Promoting Eco-labelling in the Pacific

Posted on: December 04, 2014

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The FAO[1] defines Ecolabelling as a market-based tool to promote the sustainable use of natural resources. Ecolabels are seals of approval given to products that are deemed to have fewer impacts on the environment than functionally or competitively similar products. An ecolabel is a tag or label placed on a product that certifies that the product was produced in an environmentally friendly way. The label provides information at the point of sale that links the product to the production process.

The roots of ecolabelling can be found in the growing global concern for environmental protection on the part of governments, businesses and the public but also in the understanding that Ecolabelling may be translated into a market advantage for certain products and services.

On the one hand, the Pacific region Member States are deeply aware of the importance of environmental protection. On the other hand, the countries are conscious of the close link between environment and trade in the fisheries sector due to the significance of fisheries activities in their economies and therefore the need for a careful management of resources and conservation of marine biodiversity.

Fish is one of the region’s key exports and the member states of the Pacific Forum are mindful of the need for compliance with necessary regulations. In 2012[2] and in 2013[3] seven countries including Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, Vanuatu, Ghana, Curaçao and South Korea have received formal warnings under the EU’s ‘IUU Regulation’. More recently, the EU Commission warned Philippines and Papua New Guinea over insufficient action to fight illegal fishing. These countries were then requested to improve their compliance with International rules related to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing which undermines the livelihood of fishing communities and depletes fish stocks. In 2014 the EU[4] recognises that most of these countries have constructively cooperated with the EU Commission making significant progress in their fisheries management systems in order to curb illegal fishing. Finally, these seven countries have developed new legislation and improved their monitoring, control and inspection systems.

In this context, in November 2014 the ACP EU TBT Programme together with the Pacific region launched a new project to assess the real potentials of the adoption of eco-labelling schemes in the fish sector in the Pacific region and thus provide advice and support to governmental and private sector institutions. The project, resulted from an original proposal submitted by the Government of Vanuatu through its Embassy in Brussels, aims to support the capacities of government and industry groups on aspects of the WTO TBT Agreement and in particular on how eco-labelling can assist them comply with international standards and facilitate market access of fish products. This agreement addresses eco-labelling schemes and how governments can further reform existing policy, regulations and institutional framework to support the development and use of eco‚Äźlabels. The project will involve firstly a situational analysis of quality infrastructure relating to fish in five  Pacific countries and the resulting reports will form the basis for discussions on the way forward at a regional workshop planned for early 2015 in the region.

The activities proposed aim to raise awareness amongst key government, private sector, academia, civil society stakeholders and to provide information on eco-label market opportunities in developed countries. This is of particular concern in the fisheries sector where governments have primary management responsibility for fisheries resources within national exclusive economic zones and, moreover, are obliged under international law to cooperate with governments of other countries in the management of shared fish stocks and of fish stocks on the high seas. Effective participation of government authorities in the product standard setting process may therefore contribute to active implementation of eco-labelling programmes within countries in the region. In addition capacity-building initiatives would also enhance the role of environmental civil society groups to use eco-labelling schemes to facilitate the preservation of marine fish stocks within the region.

This project, implemented along with other existing initiatives in place such as the Pacific Appliance Labelling and Standards (PALS) Program in the energy sector, introducing energy labelling and standards for electrical appliances, confirms the dynamism of the Pacific Member States towards eco-labelling.

We are confident that this initiative will enable the access of environmentally efficient fish products to regional, European and global markets and therefore will have a positive impact for a more competitive sector in the Pacific region.

 

[1] FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper 553, 2011 by Sally Washington and Lahsen Ababouch

[2] IUU Regulation : (IP/12/1215)

[3] IUU Regulation : (IP/12/1215)

[4] EU Press release, Brussels, 10 June 2014, IP/14/653

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