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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 selectivityand significant disturbance of the sea bed. Second, the Belgian retail market has committed to sourcingsustainable seafood. However, converting to sustainable methods is costly and may not be feasible forthe majority of fishers who have suffered economic losses in the wake of the 2008 fuel crisis. Instead ofa full-scale transition to sustainable fishing, fishers have developed modifications to the beam trawl thatreduce environmental impact and save fuel. We propose an indicator-based sustainability assessmenttool (VALDUVIS) that recognizes these efforts and offers incentives for fishers to adopt more sustainablefishing 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 initiatethe transition towards sustainability in the Belgian fishery. VALDUVIS offers a promising new methodto assess sustainability in fisheries. The approach is innovative in several ways. First, indicator scoresare calculated using official data flows (e.g., the electronic logbook), which enhances traceability andprovides the possibility of communicating sustainability data soon after landing the fish. Second, indica-tors are scored on a fine scale (e.g., per fishing trip). Third, stakeholder participation was essential in thedevelopment of the tool. This enhanced the support of the wider fishing sector and assured the relevanceof the indicators and the users’ understanding of the tool. Fourth, the delivered tool is multi-purpose andcan 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 beapplied to any type of fishery. The Belgian fishing sector considers VALDUVIS to be suitable for moni-toring the progress towards sustainability as well as for providing incentives for fishers to adopt betterpractices.
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