Understanding Seafood Ratings and Seafood Certifications

What are the differences between seafood ratings and seafood certifications?

FishChoice has created the following table to highlight some of the general differences between seafood ratings and seafood certifications, and how they are used to assess seafood. This is a generic summary, and individual rating programs and certification programs may be exceptions to this summary. More information about the specific criteria used by our partners can be found on our Sustainable Seafood Ratings Partners and Sustainable Seafood Certification Partners pages.


Assessment Element  Certification

Participation of fishery / farm in question

Voluntary, self-identified client, usually a private entity

Selected by assessment organization based on importance to market(s)*

Cost to producers

Yes, paid by client

No cost*

Assessment review

Typically an accredited, 3rd party aka 'certification body' - selected by client

Scientist(s) selected by assessment organization with peer-review process 

Transparency of assessment process

Assessment process for wild-capture fisheries are generally made public whereas aquaculture assessments are generally confidential

Generally not public until complete 

Stakeholder input

Yes, typically required at one or more points in the assessment process

Limited to no opportunity to provide input 

Objection process

Yes, usually through some form of pre-defined arbitration process at a cost to objector(s) 

Not formalized

Publicly available final reports

Final certification reports for wild-capture fisheries are generally made public whereas aquaculture certifications are generally confidential

Generally made public

Geographic & harvest method scope of assessment

Client identifies the fishing / farming geographic area and corresponding harvest method; usually restricted to one or more private companies

Identified by assessment organization; geography is generally consistent with a management area, body of water, country, territory, or region and fishing / farming methods are assessed individually or collectively

Wild seafood assessment methodology

Typically one methodolgy for all fisheries

Typically one methodology for all fisheries

Farmed seafood assessment methodology

Some certifications have multiple methodologies by species groups, others have a single methodology

Typically one methodology for all aquaculture production

Traceability system

Typically chain of custody; certification programs vary in extent of supply chain coverage

Not included or required

Products that are eligible for sustainability claims

Restricted to the client - typically specific fishing vessels or farms / processors; companies in the supply chain are eligible depending on supply chain requirements of the certification program

Generic claims about sustainability about product source generally allowed

Industry marks/labels

Usually B2B packaging marks available 

Rare, if any 

Consumer marks/labels

On-product marks available, requirements and fees vary 

Rare, if any 

Available programs &/or partnerships

Typically not available outside of use of program marks

A lot of variation, usually limited in availability and opportunity depending on type of business and program capacity

 *Some assessment organizations offer a fee-for-service assessment