a concise description of incentives and labeling in marine environments

To-date, struggles between management and fishers have resulted in continued difficulties in establishing effective methods to sustainably manage fisheries throughout the world (with notable exceptions). Such struggles can likely be attributed to top-down management styles that focus on input controls and Competitive Total Allowable Catches (TAC), which promote input substitution, effort creep and race-to-catch behavior. Moreover, standard management techniques fail to account for fisher behavior and do not provide an effective incentive, i.e. reward, system thereby reducing or eliminating fisher interest in participation and cooperation and even (inadvertently) encouraging counterproductive practices. Progress has been seen when using Ecosystem-based approach, but even this technique is not comprehensive enough, which is why new approaches – those that are characterized by incentives – have been introduced.

Incentive-Based Approaches to Fisheries (IAF) are those that provide an economic benefit to fishers. IAFs are often based on some form of complete territorial rights that provide fishers with a sense of ownership, which can instill feelings of accountability and responsibility. In other words, the fishers bear the burden of poor fishery health and reap the benefits of healthy fisheries. This method is not without its fault and is not always successful, e.g. when fish mining is economically rational or the interests involved are too divergent, making cheating continuously lucrative, despite best efforts, and has been harshly criticized as being just another form of permit systems (see Bromley, 2011).

The labeling of products can provide a form of incentives, which provides both economic rewards for fishers via price markups and tools for consumer education. It can also serve as a means for encouraging changes in consumer behavior. However, if improperly managed, e.g. mislabelled, consumer trust may be lost, effectively eliminating any net benefits and discouraging future consumer support.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is regarded of as the most well-known certification scheme for fisheries in the world. Established in 1997 by the WWF and Unilever in response to dissatisfaction with the lack of positive outcomes associated with government management techniques, the MSC represent various stakeholder interests in a sustainability-supporting certification system. The 31 Principle Assessment evaluates the health  of the target species, the ecosystem in which the target species lives and the management techniques used within the fishery. While the popularity of certification schemes continues to grow, criticisms exist in the form of, for example, a lack of specificity and non-standard enforcement.