Interactions between International Law and Private Fisheries Certification

Transnational Environmental Law, Forthcoming

Amsterdam Center for International Law No. 2017-24

Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2017-29

28 Pages Posted: 31 May 2017

See all articles by Markos Karavias

Markos Karavias

Utrecht University School of Law

Date Written: May 29, 2017


The management of fisheries at the international level is no longer the exclusive preserve of states and international organizations. The proliferation of private certification initiatives, the reach of which defies territorial boundaries, has heralded an era of transnational fisheries governance. Whereas the interactions between private standards and national regulation have attracted scholarly attention, the function of international law in the context of transnational fisheries governance is largely unexplored. This article maps the interactions between international fisheries law and the most prominent among private certification standards, namely the Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries Standard and Guidance (MSC FSG). It proposes a methodology to assess such interactions at the stage of norm development and argues that the interactions between the two regimes are multidirectional and complex. International law serves as a model for private standard setting and as a yardstick for private decision making. Conversely, the MSC FSG has acted as a model for the FAO Ecolabelling Guidelines. Moreover, the MSC FSG may constitute a benchmark for resolutions adopted by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). The MSC FSG, in incorporating international fisheries law, affirms the latter's resilience as a global point of reference for the management of fisheries globally. Yet, at the same time, by prompting states to comply with their international obligations in order to secure market access for their fishing industry, the MSC FSG may be exposing international law’s inability to generate compliance autonomously.

Keywords: International Fisheries Law, International Environmental Law, Global Governance, Fisheries Governance, Marine Stewardship Council, Transnational Private Regulation, Eco-Labelling, Private Certification

JEL Classification: K32, K33, Q22

Suggested Citation

Karavias, Markos, Interactions between International Law and Private Fisheries Certification (May 29, 2017). Transnational Environmental Law, Forthcoming, Amsterdam Center for International Law No. 2017-24, Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2017-29, Available at SSRN:

Markos Karavias (Contact Author)

Utrecht University School of Law ( email )

Achter Sint Pieter 200
Utrecht, 3512 HT

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