Sustainable Fishery Certification: Effects on Environmental Decision-Making

EPA Grant Number: F6C81453
Title: Sustainable Fishery Certification: Effects on Environmental Decision-Making
Investigators: Woodling, Nicole
Institution: University of California - Santa Cruz
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 2006 through September 1, 2008
Project Amount: $109,742
RFA: GRO Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Marine Conservation , Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice


I propose to evaluate the effects of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainable seafood certification (SSC) and labeling on environmental decision-making at multiple stages within the seafood supply chain. The MSC uses a voluntary eco-labeling approach to enable consumers to make informed seafood purchases, creating market-based incentives for the fishing industry to adopt sustainable practices and manage fisheries effectively. SSC is a tool that can potentially increase economic and ecological viability of fisheries and the world’s oceans; increasing overall consumption trends of MSC certified products may also have the capacity to mitigate our growing dependence on certain forms of aquaculture. In order to understand the potential benefits of SSC, we must know what it has achieved thus far and how it is affecting environmental decision-making throughout the seafood supply chain. These issues will be explored comparatively in the US and France, where SSC has been adopted more widely than in the US.

I will investigate the following hypotheses: SSC is affecting the seafood supply chain at the consumer and producer levels, as well as changing fishery management practices and ultimately baseline fish populations.

  • H1: Consumer level: SSC is affecting consumer behavior - for example - in terms of fish choices, where to shop, and how much fish to eat. Education, social class, advertising and delivery vehicle are correlated to the decision to purchase certified seafood.
  • H2: Producer level: SSC is providing economic advantages to certified producers and incentives for non-certified producers to seek certification. These advantages may come in the form of price premiums for certified products; access to specialty markets that are not otherwise available; or avoidance of penalties such as adverse publicity. SSC is having a competitive or negative market-based effect on farm fish.
  • H3: Fishery management: SSC is improving fishery management techniques in certified and non-certified fisheries.


Hypotheses will be tested using: (a) analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from extensive semi-structured interviews; (b) results of a quantitative survey; and, (c) synthesis of existing data from fisheries management agencies and the MSC.

Expected Results:

My research results will elucidate the effectiveness of SSC at multiple levels in the seafood supply chain and empirically demonstrate the usefulness of this emerging market-based policy tool. Research results will be relevant for seafood producers and consumer advocacy organizations that seek to understand the motivation behind consumption trends. This work will also be of interest to policy-makers, who increasingly incorporate NGO-initiated policy tools into governmental policy regimes.

Supplemental Keywords:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), sustainable seafood, salmon, overfishing, environmental decision-making, seafood supply chain, ecocertification, eco-labeling, fishery management, aquaculture, United States, European Union, France,, RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Economics and Business, decision-making, Ecology and Ecosystems, Economics & Decision Making, environmental awareness, environmental decision making, decision making, environmental certification, eco-labeling, environmental marketing, behavior reactions, market based environemental policy

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • Final