15 junho 2021

Fish in the app and on the table

By Carolina Vicente Cesetti
PhD candidate in Law at the University of Brasília and member of the Research Group of Law, Natural Resources and Sustainability Studies in the University of Brasilia (Portuguese acronym: GERN).

Have you ever imagined being able to track through an app the origin of the food you eat? With a simple click we could be more aware of the food we eat, as many already know, this reality already exists in Brazil and in the world about the origin of fish. This reality is made possible by sustainable certificates. However there are many debates about their veracity and reliability.

First of all, we must understand two extremely important concepts so that we can talk about this topic, which are certification and sustainable fishing.

Regarding certification, it would be the procedure whereby a third party guarantees in writing, or equivalently, that a product, process, or service meets the specified requirements for social and environmental protection. Certification can be based, on a case-by-case basis, on a series of inspection activities, such as continuous inspection of the production chain. And an economic instrument has been adopted in response to market demands, being a voluntary practice consistent with new sustainable consumption patterns, initially established in the foreign market. In the marine field, certification can be a useful instrument for implementing Codes of Conduct referring to best practices in the marine environment[1].

Regarding sustainable fishing, there are many technical debates about what could actually be considered as such. This debate happens there is no legal provision that defines the concept and brings legal certainty to the fishing industry. It is known that this concept is closely related to notions of conservation and management of fishery resources. In Brazil, the Fisheries Law conceptualizes it in its article 7th, still foresees that the sustainable development of the fishing activity takes place through I – the management of the access and use of fishery resources; II – the determination of specially protected areas; III – social participation; IV – the training of labor in the fishing sector; V – environmental education; VI – the construction and modernization of the port infrastructure of port terminals, as well as the improvement of port services; VII – the research of resources, techniques and methods relevant to the fishing activity; VIII – the information system on fishing activity; IX – control and inspection of fishing activities; X – credit to promote the fisheries sector[2]..

Sustainable fishing aims to ensure the sustainable use of fishing resources, aiming to make the preservation, conservation and recovery of these resources compatible with the socio-economic development of those engaged in fishing activities. There is also the objective of encouraging more preventive and precautionary conduct; strengthening coordination between public bodies and private individuals; internalization of negative externalities[3]. In the international context, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which works with fish certification, attributes the sustainable practice of the activity through the following criteria: 1) it occurs at levels that maintain and/or recover fish stocks; 2) maintains the integrity of ecosystems; 3) is based on the development and maintenance of efficient fisheries management and 4) complies with and respects local, state, national and international laws and regulations[4].

Although these concepts are constantly evolving in the scientific field, fish certification adds growth and value to ​​the search for a more sustainable activity. The trend and creation of these apps have been around since 2012, they can provide users with a database and the most up-to-date list of sustainable seafood products available in restaurants. Search results include a description of the restaurant, a link to its website, contact information, and certification, and Friend of the Sea[5] details. Common and scientific name, producer or supplier, country, fishing or aquaculture method, and other product details identify products.

Another example is the “AppliFish” which can help consumers when choosing which fish to buy. It is possible to know, for example, if the chosen fish is at risk; what type of habitat it lives in and the level of threat faced by the species. The idea is for consumers to make a sustainable and conscientious purchase. The tool also provides information on species names and sizes, distribution maps, including changes due to climate change. According to the FAO[6], with “AppliFish”, people will be able to buy a fish that is not threatened with extinction and thus ensure that the species continues to exist for generations to come.

A very successful Brazilian example is the More Sustainable Fisheries[7] (or Pesca Mais Sustentável in Portuguese) created by Conservation International (CI-Brasil) which is a Brazilian non-profit organization, created in 1988. The main objective of CI-Brasil is to protect nature’s things with an approach that involves the development of science-based innovations for solving real-world problems and field demonstrations of the effectiveness of these innovations.

The More Sustainable Fisheries project selected some regions in Brazil that have Conservation Units to focus its actions on. In these regions, fish is tracked in all stages of production, process and distribution until it reaches the final consumer. The More Sustainable Fisheries Program is developing market mechanisms to encourage fisheries carried out with quality and respect for the environment, and enabling the establishment of a pact between producers of these fish and consumers interested in better quality products. This will be possible with the creation of a product traceability system linked to fisheries improvement programs.

The worldwide effort for sustainable practices that aim to achieve the protection of nature for current and future generations through new technologies is growing. It is also important to highlight that Brazil is also part of this very innovative reality. Facilitating environmental education and its extension is associated with a greater awareness of different layers of society, is looking ahead to a future in which the environment and society evolve together.


[1] CESETTI, Carolina  Vicente. Certificação. In: OLIVEIRA, Carina Costa; CESETTI, Carolina Vicente; MONTALVERNE, Tarin Frota; SILVA Solange Teles, GALINDO, George Rodrigo. Guia Jurídico da conservação e da preservação do meio ambiente marinho. Rio de Janeiro: Lumen Juris. 2019, p. 439.

[2] Available in:  Acessed in 15 jun. 2021.

[3] COELHO, Luciana Fernandes. Pesca Sustentável. In: OLIVEIRA, Carina Costa; CESETTI, Carolina Vicente; MONTALVERNE, Tarin Frota; SILVA Solange Teles, GALINDO, George Rodrigo. Guia Jurídico da conservação e da preservação do meio ambiente marinho. Rio de Janeiro: Lumen Juris. 2019, p. 141.

[4] MSC. What is sustainable fishing? Available in: Acessed in 13 jun. 2021.

[5] Available in: Acessed in 13 jun. 2021.

[6] Available in: Acessed in 13 jun. 2021.

[7] Available in: Acessed in 13 jun. 2021.

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