Opportunities and challenges of implementing life cycle assessment in seafood certification: a case study for Spain

Abstract

Purpose

Eco-labelling has become part of the business strategy of companies thanks to numerous advantages in terms of engaging with consumers and gaining market quota. The aim of this article is to present a critical discussion on the development and implementation of a new eco-label named pescaenverde, registered in Spain, as the first type III eco-label in the Spanish fishing sector that is based on life cycle approaches for seafood products.

Methods

More specifically, it aims to complement ecosystem-based eco-labels with the computation of the carbon footprint and the energy return on investment (EROI) of seafood products. Furthermore, it proposes to discuss the ecological criteria, certification process or the opportunities and challenges of the market implementation of this eco-label in detail. Finally, the authors argue that life cycle eco-labels should be considered important complements for more specific sector- or ecosystem-oriented labels already in use, rather than direct competitors.

Results and discussion

There has been much criticism towards the eco-labelling sector as regards the transparency and scientific rigour of its standards. The fishing and seafood sector, which has experienced a boom in eco-labelling in recent years, due mainly to the strength of the Marine Stewardship Council certification scheme, is not alien to this controversy, since critics advocate expanding the concept of sustainable fisheries beyond an ecosystem approach in order to account for global environmental concerns such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or energy use. Not surprisingly, the European Union and other authorities currently encourage eco-labels to base their ecological criteria on life cycle approaches. Therefore, the current study discusses the ecological criteria, certification process or the opportunities and challenges of the market implementation of this eco-label in detail.

Conclusions

The specificity of the life cycle inventory scheme used in pescaenverde delivers an accurate computation of environmental impacts for the specific case of Spanish fisheries. However, the geographical expansion of this scheme to other nations or regions will be conditioned by an important software adaptation to the particular inventory characteristics of the new fisheries, fleets and products.

Recommendations

Adapting ecological criteria to other situations would also need substantial discussion, since the use of this certification scheme is not intended to contrast or compare seafood products against each other but to provide consumers with an easily identifiable label through which they can detect environmentally sustainable practices in terms of GHG emissions and energy use in the fishing fleets supporting the seafood products purchased.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Certified fisheries as of June 27th 2014 (MSC 2014).

  2. 2.

    Registered trademark number 3.014.592, by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism (May 8th 2012).

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Acknowledgments

Authors with affiliation to the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) belong to the Galician Competitive Research Group GRC 2013-032. Dr. Ian Vázquez-Rowe wishes to thank the Galician Government for financial support (I2C postdoctoral student grants programme). The authors would also like to thank Peter Tyedmers and the School for Resource and Environmental Studies (SRES) at Dalhousie University (NS, Canada) for disclosing valuable information for the completion of this manuscript.

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Vázquez-Rowe, I., Villanueva-Rey, P., Moreira, M.T. et al. Opportunities and challenges of implementing life cycle assessment in seafood certification: a case study for Spain. Int J Life Cycle Assess 21, 451–464 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-016-1043-7

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Keywords

  • Carbon footprint
  • Eco-labelling
  • EROI
  • Fishing
  • LCA
  • pescaenverde