FAQ

1.  What is the Aquaculture Stewardship Council?
2.  Why does the ASC care about aquaculture?
3.  Why is sustainability important in aquaculture?
4.  What is the greatest challenge of the ASC?
5.  A lot of certification programmes for aquaculture exist or are being created. Why ASC?
6.  What is the future role of the ASC?
7.  Will the ASC be a “for profit” endeavour?
8.  How will the ASC be funded?
9.  Who are the ASC partners/major contributors?
10.  Is the ASC funded by the foodservice industry?
11.  Will retailers and producers be involved?
12.  What are the underlying governance documents for the ASC Board structure and development?
13.  What about the ASC’s governance philosophy and structure?
14.  What are the plans for expansion of the ASC Supervisory Board?
15.  How are new Supervisory Board members recruited?
16.  What about the creation and functioning of the ASC Technical Advisory Group?
17.  How will the ASC take care of accreditation and certification?
18.  What is the relation between the ASC, GLOBALGAP and WWF?
19.  What will the relationship be between the ASC and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)?
20.  What about relationships with other standards holding bodies/certification programmes?
21.  Why has the ASC chosen ASI as their accreditation body?
22.  What is accreditation and why is it important?
23.  What is certification/conformity assessment and why is it important?
24.  What is first-, second-, third-party verification?
25.  Can any certification body apply for accreditation?
26.  What do certification bodies need to comply with in order to apply for accreditation to certify against the ASC standards?
27.  Will training of CBs/auditors be provided; who will provide the training?
28.  How long does it take before a CB will be accredited?
29.  Can CBs already do audits against the ASC standards before they are accredited by ASI?
30.  How does ASI monitor the performance of accredited CBs? How does it make sure they perform the audits in the correct way?
31.  If a company wishes to be certified for compliance with the ASC standards, who does it need to contact? Can it make a free choice between certification bodies?
32.  What will it cost to be certified?
33.  How often will a company have to be audited?
34.  Who will issue the certification?
35.  What about chain of custody certification? Will there be synergies with MSC chain of custody certification?
36.  Prior to the ASC becoming fully operational, who will be responsible for certifying farms that are in compliance with the Aquaculture Dialogue standards?
37.  When the standards are finalised, will GLOBALGAP abandon its standards and move fully over to the ASC’s, or will GLOBALGAP standards continue to exist?
38.  For wild seafood there are over seven certifying bodies, confusing consumers. Will the same situation happen in aquaculture?
39.  A pangasius farm in Vietnam, a shrimp farm in Ecuador and a salmon pen in British Columbia. Does the ASC see primarily similarities or differences?
40.  The WWF Aquaculture Dialogues and the ASC development go at snails pace. The ASC will not be fully operational until 2011. Why is it all taking so long?
41.  What are the Aquaculture Dialogues?
42.  What about animal welfare in the Aquaculture Dialogue standards?
43.  With regard to continuous improvement: How and when will the Aquaculture Dialogue standards be amended?
44.  What will the ASC do with regard to the development of standards for additional species?
45.  Is it not possible to develop a 'general' standard for environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture?
1. What is the Aquaculture Stewardship Council?

ASC is the acronym for the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, an independent not for profit organisation. The ASC was founded in 2009 by WWF and IDH (Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative) to manage the global standards for responsible aquaculture, which are under development by the Aquaculture Dialogues, a programme of roundtables initiated and coordinated by WWF. Currently the ASC is in its business development phase. The ASC is expected to be in full operation by mid 2011.

The ASC will be the world's leading certification and labelling programme for responsibly farmed seafood.  The ASC will be a global organisation working with aquaculture producers, seafood processors, retail and foodservice companies, scientists, conservation groups and the public to promote the best environmental and social choice in seafood.
The ASC's aquaculture certification programme and seafood label will recognise and reward responsible aquaculture.


2. Why does the ASC care about aquaculture?

By volume, almost half of the seafood we eat is from aquaculture - the fastest growing food production system in the world - and aquaculture's contribution is expected to continue to rise. The ASC wants to protect the world's oceans and coastal habitats. We believe the seafood industry can improve its practices so the growth of the industry has little to no negative social and environmental impact now and in the future. 


3. Why is sustainability important in aquaculture?

For the benefit of our planet and mankind it is necessary to ensure that aquaculture can grow without having negative social and environmental impacts. For the benefit of the industry it is important because public awareness will create  consumer demand for responsibly grown aquaculture products. Moreover going the sustainable route is in line with good management practices which will reduce the extreme volatility experienced from time to time in a number of species and geographies, most recently salmon in Chile, and lead also to improved economic benefits for the industry over the long term.


4. What is the greatest challenge of the ASC?

The aquaculture industry is very fragmented. Choosing the right approach for such a diverse range of players, from major multinational companies to individual smallholders will be extremely challenging. Next to that it will not be easy to translate social and environmental benefits into commercial benefits for individual producers. But in the end it can only be of value to the industry to implement the aquaculture standards formulated by the Aquaculture Dialogues.


5. A lot of certification programmes for aquaculture exist or are being created. Why ASC?

The ASC is the most credible entity for environmental and social standards because its standards will be measurable, based on sound science, created by a broad and diverse group of stakeholders, and developed through a transparent process. Read more


6. What is the future role of the ASC?

In partnership with producers, retailers, foodservice companies and representatives of interest groups in society the ASC can create awareness in all levels of the value chain.  ASC will be the custodian of independently formulated standards that represent the views of many stakeholders, derived over  a period of 2 to 5 years. Once implemented by the ASC, the standards will lead to real improvement in sustainability. That will benefit all stakeholders including large and small scale farmers, processing industry, retail and foodservice companies, consumers and society as a whole.


7. Will the ASC be a “for profit” endeavour?

The ASC will be a not for profit organisation.


8. How will the ASC be funded?

To initiate the development phase, WWF and The Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) have funded the expenses for the personnel and to create the ASC structure. In the course of 2010, additional funding has been received from a number of charitable foundations. The ASC is currently looking for additional funders and has enlisted the help of a professional group to help identify and tap into new sources of philanthropic support. Once the ASC consumer facing label will be launched - which is expected to be by mid-2011 - revenue will be derived from label licensing fees. Current business plan projections indicate that the ASC will become self-sufficient in seven years time.


9. Who are the ASC partners/major contributors?

Currently WWF and IDH are the principal partners and contributors. Discussions with other partners from a number of stakeholder groups are in progress.


10. Is the ASC funded by the foodservice industry?

To initiate the process, WWF and The Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) have helped fund the development of the ASC. 

A variety of private industries and others (e.g. government agencies and foundations) will be asked to help finance the launching of the ASC.


11. Will retailers and producers be involved?

Producers and retailers are amongst those actively engaged in the Aquaculture Dialogue process and receiving updates regarding the future development of the ASC including its governance structure. A number of them have expressed an interest to participate in the various groups and committees that will constitute the governance structure of the ASC.


12. What are the underlying governance documents for the ASC Board structure and development?

The documents that are governing the structure and the development of the ASC Foundation and its Board are the Deed and the Regulations.
The Deed (which can be downloaded here) has been registered with the Dutch authorities. The Regulations for the ASC Supervisory Board and Executive Board are currently in draft form and will be published on the ASC website as soon as they have been finalised, which is expected to be by the end of 2010.


13. What about the ASC’s governance philosophy and structure?

Credibility and independence are key to the ASC. This relates to the ASC certification process as well as to the governance structure of the ASC organisation. The ASC Supervisory Board includes people who have a lot of experience with the MSC and the FSC and, therefore, can share their lessons learned with the ASC.

Once fully operational, the ASC will have the following governance structure:

The ASC Supervisory Board is an independent body, which will be composed of individuals bringing specific competence and experience from a broad cross section of stakeholders by the end of the development period (mid-2011).

The ASC Technical Advisory Group (TAG) is in the process of being formed. The TAG will provide recommendations to the ASC Supervisory Board on the use of the standards developed through the Aquaculture Dialogue process. The Technical Advisory Group will include up to two representatives of each of the Aquaculture Dialogues Steering Committees (SCs) and selected technical experts. The TAG in time will be the liaison with each AD Steering Committee for it's specific scope and representation. But it will be the responsibility of the SC members who sit on the TAG to bring issues of concern of their specific SC to the TAG itself. Resources permitting, the ASC may be able to provide some outside technical experts to the individual SCs. 
The Technical Advisory Group will have the responsibility of overseeing the standards, including future revisions, of addressing issues of standards interpretation and any necessary alignment of cross cutting issues. This Technical Advisory Group will continue to uphold the ISEAL principle of an independent process for oversight of the standards.
The Terms of Reference (ToR) for the ASC Technical Advisory Group are currently in development and are expected to be finalised early 2011.

Various Stakeholder Advisory Groups will be formed in due course, representing a broad range of stakeholders, such as retail & foodservice, producers, processors, social and environmental NGOs, government agencies, accreditation organisations, academics and certification bodies, to address specific projects and advise the ASC management and the Supervisory Board.


14. What are the plans for expansion of the ASC Supervisory Board?

Currently, the Supervisory Board (SB) is small, consisting of only four individuals. It needs to be expanded to include a broader cross-section of experience in a successful ASC. An important lesson from the FSC and MSC for multi-stakeholder organisations like the ASC is to select those individuals who see it as their primary responsibility to develop a successful ASC by bringing their unique skill set and perspective to the ASC's development. To that end, we are actively seeking nominations for new Board members so that we might reach the first year goal of nine SB members by June, 2011.

Also in regard to the ASC's governance, structure and processes, the ASC is being formed in accordance with international standards and aspires for compliance with ISEAL guidelines.


15. How are new Supervisory Board members recruited?

Since early in 2010 the ASC has sought to add to its membership.  According to the Deed of the ASC, the number of Supervisory Board (SB) members shall be between five and nine.  When it is less than five, as it is now at four, the SB shall act to fill the vacancy as soon as possible. The ASC SB has been doing that.

Membership and the duties of the Supervisory Board are addressed in the ASC Deed.  Specifically, in Article 10:

"In determining the membership of the Supervisory Board, due account shall be taken of several aspects requiring the attention of the Supervisory Board, it being understood that the members of the Supervisory Board must at least possess general management skills and demonstrate an affinity with the Foundation's object, and that the membership of the Supervisory Board must reflect a balanced representation of areas of expertise and backgrounds. The Supervisory Board shall prepare a profile outlining the main areas of expertise and background required of the members of the Supervisory Board. When a specific vacancy has to be filled, the Supervisory Board may decide to supplement or specify in greater detail the skills and attributes required for the Supervisory Board position in question. The members of the Supervisory Board shall perform their duties independently and shall not be bound by any instructions."

Furthermore the SB is tasked with further defining the qualities sought in SB members and the SB identified the following (these are not grouped in any special order). 

Area of Expertise/Contribution

  • Provides geographic balance (Asia, The Americas, Europe)
  • 'Key influencer'- able to increase success in an area (e.g. fundraising)
  • Financial planning/review
  • Academic expert on aquaculture
  • Marketing/communication - Expertise in promoting sustainability value propositions to consumer markets
  • Aquaculture sectore expertise
  • Fundraising prowess
  • Public policy with regard to aquaculture
  • Environmental expertise
  • Roundtable/stakeholder dialogue expertise
  • Social values expertise especially for aquaculture production practices
  • Monitoring and evaluation to establish a baseline and note progress of the ASC
  • Standards/accreditation/certification knowledge

In addition to the above the SB seeks gender balance.

The ASC Supervisory Board recognises the need for transparency and an open process. By way of an announcement (published on December 10, 2010) on the ASC website as well as on websites of a number of online seafood trade media, we actively solicit stakeholders to recommend and submit potential candidate names to any SB member who are listed on the ASC website or by submitting candidate names and resumes to ASCSBCandidates@ascworldwide.org

All submitted names will be made public.  If you have questions on the above, please contact Jose Villalon (Jose.Villalon@WWFUS.org).


16. What about the creation and functioning of the ASC Technical Advisory Group?

The ASC Technical Advisory Group (TAG) is in the process of being formed. The TAG will provide recommendations to the ASC Supervisory Board on the use of the standards developed through the Aquaculture Dialogue process. The Technical Advisory Group will include up to two representatives of each of the Aquaculture Dialogues Steering Committees (SCs) and selected technical experts. The TAG in time will be the liaison with each AD Steering Committee for it's specific scope and representation. But it will be the responsibility of the SC members who sit on the TAG to bring issues of concern of their specific SC to the TAG itself. Resources permitting, the ASC may be able to provide some outside technical experts to the individual SCs. 
The Technical Advisory Group will have the responsibility of overseeing the standards, including future revisions, of addressing issues of standards interpretation and any necessary alignment of cross cutting issues. This Technical Advisory Group will continue to uphold the ISEAL principle of an independent process for oversight of the standards.
The Terms of Reference (ToR) for the ASC Technical Advisory Group are currently in development and are expected to be finalised early 2011.


17. How will the ASC take care of accreditation and certification?

For the certification of aquaculture operations and the seafood chain of custody, the ASC will engage with Accreditation Services International (ASI), an independent third-party accreditation body, and accredited certification bodies. The ASC will start building capacity for auditing and certifying seafood farms and seafood traceability. This part of ASC's assignment which will include training of the certification bodies so that they are able to do field audits will be operational by mid 2011.


18. What is the relation between the ASC, GLOBALGAP and WWF?

The ASC has been co-founded by WWF and IDH (the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative) in the Netherlands as the ‘standards holding body' for the most credible social and environmental standards in aquaculture. These standards are being set by a programme of  ‘roundtables', called Aquaculture Dialogues, initiated by WWF some five years ago. Twelve species are covered in eight Aquaculture Dialogues. Each aims to be a multi-stakeholder, ISEAL compliant process.

During the next two years, the ASC will set up the necessary multi-stakeholder governance structure and put in place third-party accreditation and certification processes and begin to implement those standards, offering an ASC consumer label to retailers and foodservice companies for products produced in compliance with those standards. But Aquaculture Dialogue standards for some species will be available before the ASC is actually ready to implement them and WWF has partnered with GLOBALGAP for this interim period.


19. What will the relationship be between the ASC and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)?

There is no formal relationship with the MSC.
Of course there are significant synergies for a common approach, like in the chain of custody certification. Where appropriate and possible, the ASC will pursue cooperation with the MSC.
Also, the MSC having been in the market for quite some years now, offers the ASC the opportunity to learn from the development of the MSC and draw positive and negative lessons from this.


20. What about relationships with other standards holding bodies/certification programmes?

The ASC is open to investigate potential options to partner with other certification programmes that could be complementary to the ASC certification programme, in order to jointly fulfill market requirements with regard to food quality and safety, environmental and social responsibility and animal welfare, as well as improving the efficiency of multiple, simultaneous auditing.


21. Why has the ASC chosen ASI as their accreditation body?

Credibility and effectiveness are key to the successful implementation of the ASC standards.
The credibility and effectiveness of the verification system depend on the quality of the whole scheme: standard setting, standards, documentation, checklists, quality and credibility of the accreditation body, training, quality of auditors/audits etc. It is about consistent, reliable management and implementation, which is critical to long term success.
A very important element of credibility is consistency in the implementation of the standards. By working with ASI, one international accreditation organisation - as opposed to a range of national accreditation organisations - we can best ensure the overall quality of the programme.
The use of one single accreditation body creates a ‘level playing field' for all CBs, with the same requirements and performance evaluations for all CBs wishing to become accredited for auditing against the ASC standards, which adds to consistency.
Next to that, in view of ASI's focus on sustainability schemes it is more likely to really focus on the important content of the ASC scheme which will add to consistent and reliable implementation.
ASI is an Associate Member of ISEAL and is working in compliance with ISO/IEC 17011 ‘Conformity Assessment. General requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity assessment bodies.'
ISO/IEC 17011 is also expected to be the normative reference for accreditation bodies in the FAO Guidelines on Aquaculture Certification, which will be published in the spring of 2011.


22. What is accreditation and why is it important?

Accreditation refers to the formal recognition by an accreditation body (e.g., ASI) - through third-party attestation - that a certification body (CB) - also referred to as Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) - can formally demonstrate that it is competent to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks that lead to certification in specified business sectors (e.g., ASC).

Accreditation endorses CB competence, credibility, independence and integrity in carrying out its conformity assessment activities.


23. What is certification/conformity assessment and why is it important?

Certification is third-party attestation that a product, service, process, system or person conforms to specified requirements.

One of the important outcomes of implementation of standards by certification applicants is that they assist in creating a benchmarking culture within organisations with the ultimate benefit of continuous improvement.


24. What is first-, second-, third-party verification?

First-party verification aims at continuous improvement within the company and is based on self assessment (self-declaration). It includes self-reporting systems against standards established by the standard setter.

Second-party verification is carried out by a related or unrelated body working with the standard setter. It may include Government verification (based on national law). Another example is when for instance the customer checks the compliance of the supplier with the specified requirements.

Third-party verification is conducted by external, independent assessors against markets standards (third-party voluntary certification schemes).

Total independence of the assessors ensures a high degree of impartiality. Third-party assessment is recognised around the world as the highest level of assessment, and ASI accreditation demonstrates to both customers and stakeholders that ASC's conformity assessment services meet the highest levels of professionalism in the industry.
25. Can any certification body apply for accreditation?

Yes, any certification body can apply. ASI accepts applications for accreditation from certification bodies around the world. The certification body shall demonstrate that they meet the requirements for accreditation.


26. What do certification bodies need to comply with in order to apply for accreditation to certify against the ASC standards?

Any potential applicant certification body has to be in conformance with ISO Guide 65 and demonstrate that it can operate as a professional certification body. A CB has to implement and maintain the relevant processes unique to the individual standards. The ASI Accreditation Procedure is a good reference document.


27. Will training of CBs/auditors be provided; who will provide the training?

Yes, training of CBs/auditors will be provided. The ASC is currently evaluating various options for organising this.


28. How long does it take before a CB will be accredited?

The time frame for a CB to become accredited depends on a variety of factors and thus is very difficult to predict: it can be in the range of 6-24 months. CBs that have already been accredited for ‘like minded' standards are expected to be in a position to faster demonstrate compliance with ASC and ISO requirements. The amount of training required for each CB can vary considerably and also the time required to develop relevant procedures and processes.


29. Can CBs already do audits against the ASC standards before they are accredited by ASI?

CBs can conduct audits against the ASC standards once they have passed the initial steps of the application process (desk study of quality manual and initial office audit) and thereafter have become a recognised applicant CB.
At this stage the ASC will be informed to upload the applicant CBs contact details to the ASC website.
Thereafter the CB organises an audit which is witnessed by ASI.
However, the CB cannot certify an applicant certificate holder until accreditation status is granted.


30. How does ASI monitor the performance of accredited CBs? How does it make sure they perform the audits in the correct way?

The CB shall translate the requirements of the ‘scheme owner's' (= ASC) standards into their documented system. ASI undertakes assessments on a regular basis including but not limited to annual CB Head Office Assessment.
ASI assesses the compliance of the CB against both the accreditation standards of the scheme owner and CB's own procedures through witness assessments and desk reviews.
A schedule of assessments will be developed each year and conveyed to CBs using a sampling strategy that meets ASC requirements.
If an accredited CB does not meet requirements within given timelines following an assessment a recommendation for suspension may result.


31. If a company wishes to be certified for compliance with the ASC standards, who does it need to contact? Can it make a free choice between certification bodies?

A company that wishes to be certified for compliance with the ASC standards should consult the ASC website on which a list will be published of CBs that are in the process of becoming accredited or have been accredited by ASI to do audits against the ASC standards for responsible aquaculture.
Alternatively, they can contact the ASC by email or telephone to be informed about the relevant CBs.
The company wishing to be certified against the ASC standards is free to make its own choice of CB (and is encouraged to request quotes from various accredited CBs).


32. What will it cost to be certified?

Neither the ASC nor their independent accreditation body ASI charges a company for certification. The cost of certification to the ASC standards will be determined by the accredited Certification Bodies (CBs). It is expected that Certification Bodies will quote competitively based on their estimate of the time required for the audit, including travel, the cost associated with laboratory analysis of the samples prescribed in the standards, and travel costs.  These are all variables which will be site specific. Accordingly, costs will vary depending on geographic location, as well as complexity of the audit process. The latter depends on the complexity of the standards, sampling criteria and any associated laboratory analysis.

Although these matters are largely outside of the control of the ASC, the ASC will endeavour to ensure that there is sufficient auditor capacity to provide a competitive market and choice between CBs for aquaculture operations seeking certification.


33. How often will a company have to be audited?

ASC certifications are valid for one year, which means annual audits are mandatory.


34. Who will issue the certification?

The accredited CBs will issue the certificate of compliance. The CB will perform the audit, draw up the audit report and - following a positive decision by the CB's ‘certification decision making entity' - issue the certificate.


35. What about chain of custody certification? Will there be synergies with MSC chain of custody certification?

Some overlap in the supply chain can be expected between ASC and MSC chain of custody.
Where synergies exist with MSC, every effort will be made to minimise the complexity and cost of chain of custody certification.


36. Prior to the ASC becoming fully operational, who will be responsible for certifying farms that are in compliance with the Aquaculture Dialogue standards?

Pre-ASC certification assessments - WWF/GLOBALGAP Memorandum of Understanding

GLOBALGAP (GG) is a private sector body that sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around the globe. GG and WWF have set up a training programme for auditors from GG's accredited certification bodies to enable them to audit farms that adopt the Aquaculture Dialogue standards for tilapia at the same time as they are audited against the GG standards. Farms that are in compliance with the Tilapia Aquaculture Dialogue standards will receive a letter of interim compliance from GG.

The Dialogue standards will be added on, in their entirety, to the GLOBALGAP standards (instead of replacing the GG standards).

The partnership between WWF and GG provides the opportunity to ‘leverage' synergies and improve efficiency in the certification process. It will not enable products from GG certified farms to be ASC labeled. Partnerships with interim certifiers will be business-to-business, not business-to-consumer initiatives. Once established, the ASC will develop and launch a consumer-facing label for responsible aquaculture.

The ASC will work alongside GG to ensure that the Dialogue standards are interpreted and audited in a process leading to equivalence of certification of GG+ASC and ASC as a stand-alone, and ultimately that such compliance will lead to the award of an ASC label.

It is not an exclusive arrangement and both parties may develop alternative partnerships or ways to bring certified products to the market in future.

Once the ASC has become fully operational any future partnership with GG or any other certifier will be a matter for discussion with the ASC management and its Supervisory Board.

See for an overview of the finalisation of Aquaculture Dialogue standards the Species section of this site


37. When the standards are finalised, will GLOBALGAP abandon its standards and move fully over to the ASC’s, or will GLOBALGAP standards continue to exist?

The partnership between WWF and GLOBALGAP provides the opportunity to ‘leverage' synergies and improve efficiency in the certification process. It will not enable products from GLOBALGAP certified farms to be ASC labelled. It is not an exclusive arrangement and both parties may develop alternative partnerships or ways to bring certified products to the market in future.

Once the ASC has become formally established (or once the ASC has become fully operational) the ASC's Supervisory Board will assess whether and how to continue the partnership(s) with interim certifiers.


38. For wild seafood there are over seven certifying bodies, confusing consumers. Will the same situation happen in aquaculture?

The Aquaculture Dialogue standards will be the most credible and robust in the market place. They are based on science, metrics and performance measurements. The ASC will provide for third-party accreditation and certification which is ISO 65 compliant. These processes and the governance structure are multi-stakeholder and aim to be fully ISEAL compliant providing the highest possible level of credibility.

The important thing is that retailers, foodservice companies and consumers can depend on one credible logo which will be launched by the ASC. This label which will be able to give consumers confidence that the products bearing this label can be trusted to be delivering real social and environmental benefits.


39. A pangasius farm in Vietnam, a shrimp farm in Ecuador and a salmon pen in British Columbia. Does the ASC see primarily similarities or differences?

There is a need to implement credible, robust, metrics- and performance-based standards in all of these, that is the similarity! Although there clearly are differences in species, processes and geography, there are also many similarities in both social and environmental impacts. The Aquaculture Dialogues are addressing these and standards will be harmonised where it makes sense to do so.


40. The WWF Aquaculture Dialogues and the ASC development go at snails pace. The ASC will not be fully operational until 2011. Why is it all taking so long?

Creating standards which are credible and robust, putting in place multi-stakeholder governance structure which aim to be ISEAL compliant, having third-party accredited, ISO 65 compliant certification processes, all takes time. That is what sets the Aquaculture Dialogues and the ASC apart from other initiatives. 

By their nature, it takes a lot of time to ensure every opportunity is given for involvement of all interested stakeholders or stakeholder group representatives, more than 2,000 in total, for them to discuss key social and environmental impacts and agree appropriate standards which will promote improvement. To ensure that the processes and the standards are open and transparent sufficient time should be given for public review.


41. What are the Aquaculture Dialogues?

Eight multi-stakeholder groups - collectively called the Aquaculture Dialogues - are creating global standards designed to minimise the key negative environmental and social impacts related to twelve aquaculture species: salmon, shrimp, tilapia, trout, pangasius, seriola, cobia, abalone, mussels, clams, oysters and scallops. The standards will be as much as possible quantitative performance levels farmers must reach to become certified. More than 2,000 aquaculture producers, conservationists, industrial processors, retailers, scientists and others were included in the process, which is coordinated by World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The first set of standards, for tilapia, has been completed in December 2009. The standards for pangasius, bivalves and abalone have been finalised in 2010 and the remainder will be finalised in the course of 2011. 


42. What about animal welfare in the Aquaculture Dialogue standards?

In several Aquaculture Dialogues animal welfare has been a point of discussion. This has been an open and transparent process, in which animal welfare organisations could take part. After long and in depth discussions the stakeholders decided not to include animal welfare explicitly. The focus of the Aquaculture Dialogue standards is on the environmental and social impacts of aquaculture. However, animal welfare will be addressed indirectly in most of the standards by including such criteria as:

- Proper siting of production facilities in good places where the cultured species will be less stressed.
- Setting a minimum survival performance demonstrating that relatively few specimen died throughout the production life-cycle.
- High water quality parameters to ensure good living conditions of cultured species.
- Use of antibiotic medicated feed only under medical supervision (dosing) and to treat specifically sick animals quickly after being diagnosed.

The Aquaculture Dialogues, as well as the ASC, think animal welfare is an important topic and they are aware that there is a growing public concern about this issue. However, more research is needed on this issue (e.g., research on acceptable slaughtering methods and stocking density). Until that research is completed, the Aquaculture Dialogues and th ASC encourage stakeholders to give feedback about this topic, and are open to discussions with them and with other certification schemes on how to address their concerns.
We are happy with the start of an impact assessment study by the EU to see what is the scale and scope of regulatory needs for fish welfare in the European regulations. We will follow this issue with interest. Depending on future developments, there may be a potential in specific countries to partner with other certification programmes, including fish welfare schemes.


43. With regard to continuous improvement: How and when will the Aquaculture Dialogue standards be amended?

Continuous improvement is fundamental to the ASC overall. As evidence of its importance, this topic has been captured in the ASC Regulations which are expected to be finalised by the end of 2011 and will be made available on the ASC website.
Standards are not carved in stone. As science and technology develop, so do management practices and techniques. So once the Aquaculture Dialogue standards are finalised, the ASC will be mandated to coordinate periodic reviews and revisions which will lead to an update of the standards every three to five years, or sooner if warranted, to ensure they are aligned with current technology and trends.
These revisions will be the task of the ASC. The ASC staff will be responsible for collecting and responding to stakeholder feedback on an ongoing basis, and the standards will need to be formally reviewed at least every five years, as per the ISEAL Code of Good Practice. The review and revision of the standards will be the task of the ASC Technical Steering Group which will include members of the Steering Committees of each of the Aquaculture Dialogues, who helped create the original sets of standards. No Aquaculture Dialogue standards will be amended by the ASC without input from these Dialogue participants.


44. What will the ASC do with regard to the development of standards for additional species?

When the ASC would receive a request for the creation of environmental and social responsibility standards for other species it will engage with the relevant stakeholders in order for them to create a standards development process involving a balanced group of stakeholders that will follow the ISEAL guidelines, as has been the case for the eight Aquaculture Dialogues.

Such an ISEAL-compliant standards development process is of crucial importance in order to ensure that all the standards to be implemented by the ASC are the product of the same rigorous and robust development process. This is the only way in which the credibility and independence of the ASC and its standards can be maintained.


45. Is it not possible to develop a 'general' standard for environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture?

It is true that there are a number of environmental and social issues that are common to several aquaculture products and processes. The ASC recognises that consistency and coherence between standards for different farmed species is an important issue.  Over time, the ASC believes there will be great strides to align similar common topics and the way they are addressed by the standards across multiple species. It is therefore an interesting option to evaluate the possibilities for a ‘common basis' for ASC standards, which could then be used as a basis for the development of standards for additional species in which the species- and/or process-specific environmental and social impacts should be addressed on top of the common basis.

The ASC Technical Advisory Group that is to be formed will be the appropriate body to be tasked with this evaluation. This too must be a multi-stakeholder, transparent, ISEAL-compliant process. It will take some time to achieve this alignment of standards, especially following a deliberate species specific Aquaculture Dialogue process. Until that alignment is attained, users of the ASC label will understand that the environmental and social impacts addressed by each Aquaculture Dialogue were addressed in a transparent, robust and all-inclusive manner. Until alignment is achieved we have to rely on the integrity of the underlying standard development processes.


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