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Sustainable seafood labelling bill passed

By Natalia Real |

California Assemblyman Bill Monning authored Bill AB 1217. (Photo:

Under legislation passed this week, California’s Ocean Protection Council will develop standards for sustainable fishing practices under international measures and initiate appropriate labelling for the appropriate seafood.

Bill AB 1217 was authored by state Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel with the intent of promoting the purchase and consumption of certified California sustainable seafood.

"You have a number of species that are absolutely in danger because they've been overfished," said Monning. "When you give consumers a choice, whether it's in the supermarket or a restaurant, people want to do the right thing. What this labelling will do is assist people in making the right decision."

The steps proposed in AB 1217 should correspond with the Monterey Bay Aquarium's popular Seafood Watch programme. Said programme researches which seafood is fished responsibly and offers the information to millions of consumers through the aquarium's responsible-eating card or cell phone downloads, Contra Costa Times reports.

Seafood Watch guidelines also inform which companies’ catch methods harm the environment and which fish farms operate under questionable standards. Farm-raised salmon and over-fished Chilean sea bass, for example, would not qualify for the new sustainability label.

The new labelling will be placed prominently on products to eliminate difficulties in cross-referencing fish with the Seafood Watch list, said Aimee David, the aquarium's manager of conservation policy.

"This will provide information on sustainability where none exists today," she stated.

Monning said fishers can use the sustainable label as a marketing point. Those interested will be offered a marketing assistance programme and a competitive grant and loan programme under the new bill.

"We think it would give California exporters an advantage in the competitive market," he commented.

AB 1217 was written with support of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the fishing industry group Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA).

The sustainability standards should meet or exceed the Guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries established by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Participation in the labelling programme is voluntary.

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