Seals from organizations such as the MSC and the ASC, from organic associations such as Naturland and Bioland and the EU organic seal provide orientation when buying fish.
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
In the German trade, the blue and white seal of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) can be found on many wild fish products. It is intended to guarantee that the goods come from sustainable fisheries. There are currently around 2,700 registered products with the MSC logo in Germany. The MSC was founded in 1997 by the WWF and the food company Unilever and is independent.
In a seal check, Stiftung Warentest analyzed the goals and requirements of the MSC in 2018 and checked whether it can trace products with its logo. Conclusion: It is good that the seal exists, but it could make higher demands in order to effectively prevent overfishing. The MSC has evolved since our test, he explained to us during the shrimp test.
In the shrimp test, we checked the validity of three sustainability seals for farmed fish: ASC seal, Naturland seal and EU organic seal.
Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) turquoise seal is the counterpart to the MSC seal for farmed fish and has gained in importance in recent years. Around 2,900 products are registered for the German market. The ASC has so far developed eleven standards for seventeen species, including trout, shrimp, pangasius, tilapia and mussels.
Farms must demonstrate that they are actively reducing unwanted impacts on the environment and biodiversity. The standard also includes social criteria: companies must prove that they treat their employees responsibly.
Naturland for aquaculture and wild fish
The organic farming association Naturland awards a seal for products from organic aquaculture. There are numerous species, such as trout from Germany, salmon and mussels from Ireland, shrimp from Ecuador and Indonesia or pangasius from Vietnam.
The guidelines for organic aquaculture state, among other things, that the surrounding ecosystems must be protected. Also stipulated are low stocking densities for the farmed fish and the renunciation of genetic engineering and hormones. Naturland criteria are stricter than the EU organic regulation. Certified companies must also comply with social requirements, for example in terms of payment, occupational health and safety.
Naturland also awards a seal for sustainably caught wild fish. In addition to preserving fish stocks and ecosystems, the guidelines include social standards such as fair working conditions. There are currently certified coalfish from Germany, tuna from the Azores and Nile perch from Tanzania.
EU organic seal
There have been EU-wide guidelines for organic aquaculture since June 2009, recognizable by the EU organic seal. They apply to fish, crustaceans and algae in salt and fresh water, including salmon, trout, sea bass and carp. According to the rules, biodiversity should be preserved, spawning with the help of artificial hormones is prohibited. The fish feed must come from organic farming, but can be supplemented with fish feed from sustainably operated fisheries.
The organic farming association Bioland has guidelines for aquaculture, but it rejects wild capture. So far, only carp has been certified. He is a non-predatory fish, i.e. a vegetarian. It feeds mainly on the food available in the pond and does not have to be fed fish oil or fish meal. According to Bioland, there is currently no fish on the market that has been certified by them.
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)
In Germany, seven regionally occurring fish species are currently allowed to bear the blue and yellow EU seal of origin Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). It indicates that they have undergone at least one of the production stages – production, processing or manufacture – in the region of origin. In addition to Black Forest trout and Glückstadt matjes, these are all carp specialties: Aischgrüner carp, Franconian carp, Peitzer carp, Oberlausitzer organic carp and Oberpfälzer carp. Regional production often has a positive effect on the ecological balance.