February 10, 2003
In a letter jointly addressed to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Secretary of State, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), the nation’s largest seafood trade association, has expressed its support for FAO-developed eco-labeling standards. Eco-labeling refers to the certification and labeling of fish and seafood that is harvested or raised in a sustainable manner. NFI says that currently, various private-sector organizations and companies purport to certify or sell sustainably-produced seafood products using different standards, which they say lead to consumer confusion about what such standards represent. NFI told the Secretaries that the lack of objective and accountable standards for such labeling could result both in some standards being set too low, to the detriment of fishery resources, while others may be set too high, hampering the ability of fisheries to contribute to sustainable food production. NFI asked the Secretaries to support a set of voluntary technical standards for sustainable fisheries developed by the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations that would serve as the basis for third-party certification and labeling for all fish and seafood products in the marketplace. NFI further urged the U.S. to advocate at the upcoming FAO Committee on Fisheries meeting next month that FAO undertake this work.