With more and more attention paid on environmental protection issues in the international society, consumers begin to care about whether the fisheries products they are going to buy are originated from sustainable fisheries that would not cause irreversible impacts to the natural environment. In order to mitigate fisheries impacts to marine fisheries resources and ecological environment, the international society has endeavored to seek various solutions, such as the adoption of harvest rules, limit of fishing quota and certification of eco-labels. Among which, eco-labeling is one of the most popular approaches in recent years.
Eco-labeling is a market-based measure for sustainable fisheries. It is certified by independent non-governmental certification bodies, in accordance with the standards set forth by eco-label organizations with public credibility, to the producing environments and approaches of the fisheries products that voluntarily join the program. Certified fisheries products may be tagged with the eco-label, to prove that these fisheries products are produced in a sustainable and environmental-friendly manner. In this way, consumers may easily recognize the origins of fisheries products before their purchase, and support the fisheries products certified with sustainable standards with market force. At present, there are many famous marine eco-label in the international society, including Dolphin Safe, Friends of the Sea (FOS) and Marine Stewardship Council(MSC).
However, with the strict and unified standards of the eco-labels, they may not be easy to apply to all kinds of fisheries with different characteristics. Thus, although there are many fisheries intend moving toward to sustainable fisheries, they still have difficulties to be certified with eco-label, due to factors such as the limited conditions of fisheries and expensive cost. In order to encourage various fisheries to operate with the concept of sustainable development, an alternative approach named Fisheries Improvement Project has been developed for all fisheries with such objective, to improve its own fishery in a progressive manner, with the ultimate target of sustainable fisheries.
●Fisheries Improvement Project(FIP)
The purpose of fisheries improvement project (FIP) is to work jointly toward to sustainable fisheries by all stakeholders, including fishermen, service wholesalers, processing plants, fish trade agents, fish product retailers, restaurants, food suppliers, non-governmental organizations and fishery management authorities.
The first step of the FIP is to evaluate the fishery that plans to have a FIP and its resources status. The evaluation report will be discussed by the relevant stakeholders to decide the approaches and steps to improve the fishery, so as to draft an action plan with detailed items and contents. The contents of the FIP should include the actions to be taken and their objectives, as well as the timeframe for each action, so as to fulfill the plan step by step.
In addition, it should be noted that the FIP is a voluntary activity. Therefore, it should be joined by all stakeholders with intention to improve the fishery and decisions should be made collaboratively on equal basis, which is quite different from the traditional fisheries management. After the plan is drawn up, aside from implementing in accordance with the scheduled timeframe, the implementation of the plan should also be reviewed periodically, and if necessary, the plan should be amended in consideration of the difficulties encountered during its implementation, so as to keep balance between the ideal of sustainable fisheries and the actual operation of fishing practice.
Despite that there is no unified international standard for the FIP, a fundamental principle is well recognized: the FIP should be transparent. In this regard, it would be better for a FIP to be posted on website, with specific objective and working plan. After the FIP become effective, the progress of the FIP should be updated periodically, so as to allow all the people that care about this fishery to understand the contents and progress of the FIP, and as appropriate, provide suggestions and recommendations for the FIP to be executed in a better manner.