Outline of Marine Eco-Label Japan
Amid the burgeoning world population and growing demand for seafood, increased efforts are needed in conserving the marine ecosystem and avoiding excessive catches. According to the Review of the State of World Marine Fishery Resources of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2005, of the 441 stocks or species groups where assessment information is available, about 77 percent of the world stocks are either fully exploited, over-exploited, depleted, or recovering, and thus offer no room for further expansion. Under such circumstances, ecolabelling of fish and fishery products has been promoted particulary in western countries.
Recognizing the global nature of the seafood industry and that Japan is one of the largest markets for fishery products, Japanese stakeholders in the fishing industry and fisheries management have decided to respond to the situation proactively and establish their own ecolabelling scheme, which is most suitable to the situation of the Japanese fisheries.
- (1) Promotion of the conservation and sustainable use of maine resources and the conservation of marine ecosystems.
Marine Eco-Label Japan (MEL Japan) "is intended to make provision for informed decisions by purchasers whose choice can be relied upon to promote and stimulate the sustainable use of fishery resources, "as stipulated in the FAO guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries.
- (2) Co-management
MEL Japan pursues utilizing the merits of co-management which have been practiced in order to ensure the sustainable use of aquatic resources in Japan and Asia from olden times. The idea of co-management is that fishermen share in the role of fisheries management and resource enhancement. In fishing communities in Japan, fishers have developed the concept of managing local fishery resources jointly and on their own will in order to ensure the subsistence of their communities. As a result, practical and effective resource management-oriented fisheries, incomparable in other parts of the world, have developed and expanded in Japan. In the background of this development, one can point out the presence of many small-scale fishers and fishing boats as well as a variety of target species in the fisheries. A framwork has functioned that encourages fishers and others related to the fisheries, who are users of the resources, to fulfill their role in resource management voluntarily and individually. Fishers and regional and central governments are united in participating in the current framework for resource recovery as well. MEL Japan, therefore, effectively applies the concept of co-management to certification as a means to facilitate and reinforce the work of the scheme. MEL Japan aims to create a positive cycle in which fishers, through ecolabel certification, give closer attention to resource management, reinforce cooperation with scientists and administrators, and contribute to the accumulation of scientific data and the improvement of information through fishing activities.
- (3) Scientific and objective certification
The basic framework of MEL Japan is established in line with the FAO guidelines in order to ensure the legitimacy and integrity of the system.
MEL Japan is structured by a council, a board and committees that include representatives of fisheries management authorities, the fishing industry fishworker organizations, the scientific community, environmental interest groups, fish processors, traders and retailers as well as consumers, which realizes balanced and fair participation by all interested parties. MEL Japan also ensures scientific and objective certification by independent certification entitles which form a certification team comprising scientists and other experts with a profound understanding of the Japanese fisheries and marine environment.
3.Affordable costs of certification
For the ecolabelling scheme to be accepted widely, it is crucial that it conturibute to the sustainability of fisheries. What MEL Japan pursues is a practicable framework in which diverse fishers--large and small-scale alike-proactively engaged in sustainable fisheries can obtain certification at low costs.
To the end, the scheme of MEL Japan is being developed into a system that requires the recovery of actual costs only and avoids duplication of work, by utilizing to the maximum extent existing data acquired through the management efforts that have already been undertaken. Furthermore, the system is non-commercial and non-profit in nature, and MEL Japan itsef and third party certification bodies require the minimum necessary fees for maintenance of the project. Needless to say, minimizing certification costs does not mean compromising the sustainability requirements, and sustainability of the examined fisheries is the prerequiseite for certification.
The goal of MEL Japan at the moment is to promote its recognition in the Japanese market with the aim to gain wider acceptance. MEL Japan also aims to respond to the needs of foreign markets to promote the export of sustainable Japanese seafood.
Annex (Provisional Document)