A combination of policy reform, advocacy and industry leadership has transformed the fishing industry in the Netherlands – but will it catch on?
It was the perfect storm. Four years ago, much of the Dutch fishing industry was foundering. Fuel costs were rising, and the expense of lugging heavy beam trawls around the North Sea was bankrupting many companies and driving others to decommission their boats.
Then, three NGOs pitched in. The North Sea Foundation and WWF-Netherlands produced a 'traffic light' card advising consumers which fish they could eat with a clear conscience, which they do best to avoid, and which they shouldn't touch on any account. Meanwhile, Greenpeace began a more aggressive, global campaign against 'bottom-trawling'—the practice where heavy nets are dragged across the sea floor, with potentially devastating effects to the marine ecosystem. It was "a happy coincidence," says Dr Nathalie Steins, who runs the Benelux office of the Marine Stewardship Council. "Dutch retailers are really anxious that Greenpeace might give them a bad reputation."