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

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

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.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
  I. INTRODUCTION
 II. THE BASICS: FISHERIES, ECO-LABELING, AND
     CERTIFICATION
     A. The Problem of Fisheries Depletion
     B. The Development of Fisheries Certification
        and Eco-Labeling
     C. The Fish Stocks Agreement: A Hard
        Law Attempt at High Seas Fisheries
        Regulation
     D. UN Soft Law: FAO's Creation of
        Sustainability Guidelines
III. THE MARINE STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: PRIVATE
     CERTIFICATION OF FISHERIES
     A. Development of the Marine Stewardship
        Council
     B. The Mechanics of the Certification Process
     C. Market Effects of the MSC's Certification
        Process
     D. Success Stories: European Sea Bass and
        Alaskan Salmon
 IV. JAPAN: STATE REGULATION OF FISHERIES
     A. Marine Eco-Label Japan: Beginnings
        and Structure
     B. The MEL Certification and Labeling
        Process
     C. The MEL Program in Practice
  V. ANALYSIS: PROBLEMS AND CONSEQUENCES OF
     ECO-LABELING SCHEMES
     A. Potential Consumer Demand Problems
        for Eco-Labeled Products
     B. Regional Differences in Availability
        of Certified Products
     C. Problems Surrounding the Labels
        Themselves
     D. Problems Unique to the MSC and Other
        Private Certification Schemes
     E. Problems with State Certification
        Programs Such as MEL Japan
 VI. A SOLUTION GOING FORWARD
VII. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Fisheries are the units where the harvesting of fish for commercial purposes occurs, defined by such categories as location of the seabed or type of fish being harvested. (1) Understandably, since many fisheries are located across the globe in the world's oceans, regulation of fisheries is a topic of international interest. Effective management of fisheries requires balancing the goal of producing and selling as many fish as possible in order to maintain a profitable business with that of running fisheries that are resilient and environmentally friendly. (2) Naturally, the relevant questions are how exactly these goals should be balanced, and who or what type of organization is in the best position to determine what regulation needs to occur, how regulating standards should be created, and how those standards should be monitored.

Several different approaches have been taken in recent years to decide what guidelines fisheries should follow and how they should be implemented and monitored. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has developed a set of guidelines applicable to fisheries around the world. …