Skip to content

Choosing Fisheries Certification that Matters to Harvesters

April 9, 2018

This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of the Union Forum, written by FFAW Research Intern, Courtenay Parlee.

There has been an explosion in the number and type of eco-labels, certifications and traceability schemes in fisheries. There are several reasons for this including changes in fisheries management toward an ecosystem-based management approach, public concerns about unsustainable fishing practices, and the mislabelling of seafood. The fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is engaging with various forms of those. However, there is some uncertainty around the degree to which different schemes result in recognition and rewards beyond, for example, maintaining access to existing markets for harvesters.

As a research intern with the FFAW, my first task is to identify qualities of the fishery for which fish harvesters want to be recognized and rewarded. Through focus groups and interviews, I am asking fish harvesters about the management, social, economic and environmental qualities often found in certification schemes. I am asking what Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters value. The research will then determine the type of programs that the fishing industry might engage in to recognize and reward those qualities.

So far, 19 people have participated in this research either through an interview, or through a focus group. To date, participants include fish harvesters, buyers and processers, and an employee of the provincial government.

At a broad level, participants highlighted the importance of inclusive decision-making but also pointed to programs led by a particular fishing fleet. Programs they are proud of: Cod Quality and Biodegradable Twine in Crab Pots.

The social aspect of Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries that are important to participants include support for Owner-Operator fleets and support for Safety At-Sea initiatives.

There are fisheries certification approaches that highlight – and ideally reward – safety and independent fish harvesters. And those certification approaches may suit Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters. The first step is to hear from you in this ongoing research.

If you have any questions about this research, please feel free to contact me directly by email ( or at the FFAW office in St. John’s.

Courtenay is a MITACS Accelerate Post Doctoral Intern with the Fisheries Science Stewardship and Sustainability Board, and the Environmental Policy Institute, Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her research is being conducted with support from the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor).