"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.
Supported by the Pew Environment Group, (www.PewEnvironment.org) the study, which was reviewed by several independent experts, uses a well-established quantitative methodology derived from the 2010 Global Aquaculture Performance Index (www.gapi.ca) 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.