Fact sheets


What is the purpose of ecolabels in relation to sea products ?

A label guarantees that the product has some characteristics related to its production or its composition. Today, there are many labels in the agro-food industry. Among them, the ecolabel, or ecological label, aims to promote the products that have a reduced environmental impact. In the field of sea products, there are ecolabels related to wild fish and those related to farmed fish. Here are some key facts to help guide you.

Ecolabels related to fishing products.

There is no public framework for the eco-labelling of fishery products. However, an internationally recognized framework has been established by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) in 2005, including guidelines related to the systems of eco-labelling of fisheries managed on a sustainable way.

MSC (Marine Stewardship Council)

MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) TheMarine Stewardship Council is a non-governmental organization that has created a label identifying the sea products coming from sustainable fisheries, in order to provide a solution to the overfishing issues. This international NGO is operating with the fisheries on all the continents and has developed a labeling program for sea products. At the end of 2013, 216 fisheries were certified MSC and 102 were in the process of being evaluated (so, approximately 10% of world catches from certified fisheries directly for human consumption).
In France, six fisheries were MSC certified at the end of 2013.

To obtain the certification, every fishery must demonstrate that it complies with 3 fundamental principles :

  • The state of fish stocks : the fishing effort must be at a level compatible with the sustainability of the resource. Every certified fishery must operate in a manner that ensures the sustainability of its activities and must not overexploit the resource.
  • The impact on the marine environment : fishing activities must not affect the structure, the productivity, the function and the diversity of the ecosystem on which the fishery depends.
  • The fishery management system : the fishery must respect every local rule and law, both nationally and internationally, in force. It must have a system in place that maintains the sustainability of the fishery when conditions change.

Almost 14 000 fishing products marketed in the world are labeled MSC : 829 products in France, 710 in Switzerland, 613 in Belgium and 3186 in Germany.

French label for sustainable fishing

The creation of a new public ecolabel in France, provided by the Grenelle 2 law, is in progress since the publication in the Official Journal on January 28, 2012, of the decree fixing the modalities of development, review and approval procedures for the framework of this future ecolabel. The certification of the products at the production unit level will guarantee “the respect of sustainable fishing criteria related to the preservation of the resources and the ocean ecosystems, to the work conditions and to living conditions of the crew on board, to the traceability and quality of the products”. The certification of the products at the marketing level will guarantee “the traceability of the certified products and the quality of living products, fresh, and refrigerated until their sale to the final consumer”. The framework, and the control plan of this ecolabel are currently in a public consultation process on the website of France Agrimer.

What about Pavillon France ?

Pavillon France Created in 2010, the label Pavillon France doesn’t focus on the quality of the product guaranteeing the sustainability of the fisheries or of the caught species, it only aims at promoting the consumption of products from French fisheries.

Ecolabels for aquaculture products

The “organic” label

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Agriculture biologique

Many standards from public or private origins co-exist on the international market : the public label “AB” in France, the private label “BioSuisse” in Switzerland, the private label “Biogarantie” in Belgium, the label of the “Soil Association” in the United Kingdom or “Naturland” in Germany.

The European regulation aims to define the provisions of an organic aquaculture production which has been in place since 2009 and its application is mandatory since July 1st, 2010. The European label is on products in addition to or instead of the national labels.

This certification ensures that farmed fish are reared by respecting rigorous criteria :

  • no use of pesticides, dyes, chemical growth stimulants or antibiotics
  • plant supplements from organic farming (especially without GMOs)
  • animal feed from fish products under quota control
  • lower cage density compared to conventional farming in order to respect animal welfare.

The ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) label

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ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council)

Following a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) initiative, several work groups, called the “Aquaculture Dialogs”, have been organized since 2006 in order to define standards for a responsible aquaculture. Based on a transparent and multi-stakeholders process, these « dialogs » bring together the different stakeholders of this activity including in particular : producers, buyers, non-governmental organizations, public organizations, food producers, certifying and scientific bodies.

The « dialogs » have invited the stakeholders to work together to identify the major impacts of aquaculture and to define the standards that will allow for their reduction, or even their elimination. These standards form a basis for an ecolabel in aquaculture, based on a third-party certification and managed by an independent organisation. The choice of species for every « Aquaculture Dialog » has been made from selection criteria such as the degree of impact on the environment and on the society, the market value and the commercial importance on an international level. To date, the dialogs deal with tilapia, salmon, shrimp, pangasius, trout, cobia, yellowtail, mussels, oysters, abalones, scallops and clams. Products certified ASC (pangasius, tilapia and salmon) are now available on the European market.

The Business-to-Business aquaculture labels

GAA (Global Aquaculture Alliance)

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GAA (Global Aquaculture Alliance)

GAA is an international non-profit association, whose aim is to develop a sustainable aquaculture from an environmental and social perspective. GAA promotes “good practice” standards and coordinates the certification of sustainable aquaculture based on its own standards. Farms and processing sites can also be certified.


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GlobalGap is a private organisation that establishes certification standards for the agricultural and aquaculture products at the international level. Global Gap encourages a fair partnership between producers and distributors wishing to develop effective standards and certification processes.

Others ecolabels

Friend of the Sea

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Friend of the Sea

Friend of the Sea certifies both the fishing and the farmed products, under the FAO code of conduct. Products geared towards feeding farmed fish (fish meal, oil, food…) can be certified too.


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This German organization has developed standards for the certification of fishing products in developing countries (Tanzania…). The criteria take into account the impacts of the fishing techniques on the environment and the ecosystems, the work conditions and the labour laws.

For the aquaculture products, the Naturland standards for organic aquaculture farms have been expanded to some twenty countries and are available for trout, salmon, shrimp, tilapia and pangasius.
These standards integrate the farm site selection, ecosystem protection, the use of chemical products, the use of GMO and the animals feeding.

Dolphin Safe

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Dolphin Safe

It is the name of a campaign launched by the Earth Island Institute (EII) in the United States and that has been relayed by the WWF in the nineties, in order to limit the by-catch of dolphins, especially in the case of tuna fishing. More than 90% of tuna importers and distributors, at a global level, joined the “Dolphin Safe” criteria. The label “Dolphin Safe” on cans indicates that the tuna has been fished with techniques that don’t threaten dolphins (but without taking into account the catch of other marine mammals). This label has caused several controversies.

And what about the Label Rouge ?

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Label Rouge

Created in 1960, Label Rouge guarantees a strict specification that ensures a higher quality of the certified product in comparison to similar products usually marketed. It is not an ecolabel but a label focusing on the quality of the product.