Growing interest in chain of custody programme
Range of MSC certified products available in Australia, including products from Woolworths' Select brand, John West, Aldi's Oceanrise brand, Be Light and Birds Eye
Fish retailer interest in the Chain of Custody (CoC) certification programme recently has extended to Australia where two supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles, have started to sell MSC certified fishery products which is being advertised to consumers. The recent launch of MSC certified products under the CoC programme in the two chains’ supermarkets follows similar developments in Europe, the United States and Japan where consumers increasingly are concerned their food comes from sustainable resources.
“Coles and Woolworths have made a commitment to introduce MSC certified products to their range of fishery products. They are starting with canned salmon and other products,” announced Patrick Caleo, Marine Stewardship Council manager for Australia and New Zealand.
Woolworths has launched seven MSC certified pink and red salmon products under the store’s own Select brand while a further 11 MSC certified red and pink salmon products are available in Coles stores under the Coles brand name.
“This is spectacular news. They both decided to start together,” Mr Caleo said. “After canned salmon they will extend to frozen fish. We are hoping they will include MSC certified fresh fish in future.”
The Marine Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organisation set up to promote solutions to the problem of overfishing. Mr Caleo noted that MSC runs the only eco-labelling and certification programme for wild capture fisheries which is consistent with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards and United Nations FAO guidelines for fisheries certification.
MSC’s role is to assess whether fisheries meet the council’s certification criteria and to identify changes that need to be made to achieve accreditation.
UK-headquartered MSC’s Sydney office, which covers Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region excluding Japan, also reports strong interest in CoC certification among Australian supermarkets and export orientated fishery processing companies in China and Southeast Asia who want to provide proof to clients worldwide that their fishery products originate from sustainable fisheries.
Currently some 257 fisheries are engaged in the MSC’s worldwide programme including 119 certified fisheries and 138 fisheries in assessment while a further 40 to 50 fisheries are at the confidential pre-assessment stage.
Fisheries that already have achieved MSC certification together with those in full assessment combined catch almost 9 million mt of fishery products annually, Mr Caleo pointed out, accounting for over 10% of total global annual wild capture fisheries. Meanwhile, fisheries already certified catch over 5 million mt of seafood a year alone which is close to 6% of total global wild capture fisheries.
“Our Chain of Custody programme covers all wild capture fisheries that are MSC certified. This does not cover aquaculture but covers enhanced fisheries such as oyster and mussel beds,” Mr Caleo explained.
The CoC programme identifies fishery products as having been produced in compliance with MSC certification requirements. Companies supplying fishery products meeting these requirements are permitted to use the CoC ecolabel which identifies these products as having been kept separate from non-certified fishery products along the supply chain from fisherman to trader or processing plant and then to the retailer or restaurant.
“Companies and organisations awarded our ecolabel must have control systems in place which can be proved,” Mr Caleo said. “Annual audits are conducted to ensure compliance. MSC also does trace backs, either random or directed if we think there are any issues.
“We are doing DNA testing of fishery products. It’s very important that MSC ensures the supply chain is robust. We use auditors to do unannounced audits.”
The ecolabel is awarded for a period of three years. Currently more than 10,000 seafood products worldwide bear the blue MSC ecolabel.
Mr Caleo noted the supply chain from fishermen to retailer or restaurant can involve up to 10 or 12 intermediaries including traders and a processing plant, though a typical supply chain usually comprises four or five parties in total.
“Some chains are short while others are long where the fishery items are commodity products that are traded,” Mr Caleo said. “Each step requires a CoC certificate. There is a lot of merchandise and a lot of traders in the fisheries industry. This shows the importance of CoC certification.”
To fund MSC’s growing worldwide operations, the use of the CoC ecolabel attracts a 0.5% license fee on the wholesale price of the fisheries products sold under MSC certification. For restaurants using the ecolabel, a 0.5% license fee is payable on the invoice price of MSC-certified fishery products.
Aware of retailers’ interest, a growing number of fisheries see MSC certification as an important opportunity to assure their business customers and consumers that their products comply with approved practices that support sustainable production.
Traders and processing plants, in turn, along with restaurants and retailers, use the CoC certified ecolabel to show the provenance of their products.
“People are proud to be part of MSC’s certification and CoC ecolabel programme and they defend it. They know its importance when their products are in the shop display or on the supermarket shelf,” Mr Caleo said. “MSC certification and the ecolabel allow premium pricing. They allow access to markets and provide a good image for fishery products.”
“The overwhelming trend is for consumers to want to know the origin of food. They want to know it is sustainable.”
Growth in consumption
With Coles and Woolworths committed to introducing MSC certified products, MSC is hoping to see large growth in the consumption of fishery products supplied through the CoC supply chain in Australia and New Zealand where the programme is just beginning,
Meanwhile, interest in MSC certified products also is growing elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region including China where there are a large number of fishery processing companies that export to Europe, the United States and Japan.
Processors are interested in CoC certification as fishery exporters need to comply with fishery traceability requirements to supply key markets.
Europe is the largest market for MSC certified CoC products at present, according to Mr Caleo, followed by the United States. Elsewhere, interest is growing strongly in Australia, Canada, France and Japan.
At the start of 2011 MSC had issued 235 Chain of Custody certificates to fishery processors in the Asia-Pacific region including 163 to processors in China and 47 in Japan. In addition four certificates had been issued to processors in Australia, seven to New Zealand, eight to Thailand, five to Vietnam and one to Malaysia.
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