A lot of work remains to be done before a new Norwegian sustainability standard (NRFM) can be adopted. However, the scientist who has led the effort to create the draft that is now up for consideration believes that a new standard will be finalised and adopted.

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Anne-May Johansen  

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“The work that has been done on the development of a new Norwegian sustainability standard provides a solid foundation for the further process, and for discussions in various industry forums about the need for such a standard for fisheries in Norwegian waters”, says Nofima scientist Marianne Svorken.

She has led the project which, funded by the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF), has had the goal of developing a sustainability standard for Norwegian fisheries, based on Norwegian conditions.

Representatives from Seafood Norway, The Norwegian Coastal Fishermen’s Association, The Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organization, Fiskebåt, The Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, The Directorate of Fisheries, The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, The Institute of Marine Research and Nature and Youth have all provided input regarding the work on the Norwegian standard.

Even better management

The draft has now been finalised. The Norwegian standard was developed by Global Trust, which also developed similar standards for Iceland and Alaska, and is based on the same model.

However, before the Norwegian Responsible Fisheries Management (NRFM) certification scheme can be adopted, a good deal of work remains to be done regarding further development, accreditation, financing and administrative structuring.

“Therefore, it is important to focus on the fact that an important goal of the standard is to help ensure that the management of Norwegian fisheries can be even better, while allowing industry actors to use it as documentation of sustainable seafood”, says Marianne Svorken.

Testing more fisheries than just cod and haddock, ISO65 accreditation of the programme’s governing body and GSSI approval are the processes that remain before any new Norwegian standard can be adopted. In addition, the scientists recommend that work should continue on the details of the standard and communication in order to gain even more knowledge about how such a scheme can best work in Norway. At the same time, they believe that further work needs to be done on a long-term funding model based on future clients, so that this is ready before the scheme is eventually transferred to a newly created organisation.

The scientists also believe that the scheme should not be owned by the industry’s own interest organisations.

– “We believe that either a separate organisation should be created that can own and operate the scheme, or that alternative routes should be explored in order to find entities that can take ownership of the standard”, says Marianne Svorken.

Across industry organisations

Sustainability certification is important in order to achieve market access to our most important seafood markets. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has been the dominant and pretty much the only provider of third-party certification for a long time.

“Competing with MSC is not a goal in itself, and as this standard stands so strongly in the market, there is no doubt that Norwegian fisheries are still served by, and even depend on being MSC certified in order to satisfy several of the international markets. Nevertheless, we consider it beneficial to also have a standard that is directly adapted to the Norwegian fisheries”, says the project manager for the development of Norwegian RFM.

However, if the scheme is to work, there is a need for all sections in the industry to contribute, and that the implementation of a national certification body is carried out through collaboration across industry organisations. As a result, this will help to develop and improve Norwegian fisheries in accordance with the guideline requirements for environmental labelling in the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

Collaboration with Iceland and Alaska

Alaska and Iceland were early in establishing their own programmes to document their sustainability through an alternative RFM standard.

Iceland’s RFM has been described as a competitive scheme that has several advantages, including low operating costs, national control and the possibility to differentiate based on origin. The main challenges, however, are that they are too small and therefore not competitive enough. However, a collaboration between Iceland, Alaska and Norway will help the RFM schemes to achieve enough prevalence to become a solid actor in the market. This opens up a number of new opportunities within both marketing work and cost savings.


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