We are fostering development of affordable, effective seafood marketing and certification to help consumers make U.S. harvested seafood their top choice.
In the United States, the current state of seafood certification is mixed: large international certification schemes dominate the landscape, yet the vast majority of consumers in the United States have shown little interest in them. Their message and value have not been communicated clearly to consumers, and their standards are extremely high, and ever increasing. Research suggests that more U.S. consumers would be interested in seafood certification that takes a different approach, emphasizing and leveraging our already high regulatory standards as a key part of the certification. Regional and local certification marks do emphasize these points. However, their appeal is largely limited to the geographic regions that they encompass.
Simply put: there are many more “buy American” consumers than “buy the most environmentally conscious” consumers. An ideal seafood certification would cater to both of these segments, and would be well adapted for use in the U.S. marketplace, as well as internationally on U.S. harvested seafood.
USSIA is jumpstarting development of a new, more relevant seafood certification system and brand logo that will demonstrate the commitment of the industry to the responsible harvesting of U.S. seafood. This certification, which can be used stand-alone or as a compliment to other food and fishery certifications, is being developed with the following overall principles:
- Credible: The seafood certification is being developed transparently, with participation in its design invited from all sectors of the industry and other stakeholders.
- Relevant: The seafood certification will focus on areas of key concern to seafood purchasers: responsibility and sustainability, seafood safety, traceability, and seafood fraud.
- Affordable: No conditions. No client action plans. No repetition of science already conducted by managers. The seafood certification is intended to be as affordable as possible, while still being a credible standard that consumers can trust.
- Reasonable: As the United States already holds all domestic seafood harvests to the highest standards, the seafood certification will focus on the unique circumstances of the domestic regulatory and marketing landscape.
- Independent: To ensure that the seafood certification system is not portrayed as biased or unfair, the system will be spun off as a separate, independent entity. The Marine Stewardship Council, another certification system, began as an effort jointly undertaken by World Wildlife Fund and Unilever, N.V. As with the MSC, in order for it to be developed, the system needs funding for planning that USSIA through its members will underwrite. However, at the right time, we will transition the Working Group into an independent, non-profit entity with full autonomy.
- Promoted: No royalty-based license agreements. On the contrary, use and promotion of the certification mark will be available to consumer-facing entities for a minimal cost and with reasonable conditions. Smartphone apps will enable tracking certified fisheries and highlight the good practices of America’s seafood harvests.
By drawing on the experience of what has worked and what could be improved in seafood certification, USSIA is spearheading development of a seafood certification system that will support America’s responsible and well-managed seafood harvests.
(Disclaimer: The information stated above is based on the initial plans for the seafood certification system we have envisioned. Part of the plan is to create an independent entity that oversees the seafood certification system. Nothing in our plans in any way diminishes the complete autonomy and independence of that entity, once it is created. The ideas presented on this page are a starting point that may and will change, including changes made by the entity that eventually oversees the seafood certification system.)