Netherlands continue trailblazing path towards eco-labelled fish

The Dutch Fishmongers Association VNV (Verbond van de Nederlandse Visdetailhandel) has started a groundbreaking project to promote the uptake of certified sustainable seafood among its network of 750 independent fish shops. The project will encourage VNV members to sell and promote fish with the MSC’s internationally recognised blue eco-label by helping them to get certified under the MSC’s Chain of Custody standard for seafood traceability. Part-funding for fishmongers taking part in the project will be provided to encourage MSC certification.

The project also features a co-operation with DOEN Foundation, North Sea Foundation and WWF to communicate about sustainable seafood to VNV members and the public, as well as provide administrative and financial support for MSC-certification. The project represents an innovative approach to encourage MSC-certification among a large group of independent fish shops and has great potential for replication in other countries.

Peter van de Laar, the Chairman of the Fishmongers Association, who had his own fish shop certified last year, comments: “We have worked really hard with MSC to bring the possibility of Chain of Custody certification closer to our members. You have to realise that around 50 percent of the fish in Holland is sold by individual businesses, meaning shops, mobile selling points and markets. With this project we make it easier for these kinds of entrepreneurs to apply for certification. I have a certified shop myself, so I am more or less setting an example for our members.”

Maarten Mens, Manager of Trade and Quality Affairs of the Dutch Fish Product Board, adds: “This is a great opportunity for small businesses to engage in selling more sustainable products. Supermarkets in Holland have announced that they are going to rely more on MSC-certified products for their sales. The fishmongers will have to answer to that. With this project they will be able to show their customers that they mean business with sustainability.”

Jeffrey Prins, Programme Manager at DOEN Foundation, comments: “An increasing number of consumers and retailers ask for eco-labelled seafood. This sends a clear message to those involved in catching fish and seafood. They should see this as an opportunity to get their practices right and prepare their businesses for the future. DOEN Foundation is happy to contribute to this development.”

Camiel Derichs, MSC’s Commercial Manager Northern Europe, welcomes VNV’s move: ”This project is a great example of stakeholders from different arenas in the fishing sector working together to achieve a common goal. Concerted efforts are what the fish business needs to make it sustain into the future.”

VNV has entered into a logo licensing agreement with MSCI, the trading arm of the MSC, and will co-ordinate and monitor use of the MSC label by members that get MSC-certified. The association has also set up a dedicated website ( where member shops can apply for certification. VNV’s role will provide fishmongers with easy access to the MSC programme.

DOEN Foundation has long been a supporter of the MSC and funds many of its activities in the Netherlands. DOEN will part-fund the certification of VNV fishmongers and its support is instrumental in promoting availability of the MSC programme to the smallest of operators in the market.

North Sea Foundation takes on the role as financial administrator of funds made available by DOEN, while WWF Netherlands will engage in communicating to VNV members and the public about seafood sustainability and the MSC.

VNV’s announcement comes shortly after the Dutch supermarket chains, represented by the Centraal Bureau Levensmiddelenhandel (CBL), and Visgilde, the largest group of associated fishmongers, have committed to stock fish and seafood from MSC-certified sources

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