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Outline of Marine Eco-Label Japan

1.Background

Amid the burgeoning world population and growing demand for seafood, increased efforts are needed in conserving the marine ecosystem and avoiding excessive catches. According to the Review of the State of World Marine Fishery Resources by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2012, of the world’s stocks or species groups for which assessment information is available, about 87 percent are either fully exploited, over-exploited, depleted, or recovering, thus leaving no room for further expansion. Under these conditions, ecolabelling of fish and fishery products has been promoted.
Recognizing the global nature of the seafood industry and that Japan is one of the largest markets for fishery products, Japanese stakeholders in the fishing industry and fisheries management responded proactively and established their own ecolabelling scheme, Marine Eco-Label Japan (MEL Japan), which is most suitable to the Japanese fisheries.

2.Basic principles

  • (1) Promotion of the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources and the conservation of marine ecosystems.

    MEL Japan "is intended to make provision for informed decisions of purchasers whose choice can be relied upon to promote and stimulate the sustainable use of fishery resources" as stipulated in the FAO guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries.

  • (2) Scientific and objective certification

    The basic framework of MEL Japan is established in line with the FAO guidelines in order to ensure the legitimacy and integrity of the system.
    MEL Japan is structured by a council, a board and committees that include representatives of fishery management authorities, the fishing industry, fishworker organizations, the scientific community, environmental interest groups, fish processors, traders, retailers and consumers, which ensures balanced and fair participation by all interested parties. MEL Japan also ensures scientific and objective certification by independent certification entities which form a certification team comprising scientists and other experts with a profound understanding of the Japanese fisheries and marine environment.

  • (3) Relevant traditional, fisher or community knowledge

    The FAO guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries includes relevant traditional, fisher or community knowledge as data or information to be collected and assessed provided its validity can be objectively verified. MEL Japan recognizes the complementary role of such traditional knowledge and framework in managing fisheries, and employs the merits of co-management which have been practiced for centuries in Japan and Asia to ensure the sustainable use of aquatic resources.

    The principle of co-management is that fishermen share in the role of fisheries management and resource enhancement. In fishing communities in Japan, fishers have developed the concept of managing local fishery resources jointly and on their own to ensure the subsistence of their communities. As a result, practical and effective resource management-oriented fisheries, incomparable in other parts of the world, have developed and expanded in Japan. One can point out the presence of many small-scale fishers and fishing boats as well as a variety of target species in the fisheries. The framework functions to encourage fishers and others related to the utilization of the fisheries to fulfill their role in resource management voluntarily and individually. Fishers and regional and central governments are united in participating in the current framework for resource recovery as well. MEL Japan, therefore, effectively applies the concept of co-management to certification as a means to facilitate and reinforce the work of the scheme. MEL Japan aims to create a positive cycle in which fishers, through ecolabel certification, give closer attention to resource management, reinforce cooperation with scientists and administrators, and contribute to the accumulation of scientific data and the improvement of information through fishing activities.

3.Affordable certification

For the ecolabelling scheme to be accepted widely, it is crucial that it contribute to the sustainability of fisheries. What MEL Japan pursues is a practicable framework in which diverse fishers--large and small-scale alike—proactively engaged in sustainable fisheries can obtain certification at affordable costs.

To that end, MEL Japan is a non-profit, non-commercial entity that requires the recovery of actual costs only and avoids duplication of work by utilizing to the maximum extent existing data acquired through the management efforts that have already been undertaken. MEL Japan itself and third party certification bodies require the minimum necessary fees for maintenance of the project. Needless to say, minimizing certification costs does not mean compromising the sustainability requirements, and sustainability of the examined fisheries is the prerequisite for certification.

4.Goal

The goal of MEL Japan is to promote its recognition in the Japanese market and gain wider acceptance. MEL Japan also aims to respond to the needs of foreign markets to promote the export of sustainable Japanese seafood.

Review of the scheme
Marine Eco-Label Japan reviews the regulations, standards and operations for the control and continuous improvement of the scheme. Marine Eco-Label Japan welcomes constructive and cooperative comments as well as questions to help this process by email to meljapan6683@gmail.com with the following information.

Name (First Name, Last Name (Mr. / Ms.))
Phone number
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Your organization
Your country

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