About the Report

The SSI Review: Standards and the Blue Economy takes a deep dive into the market and performance trends of the 9 most prevalent seafood certification schemes operating in the wild catch and aquaculture sectors. The Review provides a reference point for buyers, producers, policy makers and consumers in deciding how best to apply voluntary standards in their own decision-making processes.


Standards Coverage

$11.5 Billion Sustainable Production Value
(across listed commodities, 2015)

Seafood Sector Coverage


Market Performance

VSS-Certified vs. Conventional Seafood Production in Metric Tonnes 2015

Market Penetration

In 2015 certified sustainable seafood accounted 14% of global production, up from only 0.5% nearly a decade earlier. Sustainable wild catch accounted for 20% global wild catch supply in 2015 and represents 79% of the total certified seafood market. Certified aquaculture accounts for 6% of global aquaculture supply and 21% of the total certified seafood market.

Certified Seafood Production in 2015
Global Seafood Production in 2013

Concentration in Developed Economies

While an estimated 80% of all seafood is produced in developing countries, the sustainable seafood industry is most active in the developed country markets they serve. North America and Europe account for 63% of certified seafood destined for retail markets. Asia lags in sustainable production, accounting for 69% of global seafood production but only 11% of certified production.

Certified and Conventional Seafood Production (metric tonnes)

Market Growth

The average annual growth rate of certified sustainable seafood production across both aquaculture and wild catch (2003-2015) was 35%, 10 times faster than the growth of conventional seafood production over the same time period. While the majority of certified seafood is wild catch, certified aquaculture production has grown more than twice as fast in recent years.

Proportion of global catch

Supply Constraints

Certified wild catch, the most important source of certified seafood, faces significant supply constraints due to limited supply of wild catch more generally but also due to the limited availability of credible stock assessments (a perquisite for sustainable stock management). Investment in both stock assessment capacity and general management capacity will be a critical part of ensuring the continued expansion of certified seafood to meet demand.


Criteria in the Seafood standards reviewed focused on setting environmental, rather than social or economic standards. While this reflects the natural primacy of ecosystem management as a driver for certification historically in the sector, the relative absence of criteria on social and economic issues is notable given the importance of seafood production across the developing world. Below is a listing of the average intensity along social, environmental and economic indicators per aquaculture and wild catch standards as a group.

Coverage Findings


Traceability and independent conformity assessment are universal hallmarks of seafood certification. All initiatives studied apply a model of third party certification representing a high level of independence in conformity assessment processes. Identity preservation and segregation are the preferred traceability mechanisms but only half of the systems have separate chain of custody standards.

Third party
Segregation Identity
Chain of Custody standard
China G.A.P
Gaa bap
Assurance Findings


The seafood standards reviewed focus on setting universal requirements for best practice rather than processes oriented towards local conditions. While the attention to equity in rule application facilitates transparency and predictability, it may also contribute to deepening the isolation of specific segments of the supply chain. the most common approach for facilitating smallholder access to seafood standards is through group certification.


Regional standards and localized indicator development local auditors engaged in the certification process separate standard for smallholdrs group certification
gaa bap
Responsiveness Findings


One of the hallmarks of voluntary standards is their ability to allow a wide spectrum of stakeholders participate in the rule-making, enforcement and management processes. Although seafood standards generally include non-traditional stakeholders in their management processes, developing country representation at the board level remains systematically low across the vast majority of initiatives.

Engagement Findings

Standards and the Blue Economy

Defining Targets

Voluntary standards have played, and continue to play, a leading role in defining the boundaries of sustainable practice for supply chain actors within the seafood sector. The vast majority of voluntary sustainability standards have focused on managing sustainability issues at production, leaving broader supply chain sustainability issues related to processing and manufacturing open for further development.
Read More

Ocean Health

Seafood standards define key parameters for managing ocean health and ecosystems related to seafood production. Standards serving the seafood sector rely principally on certified fishers and fish farmers for the protection of ocean health leaving their efforts exposed to free riders not applying preferred practices. Limited coverage limits the capacity of standards to manage global ocean health.
Read More

Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction

Seafood production is an important source of revenue for developing countries. Although there is little evidence of premiums for certified seafood, demand for certified seafood is growing rapidly and therefore represents an important market opportunity for developing country producers.
Read More

Investment and Public Policy

Certification offers a valuable benchmark for investment and public policy aimed at promoting a blue economy. By confirming compliance with preferred practices, standards can reduce the risks associated with private sector investments more generally while ensuring that industrial and trade policy relevant to the seafood sector support sustainable development objectives.

Read More

Read Full Report

A deep dive into the market and performance trends of the 9 most prevalent seafood certification schemes operating in the seafood sector. The Review identifies the market impacts of the most prominent international seafood standards and reveals how these initiatives operate and contribute to the long-term sustainability of the global fisheries sector.