive to provide clarity to its supporters by ensuring that claims of meeting GSSI components reflect meeting the CCRF and FAO Guidelines, not certification of sustainable seafood, that the assessment guidance is clear and applied consistently, and that assessments are completed accurately by independent experts.”
WWF works with communities, governments, producers, fishers, suppliers, retailers and other stakeholders to promote healthy oceans and more sustainable fishing and aquaculture. WWF is a founding member of ASC and MSC, and has a strong interest in ensuring that the sustainability claims in the market are credible and can continue to drive forward sustainable fisheries and responsible aquaculture.