Two global certification and ecolabelling systems – the generic global dolphin-safe ecolabel and the global Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) ecolabel – are assessed for their present and potential contributions to improving biodiversity conservation in marine capture fisheries. The dolphin-safe ecolabel appears to have played a minor role in a reduction of dolphin mortality in tuna fisheries, but dolphin populations in the worst-affected area have not recovered, and it appears that the current level of dolphin by-catch sanctioned by present-day fishery management and the ecolabel is not effective enough to achieve population recovery. The MSC ecolabel has established a poorly expressed environmental standard that has resulted in variable interpretations by certifiers, creating an apparently systematic bias in application of the standard to the certified fisheries. Without substantial revision of both these systems, it seems unlikely that they will be able to make major contributions to marine biodiversity conservation because of barriers created by limitations in programme design, lack of robust linkages between the certification standard and biodiversity conservation outcomes, and unclear standards and their inconsistent application in the certification of fisheries.
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