Governance Innovation Networks for Sustainable Tuna / by Francisco Blaha

I have been reading with interest parts of Alice M.M. Miller's PhD thesis from October 2014, at University of Wageningen School of Social Sciences. I liked the fact that she tackles the issue from a Social Science perspective, which I find really refreshing.


There are two particular topics (so far) I have focused: 

1) The MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) vs the Dolphin Safe label conflict in the PNA fishery

She examine this case by asking what happens if two labels regulating the same fishery, with differing perceived levels of credibility, make conflicting sustainability claims? 

She looks at how key practices like scientific rigour, inclusiveness, transparency/openness, impartiality/independence and impact contribute to label credibility and explains the importance of authority in understanding how certification schemes maintain influence within global production networks. Her results demonstrate that despite substantially different levels of credibility within these networks, the application of an environmental standard is more connected to the authority of the standard setter than the credibility of the label. The paper concludes that understanding the more nuanced role of authority, both with and without credibility, offers new insights into the wider dynamics that shape environmental regulation in global production networks.

Loved her graphics

Loved her graphics

This is in line with my personal knowledge and appreciation of both schemes, where i see the MSC as "real" measure of sustainability (even if i have my reservations on other aspects of it), and the "Dolphin Safe" which may have started with some real values in the 80's but is now a money making scheme with little transparency.

2) The power asymmetry in the role that the EU's DG mare is taking in the Pacific fisheries

Like any other world power the EU is aiming to extend its regulatory reach beyond its territory.  Utilising its position as the world’s largest tuna market the EU has been able to exert regulatory authority by attaching compliance with their IUU Regulation to their trade agreements and conditions of market access.  ‘Market Power Europe’ is the main basis for the power asymmetry between the EU and Pacific Island countries in EU IUU Regulation uptake.

The result has been that where market access has been crucial for these external countries, they have sought to comply with the EU’s rules, albeit with varying degrees of success. In addition to market power the EU has also diffused the implementation of their IUU Regulation through normative power, for instance through interactions in the WCPFC.

Exerting normative power to promote their external regulatory agenda has been less successful for the EU and met with considerable, but differentiated, resistance by Pacific Island countries. The negative perception of the EU’s sustainable fisheries track record in the region and their self-interest based socialisation strategies has weakened the EU’s capacity to take a normative stance over sovereign resources of third countries.

The EU’s external regulatory strategy for fisheries has therefore ‘muddied the waters’ because the EU’s perceived behaviour undermines moral superiority it claims over the countries targeted by their IUU Regulation. In addition, in a region with strong sub-regional governance structures like the PNA, Pacific Island countries have been able to exploit their position in the WCPFC as a collective of resource owners, to openly criticise the EU’s normative stance and to ‘push back’ against EU demands. This has altered the power asymmetry in their favour. Pacific Island countries, which lack ‘traditional’ market power, have been able to promote their own regulatory agenda against traditionally more powerful bodies like the EU. 

These dynamic and differentiated power asymmetries generate in turn a differentiated geography of regulatory uptake. The power of the EU lies in its position as a market actor; one faced with minimal resistance in pushing its regulatory agenda. With a near global consensus on strong IUU fishing regulation, it appears any added value for the EU in investing in their normative power over the already resistant sovereign owners of fishery resources, is diminishing.

While the strategic importance of interacting in multilateral fora such as the WCPFC will continue to remain important for the EU, exercising normative power on IUU regulation appears better reserved for an increasingly sparse group of countries and regions not dependent on the EU export market; and when exercised, should focus on cooperation rather than ‘teaching’.