Friend of the Sea
FounderPaolo Bray
TypeRegistered non-profit NGO
PurposeSustainable seafood and other labelling
  • Milan, 20124, Corso Buenos Aires 45, Italy
Key people
Paolo Bray (CEO), Franco Bray (President)

Friend of the Sea is a project of the World Sustainability Organization for the certification and promotion of seafood from sustainable fisheries[1] and sustainable aquaculture.[2][3] It is the only certification scheme which, with the same logo, certifies both wild and farmed seafood.[4]


Friend of the Sea was started in 2008, by environmentalist and economist Paolo Bray, Director of International Programs of the Dolphin-Safe Tuna program and as a project of the Earth Island Institute, the NGO which operates the successful International Dolphin-Safe project.[5] Some of the main world retailers participate, such as Carrefour, Coop Italia, Manor, Finiper, Aligro, Citysuper, Coldstorage, Conad, Despar, Esselunga, Fairprice, Lidl, Metro, Rewe, Spar, Walgreens, Walmart. Some important producers also have their products certified.

Friend of the Sea's mission, in line with the United Nations 2020 Sustainable Development Goal 14, is to use its ecolabel and conservation projects and campaigns to contribute to the health of the world's oceans.[6]

Friend of the Sea audits of seafood and omega3 products from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture are carried out only by qualified auditors of international certification bodies accredited by national accreditation bodies.Friend of the Sea is the only standard for sustainable fisheries to be recognized by the national accreditation bodies. Audits and surveillance are carried out every year.[7]

As of 2018, FoS certifies about 770 companies including both farmed and wild species including 44 approved fisheries and fleets, 3,000 products and 150 commercial species have been certified by FoS.[8]

As per the 2015 UN State of Sustainability Initiatives, its certified volumes have "grown at a rate of 91% per annum between 2008 and 2015, reaching 9.3 million metric tons of FoS certified wild catch seafood in 2015."[8]

Friend of the Sea, in collaboration with FEM2-Ambiente, has introduced the systematic use of DNA Barcoding to avoid frauds and to confirm seafood and omega3 products sustainability.[9]

Studies and recognitions

According to the “State of Sustainability Initiatives Review: Standards and the Blue Economy” published in 2016 by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), “FOS production has grown at a rate of 91% per annum between 2008 and 2015, reaching 9.3 million metric tons of FOS-certified wild catch seafood in 2015 (5.7% of global, 10.1% of total wild catch) making it the single largest source of certified catch on the global market.”[10]

Friend of the Sea is a Member Associate of Infofish, the project of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, providing marketing information and technical advisory services to the fishery industry.[11]

The peer reviewed study “Evaluation and legal assessment of certified seafood” by Rainer Froese and Alexander Proelss concluded that “For the stocks with available status information, 19% (FOS) to 31% (MSC) Marine Stewardship Council had overfished stock sizes and were subject to ongoing overfishing.” thus highlighting the performance of FOS standards.[12]

The report “De-Coding Seafood Eco-Labels: How the European Commission Can Help Consumers Access Sustainable Seafood” by Food and Water Watch Europe identified only 4 concerns regarding Friend of the Sea fisheries standard compared to 8 concerns regarding MSC.[13]

Conservation projects and campaigns

In May 2019 Friend of the Sea managed to lead Just Eat, Deliveroo and Menulog (Australia) to take off shark fin soups off their menu.[14]

FOS's petition to prevent ship strikes has obtained almost 50.000 signatures. FOS managed to lead the major members of the World Shipping Council to request the Sri Lankan government to shift the shipping lanes 15 miles South of current lanes, to reduce whales strikes by over 90%.[15]

Friend of the Sea collaborates with Tartalife project, introducing a Turtle Safe certification label to motivate fishermen and shipowners to deploy Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) and other turtle bycatch reduction measures.[16]

Friend of the Sea supports the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program (MWSRP), a research based conservation charity dedicated to whale shark studies and fostering community-focused conservation initiatives in the Maldives and the greater Indian Ocean.

Friend of the Sea supports The Aquaculture Development for the Environment Organisation (ADE), a non-profit organisation that develops coral reef conservation and research projects in Fiji, such as reef rehabilitation with the involvement of the local community.[17]

Compliance and criteria

Friend of the Sea's criteria compliance is verified by independent accredited certification bodies.[8]

Essential criteria for fisheries are:

Article 30 of the FAO Guidelines for Ecolabelling of Marine Fisheries Products requires that:

The “stock under consideration” is not overfished, and is maintained at a level which promotes the objective of optimal utilization and maintains its availability for present and future generations, taking into account that longer term changes in productivity can occur due to natural variability and/or impacts other than fishing. In the event that biomass drops well below such target levels, management measures (Code of Conduct Article 7.6) should allow for restoration within reasonable time frames of the stocks to such levels.[18]

Friend of the Sea certified products from sustainable fisheries are in line with the FAO Guidelines for the ecolabelling of fish and fishery products from marine capture fisheries as they must comply with the following stricter requirements:[19]

See also


  1. ^ Friend of the Sea Sets Sustainable Standards The FishSite. Retrieved 20 Dec 2008.
  2. ^ Friend of the Sea becomes Main Aquaculture Industry Standard for Sustainability in 2008 Archived 2012-02-19 at the Wayback Machine World Fishing Retrieved 20 Dec 2008.
  3. ^ Friend of the Sea becomes main aquaculture sustainability standard Archived 2012-02-12 at the Wayback Machine Aquahoy. Retrieved 20 Dec 2008.
  4. ^ "FOS - Friend of the Sea". Certifications. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  5. ^ International Dolphin-Safe project
  6. ^ "Goal 14 .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform". Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  7. ^ "Ecolabels and marine capture fisheries" (PDF).
  8. ^ a b c "Friend of the Sea overtakes MSC as world's largest wild catch eco-label by volumes". Undercurrent News. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  9. ^ "[Webinar] The importance of DNA testing for seafood sourcing". FEM2-Ambiente. 2019-10-28. Retrieved 2020-01-12.
  10. ^ "State of Sustainability Initiatives Review: Standards and the Blue Economy". IISD. 2016-05-10. Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  11. ^ "Friend of Sea: A spot on, well organized event – International Supermarket News". Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  12. ^ Froese, Rainer; Proelss, Alexander (2012-11-01). "Evaluation and legal assessment of certified seafood". Marine Policy. 36 (6): 1284–1289. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2012.03.017. ISSN 0308-597X.
  13. ^ "De-Coding Seafood Eco-Labels: How the European Commission Can Help Consumers Access Sustainable Seafood | Food & Water Europe". Retrieved 2019-12-13.
  14. ^ "Just Eat delivery firm stops serving shark fin soup in Italy". Verdict Foodservice. 2019-02-07. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  15. ^ "Sri Lankan Whale Protection Area Proposed". The Maritime Executive. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  16. ^ TartaLife. "TartaLife | Pesca TartaFree - Riduzione della mortalità della tartaruga marina nelle attività di pesca professionale". (in Italian). Retrieved 2019-12-13.
  17. ^ "Annual Report" (PDF).
  18. ^ a b Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. "Guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries (Revision 1)" (PDF). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. p. 19. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  19. ^ "Guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries. Revision 1. / Directives pour l'tiquetage cologique du poisson et des produits des pches de capture marines. Revision 1. / Directrices para el ecoetiquetado de pescado y productos pesqueros de la pesca de captura marina. Revision 1. /". Retrieved 2020-01-15.