Stay connected with us
around the nation »

Sustainable Seafood Certification

The topic of seafood certification has come up at many meetings of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC) over the past decade, and their previous guidance has informed the agency’s current policy[i].  Due to stakeholder requests and increasing public interest, in mid-2012, NOAA Fisheries asked MAFAC to explore the creation of a NOAA certification mark or other acknowledgement that could certify sustainability of domestic wild-caught and aquaculture fishery products.  MAFAC agreed and organized a working group to investigate the topic and develop a recommendation.  Your assessment of MAFAC's recommendation is welcome.

Send comments by e-mail to: 

Due date has been extended to May 28, 2014 (more details below).


In developing its recommendation over the course of the past year, MAFAC invited external experts to present information on the subject at meetings; solicited public input from producers, buyers, and non-governmental organizations; conducted personal interviews; and engaged in extensive internal deliberations. 

MAFAC finalized and delivered its recommendation to NOAA Fisheries in December 2013. The recommendation was supported by a majority of, but not all, MAFAC members.  The Committee included the alternative points of view in their report.


The full MAFAC report can be found here.  In January, the Chair of MAFAC presented a briefing to the Council Coordination Committee (comprised of Regional Fisheries Management Council Directors and Chairs under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act) outlining the goals, process used, and outcome of MAFAC’s efforts this past year.  This presentation is also provided as helpful information.

The MAFAC working group focused on these primary goals:

The MAFAC recommendation includes a simple business-to-business framework offering value to the seafood industry consistent with the NOAA Fisheries legal authorities and minimizing conflicts with existing third-party ecolabels.

The envisioned approach would initially focus on wild-caught seafood from Federally managed waters, and phase in a process for seafood derived from state-managed commercial fisheries (if/when requested by a state) or aquaculture products at some point in the future. 

The core concepts of the MAFAC recommendation are:

Submit a comment

Your assessment of MAFAC’s recommendation is welcome, and we ask that you consider the following “trigger” questions to help focus responses.  To submit your comments to NOAA Fisheries, please send them by e-mail to: no later than May 28, 2014.

Trigger Questions

  • What parts/aspects of the recommendation do you agree with and support?
  • What parts/aspects of the recommendation do you not support?  Can you recommend a different approach or changes that you would support?


[i] In 2005, NOAA Fisheries developed Policy 30-122 to specify its role and responsibility relative to private sector certification of sustainable harvest practices for specific U.S. seafood products or fisheries.  In 2008, MAFAC proposed revising this policy to encourage NOAA Fisheries to issue a declarative public statement on whether a particular fishery was “sustainable” based on the 10 National Standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). MAFAC also supported a Federal label or mark to be displayed on final sale products.  However, the proposed revision was not enacted because there was no definition of sustainable in the MSA nor funds available for initiating an ecolabel program.