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VALDUVIS: An innovative approach to assess the sustainability of fishing activities
Kinds, A.; Sys, K.; Schotte, L.; Mondelaers, K.; Polet, H. (2016). VALDUVIS: An innovative approach to assess the sustainability of fishing activities. Fish. Res. 182: 158-171.
In: Fisheries Research. Elsevier: Amsterdam. ISSN 0165-7836; e-ISSN 1872-6763, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Integrated sustainability assessment; Electronic logbook; Monitoring tool; Stakeholder participation

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    The Belgian fishing sector is under pressure to demonstrate the sustainability of its fishing methods. First, the beam trawl (which accounts for 80% of the landings) is contested due to its low selectivity and significant disturbance of the sea bed. Second, the Belgian retail market has committed to sourcing sustainable seafood. However, converting to sustainable methods is costly and may not be feasible for the majority of fishers who have suffered economic losses in the wake of the 2008 fuel crisis. Instead of a full-scale transition to sustainable fishing, fishers have developed modifications to the beam trawl that reduce environmental impact and save fuel. We propose an indicator-based sustainability assessment tool (VALDUVIS) that recognizes these efforts and offers incentives for fishers to adopt more sustainable fishing practices. In this article, we describe the development of the tool and its potential applications. Integrated Sustainability Assessment (ISA) was used as a framework to develop the tool and to initiate the transition towards sustainability in the Belgian fishery. VALDUVIS offers a promising new method to assess sustainability in fisheries. The approach is innovative in several ways. First, indicator scores are calculated using official data flows (e.g., the electronic logbook), which enhances traceability and provides the possibility of communicating sustainability data soon after landing the fish. Second, indicators are scored on a fine scale (e.g., per fishing trip). Third, stakeholder participation was essential in the development of the tool. This enhanced the support of the wider fishing sector and assured the relevance of the indicators and the users’ understanding of the tool. Fourth, the delivered tool is multi-purpose and can be easily adapted to the needs of a range of end users (wholesalers, retailers, authorities, researchers, etc.). The VALDUVIS tool offers a cost-effective alternative to known certification schemes that could be applied to any type of fishery. The Belgian fishing sector considers VALDUVIS to be suitable for monitoring the progress towards sustainability as well as for providing incentives for fishers to adopt better practices.

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