The Fairtrade Foundation and the Marine Stewardship Council are working together on a project to allow Fairtrade certification of fish by 2011, The Grocer can reveal.

The two bodies embarked on a three-phase collaborative project this May when they commissioned independent fisheries consultants to undertake a feasibility study on the possibility of Fairtrade certification of fish sourced from artisanal fisheries in the developing world. The project is a direct response to calls from fish product retailers and manufacturers for the application of the Fairtrade mark.

“We want to have a fair trade mark for fish because it is something we believe we are already doing and we want to be recognised for it,” said Charles Redfern, founder and MD of Fish4Ever, which manufactures a range of sustainably sourced canned fish.

The Foundation is also looking into the application of the Fairtrade mark to aquaculture. However, this part of the project will not involve the MSC, which only certifies wild-caught fish and claims to have no plans to extend its mark to farmed seafood at present. Fairtrade certification has until now focused on land-based commodities that fluctuate heavily in price, such as sugar, bananas and cocoa. However, calls from the fishing industry are being heard. “If you start counting the number of people who are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture, it is hugely significant,” said John Arnold, new product development manager at the Fairtrade Foundation.

The Foundation is now keen to explore how the developing world’s seafood supply chain could potentially benefit from the development induced by the Fairtrade model.

The initial stage of exploratory work is due for completion by the end of 2008. The second stage involves detailed planning and pilots and will commence in 2009. The third stage aims to deliver labelled products to the market by the end of 2010.