There is nothing quite like the excitement of the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Every four years, we join in a global celebration and get swept up in the joy of human excellence and the spirit of peace and hope that led Baron Pierre de Coubertin to establish the modern Olympics in Athens, Greece in 1896.
Hope is the essence of the Olympics. The modern Games were, in part, founded in the hope that peaceful athletic competition would bring the nations together in ways that would foster connection and understanding, lessening the chances for armed conflict; and the hope that through sports, different creeds, races and religions could find common ground. As the needs of our world have changed the mission of the Games have expanded, challenging all of us to make our world a better place, in new and important ways.
One of the many ways the Olympics hopes to change our world for the better is through their commitment to conservation. In 2013, the Rio 2016 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games announced a comprehensive agreement to promote ASC and MSC certified seafood at the 2016 Games. The decision to serve responsibly sourced fish during the summer Games has the potential to change the way the world thinks about seafood.
As we’ve discussed on this very blog in the past, aquaculture is critical to the future of food. More than 50 percent of the world’s consumable fish is now produced on a farm. Currently, aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing animal food producing sector, and thank goodness it is. Because according to the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization, unless production in the sector doubles over the next few decades, it will be extremely difficult to feed the growing number of people on our planet by 2050.
The demand is driven by more than just basic demographics. In the west, more people are reducing their consumption of red meat for health and ethical reasons. In developing nations, fish and seafood produced through aquaculture serve as the main source of economical protein to combat malnutrition and to supplement otherwise protein deficient diets. These are just a few of the many reasons why aquaculture is important.
The landmark pledge by the Games, the biggest commitment to responsible seafood by the Olympics or any major sporting event to date, will allow local suppliers and caterers to provide delicious meals featuring certified seafood to top athletes and spectators in Rio. For many of those present it will be the first time they’ll enjoy Brazilian cuisine made with seafood produced in a way that ensures the availability of fish for generations to come. That experience will be a great example to those present, and those watching around the world, of how easy it is to make the responsible choice.
The Olympic commitment to promote certified seafood will have a lasting legacy in South America and across the world. In the years leading up to the Games important changes have taken place, and numerous farms and fisheries across the region have already taken steps to become certified — thereby improving their environmental performance according to industry leading standards. Among the first to make those key changes in Bazil was Netuno Internacional. In May, Netuno became the first Brazilian farm to gain ASC certification and the farm is now supplying tilapia to the Games.
ASC certified salmon from the Chilean producer Los Fiordos is also being served at the Rio 2016 Games. Los Fiordos joined the ASC programme in late 2014 and are among the true environmental pioneers in South America. Together, these two aquaculture producers have set a clear example of the importance of certification for good operations, worker and community relations and business opportunities
Furthermore, due to the high-profile commitment to an overarching conservation agenda by the Games, consumer knowledge about the social, environmental and operational benefits associated with certified responsible seafood will grow. Put simply, Rio 2016 is an invaluable showcase for the importance of choosing certified seafood wherever possible while dining out or choosing fish to be served at home.
The Olympics are unique in their ability to captivate the world. In years past we’ve watched for the pageantry, and the joy and exhilaration of seeing the best athletes in the world compete in beautiful locations. This year, those of us at ASC have another reason to watch — to support our partners as we work together to raise awareness about the need for responsibly produced, certified seafood that is good for the people and the planet.
Photo: WWF Japan
I may never have met Kiyohiro Gotoh if he had not decided to have his hair cut on the afternoon of 11th March 2011. At 2.46pm on that Friday afternoon an earthquake started. The lights went out at the barbers shop. Clearly, he told me, he knew that this was a big one. Indeed it was. The earthquake was the fifth biggest ever recorded worldwide. The epicentre was on the seafloor 45 miles east of Tohuku. The shaking lasted six minutes. It was felt with full force in Shizugawa roughly 120 kilometres further north along Japan’s eastern coastline.
Earthquakes are commonplace in Japan. The nation is prepared for them. I felt one in Tokyo when I visited Japan in May this year. People in Japan can and do receive text alerts about quakes on their cell-phones. But it was what came next on that fateful Friday afternoon that was to have such repercussions and that led me, five years later to be in Miyagi Prefecture and with Mr Gotoh.
Less than an hour after the earthquake occurred, tsunami waves set off by it hit the coastline of Japan. In Shizugawa Bay the sea retreated for some considerable distance before returning in devastating form. Small tsunamis had been within local experience. But the size and duration of the March 2011 event was on an unprecedented scale. The force of the incoming waves devastated and destroyed sea-defences. The height of the waves w such that the ground floor of the Hotel Kanyo, perched on cliffs overlooking Shizugawa Bay was flooded.
This hotel was where I met Mr.Gotoh on May 18th 2016. He told me that while his journey to have his haircut in 2011 had taken a matter of minutes the return trip took eight hours. The tsunami waters went far inland. They caused havoc, destruction and were deadly.
Before the 2011 event there had been oyster production in Shizugawa Bay for well over 100 years. Mr Gotoh’s pride was clear when he told me that he was the latest of many generations of his family to be an oyster grower. The industry had been run as a series of individual family-centred farms. The areas in which oysters were grown were overcrowded, yields were poor. The rewards from oyster farming were relatively low compared to the time and effort needed to produce saleable product. The tsunami destroyed the fishery, 90% of the fishers’ boats, the harbour, the processing facilities, everything. Members of oyster farming families were killed, homes were destroyed.
But one thing that the tsunami did not destroy was the spirit and resilience of the people of the community of Togura, in Mianmi-Sanriku town in the southern part of picturesque Shizugawa Bay. After the tsunami the survivors decided that they would revive their oyster producing industry. But they would do so on a different basis. The surviving farming families joined together to form a co-operative, which became known as the Miyagi Prefecture Fisheries Co-operative, Shizugawa Branch.
The members of the fledgling cooperative held many discussions about the way in which they would resuscitate their oyster farms. They recognised that farming practices could, and must be changed and improved. WWF Japan had for some time been promoting a more sustainable approach to fish production throughout the country. They made contact with the Togura aquaculture farmers and started a project in July 2011 to support and help them recover from the effects of the tsunami. WWF encouraged the cooperative members to take the opportunity of reconstructing their fishery so that they could produce oysters responsibly.
WWF Japan introduced the Cooperative to the ideas inherent in the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) approach for the promotion of environmental sustainability and social responsibility in fish farming. They told the Shizugawa Cooperative members about the ASC’s bivalve standard. It set out clearly a measurable, science-based set of principles and criteria that, if met, would certify that the fishery was operating in a responsible way.
The cooperative decided to work with WWF Japan to adjust their management and farming practices. They decided to seek certification under the ASC programme. In this way, the members argued, they would not only help themselves, but would help to ensure that future generations would have a sustainable oyster industry legacy.
Critical to the new style of farming was agreement to reduce production densities and to try to improve the quality of the oysters grown. Now, after five years of following better farming practices, oysters take one year to reach harvestable size where before it took three years.
In March 2016 an independent assessment was undertaken to determine whether the fishery met the ASC standard for responsible bivalve production. This review was done by AMITA, a company accredited to undertake such work by Accreditation Services International (ASI). ASI is a company that the ASC uses to make judgements about the competence of companies that want to do assessment work under the ASC programme. The Shizugawa Branch of the Miyagi Prefecture Fisheries Cooperative was found to meet the ASC’s requirements. It was the first farm in Japan to do so.
And so it was that at 06.04 on the morning of May 18th I set out on the four-hour journey from Tokyo to Shizugawa by bullet train and car. Together with colleagues from WWF Japan we went north to join the celebration of the award of the first ASC certificate for responsible fish farming in Japan with the local community and oyster famers of Togura.
On a beautiful sunny, warm spring day the bay of Shizugawa could not have looked more benign and picturesque. Looking out to sea I tried, but failed miserably, to imagine what the sight looked like on that Friday afternoon not so long ago. The horror and disbelief at the scene that unfolded that day is unimaginable. To see how far the water retreated before returning with such destructive ferocity was unreal. But the damage it did was all too real.
The one thing that the tsunami did not destroy was the spirit and determination of the people of the oyster fishing community to rebuild a better life. The celebration ceremony at which I had the honour to represent the ASC showed that clearly. The pride in the distance that the cooperative had travelled in five years was obvious and well deserved. In the few words that we spoke to the assembled members of the cooperative, their families, supporters, others from the industry (customers, processors and so on), the Mayor of Mianmi-Sanriku town, the CEO of WWF Japan and I were all able to bear testimony to the strength, vision, skill and success of a very remarkable group of people.
John White, Kiyohiro Gotoh, Ryuji Tsutsui (CEO, WWF Japan)
Following the formal proceedings the Cooperative treated their guests to an oyster-based feast. Baked oysters with sake, fried oysters, oysters in soup were all devoured with much pleasure. Then we were taken to sea. Mr Gotoh did the honours and hauled up some of the crop, shucked them open on deck and within minutes after being lifted from the water, the oysters were downed by appreciative spectators. I have never, and probably will never again, eaten such a fresh oyster. It was, as I said quite involuntarily and truthfully – “perfect”.
While there was much to celebrate with the Togura fishing community, and it was a very happy day, I felt a deep sense of humility being with them. Impotence in the face of the forces of nature is something that most of us do not have to experience. But here in this tranquil part of eastern Japan life had dealt the local people a very different hand. They had seen and lived through unimaginable terror. It all happened so fast. With such power. With such unpredictability. With such enormous and far reaching consequences. And in addition they carry with them still the personal sense of loss from the fact that many people in their community did not survive.
But the renewal of a long-standing source of livelihood and employment in the area is testimony to the strength of human nature. That the ASC has been able to be a signpost and help towards a better more prosperous future for the Cooperative is a source of satisfaction and pride.
That more young people have joined the fishery as it has reinvented itself gives Mr Satoh much pleasure. He knows that there is a new future for the oyster fishers of Shizugawa Bay. He is smiling again. But he will never forget his haircut in March 2011. And I will not forget him.
By Scott Nichols
Somewhere near the middle of the century there will be 2 billion more of us on the planet. That’s a very big number of new folks to feed. Beyond numbers, the composition of the population will change as well. The world is experiencing rapidly increasing wealth and with increased wealth comes change in dietary preferences. The larger and wealthier population we will have mid-century requires we roughly double our food production (see here and here). Quite soon, an unprecedented demand will be placed on our food system.
Our current agriculture uses 38 percent of the land and consumes 70 percent of available water. Can we double 38 percent? No we can’t, at least not from a practical point of view. As for doubling 70 percent—it simply isn’t going to happen.
Doubtless there will be improvements in agricultural productivity. These are likely to be incremental improvements and, while they are important, they will not take us where we need to go. Large and discontinuous improvements are needed—revolutionary not evolutionary change.
The Fish We Eat
One thing we can do is to turn to the sea but we need to in a particular way. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations undertakes a biannual oceans assessment called State of Worlds Fisheries and Aquaculture. The 2008 report found 80 percent of fisheries harvested at or above their sustainable limits. Successive reports were increasingly grave until the 2014 edition showed 90 percent of wild fisheries are harvested either at or above their sustainable limits so it isn’t feasible to capture more wild fish. More likely, wild fish capture should probably decrease to allow challenged stocks to replace themselves.
Whether wild fish harvests decrease or remain the same, however, they will certainly not address increasing demand. It seems clear that if we are going to continue to eat fish, we need to farm them.
The encouraging news is that aquaculture is capable of providing the new and discontinuous change we need. Its potential productive capability is tremendous. Here’s an example of that.
Duplin County in North Carolina in the US produces lot of hogs. With its 822 square miles and 59,000 people Duplin County produces more hogs—about 2 million per year—than any other county in the nation. The result is about 280 million pounds of marketable pork.
What size of fish farm would be required to match the hog production in Duplin County?
Picture, if you will, a fish farm whose nets are 15 meters deep. In those nets the amount of fish is held to a maximum of 5 kg of fish per tonne of water or, said another way, the fish occupy one half percent of the volume of the pen. (By comparison, national regulations for salmon farms in Norway are that fish not exceed 25 kg per tonne of water so what I’m talking about here is a 5 fold reduction.) Add the further stipulation that half of the weight of fish grown actually is fish that makes it to market.
The length of the North Carolina coastline is 484 km (301 miles) making US territorial water off North Carolina 156,000 square km (60,200 square miles). The amount of ocean surface required to raise 280 million pounds of fish on our thought experiment farm is 01.6 square km (0.6 square miles).
This comparison is loose; of course all of the land in Duplin County isn’t a hog farm. But you can see that aquaculture’s productive capability is enormous.
The animals we eat must also be fed themselves and a very large part of the environmental footprint for animal agriculture is growing what they will be fed. Animals use the calories they eat to fuel growth and to provide for their day-to-day metabolic activity. To a first approximation, animals that eat less will have less impact on the environment.
Metabolism is an area where terrestrial animals and fish differ in three very important ways.
- Fish are cold blooded so they don’t need to spend any energy to maintain their body temperatures. Farm animals on land, however, need to devote the energy from some of what they eat either to heat or cool their bodies when the air temperature is different from body temperature.
- Because fish live in a weightless world; by being suspended in water they don’t use any energy to fight the endless battle against gravity land animals continually face.
- Lastly, because they don’t have to deal with gravity, fish don’t use the calories they eat to build the extensive and heavy skeletons required to keep land animals upright. This has two practical outcomes. Fish don’t spend their energy to make big gravity-resisting bones and, with their comparatively smaller skeletons, fish provide considerably more food per kg of animal raised than their counterparts from the land.
These things—cold-bloodedness, life in a weightless environment and much smaller skeletons— mean fish can be raised with a lesser call on resources to feed them than the other agricultural animals we raise.
This is, perhaps, best seen in what is called the feed conversion ratio (FCR). FCR is the amount of food required to raise an amount of animal. For instance, it takes about 1.7 kg of feed to raise a kg of tilapia and only 1.2 for a kg of salmon. On land, however, beef cattle have FCRs of 6-10 depending upon how they are raised while for chickens it is about 2.
Reference to salmon:
Chart by Marine Harvest
Lower FCRs and the higher percent of the animal eaten are what led Conservation International and The WorldFish Center to conclude in their 2012 report Blue Frontiers
“It is apparent from this study that aquaculture has, from an environmental impact perspective, clear production benefits over other forms of animal source food production for human consumption. In view of this, where resources are stretched, the relative benefits of policies that promote fish farming over other forms of livestock production should be considered.”
How Your Food Is Raised Matters.
All agriculture, whether on land or in the ocean, has environmental effects. Therefore the measure of proper stewardship isn’t having no effect. Rather it is to avoid negative effects to the greatest extent possible and then to ameliorate the rest. A laudable goal is to raise food now with practices that don’t preclude others from doing so in the distant future.
To ensure pursuit of the most responsible aquacultural practices, the World Wildlife Fund established a series of discussions called the Aquaculture Dialogues in 2004. Participants came from many stakeholder groups—farmers, NGOs, scientists, retailers and other aquaculture-associated businesses¾to define best practices and, from them, develop standards for responsible aquaculture for 12 different species. The standards were then passed on to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) which trains independent auditors to examine on-farm performance and certify farms whose practices comply with the standards.
Certification against ASC standards means a number of different things for us as consumers. Most importantly, it lets us know that our food was raised with responsible practices that ensure the healthfulness of the fish we eat and the health of the environment where they were raised.
Because, how our food is raised truly does matter.
© Scott Nichols, Food’s Future
From the time we are very young, no matter where in the world we may live, we are told of the importance of the ocean. As we grow up we begin to understand why.
The ocean is the very heart of our planet. It is home to countless species, it plays a major role in the regulation of our climate and it provides food to people as well as to animals. As we’ve learned more about the complex dynamics of life on earth, some scientists have come to believe that we owe our very existence to the power of the oceans.
Unfortunately, they are in trouble. According to UNESCO there are currently close to 500 dead zones in the oceans, a combined area equivalent to the size of the UK. In these dead zones, the oxygen concentration is so low, marine animals cannot survive.
Land-based sources like manufacturing and agricultural practices account for around 80 percent of marine pollution globally, and every year about 8 million tons of plastic enter an already polluted ocean. The impact of the plastic in these environments has been drawing a significant amount of news coverage in recent months due to the fact that more than 100,000 marine mammals and over 1 million seabirds die every year due to plastic in the water.
Despite the fact that overfishing has been a concern for many years, the situation has become even more critical over time. The FAO estimates that 4.3 billion people worldwide rely on fish as a primary source of animal protein, a crucial nutritional component. Beyond the destruction of ecosystems, the impact on biodiversity, and the problems associated with ghost gear, overfishing also has serious consequences that impact the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.
A day to appreciate the oceans
Of course, many of us are aware of these problems. But it can be difficult to know how to begin to address such big issues.
In an effort to encourage people to make responsible choices and take action to conserve critical ocean resources, the United Nations celebrates World Oceans Day on 8th of June. The annual celebration has grown in importance and now many individuals and organisations all over the world observe the day by participating in marine preservation activities.
In addition to joining official World Oceans Day events, you can aide the ocean in small but significant ways every day. Instead of thinking about the problem as too big to solve, each of us can focus on small but significant steps we can take to personally reduce negative impacts on the marine environment. Among the most important things you can do is to make a smarter choice when you buy seafood.
Certification can help
Just as the global population continues to grow, demand for fish is also increasing. By the year 2050, world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion and the ocean will be unable to meet the global demand for fish. In fact, aquaculture already supplies more than half of the fish consumed around the globe. Improved management of wild fish stocks will place even greater demands on the farmed fish market to meet the world’s protein needs and it’s critical that the industry grows responsibly.
Fish farming has been associated with poor site management, water pollution, disruption of local ecosystems and poor working conditions. However, fish farming can also be done responsibly and in a manner that creates a net benefit to the global environment while reducing pressure on over extended wild fish stocks.
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) aims to be the world’s leading certification and labelling programme for responsibly farmed seafood. With its partners, the ASC runs an ambitious programme to transform the world’s seafood markets and promote the best environmental and social aquaculture performance.
The ASC addresses the negative impacts of fish farming, and protects the marine environment by extension, with a global standard that addresses the negative impacts of fish farming. The standards include measures that address the dependence on wild fish for feed; lack of appropriate techniques; discharges of organic matter, phosphorus, and nitrogen; fish escapes; transfer of diseases and parasites between farmed and wild fish and introduction of non-indigenous species.
It also mandates that all workers have freedom of association, employment contracts inline with ILO regulations, no child-labour and that the communities in which farms are situated be consulted on farm operations.
As part of a comprehensive programme that expands the use of responsible practices in the aquaculture industry, the ASC makes a significant contribution to mitigating negative impacts on nature, the environment and the ocean, especially in countries where best practices for environmental and social aspects are not yet the norm.
Consumers should choose certified fish because a robust certification programme can protect the marine environment for the wildlife and people who depend upon it. Importantly, proper working conditions for the people who work on the farm is an essential control that can increase good environmental outcomes. Therefore, the certification should also have a social standard so that the health and safety of those who do this vital work is safeguarded.
How can you help oceans? Rise to the challenge!
It’s a simple fact that, for many of us, the fish we eat is the primary and most frequent contact we have with the ocean. What we spend our money on sends a message to producers and those who decide what to stock in the places where we shop. Therefore, every time we purchase any product in our daily lives, whether we know it consciously or not, we make a powerful choice that reinforces harmful practices or rewards good operators.
As part of our World Oceans Day celebration, the ASC is inviting everyone to take action to show how much they care about our oceans and those whose livelihoods depend upon it. We are issuing a friendly challenge to all of you to have at least one certified seafood meal and share it with the world on social media with the hashtag #conSERVED and #Worldoceansday in the lead up to and on 8th of June.
We’ll all be doing it here at ASC— look out for photos of our staff enjoying certified meals and sharing favourite seafood recipes throughout the coming days— and we hope you’ll join us.
It’s our fun and delicious way to encourage everyone to take action. We have the power to shape the future. By sharing our actions with the world, we hope to increase the awareness about how the seafood we buy to serve at home, the meals we eat at restaurants, and other food choices we make everyday can contribute to the health of our oceans all year round.
My life’s journey brought me to the Netherlands six years ago. Having attained a social science degree from Hosei University in Japan, and after learning Portuguese at Macau University in China and Coimbra University in Portugal, I wanted a new academic challenge in a different country. So I enrolled in the International Development Studies master programme at Wageningen University.
Although my academic interests were rooted in social issues, during the programme I was introduced to the topic of environmental policy. During my studies, I developed a strong interest in issues around food, including the complex mixture of environmental and social aspects that come into play at different points in the supply chain.
I wrote my master’s thesis on traceability in alternative food chains based on a field study of shrimp farms I conducted in Indonesia. One of my findings was that quality assurance mechanisms such as certifications are created for affluent western consumers. Thus, there are great knowledge, financial and cultural gaps between resource-poor farmers and markets in developed counties. In short, Eurocentric quality assurance mechanisms do not seem to ensure benefits to the local farmers.
My field studies increased my interests in certification programmes. I had a lot of questions, and I simply wanted to learn more about them so that I could confirm my findings and potentially help farmers find ways to benefit from these programmes. During my studies I learned about the ASC.
The ASC programme was especially interesting to me, since it covers not only environmental, but also social aspects in its standards. I was eager to learn more, so I applied for an internship position. After my internship, I stayed on as a Standards and Certification Coordinator.
Daily life at ASC
My daily work at ASC is varied and every day brings something new. Having worked in the Japanese government and the Japanese office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I know big structured organizations have limits on how much an individual can contribute. On the other hand, ASC is a very flexible organization and an individual can make a real difference. Your opinion is heard and recognized. That is why I find it exciting to work at ASC.
My work involves managing relationships with ASC stakeholders, updating the database of farms in our program, making data and reports for internal/external use, translations and even writing a blog (!).
Recently, to my joy, I got more tasks related to my home country as we welcomed the first ASC certified Japanese farm to the programme in March. I also recently went on a research trip to Miyagi Province to assist a colleague. It was such a great opportunity for me to learn about Japanese farmers and to create connections with them. From this trip I learnt a lot about the expectation of stakeholders in Japan. I also come to better understand the challenges, as well as the great potential, in the region. Knowing the culture and language, Iwould like to help the organization understand the market and bring our sustainability values to Japan.Beyond learning about the market, this trip was very special to me. I was born in Miyagi province and I worked in Fukushima before coming to the Netherlands. Just one year after I left, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami hit Fukushima and Miyagi. I went back to Fukushima once after the devastating events to visit my friends, but I wished I could have done more.
I think the first ASC certified farm in Japan is one of the great examples of their great effort to reconstruct and improve the community. Every time I hear stories about Japanese people supporting each other during tough times, I feel so proud to be Japanese. I really admire the resilience of Japanese people and I am happy to be part of this great achievement for Japanese aquaculture. I hope the ASC certification will bring about further benefits and hope for the future.
A few thoughts about the ASC
With less than 15 people on staff, it is surprising to look at the influence we have in the market. We make an impact because everyone is very passionate about the work and believes in what they do. Due to our shared dedication, we work together closely and have great synergy within the organization. I think that is one of the key elements that makes our team strong and successful.
Working in such a small, culturally diverse organization is very interesting and fun. I know my colleagues very well and they celebrated my birthday and my graduation with me. Even more surprisingly, together with my boyfriend they organized a secret “business” trip where I received a surprise marriage proposal!! I feel so lucky that I have a job that I enjoy and that I get to work with people I like.
On April 22 each year, the world celebrates Earth Day. The annual event is a time to think critically about the ways our choices— both individually and collectively— affect the natural environment, and to take action to preserve it.
Earth Day is special for its ability to spur world-wide conversations about the impact of human consumption, and it can provide further motivation for those who want to do their part to protect the environment.
The ASC is proud to join the global community in this celebration. As an organisation, our goals are of a piece with the Earth Day movement and you could make the case that we celebrate Earth Day every day.
Since it was founded in 2010, the ASC programme has helped hundreds of farms worldwide upgrade their operations and become environmentally responsible. We are dedicated to improving the health of the aquatic ecosystem by reducing the harmful impacts of aquaculture on the environment and the communities in which farms operate.
The production of food for our growing global population is more expensive then we might think. The environmental costs of feeding people—the water use, the felling of trees and reshaping of landscapes to provide areas to raise proteins, the use of fuels to transport feed and support trade of foodstuffs— have taken a significant toll on our world.
Currently, aquaculture production accounts for more than 50 per cent of the world’s consumable fish. According to the FAO, unless production in the sector doubles over the next few decades it will be extremely difficult to feed the growing number of people on our planet by 2050. In fact, aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing animal food producing sector.
As aquaculture grows, so, too, does its impact on the environment and local communities.
Farms that are not well managed can have negative impacts that go beyond the immediate concerns of pollution in our oceans and waterways. However, the ASC believe that aquaculture can be done responsibly.
The ASC certification was created as an independent, third-party programme to reduce the impacts of aquaculture on the environment through a scientifically robust set of standard to minimise negative impacts and move the industry towards sustainability. These standards were developed by more than 2,000 stakeholders— including scientists, academics, conservation groups and the industry— in a transparent and inclusive process, taking into account both FAO guidelines and ISEAL codes of good practice.
Today, ASC certification is available for tilapia, pangasius, salmon, shrimp, trout, bivalves and abalone, and will soon be available for seriola and cobia. Each ASC standard covers seven principles relating to legal compliance, biodiversity, water use, the protection and promotion of the diversity of species, feed, animal health and the social responsibilities of the farm. And, because we recognise that no standard is perfect, we are dedicated to improving our standards at regular intervals, in order that we maintain a robust and meaningful programme that keeps up with best practises and incorporates the voices of many stakeholders.
We are now in our sixth year and the certification programme, together with the ASC on-pack logo, is making real change. Farms that meet the ASC standard deliver benefits through the preservation of local biodiversity, a cleaner seabed, cleaner water and healthier fish.
The ASC’s strict environmental and social standards also inspire confidence in consumers and retailers. In order to reward and distinguish farmers who operate responsibly, those who meet the standards can use the ASC logo on their packaging.
Consumers who see the logo know that seafood bearing it is sourced from responsible farms that care for the environment and their employees. As more and more people make the deliberate choice to purchase only certified seafood, farms with good practices are rewarded. And, because increased consumer demand influences lower performing farms to improve their environmental performance in order to grow and maintain market share, consumers play a key role in the movement to change the industry with each purchase.
As you can see, for the ASC, everyday is Earth Day. We are doing our part in the overall movement to protect our world through standards that set criteria for responsible farming that drive industry changes and help farms minimise environmental impacts.
During this year’s celebrations, we urge you to think about how what you eat, and how the choices you make when doing your weekly food shop, impact our environment. We at the ASC would be thrilled to have you join us in our efforts to safeguard the oceans and protect our natural resources for future generations.
My co-students and I always joke about who brings the most coffee and does the most scanning at their internship. Well, even though coffee (drinking) and scanning take up some time at my internship, it is not all I do at the ASC.
As part of my Media and Entertainment Management studies I am required to complete an internship in an organisation and position of my choice. I chose to do my internship at the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) in the communications and events department. I will spend the next seven months in the city centre of Utrecht working together with a small team to make this world a bit better place.
I am currently in my third month of the internship and I can assure you, it has flown by in the blink of an eye. My day-to-day work consists of a variety of tasks, because in communications and events, almost every situation requires a personal approach.
I communicate daily with certified farms, media publishers and individuals about multiple aspects of the ASC programme. One of my main tasks is planning, monitoring and updating the ASC social media accounts and making sure the webpage is current. Sometimes I write an ASC blog post, or review articles and press releases before they are published to the website.
Every year ASC attends several seafood expos around the world, and each event needs months of planning and preparation. This is where I also jump in. I take care of whatever is needed to make the events as successful as possible. For example, I make designs for flyers and documents, and make sure the promotional materials are there on time for the events.
Additionally, I design ASC newsletters, certification updates, and other informative documents, which I send out to our subscribers, media publishers and stakeholders.
Getting to communicate with people is the thing I most enjoy about my job. It is great to work with people who have respect and appreciation for what we do and who are not afraid to give you compliments every once in a while. Receiving good feedback from our stakeholders is definitely the best part of the day and it also keeps me motivated. As I have keen interest in audiovisual media, I also enjoy making designs and working with photos and videos to use at events and as part of our media plan.
When I think back to day one at ASC, I remember everything was completely new. I had never worked in such a position or organisation before and, of course, I was nervous about how it would work out. I was given a lot of information about my new responsibilities and tasks on that first day and throughout the whole first week. By the end of the second week, I already remembered almost everything and was able to work on my own. There are still some situations which are unknown for me— as I mentioned before, in communications you never know what is coming for you— but all in all I can say I feel pretty well settled in the position by now.
There are many reasons why I enjoy working at ASC, but one of the main ones is definitely the warm and caring atmosphere. As our team is rather small, everyone has the opportunity to get to know each other, work together and learn from each other. The team has lunch and coffee breaks together, and celebrate important events in each other lives together. One other thing that connects the people working at ASC is definitely their interest in environmental issues, as I can see that people do their jobs with passion and really care about the outcome of what they do.
I would recommend that anyone interested in doing an internship at ASC have an open mind, good attitude, an interest in environmental issues and, of course, enthusiasm to work in a small team with motivated people.