Seafood will join fair trade rev­o­lu­tion, one scal­lop at a time

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY PATRICK WHIT­TLE

PORT­LAND, MAINE | Fair trade cof­fee, bananas and … scal­lops? Yes, very soon.

Fair-trade cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sta­tus, which is con­ferred by in­de­pen­dent groups to de­note en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity and fair work­ing con­di­tions, has been around for years.

But it’s just now on the rise among seafood prod­ucts in the U.S., where con­sumer in­ter­est in the story be­hind the fish and shell­fish they eat is grow­ing.

Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of seafood prod­ucts, in­clud­ing tuna and shrimp, be­gan in 2014, and the vol­ume of im­ports of such prod­ucts grew more than 350 per­cent last year to more than 1.2 mil­lion pounds, said Fair Trade USA, a Cal­i­for­nia-based non­profit group. The first com­pany to of­fer fair trade seafood har­vested from U.S. wa­ters will have scal­lops on the mar­ket this month.

The com­pany, Bris­tol Seafood of Port­land, Maine, is look­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on the grow­ing in­ter­est in au­then­tic­ity of seafood, said its pres­i­dent, Peter Handy.

“There’s a cer­tain sanc­tity to food when it comes to the story about it,” Mr. Handy said. “It tastes bet­ter the more you know.”

In­de­pen­dent groups, in­clud­ing Fair Trade USA, pro­vide cer­ti­fi­ca­tions to a host of prod­ucts that peo­ple buy in stores, rang­ing from fruit and nuts to home goods. The cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is most com­monly associated with cof­fee, which launched the fair trade move­ment in the 1990s.

To achieve cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, com­pa­nies need to sub­mit to an au­dit and in­ter­views to make sure the food is pro­duced with fair work­ing con­di­tions and en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship along the sup­ply chain. Pack­aged prod­ucts can then bear a “Fair Trade Cer­ti­fied” seal, which car­ries a price pre­mium.

Fair Trade USA cur­rently cer­ti­fies shrimp from Mex­ico, yel­lowfin tuna from In­done­sia, and skip­jack and yel­lowfin tuna from Mal­dives. It is the only group cur­rently cer­ti­fy­ing seafood as fair trade, rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the non­profit said.

In­ter­est in the seafood sup­ply chain has grown since an Associated Press investigation of slave labor con­di­tions in Thai­land’s shrimp fish­ery, said Ash­ley Apel, se­nior man­ager of the seafood pro­gram for Fair Trade USA.

Even be­fore that, a 2014 study by a pair of econ­o­mists from the Univer­sity of Ken­tucky said more than 80 per­cent of con­sumers were at least some­what in­flu­enced by la­bels that tell the story of seafood.

“It was the right place and right time to show that the seafood in­dus­try needs a fair trade cer­ti­fi­ca­tion,” Ms. Apel said.

The stan­dards for achiev­ing the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for seafood prod­ucts fo­cus on man­age­ment of fish stocks and fish­ing habi­tat, as well as the wages and work­ing con­di­tions of the fish­er­men and oth­ers in the sup­ply chain.

Steps must be taken to elim­i­nate forced labor and hu­man traf­fick­ing, and work­ers must have the free­dom to or­ga­nize. At the same time, there must be doc­u­men­ta­tion of things like proper waste man­age­ment and pro­tec­tion of ecosys­tems, Fair Trade USA’s ma­te­ri­als state.

Fair Trade USA is one of a hand­ful of ma­jor groups in­volved in cer­ti­fy­ing food prod­ucts, with an­other prom­i­nent one other be­ing Ger­many-based Fair­trade In­ter­na­tional.

They’re bank­ing on chefs and res­tau­rants get­ting ex­cited about the prod­ucts.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fair trade cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sta­tus is gain­ing in promi­nence with seafood in the U.S., where in­ter­est is grow­ing in the story be­hind the fish and shell­fish peo­ple con­sume.

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