Community Catch standard aims to help small producers

Fishing in Thailand

A new global seafood certification system for small scale fishers and their communities is out for consultation.

Community Catch has been tailored to the needs of small scale fisheries, and is based on international standards for sustainability, labour rights and fair trade principles.

The initiative seeks to address a fundamental problem faced by smaller fishers, who can find that compliance with established certification schemes is too expensive, effectively excluding them from access to developed markets in high-income countries.

Community Catch has released its draft bespoke seafood certification scheme for a 60-day public consultation, due to close on 29 August 2024.

The consultation period gives stakeholders and interested bodies the opportunity to comment on the content and relevance of the standard and evaluation process.

Comments from the consultation will be used to inform a revised draft, which will itself be opened for a further 30-day consultation period. It is expected that the scheme will officially launch on the market later this year.

Based on the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and FAO Voluntary guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, the new social and environmental standard also aligns with the ISEAL Credibility Principles and the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) Global Benchmarking Tool for seafood certification schemes.

Finally, it incorporates relevant aspects of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention on work in the fishing sector and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code.

The standard includes all forms of fisheries and species, including multi-gear and multi-species and provides recognition of those that are demonstrably moving towards the standard.

Eight pillars

Fisheries are assessed across eight pillars: labour rights, health and safety, community development opportunity, governance, species, biodiversity, climate change and animal welfare.

Dr Andrew Hough, a director of the organisation, said: “Our Community Catch certification initiative  is based on a charitable structure and takes a fresh approach to market access in an increasingly important crowded arena. We are also undertaking      intensive testing of our approach with fisheries in Scotland, South Africa, Mexico and Indonesia, which will enable us to fine-tune details. Trial clients are also testing our ‘worker voice’ questionnaire.”

“We are very proud of what we have developed, and believe that for small-scale fisheries, it offers a cost-effective alternative to other global certification schemes. In particular, the new certification scheme will enable fishing communities to connect to markets that were previously inaccessible because they lacked the necessary data and credentials.”

“Audits are carried out remotely by independent Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs), there is no repetitive reporting, and  delivery is made via an open access digital platform, through which clients access the standard and receive feedback on  areas of improvement, together with guidance and support at all stages.”

crab and lobster pots on beach

Thinking small

Community Catch, which is managed and governed by a global group of experts and advisors from fisheries, retail, academia and NGOs, set out to understand the market forces governing global supply of seafood. They found that retailers, restaurants and food service outlets increasingly demand proven environmental and socio-economic sustainability credentials from suppliers, to enable them to assure customers that seafood is being responsibly sourced.

Hough said: “Small-scale fisheries are hugely important,  contributing around half of the global fish catch and employing more than 90 percent of the world’s capture fishers and fish workers. However, fewer than 15% of the world’s fisheries are certified to an internationally recognised standard and most of those are large-scale or in the developed world. For this reason, we wanted to develop a new standard that was more applicable to small-scale fishers and their communities.”

M&S Food was an early champion of Community Catch, providing funding for the scheme’s development and holding a role on the advisory board.

Linda Wood, Aquaculture and Fisheries Manager, M&S Food Group said: “At M&S we take responsible sourcing of seafood seriously. We are also incredibly supportive of small-scale fisheries around the world and want to help and encourage them to access new markets and demonstrate their credentials.”

“We feel that Community Catch will provide much needed support and recognition for these fisheries, not only around environmental issues but also on social and animal welfare matters. The initiative will also enable us to source with confidence from fisheries that were previously inaccessible to us.”

Hough concluded: “We are confident that our new seafood certification scheme will prove to be invaluable in growing the number of certified fisheries around the globe. We will also work collectively with other schemes to achieve this aim.”

Community Catch principles

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