Shifting focus: The impacts of sustainable seafood certification
Alongside government driven management initiatives to achieve sustainable fisheries management, there remains a role for market-based mechanisms to improve fisheries outcomes. Market-based mechanisms are intended to create positive economic incentives that improve the status and management of fisheries. Research to understand consumer demand for certified fish is central but needs to be mirrored by supply side understanding including why fisheries decide to gain or retain certification and the impact of certification on them and other stakeholders involved. We apply semi-structured interviews in seven different Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries that operate in (or from) Western Australia with the aim of better understanding fisheries sector participation in certification schemes (the supply side) and the impacts and unintended benefits and costs of certification. We find that any positive economic impacts of certification were only realised in a limited number of MSC fisheries in Western Australia, which may be explained by the fact that only a small proportion of Western Australian state-managed fisheries are sold with the MSC label and ex-vessel or consumer market price premiums are therefore mostly not obtained. Positive impacts of certification in these Western Australian fisheries are more of a social and institutional nature, for example, greater social acceptability and increased efficiency in the governance process respectively. However, opinion is divided on whether the combined non-monetary and monetary benefits outweigh the costs.