WP8: Ethical framework

Co-ordinator: University of Bergen (UiB)

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Video: Matthias Kaiser of University of Bergen on Ethics and the SEAT project


  1. Evidence-based ethical advice provided to policy makers, standard setting organisations and consumers which reflect pluralism and value diversity in contemporary society.
  2. Processes strengthened for participatory standards development based on practical and deliberative methods which make ethical advice amenable to quality assurance, conformity assessment and democratic transparency.
  3. Ethical tools applied for awareness raising and consensus building with stakeholders’ inc. producers, processors, wholesale, importers, retailers, restauranteurs, producer organisations, consumers etc.
  4. Opportunities described for harmonisation and equivalence criteria developed for existing standards and certification systems.
  5. An overall ethical food aquatic index (EAFI) developed and implemented in which the values related to food production, processing and marketing are transparent and the result of negotiation of the stakeholders involved.

Description of work and role of participants

T8.1 Critical review of current ethical standards for aquaculture, related food production and delivery including: eco-labelling, nutritional, food safety, animal welfare, fair-trade, organic, internal retail standards. The critical review will cover explicit guidelines (e.g. FAOs guidelines for eco-labelling, responsible fisheries and aquaculture (FAO 2000), the FAO Codex Alimentarius (WP2), FAO/NACA Aquaculture certification systems), industrial standards and regulatory frameworks (e.g. ISO 9000, 14000, 22000 standards), the major private/ voluntary standards and certification systems (e.g. Global GAP, Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) standards, IFOAM, MSC certification and WWF-coordinated Aquaculture Dialogue standards). The latter systems, categorised according to their conformity assessments (e.g. 1st, 2nd or 3rd party), shall be assessed in terms of coverage and weighting of ethical issues. Lessons from related fields in regard to ethically salient factors will be brought in to contextualize ethical standards. The degree and mechanisms by which schemes are able to measure and mitigate and accommodate the emerging impacts evidence-base shall also be evaluated. This task is mainly based on published material, including academic discussions in scientific journals and key informant interviews.

T8.2 Identify costs, benefits and risks against livelihood contexts (T5.2) associated with compliance to voluntary and mandatory standards (WP8) for different channel stakeholders (identified in tasks T 2.3 and T8.5). Secondary data, in depth-key informant interviews and end-user stratified surveys, qualitative and quantitative econometric analyses for existing and prospective criteria (scenario analyses). Draw conclusions for environmental, social and economic sustainability.

T8.3 Assess interaction between voluntary and mandatory ethical certification schemes. In selected Asian countries, assess the interactions and areas of overlapping between voluntary and mandatory (building on T2.2) ethical certification schemes applicable to aquaculture. Identify harmonization mechanisms / equivalence criteria for voluntary and mandatory schemes with the aim of reducing costs to producers therefore influencing overall compliance (drawing on T5.4).

T8.4 Assess governance structures of existing certification schemes: Analysis of governance/ institutional context and degree of stakeholder inclusion in standards development processes (including international guidelines for standard setting (e.g. ISEAL, FAO, NACA, ISO). Assess mechanisms for influencing governance structures e.g. to improve where necessary the deliberative process such as awareness, communication and transparency (WP10).

T.8.5 Preliminary awareness-raising among project participants on the role and function of ethical considerations in the project. The purpose of this task is to ensure that ethically sensitive data and qualities are integrated in the other WPs at an early stage. Delineating system boundaries, proper representation of scientific uncertainties (T2.7), types of incurred costs and risks (T5.7), etc are examples of areas that are crucial for any good ethical assessment, but are often framed too narrowly in standard scientific discourse. This task is to be initiated by conducting a workshop during the preliminary consortium meeting (WP2).

T8.6 Review of relevant surveys of European consumer needs, understanding and prospective interpretation of existing and emergent food and seafood standards. The emergence of “political consumerism” has brought about a fragmentation of consumers with a plurality of preferences and values. Similarly, food scares of various kinds have shown differentiated effects in different countries and socio-political cultures. A review of the contemporary survey findings/ consultation with representative bodies (e.g European Consumer Association (BEUC), European Food Safety Association (EFSA)) will ensure that values and needs of European consumers are adequately represented and framed as basic underlying ethical orientations. Contingent on evaluation of existing surveys, focus groups may be used to explore gaps in knowledge of consumer awareness and interpretation. Feedback to the Asian MSMEs and WWF certification multi-stakeholder dialogues will be provided (WP9).

T8.7 Review of relevant ethical principles and adaptation of ethical decision-making tools incorporating participatory approaches. In light of

T8.3 and research in practical ethics, a preliminary representation of ethical principles and their specification and variance for European consumers will be set up. This will enter T8.6 and be finalized within this task. A very brief user guide will be produced, explaining content and interpretation of these principles.

T8.8 Identification and description of relevant stakeholders (primary, secondary) associated with species/country systems will be made for the purpose of inclusion in participatory ethical tools. This task coincides in part with the stakeholder analysis of WP2 (T2.4), but will in particular: a) group together stakeholders with similar value-perspectives, b) stress those stakeholders that are weakly represented but potentially strongly affected (e.g. biota). A particular challenge will be the adequate integration of stakeholder views from producing countries with those from consuming countries. To this purpose a short descriptive information-package on stakeholders will be produced.

T8.9 Implementation of participatory ethical tools incorporating expert advice and public discourse. The ethical matrix approach (EMA – developed by Mepham 1996, further expanded by Kaiser & Forsberg 2000) will be used to structure participatory processes in project countries. Panels of various experts and panels with lay public will work out a comprehensive ethical assessment of trade in farmed aquatic products between Asia and Europe. Specific insights from other WPs, e.g. concerning scenarios from LCA and other sustainability measures, will inform the process and enter the consequence matrix. The project team will prepare the meetings, facilitate the discourse, and act as secretariat for the final evaluations and considered judgements of each panel. All results of the participatory exercises will be published on the project Wiki/website (WP1).

T8.10 Building on T8.9 synthesise outputs from WPs 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 and with the other involved partners develop the concept and practicalities of an EAFI. This will create an opportunity to bring a far more holistic, evidence-based perspective to the fundamental research question; what constitutes ‘fair and sustainable’ trade? Post harvest impacts, socio-economic dependencies (especially of smaller value chain actors) and consumer understanding are key areas which can augment the principle standards and certification schemes currently available for aquatic products, many with singular emphasis on biologically-based resource management assessments of sustainability.

T8.11 The results of the implementations of the participatory ethical tools/ EAFI shall be made subject to review and summary for policy implication. To this end an ethical Delphi survey shall be conducted among project participants (possibly expanded by others). The task will be to find common lines of concern and analyze policy implications (informing WP11). On the basis of this a consensus is sought in regard to considered judgements on possible policy and regulatory recommendations, including soft-law, efforts to ensure ethically acceptable trade in aquaculture products.

T8.12 Review EAFI against existing certification standards, assess true costs and benefits of compliance through field surveys.


D8.1 (month 10) Overview report on current ethical frameworks for aquaculture products.

D8.2 (month 12) Report on review of existing certification schemes applicable to aquaculture, including governance structure and assessment of potential for change (inc. opportunities for harmonisation and equivalence criteria).

D8.3 (month 10) Workshop report

D8.4 (month 24) Report on review of mandatory ethical certification schemes in pilot countries and assessment of overlap with voluntary certification schemes.

D8.5 (month 18) Report on surveys of consumer views and underlying values.

D8.6 (month 18) User guide on ethical principles for aquatic farmed products.

D8.7 (month 24) Information package on stakeholder realities.

D8.8 (month 24) Report on costs and benefits of voluntary certification schemes applied to Asian producers

D8.9 (month 36) Report from various participatory ethical tool workshops.

D8.10 (month 42) Delphi policy recommendations/ briefs for ethical trade.

Photo © Loni Hensler