Sustainability certification has become an increasingly important feature in aquaculture production, leading to a
multitude of schemes with various criteria. However, the large number of schemes and the complexity of the
standards creates confusion with respect to which sustainability objectives are targeted. As a result, what is
meant by ‘sustainability’ is unclear. In this paper, we examine the operationalisation of the concept from the
vantage point of the certifying authorities, who devise standards and grant or withhold certification of compliance.
We map the criteria of eight widely-used certification schemes using the four domains of the Wheel of
Sustainability, a reference model designed to encompass a comprehensive understanding of sustainability. We
show that, overall, the sustainability certifications have an overwhelming focus on environmental and governance
indicators, and only display scattered attempts at addressing cultural and economic issues. The strong
focus on governance indicators is, to a large degree, due to their role in implementing and legitimising the
environmental indicators. The strong bias implies that these certification schemes predominantly focus on the
environmental domain and do not address sustainability as a whole, nor do they complement each other.
Sustainability is by definition and by necessity a comprehensive concept, but if the cultural and economic issues
are to be addressed in aquaculture, the scope of certification schemes must be expanded. The Wheel of
Sustainability can serve as a valid lexicon and asset to guide such efforts.