Greener than Thou: The Political Economy of Fish Ecolabeling and Its Local Manifestations in South Africa

Stefano Ponte*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Developing country governments and industries have been reluctant to support ecolabels, fearing their potentially protectionist effects. This reluctance has been countered by international organizations (such as FAO) and ecolabel initiatives with assurances of transparency, non-discrimination, and technical assistance. The analysis of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label shows that developing country fisheries, and small-scale ones in particular, have been marginalized. Furthermore, the MSC certification of the hake industry in South Africa illustrates that ecolabeling is sought in the context of competitive pressures and specific political economies, not simply on the basis of value-free science and systemic management. This article concludes that developing country producers need dedicated systems of standards and verification procedures, not only special flexibilities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWorld Development
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)159-175
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Sustainability standards
  • Certification
  • Fish
  • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
  • South Africa

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