Should Maine Lobsters be certified as sustainable? Costs, benefits and opinions of Marine Stewardship Council certification

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As worldwide population growth continues to rise, so does demand for seafood by consumers. With this trend interest in sustainably certified seafood is also increasing. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries is considered the gold standard of fisheries certification worldwide. Because of fears that they may lose markets if they do not become certified, many fisheries in the U.S. and Canada, including the Maine lobster fishery, have recently begun to pursue MSC certification.

Although certification provides a market-based incentive to improve sustainable fishing practices, it is a costly and time-consuming process, and often imposes additional requirements on fishing industries in order to meet certification standards. In order to evaluate whether the costs of certification of the Maine lobster fishery are worth the presumed benefits, I interviewed lobster industry members to learn about their knowledge and attitude towards MSC certification; administered an online consumer survey to understand consumers’ attitudes and purchasing preferences related to ecolabeled lobster; and consulted with fisheries experts and representatives from other MSC-certified fisheries to compile lessons learned.

The results of my three studies indicate that MSC certification of the Maine lobster fishery could provide some benefits to the industry by helping it to tap new markets in Europe, sell to retailers that have developed corporate sustainable seafood policies, and preserve its current markets with large buyers like Wal-Mart. However, my results also show that most consumers will likely be unwilling to pay a price premium for MSC certified products, especially in this economy, and therefore a price increase for MSC certified lobster should be avoided. Still, more research on the actual market benefits of ecolabeling programs needs to be conducted to determine if they really are providing benefits to fisheries while also promoting the health and sustainability of wild marine species populations and the surrounding ecosystems they depend on.





Goyert, Wendy (2009). Should Maine Lobsters be certified as sustainable? Costs, benefits and opinions of Marine Stewardship Council certification. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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