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Private Certification Versus Public Certification in the International Environmental Arena: The Marine Stewardship Council and Marine Eco-Label Japan Fisheries Certification Schemes as Case Studies

Posted by on Friday, July 6, 2012 in Notes, Vol. 43 No. 2, Volumes.

In recent decades, the world’s various fisheries have seen a number of problems, primarily depletion of fish stocks due to overfishing.  While the UN has created some soft law, including sustainable fishing standards, to deal with the problem of fisheries depletion, no binding international laws currently exist.  Several entities have decided to deal with the problem on their own, through eco-labeling programs.  The Marine Stewardship Council, a private entity not directly affiliated with the government of any country, has created such a program.  In addition, some governments have created similar programs, including Japan through its Marine Eco-Label Japan program.  While the Marine Eco-Label Japan program is fairly new and therefore difficult to fully evaluate, it seems as though private programs such as the Marine Stewardship Council are better situated to run eco-labeling programs than state-run entities.  Private entities such as the Marine Stewardship Council lack many of the pressures faced by state-run programs such as Marine Eco-Label Japan where governments have a strong interest in the fishing industry’s success.  By running an independent program with an unbiased third party certification scheme and making the governance of the program visible, programs such as the Marine Stewardship Council are able to run efficient certification schemes while maintaining accountability.

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