California Sustainable Seafood Initiative

Assembly Bill 1217 (Monning, 2009), requires the Ocean Protection Council to develop and implement a voluntary seafood promotion program for California fisheries. The intent of AB 1217 is to encourage California fisheries to seek certification in accordance with internationally accepted standards for sustainability and to promote the purchase and consumption of certified sustainable California seafood.

The statute directs the Council to: 1) develop a protocol to guide entities on how to be independently certified to internationally accepted standards for sustainable seafood; 2) implement a marketing assistance program for such seafood in cooperation with the Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA); 3) develop a competitive grant and loan program to help fisheries become certified as sustainable when funded by the legislature; and 4) design a label or labels that may be used exclusively to identify seafood caught in California.

The statute stipulates that the protocol is to be developed in a transparent process and adopted by the Council in a public meeting. In addition, the Council will need to identify in a public document that the standards developed meet or exceed the Guidelines for the Eco-labeling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries promulgated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It is not envisioned that the OPC or staff will certify fisheries in California; rather the purpose will be to guide entities on how to become certified as sustainable through existing organizations.



OPC Actions to Date

At its March 3, 2010 OPC meeting, the OPC approved a recommendation to appoint a public advisory board to assist the staff of the OPC in implementation of AB 1217.  The Panel Members represent state or federal fishery management agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the commercial fishing industry, fish processors, fish retailers or traders, restaurateurs, public health/nutrition officials, fishing port officials, and the scientific community.

At its November 29, 2010 meeting, the OPC took public comment on a draft protocol and opened a public comment period through January 18, 2011.

At its May 12, 2011 meeting, the OPC discussed a revised draft protocol.

At its December 16, 2011 meeting, the OPC adopted the California Voluntary Sustainable Seafood Program protocol.



Council Documents


Public Comment on Draft Protocol

  • David Anderson: Certification and Labeling of Capture Fisheries Products in California – Addedum to the report
  • Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara (CFSB): Comments on draft protocol
  • Environmental Defense Fund: Comments on draft protocol
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium: Comments on draft protocol
  • Food and Water Watch: Comments on draft protocol
  • Heal The Bay: Comments on draft protocol
  • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC): Comments on draft protocol and attached articles (Nature  September, 2010 and Nature October 2010)
  • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC): Comments on David Andersons’ draft alternative
  • Turtle Island Restoration Network, San Francisco Bay Keeper, Environment California,, Ocean Conservation, Pacific Environment, Salmon protection and watershed, Tataki Sushi Bar and Tataki South: Comments on draft protocol
  • Oceana: Comments on draft protocol
  • Food and Water Watch online petition


Advisory Panel Meetings


  • March 15, 2011
    Cal EPA Building – Sierra Hearing Room
    1001 I Street
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    Meeting Summary





 * The meetings will be open to the public and will provide opportunity for public comment.


 Examples of State or Country specific eco-labeling certification schemes:

  • Gulf of Maine – Sustainable Seafood Initiative Website
    – Gulf of Maine Branding Standard draft report
  • Iceland – Responsible Fisheries Management Specification, Draft Report
  • Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute Website


Marketing Program – Background Information and Recommendations:



Related Links:


Categories: Aquaculture, Sustainable Fisheries and Marine Ecosystems