Quantcast

New Study Puts Eco-Labels to the Test

Pew Charitable Trusts

A new report released Dec. 7 by the University of Victoria ranks eco-labels intended to distinguish seafood produced with less damage to the environment. It is the first study to evaluate how eco-labels for farmed marine fish compare to unlabeled options in the marketplace.

“How Green is Your Eco-label?” is designed to help seafood buyers sort through competing sustainability claims and better identify those labels that result in farming methods with less damage to the ocean. Key findings include:

  • Organic labels lead the pack, although a few fall noticeably short
  • Many eco-labels are not much better than conventional farmed seafood options when it comes to protecting the ocean environment
  • Scale is a big challenge for eco-labels—For the most part, eco-labels are awarded based on an individual farm’s environmental footprint. However, the cumulative environmental effects of many farms can quickly overwhelm the benefits of reductions in impacts by a single farm or small group of certified farms.

“Our research shows that most eco-labels for farmed marine fish offer no more than a 10 percent improvement over the status quo,” said John Volpe, Ph.D., a marine ecologist at the University of Victoria and lead author of the report.

“With the exception of a few outstanding examples, one-third of the eco-labels evaluated for these fish utilize standards at the same level or below what we consider to be conventional or average practice in the industry.”

Supported by the Pew Environment Group, the study, which was reviewed by several independent experts, uses a well-established quantitative methodology derived from the 2010 Global Aquaculture Performance Index to determine numerical scores of environmental performance for 20 different eco-labels for farmed marine finfish, such as salmon, cod, turbot and grouper. These scores were used to rank performance among the various eco-labels. The assessment did not look at eco-labels for freshwater farmed fish, such as tilapia or catfish.

The authors used 10 environmental factors to assess the eco-labels, including antibiotic use, the ecological effect of farmed fish that escape from pens, sustainability of the fish that serve as feed, parasiticide use, and industrial energy needed in aquaculture production.

“Eco-labels can help fish farmers produce and consumers select environmentally preferable seafood, but only if the labels are based on meaningful standards that are enforced,” said Chris Mann, director of Pew’s Aquaculture Standards Project. “Seafood buyers at the retail or wholesale level should demand that evidence of sustainability be demonstrated, not merely asserted.”

The report concludes that government policies and regulations, as well as effective eco-labels, are necessary to limit the environmental impacts of production.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A dead sea lion on the beach at Border Field State Park, near the international border wall between San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico. Sherry Smith / iStock / Getty Images

While Trump's border wall has yet to be completed, the threat it poses to pollinators is already felt, according to the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, as reported by Transmission & Distribution World.

Read More Show Less
People crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on July 20, 2017 in New York City sought to shield themselves from the sun as the temperature reached 93 degrees. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

by Jordan Davidson

Taking action to stop the mercury from rising is a matter of life and death in the U.S., according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Salmon fry before being released just outside San Francisco Bay. Jim Wilson / The New York Times / Redux

By Alisa Opar

For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.

Read More Show Less
AnnaPustynnikova / iStock / Getty Images

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Protesters hold a banner and a placard while blocking off the road during a protest against Air pollution in London. Ryan Ashcroft / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images

By Bridget Shirvell

On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.

Read More Show Less
Coal ash has contaminated the Vermilion River in Illinois. Eco-Justice Collaborative / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.

That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.

Read More Show Less

picture-alliance / AP Photo / NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

The Group of 20 major economies agreed a deal to reduce marine pollution at a meeting of their environment ministers on Sunday in Karuizawa, Japan.

Read More Show Less