Co-creating accountability indicators with alternative seafood networks
Increasing awareness of overfishing, habitat loss, pollution, labor abuses, and issues of equity and access in fisheries has created space for the emergence and proliferation of third-party sustainability certifications for seafood. Yet these "voluntary” measures, typically created by non-governmental organizations and facilitated through private companies, have had variable success, and been criticized for being inaccessible to small-scale fisheries. Acknowledging these limitations and responding to calls for non-hegemonic alternatives to natural resource governance and stewardship, we engaged in a 2-year collaboration between alternative seafood networks in the U.S. and Canada and our research team that resulted in the co-development of a set of accountability indicators designed to guide self-evaluation. This effort sets the stage for future work in developing alternative models to certification based on peer-to-peer assessment and community-based accountability. The work is modeled after Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) in the agricultural sector, which acts as an alternative to organic certification for small-scale farmers.
We wish to continue this work by bringing the self-evaluation back to the Local Catch Network (LCN), a community-of-practice of values-based, small-scale seafood enterprises – or alternative seafood networks – and associated researchers, advocates, and consumers, whose members contributed to the co-creation of the accountability indicators. We aim to test the self-evaluation and gather feedback in order to 1) improve usability, 2) improve effectiveness as a tool for continual improvement and accountability, and 3) assist LCN in determining future directions. This work will take place over four months from September-December 2022.
1) Work with consultants to improve the design aesthetics and usability of the self-evaluation.
2) Introduce the self-evaluation to LCN members in person at the Local Seafood Summit in Girdwood, Alaska in October, as well as remotely through webinars, and online office hours.
3) Assist at least 15 enterprises in taking the self-evaluation and at least 5 enterprises in creating self-directed improvement plans based on their results.
4) Facilitate feedback from network members to improve the process and fine tune the indicators. Assess the usefulness of the self-evaluation based on the feedback, results, and improvement plans across the four categories evaluated: Governance, Conservation, Sales, and Production.
5) Convene discussions with LCN members on the desired next steps and the possibility of creating a PGS in the future.
Collaborative approach: This work will be a collaboration between members of the Local Catch Network (supported by LCN coordinator Jordan Richardson), the North American Marine Alliance, the University of Maine, and consultants.
Switzer Engagement: We are seeking feedback from any fellow who is interested in this work; we value diverse perspectives. Specifically, folks who have experience in the fields of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; ecolabelling, certification, or ESG; indicator development; stakeholder engagement; labor rights, justice and equity; social change, and co-management of resources are encouraged to comment.
We request feedback by August 8th, 2022.