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Privatizing Environmental Governance: A Global Analysis of the Effects and Effectiveness of Environmental Certification for Farmed Salmon and Shrimp

Principle Investigator: Peter Vandergeest (Geography, York University)
Co-Investigator: Derek Hall ( Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University)
Researchers: Md. Saidul Islam (Sociology, Nanyang Technological University), Paul Foley (PhD, Political Science, York University), Beatriz Cid Aguyo (PhD, Sociology, York University)

Project Timeline: 2007 to 2013

Supported by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Environmental governance - the regulation of human interaction with the environment, through both state and non-state mechanisms - is being re-made through the proliferation of certification systems. Certification claims to ensure that consumer goods are produced in sustainable and socially just ways.

Seafood plays a particularly prominent role in this movement. The fisheries industry is drawing intense scrutiny because of rising concerns about the devastation of ocean ecologies through overfishing. While the industry is moving rapidly towards certification of caught fish, many hope that aquaculture, or fish farming, will be able to ease the pressure on ocean fisheries. However, farmed seafood has also been criticized for its environmental and (to a much lesser extent) social impacts.

These well-publicized concerns have created new business and development opportunities as demand for certified seafood rises, and major buyers have committed to purchasing only certified seafood. Moreover, other actors such as Indigenous Peoples, environmental organizations, producers and consumers have all attempted to weigh in to determine the future of our ocean and coastal ecologies. The seafood industry is thus on both the offensive and the defensive as it tries to legitimate the privatization of environmental governance through certification.

Privatizing Environmental Governance: A Global Analysis of the Effects and Effectiveness of Environmental Certification for Farmed Salmon and Shrimp is a collaborative research project by an international team of scholars, activists and representatives from the “new” seafood movement. We focus on shrimp and salmon as the two highest-value, and most controversial, species in global aquaculture. Our research sites range from shrimp and salmon farms to corporate offices, from supermarkets to international organizations, as we ask:

* what are the effects of seafood certification on the shrimp and salmon industries and on the communities engaged in aquaculture?
* how effective are certification regimes in mitigating the negative environmental and social effects of intensive aquaculture?
* who participates in setting standards and monitoring and enforcing compliance?
* to what extent does the move to certification actually represent the “privatization” of environmental governance?

The summary of the project's research findings are available here.

This research is supported by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Further information:
Researcher Profiles
Project News
Publications, Papers and Presentations
Research Findings Summary

For more information, contact Peter Vandergeest at pvander@yorku.ca.

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