Do you know what the most translated document in history is? It’s not any religious holy book, and it’s not an ancient masterpiece like The Art of War, and believe it or not, it’s not even Harry Potter.

All of the above have been translated countless times, but not as many as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is available in more than 500 different languages. That answer might surprise you, but it’s a reflection of just how important this document is, and today (10 December) it is celebrating its birthday.

It was 10 December 1948 that the Declaration was adopted by the newly formed United Nations (UN), and it proclaimed the inalienable rights that every human being is entitled to, no matter who they are or where they are (we told you it was important). 

Recover Better

As a result, every 10 December is Human Rights Day, a chance to celebrate this achievement but more importantly reflect on what more can be done to ensure that the rights enshrined in the Declaration are actually enjoyed by everyone on earth. 

Every year Human Rights Day has a different theme, and this year’s is ‘Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights’. Unsurprisingly the theme relates to the COVID-19 pandemic that has dominated the entire year, and it is a reminder that human rights must be central to our efforts to rebuild after the challenges of 2020. It will be a missed opportunity if we fail to tackle entrenched and systematic inequalities and discrimination as we recover from the pandemic.

The theme for this year’s Human Rights Day is Recover Better

Human rights and seafood

But what does this have to do with ASC, or seafood generally? Well, food production doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it can have many direct and indirect consequences, including for the human rights of people around the world. Protecting the environment is one of our fundamental passions at ASC, but we’re just as determined to improve the social side of the seafood industry, and you might be surprised at just how much  crossover there is between responsible seafood and Human Rights Day. 

As you might have guessed, that also means that what food you choose can help (or hinder) the spread of human rights around the world. 

Here are just a few of the aims of this year’s Human Rights Day and how ASC is working to support them.

  • End discrimination of any kind

This year has been a reminder of just how important this is, and how much work is left to be done. All of ASC’s standards include social requirements that forbid any kind of discrimination of farm workers and also require positive interactions with local or indigenous communities. This might not seem like much when it comes to fighting global discrimination, but it’s these small steps that can effect more widespread change. 

  • Address inequalities

Inequalities are always brought to the fore when dealing with crises and reducing them means the world is better prepared to deal with the challenges of tomorrow. Aquaculture is a hugely important industry and employer in many developing regions, and the seafood supply chain also employs a lot of women in these regions. This helps to improve economic realities and reduce inequalities: but only if it’s done responsibly. Damaging the environment only leads to bigger inequalities further down the line, and only farms that treat their workers and neighbours with respect can truly help to reduce inequality. 

  • Promote sustainable development

It’s probably quite obvious how this relates to ASC, because only farms that are environmentally sustainable and socially responsible can become ASC certified. But what does it have to do with human rights? Because unsustainable development and spiralling climate change will affect us all, but the impact won’t be felt equally everywhere by everyone. It could exacerbate existing inequalities and make it that much harder to ensure everyone enjoys the human rights they’re entitled to. 

How you can help

Your shopping choices are a small action when compared with the challenge of international human rights, but a lot of small actions soon add up. Responsible farming can help to reduce inequalities and protect human rights. By choosing ASC certified seafood you are rewarding those farmers who are already acting responsibly, and that could encourage more farmers to follow suit. 

Here at ASC, we collectively work on transforming fish farming towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility. As an organization with relationships across the industry, we can’t just try hard and hope for the best. We want to know whether our work is making a difference, and how we can learn and adapt where we are not. Our partners, stakeholders, and the communities we engage with across the industry want proof of our – and their – impact. This is why we have established our Monitoring and Evaluation Programme.

By Jill Swasey, Head of Monitoring and Evaluation

When we think about ‘impacts’, we want to identify the effect of an action on something. While we want to have a positive impact, it can go both ways. Clear, measureable indicators are developed and tracked to evaluate whether a desired impact is achieved, or not.

Through evaluation, we monitor both quantitative and qualitative information. Quantitative data are the numerical datasets, such as those that we receive through audit reports of certified farms, logo use and certified products across markets. These allow us to ask questions such as “what” and “how many” across countries, farm types, species, etc. These reliable data demonstrate both the growth and reach of our work and communicate the uptake of certification across markets. Qualitative data is descriptive by nature, and generally collected through observation and interviews. While it can be more difficult to analyse, qualitative data can provide a grounding to trends observed, speak to the impacts experienced by actors engaged in the industry, and help us spot things that don’t show up in the numbers. Both forms of information are valuable and using them together helps us complete the picture.

At ASC, we face certain challenges. We can measure how certified farms are performing, but of course what we can’t know is what would have happened without ASC certification. The ASC’s commitment to data and transparency means there are reams of information about certified farms, but the body of information around uncertified farms is far more limited and inconsistent, making comparison difficult. We utilize data on the environmental and social performance of farms against the indicators in our standards, with interviews, and increases in certifications and approved products to communicate how more farms are operating responsibly and farmers and consumers are realizing those benefits. However, we cannot yet compare these gains globally to farms not in our programme; though in some cases, these comparisons can be made for certain production systems and regions.

Another challenge is recognizing impacts at scale. While we want to know our collective impact, there is also tremendous value in reporting impacts across geographies, markets, species, and so on. In aquaculture, we see considerable variability across production systems, regions and climates, and recognize that context matters. This can complicate fine scale evaluation, but these differences can also highlight some more pronounced changes that might otherwise be masked. One of the ways we approach this is by digging into certification reports to understand where non-conformances are raised across social and environmental impact areas. From this information we get a look into which requirements may be more difficult to meet by certain production systems and in certain regions, and therefore require improvements. For example, we can explore which shrimp producing countries required more improvements to meet the standard, and what types of improvements those were.

As the ASC programme grows, we evolve our thinking and attention to what changes we can expect and in what timeframe. The first ASC farms were certified in 2012, and we have now achieved nearly 1,300 certified farms. Realizing long-term outcomes takes time, but we have set the foundation for consistent monitoring to track our progress towards achieving our mission.

Mangrove forests are among the world’s most productive ecosystems and healthy mangroves are a precious, almost priceless resource. Mangroves can quite literally save lives during storms and extreme weather events but losing mangroves also means losing livelihoods, food security, valuable timber production, coastal erosion defence and one of the most efficient and important carbon stores on the planet.

Pacific Reef Fisheries’ story…

In Australia’s tropical north Queensland adjacent to the sparkling waters of the Great Barrier Reef marine park, lies Pacific Reef Fisheries. The Australian owned and operated business focuses on the sustainable production of more than 1000 tonnes of farmed black tiger prawns each year.

But the real success story of Pacific Reef Fisheries is two fold; the way in which it has used the abundance of naturally occurring mangroves that surround the farm to sustainably and naturally filter water, and through the development of macroalgae technology used to clean aquaculture wastewater.

Natural filtration system

Wayne Di Bartolo is the farm’s Product Operations Manager and said Pacific Reef Fisheries worked to establish 23 hectares of mangrove forest on the farm site in order to naturally clean the water used in the shrimp ponds before it flows back to the Great Barrier Reef marine park.

“Our wetland is in its twentieth generation and was established as part of Pacific Reef Fisheries bioremediation system,” Mr Di Bartolo said.

“This system not only helps remove nutrients and solids from our discharge waters, it is a valuable ecosystem nursery for many native fish and crustacea. It is also home to many native birdlife and a stopover for many migratory bird species.”

The filtration system works in four stages to sustainably treat wastewater; water leaves the production ponds, passes through a settlement system and finally through the constructed mangrove wetland before entering the environment.   

Self seeding

The farm’s parent company Pacific Biotechnologies, together with James Cook University, have developed world-leading water treatment technology, RegenAqua, that uses macroalgae and sand filtration to naturally remove nutrients from wastewater, allowing water to be released back into the environment with no net impact. It is this technology that sets Pacific Reef Fisheries apart from all other aquaculture operations.

“We also use this breakthrough technology to create nutrient rich products for plants and animals,” Mr Di Bartolo said.

The entire farm site spans 370 hectares of which 98 hectares is licensed for production. When establishing the wetland system, Mr Di Bartolo said the farm was granted a permit by the local government to remove some plants and, more importantly, collect cuttings from the surrounding environment for planting in the constructed bioremediation system.

Such is the success of the project that internal studies by the farm have revealed there is approximately 4000 tonnes of biomass in the constructed wetland and self-seeding means it will continue to naturally flourish into the future.

By using the mangroves that thrive in abundance on the site, Pacific Reef is able to release water back into the environment that meets regulatory requirements which is especially important given the adjacent marine park. Such is the efficiency of the mangroves as a water filtration system that Mr Di Bartolo said it is not unusual for the water leaving the farm site to be of better quality than when it entered the site.

Last month we published a new process for variance requests to the ASC standards. I will admit that doesn’t sound like the most interesting publication in the world, but before you look away I’d like to explain why this process is such an exciting development for the ASC programme, and the hard work we put in to get here.

By Javier Unibazo, ASC Head of Standards

Let’s start with what a variance request is. ASC is a global certification programme which is of course key to our mission to drive up standards in aquaculture around the world. But what that also means is our standards are applied to farms that are operating in all kinds of different conditions. The ASC standards are incredibly thorough but they can’t account for every possible circumstance, so how can we ensure they can apply to some of these variable conditions?

This is where variance requests come in. If it’s not possible to apply a certain requirement to a farm without amending it in some way, a variance request can be made. Crucially, they are not there to allow auditors or farms to reduce the strength of ASC standards, but to ensure those strong standards can be applied in diverse circumstances.

Variance requests are so important that they are actually a requirement for all members of the ISEAL Alliance, the member organisation of the world’s most credible certification schemes. ASC is the only aquaculture certification scheme to be a member of ISEAL and we agree with the importance they place on variance requests. Global certification schemes must be flexible as well as robust.

Consistent and inclusive

So what are we changing? The new process has a number of benefits, but what I’d like to focus on in particular is how we’re planning to involve stakeholders – like NGOs or local communities – in decisions about these variance requests.

Stakeholder engagement is really important to us at ASC. All of our standards were developed by large multi-stakeholder groups representing the expertise and experience of scientists, NGOs, farmers, retailers, and more. The seafood industry includes a lot of different actors and if we want to drive up standards we need to bring them all with us. We already include stakeholder consultation in a lot of our processes such as standard reviews or farm certification, and this new process makes it even easier for stakeholders to have a say on variance requests to our standards. Not only will stakeholders be proactively asked to give their feedback on a new variance request, they will also be able to provide feedback on previous variance requests, which can be reassessed by ASC if necessary.

The new process for variance requests to ASC standards allows variances to be requested in a way that is consistent, inclusive, and requires that all decisions are the result of a technical analysis. This analysis will be carried out taking into account stakeholder input, and will be presented to the VR Committee, made up of independent members of the ASC’s Technical Advisory Group with additional independent oversight.

Making the most of varied expertise

Given the focus on stakeholder involvement, you won’t be surprised to hear that we developed this new process with a lot of input from stakeholders – including producers, auditors, and NGOs. It’s easy to ask for feedback, of course, but at ASC we take notice of what that feedback is, and we made a number of changes to this process based on the different feedback we got. As I said, the seafood industry includes a lot of different actors and they all have their own areas of experience and expertise, so it makes sense to make the most out of that.

We have now published the new process but it doesn’t go live until December 15 2020. This is to give Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) and auditors plenty of time to familiarise themselves with the new process.

It’s also worth noting that we also published a new process for variance requests to the ASC’s Certification and Accreditation Requirements (CAR). This might be a bit too technical for a blog, but the CAR is essentially the document which sets out requirements for auditors, ensuring they evaluate ASC’s standards in a consistent manner. Because these requests are relating to the auditor process rather than the ASC standards themselves, they do not need the same level of stakeholder consultation, but this new process improves consistency and is another important document for auditors to familiarise themselves with before December 15.

This is a complicated topic, so if you have made it to the end then well done! Even if you don’t remember exactly what a variance request is, I hope I’ve managed to explain how important it is to us that we ensure stakeholders get to have a say whenever possible in the ASC programme.

Today is World Food Day – and although 2020 is a year like no other, the principles and messages behind this annual commemoration remain vitally important. Indeed, the vulnerable communities around the world who most need better access to nutritious food are often the most likely to be hit by the economic shocks and supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic.

For those of us who are more fortunate and may sometimes take food for granted, this year has also been an opportunity to rethink our relationship with food, whether that’s been by trying to grow more of our own, cooking from scratch more often, or simply appreciating it more.

The fight against hunger hasn’t ended, and even if you are stuck at home at the moment, there is action that you can take to promote the more responsible and sustainable food chains required to ensure that everyone on the planet gets the access to nutritious food that they need and deserve. If that sounds interesting to you (and you are on the ASC website so we’re guessing you might be passionate about this sort of thing) then read on to find out more about World Food Day, and how aquaculture, ASC, and all of us, can help.

What is World Food Day?

An annual commemoration of the formation of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO), which took place on 16 October 1945 – meaning this event is now in its seventy-fifth year. The FAO works to ensure food security for everyone, and World Food Day is one of the UN’s biggest annual celebrations. It aims to promote awareness of those who suffer from hunger, and encourage action to promote food security and better nutrition.

What are the issues?

Chronic hunger makes it harder to meet many of the UN’s other goals, such as good health and quality education, and it in turn is impacted by a number of other global issues. These include conflict, climate, the economy and inequality. The most vulnerable communities are the most susceptible to sudden shocks and volatility in food supply chains, and this year has been an unwelcome reminder that this volatility can strike at any time. The challenges of malnutrition, in all its forms, is complicated further by the rising cases of obesity around the world. Looking to the future, the world’s population will continue to grow and is estimated to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, so the demand for healthy food will only continue to grow.

How can aquaculture help?

Seafood is a great source of healthy protein to meet these rising demands. The amount of seafood eaten around the world per person has already doubled since 1961 – and the FAO predicts it will continue to rise. Aquaculture already accounts for more than half of the global supply of seafood, and the FAO predicts that the share of aquaculture will continue to grow in the coming years. As well as feeding millions, aquaculture also provides livelihoods around the world – often to  small scale farmers in developing economies.

Aquaculture provides livelihoods as well as healthy protein for millions of people

What’s this got to do with the ASC?

As the aquaculture industry continues to grow, so does the imperative to ensure that farms are run well both environmentally and socially. Farms that are not well managed can have a number of impacts, including water pollution, disruption of local ecosystems and poor working conditions.

At ASC we don’t believe it’s enough  for aquaculture to keep growing to meet rising demand – if it is not done properly, the potential impacts could have grave consequences and lead to exactly the sort of uncertainty that the FAO warns against. That’s why ASC certified farms must demonstrate that they are managing and minimizing these impacts. It’s not just about managing the impacts of aquaculture. ASC certification also encourages more efficient practices, which can help in the fight to increase the global supply of food. And as the FAO points out, a big part of improving food security is helping smaller-scale producers to improve their practices. The ASC’s Improver Programme works with smaller farms, and helps them to make some of these improvements to their practices even if they are not yet ready for ASC certification. More responsible practices are more dependable and reliable – exactly what we need to provide food security in an increasingly volatile world.

Who else can help?

Achieving zero hunger will require the efforts of everyone – including governments, private businesses and farmers. Even individuals can take steps to reduce the amount of food they waste. Similarly, improving the standards of aquaculture requires a collaborative approach. ASC certification helps producers to improve their practices, but the ASC also works with businesses to create market incentives for producers to make these improvements, and also with governments – for example by benchmarking ASC standards with local requirements.

This collaboration extends to each of us in our daily lives. How? Because your purchasing decisions have power. By choosing to buy seafood from farms that display the ASC logo, you can show your preference for farmers that engage in a transparent and always evolving process to ensure that the food they produce is raised according to best practices and in a manner that will provide much needed resources for the future.

Mangrove forests are among the world’s most productive ecosystems and healthy mangroves are a precious, almost priceless resource. Mangroves can quite literally save lives during storms and extreme weather events but losing mangroves also means losing livelihoods, food security, valuable timber production, coastal erosion defence and one of the most efficient and important carbon stores on the planet.

Omarsa’s story…

The shrimp farming industry is an obvious target when looking to lay blame for the destruction of mangrove forests. After all huge areas of this critical, life-saving, climate change-combating habitat have been cleared to make way for farms. And yet, while it is true that shrimp farming and mangrove conservation have not always gone hand-in-hand, it is also true that attitudes are changing as many shrimp farmers begin to realise the huge value that should be placed on mangrove forests – value not only to the environment but also to their farms.

Ecuadorian-based shrimp farming company, Omarsa, is one such example of an unlikely conservationist for mangroves. Omarsa claim to have the largest organic shrimp farm in the world and their farm site at Guayaquil stands on the edge of a vast nature reserve that is home to 10,635 hectares of mangrove forest. Established in 1977, the company watched as neighbouring shrimp farms cleared away precious mangrove habitat that stood in ideal locations for productive shrimp ponds, some as recently as 2019. As Omarsa began to thrive in business, they started to buy up these nearby farms to increase production. However, they also did something unusual, and that was to implement a huge mangrove reforestation project in areas that had been destroyed by the previous farm owners.

Omarsa’s farm site at Guayaquil stands on the edge of a vast mangrove forest

The farm’s Certification Coordinator, Paul Barreiro, is well placed to understand the importance of good environmental practice. The farm is certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), among others, which places strict conditions on environmental welfare. Still, with such an enormous area of mangrove forest close-by, it arguably would have been easy to do the bare minimum with regard to mangrove conservation on the farm and yet Mr Barreiro explained that Omarsa decided to go far beyond that.

“Over the years, the company acquired the shrimp farm of the neighbours, thus acquiring the commitment to rehabilitate affected areas. Our reforestation project started in 2007 and exceeds by three times the reforestation requirement of local conservation laws,” he said.

“The company decided to reforest approximately 100 hectares, which far exceeds the local requirement, even the current requirement of the ASC standard.”

Currently, the ASC Shrimp Standard requires that farms built prior to the 1999 RAMSAR wetland convention are required to rehabilitate at least 50 per cent of the area affected by the farm.

As one of the largest shrimp producers in Ecuador, employing more than 6000 people, Omarsa supply shrimp to 40 countries around the world. They are at the frontline of supplying tons of shrimp to feed the ever-growing demand for aquaculture products in every corner of the globe.

 

Omarsa are a stark example of the growing demand for aquaculture, which now accounts for more than half of seafood consumed worldwide and plays an immeasurable role in combating poverty and hunger. While this growing demand has often come at the expense of the environment, shrimp farming alone cannot be blamed for the staggering levels of mangrove loss and degradation over the past 50 years. What can be celebrated, however, is that shrimp farmers are realising the huge value a robust environment can add to their businesses and it’s thanks to farms like Omarsa who are spearheading this tidal change.

“Mangroves are of vital importance to maintain balance in our ecosystem,” Mr Barreiro said. “Small fishermen benefit from the mangroves, they depend on the extraction of shells and crabs that live in this ecosystem. This, without counting the benefits to prevent floods and avoid erosion, represents an important coastal barrier that benefits aquatic activity.

“In general terms, our industry and the subsistence of certain fishermen depend on the mangrove.”

Read more about the importance of protecting the world’s mangrove forests in our recent blog.

The welfare of fish has been traditionally much less well understood than that of land-based farm animals – but at ASC we’ve been working hard to develop new requirements to safeguard the welfare of farmed fish, and we’ve been heartened to see a growing interest in this topic.

By Janneke Aelen, ASC Fish Welfare Coordinator

When I first published a blog on this website, I had just started at ASC and was about to embark on a project to start to identify how we should define these issues and develop requirements. Since then we’ve been very busy – a technical working group has been formed, and terms of reference for the project have been produced, along with a white paper and ASC Position Paper on fish welfare, all of which were subject to a public consultation. Now is an excellent time to update you all on our fish welfare project, following a productive meeting of the technical working group last week.

The technical working group is made up of representatives from a diverse range of organisations and backgrounds – animal welfare groups, academics, industry representatives are among the group members (see below).

Forming this group was a key early step in the animal welfare project, and its importance can’t be overstated – we use multi-stakeholder collaboration like this to develop and review all our standards at ASC, and it’s what ensures our programme takes into account all perspectives and draws on all the knowledge in the industry and beyond.

I’m personally delighted with the group of passionate experts we have assembled for this project. Their commitment, knowledge and contribution is invaluable.

ASC standards do already include a number of requirements which contribute towards good fish welfare including water quality, fish health management plans, and dissolved oxygen levels. But we never stand still at ASC, and the purpose of this project is to reflect the latest evidence and tackle welfare with more specific and targeted requirements.

Diversity and Complexity

Reflecting the latest scientific thinking is something we always do, but in the case of fish welfare is easier said than done. The simple fact is that this is an area where research is patchy and still thin on the ground for many species.

Very often (including in this blog), the word ‘fish’ is used to describe an incredible range of animals with hugely different characteristics and needs. But you can’t treat a salmon like a pangasius any more than you can treat a cow like a chicken – in fact a cow and a chicken are more closely related than a salmon and a pangasius!

ASC has standards for a diverse range of species ranging from tropical barramundi (above) to salmon and shrimp – and they all have unique welfare needs

This diversity and complexity is why it’s unhelpful to approach the issue of fish welfare with a one size fits all approach. There has been focus in some quarters on stocking density, for example, because it is easy to picture and emotive – for us humans there is nothing worse than being crammed on a rush hour train, so we can picture why this is an important issue for fish welfare when it is raised by campaigners.

But the truth is more complicated than that – of course, above certain densities fish can come to real harm, but for some fish species densities that are too low can be just as harmful. So we need to understand more and adopt a more holistic approach that takes into account what individual species really need.

So research is where we’ve started with our ambitious project. Specifically, we will make use of a detailed collection of documents setting out the biological facts about every ASC species, and detailing the current welfare issues with farming those species. Produced for us by the Fish Ethology and Welfare Group, these documents are meticulously researched and referenced, and will inform the decisions that the group makes going forward.

What sort of decisions will those be? Well, we already know what some of the issues that we’ll be looking at will be:

  • transportation
  • handling
  • confinement
  • keeping fish at the right density, e.g. not too many or too few
  • water quality
  • slaughtering methods

Five Questions

And at last week’s meeting we also posed ourselves five questions, below. These questions will inform how we approach this expansive and at times confusing subject and ensure we keep to our objective, which is to produce comprehensive indicators for all ASC species to ensure higher standards of fish welfare. The five questions are:

  • What is an appropriate methodology for fish welfare assessment?
  • Which welfare priorities can we identify for aquaculture systems within ASC’s scope?
  • How do these welfare issues apply to the different ASC certified species?
  • How can the methodology and priority welfare issues be translated into valid and auditable indicators?
  • How can we move forward on issues that are currently outside of the scope of the ASC programme?

Developing new standards is not done in a rush at ASC – this is because we aim to be comprehensive and collaborative. We have already completed one round of public consultation to help guide what this project would look at. There will be another round of public consultation later in the process, most likely next year, once we have drafted some indicators. This will allow other stakeholder groups or individuals to give their feedback on the proposed recommendations. As you would expect, we will invite other animal welfare groups to have their say, but just as important is finding out what you, the public, thinks about them.

We’re pleased to see that fish welfare is starting to get the attention it deserves, and we’re proud to be contributing research that is now helping stakeholders globally to understand more about what contributes to the welfare of different species of fish. As ever, we’ll keep you updated with the progress of this important project – and I’m already looking forward to hearing what you think about the indicators the working group develops!

Interested in more about this topic? Listen to our recent podcast on fish welfare.

Technical Working Group members

  • Pablo Almazan Rueda, Senior Researcher at CIAD Mazatlán Unit
  • Culum Brown, Professor of Fish Biology at Macquarie University Sydney
  • Victoria Camilieri-Asch, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at QUT Centre for Transformative Biomimetics in Bioengineering and Adjunct Research Fellow at UWA Oceans Institute
  • Paul Hardy-Smith, Principal Veterinarian/Managing Director, Panaquatic Health Solutions Pty Ltd
  • Sunil Kadri, CEO at Aquaculture Innovation; Honorary Senior Lecture at Institute of Aquaculture Stirling; Honorary Adjunct Professor at Universidad Austral de Chile; Chairman of STIM Scotland; Director of International Business Development at Bluegrove/CageEye
  • Dennis Lohmann, Head of Product Management Fish, Baader
  • Catarina Martins, Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer, Mowi
  • Priya Motupalli, Sustainable Agriculture Lead, IKEA
  • Arve Nilsen, Researcher, Aquacultue, Wild Fish and Fish Welfare at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute
  • Michail Pavlidis, Professor, University of Crete
  • Tommaso Petochi, Researcher, ISPRA – Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research
  • Rohana Subasingue, Independent Consultant
  • Hans Van de Vis, Senior Scientist Fish Welfare at Wageningen UR
  • Douglas Waley, Fish Welfare Programme Leader at Eurogroup for Animals –  Lobby group for EU made up of numerous international animal welfare NGOs
  • Morris Villarroel, Professor of Animal Welfare, Technical University of Madrid
  • Ruth Hoban, Sustainability Manager, New England Seafood International
  • Susanna Lybæk, Scientific advisor at Dyrevernalliansen

A joint blog by ASC and the Seafood Nutrition Partnership

It’s hard at the moment to focus on health problems that aren’t you-know-what, but taking care of our long-term health has never been more important – and World Heart Day is a great opportunity to look at how our diets can make a big difference to our health and wellbeing.

World Heart Day is celebrated every year on 29 September and every year has a different focus, but the message is always the same: look after your heart to help drive down cardiovascular disease, which remains the number one cause of death around the world.

At ASC and the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, World Heart Day is a vital opportunity to remind people of the many health benefits of regularly eating seafood, which has been shown to have numerous benefits to our cardiovascular health (among a lot of other benefits).

The American Heart Association (AHA) has found that coronary heart disease is 90% preventable with proper diet and exercise. This is why AHA is one of many organisations that specifically recommend the regular eating of fish and shellfish – ideally at least twice a week. This provides you with about 250 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids a day, and that has been linked to lower rate of heart attacks and other cardiac issues – by about 30-50%. These fatty acids help ease inflammation and prevent the formation of potentially dangerous blood clots.  Seafood is more than just omega-3s and acts like a multivitamin with rich sources of vitamins B and D, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium– and fortunately there are plenty of delicious ways to enjoy it!

Another benefit of seafood is that it can be a useful replacement for red meat, which is consistently linked to higher rates of heart disease. If you want to cut down on your red meat intake but are struggling, replacing it with fish could be a way of still getting your protein fix while also giving your heart a helping hand.

We understand cooking seafood can be a little intimidating and many people only treat themselves to fish when they’re at a restaurant. But there’s no reason to deny yourself the enjoyment and benefits of seafood – the SNP website includes not only a big selection of simple recipes to try at home, it also includes handy information about what to look for when you’re shopping for fish, and answers frequently asked questions and misconceptions. And don’t forget, there are plenty of people out there who will be delighted to help you start eating more seafood, whether that’s your local fishmonger or the staff at your supermarket’s fish counter.

But there’s another aspect to eating more seafood that’s equally as important and can also seem daunting to navigate – how do you know where your seafood came from and whether it was produced responsibly?

The ASC logo means you are rewarding responsible farmers

Eating more seafood for your long-term health is a fantastic idea, but no one wants to do that if it’s going to  cost the long-term health of the planet’s ecosystems and biodiversity, or the health and wellbeing of the workers and communities producing the seafood. That’s why at ASC we make it easy for conscientious consumers to know what they’re eating.

Only farms that minimise their environmental and social impacts can become ASC certified – and to demonstrate this they must undergo extensive audits, which reoccur on an annual basis. Farms don’t just have to make sure environmental issues like water quality, medicine use, and biodiversity, are managed responsibly – they also have to pay and treat their workers fairly, and be conscientious neighbours to local communities.

During this strange year, we’ve had the chance to rethink a lot of things. Covid-19 has also been a stark reminder of how interconnected seemingly disparate health issues are – poor cardiovascular health can put us at greater risk of a more severe illness from coronavirus. At the same time, it’s been a chance to stop and think about the way we produce food as societies, and the sometimes unintended consequences that irresponsible production can have.

This World Heart Day is an opportunity to do something about both of these issues. Treat yourself, and your heart, to some healthy seafood – and look for the ASC logo to make sure you’re rewarding responsible farmers and encouraging other farmers to follow suit.

Earlier this month we published our first Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) report. This is just one output from our Monitoring and Evaluation programme, which aims to measure the impacts and positive change that ASC standards have on the environment, farm workers, and local communities. 

The report sets out all kinds of trends, facts, and case studies, in an accessible way. But not everyone has time to read a full report, and if that sounds like you, don’t worry – we’ve set out some of the most interesting things we’ve learned from this report below. There’s a more detailed summary on our Monitoring & Evaluation page, where you can also download the full report if this whets your appetite. 

1. The ASC programme is gaining momentum

In the first five years of the ASC programme, 148 farms became certified and more than 2,500 products were certified around the world. That was a solid start, but growth has really expanded over the next five years – with over 1,000 farms certified, nearly 18,000 products approved and almost 2 million tonnes of seafood certified. We can’t wait to see where we’ll be in another five years!

2. ASC farms are reducing their use of wild-caught fish

The use of wild-caught fish in the feed used by farms is an important issue – if it’s not sourced responsibly it can increase the pressure on wild stocks. The good news from the M&E report is that ASC certified salmon and shrimp farms have reduced their use of wild-caught fish by 3% between 2015 and 2018. And the report also picks up on a wider trend among many different certified species, where farms are coordinating more closely with their feed suppliers to use more responsibly sourced ingredients. 

3. Health and Safety improvements

All ASC standards include social requirements as well as environmental. These cover many issues including the fair pay and treatment of workers, and community relationships. The M&E report has found improvements in a number of these requirements for ASC farms, particularly when it comes to Health and Safety. Health and Safety can sometimes seem like an afterthought for those of us who work in offices, but in an environment like a fish farm it can be a matter of life and death. Fortunately, performance in this area has improved on ASC farms, with better training, enhanced provision of protective equipment, and renovations to living quarters. 

4. Good practices are spreading

Many producers own more than one farm, and where these producers have had one of their farms certified, they apply the lessons to their other farms, allowing the benefit of these better management practices to spread. 

5. ASC certified farmers are inspiring!

 The M&E report isn’t all statistics and charts – it also includes case studies from farmers and other stakeholders, giving first-hand experience of the impact that ASC has had. One of the most inspiring stories in the report is about Miyagi Prefecture Fisheries Cooperative in Japan. These oyster farmers saw their farm devastated by the 2011 tsunami. Rather than giving up, they used this an opportunity to change the way they farm, implemented more sustainable practices and encouraging better working conditions. After they achieved ASC certification, it helped them to sell their products to more stores, and just as importantly it helped them demonstrate the changes they’d made, and helped them to attract a younger generation to start working at the cooperative.

This may not have been the summer any of us had planned, and maybe you’re stuck at home when you should be enjoying a holiday right now. If so, all is not lost: you can still treat yourself to some delicious seafood.

For many people, seafood is something to be eaten as a treat in restaurants or on holiday. Often this is because it can seem a little intimidating to cook with. While we agree that seafood is certainly a treat, we also think it’s something that can be eaten at home as both healthy and delicious. And it doesn’t have to be intimidating either – we’ve handpicked some meals from our Recipe Page that we think are ideal summer meals, and they’re all quite straightforward.

So even if you are stuck at home this summer, these seafood meals will be a taste of holiday meals by the sea. They’re also ideal for sharing with friends and family. And if nothing below takes your fancy, check out the rest of our Recipe Page, which contains loads of great ideas for all sorts of different species that are covered by the ASC Standards, meaning you can look out for the ASC logo to make sure you’re also rewarding responsible farmers with your meal. Everyone’s a winner!

Prawn and Vegetable Skewers

It wouldn’t be summer without a barbecue! The beautiful thing about these skewers is that you can, of course, use any vegetables you like, and it’s sure to be delicious. And if you live in a country where the weather is a little less predictable, there’s always the oven grill.

Keep an eye out for ASC certified shrimp so you can reward responsible shrimp farmers. Shrimp farming is a vital part of many Southeast Asian economies and provides a livelihood to many thousands of men and women, but it can have negative impacts if done irresponsibly – for example, antibiotics can be overused, making them less effective for humans, or mangrove forests can be cleared to make way for farms, causing untold damage to biodiversity and speeding up coastal erosion. Fortunately, both of these things are prohibited by the ASC Shrimp Standard, which also contains requirements around water quality, workers’ rights, and community relations.

Read the full recipe

Seabream Fillets with Tomato Sauce

The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity – not only is it easy and quick to prepare (just a couple of minutes cooking each for the sauce and the fish), it also allows the natural flavour of the seabream to take centre stage.

Read the full recipe

Mediterranean Roasted Seabass

This recipe takes a little longer, but it’s just as easy to prepare – a simple dressing, some roasted tomatoes and potatoes, and of course the seabass itself, which again can take centre stage as it is seasoned with just salt, pepper, and rosemary.

Both seabass and seabream are covered by the ASC’s Seabass, Seabream, and Meagre Standard. These fish are mostly farmed in the Mediterranean, especially in Greece and Turkey – which is exactly where the first two farms to be certified against this standard were located. Among other things, ASC certified seabass and seabream farmers must ensure they protect biodiversity around their farms, use responsibly sourced feed, manage diseases effectively, and monitor their energy use and emissions.

Read the full recipe

Thai Shrimp

Shrimp has been an essential part of the cuisine of Thailand, and many other countries in Southeast Asia for many centuries, and with recipes like this you can see why. Again, this shrimp can either be fried or grilled on a barbecue, meaning it’s versatile as well as delicious.

Read the full recipe

If you make any of these recipes, or any recipe of your own, with ASC certified seafood, you’re doing your bit to drive up standards in aquaculture, and encouraging more farmers to manage their farms in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Don’t forget to share your creations with us on Twitter or Facebook!

  

Mussels, oysters, scallops – they aren’t the most expressive of animals, they don’t move around much, and they feed by ‘filtering’ the water – which some scientists think could be put to good use in efforts to clean up pollution.

They’re all bivalves – that’s a class of molluscs with hard shells in two parts – and based on the description above, you might think that farming them is always low-impact. In fact, a question we sometimes get is: what’s the point of ASC certifying these species? After all, they’re not liable to escape, and they are literally filtering the water, so would farming them really have much impact, even if it’s not managed well?

While it’s true that bivalves are some of the most fascinating animals in the sea, which can play an important environmental role, it’s wrong to assume that this means farming them doesn’t have an impact. And that’s important, because responsible farmers like those certified against the ASC Bivalve Standard put in a lot of work to ensure they’re minimising their impacts and we think that deserves recognition.

So to explain why the ASC Bivalve Standard is so important, we’ve gone through it and picked out some of the potential negative impacts that it requires farms to minimise.

Bivalves can be too efficient at filter feeding

Most bivalves eat phytoplankton – microscopic algae – by filtering the water, an attribute which could even be used by scientists to help clean up pollution, but it can also have a downside. Bivalves can filter out all of the phytoplankton in a body of water before the ecosystem can replenish them – which is obviously bad news for all the other animals that rely on these plankton, which are fundamental in the ecosystem. This is known as exceeding the ecological carrying capacity, and it’s something that ASC farms absolutely cannot do. The ASC Bivalve Standard uses some simply calculations to figure out if a farm (or group of farms) is exceeding this capacity.

Phytoplankton are micropscopic but play a very big role in ecosystems – so it’s important that bivalve farms don’t filter them all out. Image credit: MOAA MESA Project

Controlling disease and pests

A farm filled with shellfish makes a tempting meal for all sorts of animals, and farmers have been known to lose entire crops to predators. So they need strategies for protecting their shellfish – but it’s important they do this in a responsible way. The ASC Bivalve Standard requires that farmers do not harm any critical species, instead relying on deterrence or removal.

Bivalves are also prone to a number of diseases – though they are remarkable creatures, they have very primitive immune systems. But ASC certified bivalve farmers cannot use harmful chemicals to try to prevent disease outbreaks.

Impact on local communities

This may not be specific to just bivalve farms – but that doesn’t make it any less important. Most bivalve farms operate in coastal waters – and these waters are often in high demand from many different groups who all benefit from the area in different ways. ASC farmers must be considerate neighbours and conscientious coastal citizens, proactively communicating with local communities and ensuring their farming doesn’t prevent others from enjoying or using the coast.

They must ensure they’re good neighbours in other ways as well – ensuring the farm’s gear doesn’t prevent safe use of the water for navigation, for example, and it must also be clearly identifiable to the farm, with a clear protocol in place to retrieve any gear that gets lost. Marine plastics and litter are becoming increasingly important issues of course, and ASC is currently reviewing its requirements on this subject for all farms to ensure they are based on the latest science.

Bivalve farms are often located in coastal areas which they share with many other groups. Image courtesy Jersey Oyster Company

Social responsibility

Again, this doesn’t only apply to bivalve farmers but is no less important for it – all ASC farms must be socially as well as environmentally responsible. This means being a good employer as well as a good neighbour. All ASC farms must of course comply with local and international laws when it comes to forced or child labour, and the ASC standards go further than that – workers must be given adequate health and safety training and equipment, must be paid fairly, and must not be subject to abuse of working hours or overtime.

So that’s just a little taste of what’s in the ASC Bivalve Standard. And of course, all of the above doesn’t mean that bivalves are not good species to farm – in fact there is evidence that the process of harvesting shellfish, then replanting seeds and allowing them time to grow can create a seabed that is more diverse and productive than a non-cultivated area. But all farming has impacts, and responsible farming is about minimising those impacts, and the ASC standards set out what those impacts are for different species.

If this has piqued your interest about the hard work that goes into shellfish farming, you might also be interested in an interview with the Technical Manager of Jersey Oyster Company, which was the first oyster producer in the world to become ASC certified.

Did you know that 71% of the world’s fish is consumed in Asia? Or that the global amount of fish eaten per person has more than doubled since 1961? Those are just a couple of the fascinating facts we discovered in the latest publication about the seafood industry from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Officially titled The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), these reports have been published every two years since 1994 and as with previous editions this year’s is a thorough and important publication. Reliable data about fisheries and aquaculture is vital to those working to make these industries more socially and environmentally responsible, to measure impact and identify important areas for improvement.

The report is published every two years and provides a fascinating insight into the seafood industry

The report is an interesting read for anyone involved in fisheries or aquaculture, but if you don’t have time to read it in full we’ve picked out some of the most interesting findings about aquaculture and what we think it might mean for the future of the industry. The FAO have also summarized their report, including the statistics on fisheries, on their website.

52 per cent

That’s the share of food fish that was produced by aquaculture in 2018 – the farmed sector has provided the majority of the fish that we eat globally since 2016, and is continuing to grow. But what is really staggering about this fact is that in 1950 aquaculture provided just 4 per cent of the fish eaten globally! No other food sector has grown more rapidly.

Aquaculture has grown rapidly since the 1950s, now providing more than half of the seafood we eat

20.5 million

That’s how many people around the world are directly employed by aquaculture, and women make up about 19% of that workforce. Those are some big numbers, but they don’t tell the whole story as they just cover employment in what is known as the ‘primary sector’ of aquaculture – in other words, the direct farming – and not the ‘secondary sectors’, which include all of the roles further along the supply chain such as processing, packaging, marketing, and so on. FAO doesn’t have stats for these sectors (yet) but as the SOFIA report notes, it is widely accepted that one in every two seafood workers is a woman, meaning the industry has huge potential to help empower women around the world.

The SOFIA report also notes that the majority of those workers are in developing countries, highlighting the importance of fish farming to helping promote economic growth where it can make the most difference. As the report points out, though, many of these jobs can be “precarious” – and this increases the risk that workers can be unfairly treated or even at risk from extreme abuses such as forced labour. ASC recognises these risks which is why social requirements such as fair payment and treatment of workers are equally as important to environmental requirements in all ASC standards.

ASC Standards cover social responsibility too – such as health and safety training for staff

3.3 billion

Is how many people rely on fish for at least 20% of their total animal protein intake. The report says that:

“Fish proteins are essential in the diet of some densely populated countries where the total protein intake is low… For these populations, fish often represents an affordable source of animal protein  that may not only be cheaper than other animal protein sources, but preferred and part of local and traditional recipes.”

This is particularly true of small island developing states, as well as Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka – nations where fish contributes 50% or more of total animal protein intake.

Seafood doesn’t just provide economic security, it’s a vital source of protein in many countries

109 million tonnes

Aquaculture production is projected to grow by an incredible 32% between 2018  and 2030 – that means FAO project that production will reach 109 million tonnes in 2030, which is 26 million tonnes higher than the 2018 figure. No wonder the SOFIA report states that aquaculture production “is anticipated to fill the supply-demand gap.”

This continued growth means it is absolutely essential to ensure aquaculture is done responsibly, by minimising negative environmental and social impacts. The projected growth represents a huge potential to feed the world’s growing population while also helping develop economies and livelihoods – but if not done responsibly, it also represents a risk to the environment.

Looking to the future, SOFIA has a number of sections on the sustainable growth of the industry, including how it can meet some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What are the SDGs?

The SDGs are at the heart of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a blueprint for improving peace and prosperity for all people. It recognises that these goals require joint action on a number of separate but often interconnected issues, and these are covered by the 17 SDGs. You can see all of the SDGs and read more about their development on the UN website.

ASC’s work helps contribute to a number of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

ASC’s work helps to meet many of these SDGs. To name just a few:

SDG 2 to end hunger and ensure food security – as the SOFIA report makes clear, aquaculture can help to achieve this by providing people with healthy protein.

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production – responsible production is at the heart of ASC’s mission, and it encompasses not only minimising environmental impacts but also being socially responsible, treating workers and communities with respect.

SDG 14: Life below water – this is an obvious one for ASC, as our standards ensure that certified farms are doing everything they can to reduce their impact on the oceans, rivers, and lakes in which they operate.

ASC’s Feed Standard will also require responsible sourcing of land-based ingredients

SDG 15:  Life on land – perhaps a less obvious one for ASC, but our standards include a number of protections out of the water as well. An example is the strict prohibition on mangrove removal in the ASC Shrimp Standard, as these coastal forests play a vital role in their ecosystems. The ASC’s upcoming Feed Standard, meanwhile, requires that ASC farms only use feed that has been produced responsibly, and it doesn’t just cover fishmeal or marine-based ingredients, it also covers any  land-based ingredients such as soy, wheat, and palm oil.

It’s hard to summarise a report as thorough as SOFIA in one blog but hopefully this has given you  an idea of the potential of the aquaculture industry to feed us into the future, but also the critical importance of making sure future growth of the industry is sustainable and responsible.

Every June 8 is World Oceans Day, an annual celebration of the oceans and a reminder of just how important it is that we cherish and protect them.

At ASC our mission is to drive up standards in seafood farming to minimise environmental impacts on our oceans, rivers and lakes (among many other things, of course). So it’s no surprise that quite a few colleagues at ASC are particularly passionate about the oceans not just in their day job but in their spare time as well.

So to celebrate this important day we asked a few ASC members of staff from around the world why they love the oceans and what this day means to them. Here are just a few examples…

Duncan Leadbitter is ASC’s Commercial Manager for Australia and New Zealand. He lives on the coast of New South Wales and although he’s not always lived in Australia, he has spent most of his life living near the sea.

“Except for a couple of years living near London I have always lived close to the sea,” said Duncan. “I started fishing with my dad when I was six or seven – we had boats and would mostly fish the sea but sometimes a local saline lake as well.”

Duncan (left) has been fishing since childhood

For Duncan, a love of the ocean has been a big part of both his personal and professional life. “I started working with the Australian Fisheries Department in 1984 on marine protected areas and habitat protection. After working at an NGO called Ocean Watch I moved on to the MSC in London, before joining ASC in 2013.”

Now you can often find Duncan in the water, either scuba diving with his son or spear fishing – and filming, photographing, and writing about the incredible marine landscape on his doorstep is also a passion.

Duncan is also a keen ocean photographer and took the above picture of dolphins riding a wave

Performance Data Coordinator Kathrin Steinberg lives about 400m from the North Sea in a small tourist town called Büsum, in the North of Germany.

Kathrin moved to Büsum about five years ago to study for her PhD in Aquaculture Technology at Kiel University’s institute based in the town. She and her husband previously studied marine technology in Bremerhaven, another North Sea coastal town, so they both have long experience of living near, and studying, the ocean.

But Kathrin’s love of the water goes back much further than that. “I have been actively involved with the German lifeguarding association (Deutsche Lebens-Rettungs-Gesellschaft, or DLRG) since I was little,” she said. “My parents were both active lifeguards and I spent so much time at the swimming pool I probably learned to walk there. So water was always important to me and I always knew I wanted to study something related to the ocean.”

As well as volunteering to guard the local beach, Kathrin also teaches kids how to swim and swimmers how to lifeguard. And that’s on top of her day job in ASC’s Standards and Science team where she is helping to drive up standards in aquaculture!

Kathrin only lives about 400m from the North Sea coast and spends as much time there as possible

Dennis Wittmann is ASC’s Outreach Manager for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, having previously worked in ASC’s Programme Assurance team. Although he is currently based in Utrecht in The Netherlands, where ASC’s head office is located, he has spent a lot of his life in and around the ocean.

“I worked for a year in Croatia where I taught school classes from Austria about the Mediterranean Sea – things like fish anatomy, ocean habitats, how to take samples, and threats to the ocean environment,” said Dennis.

Dennis lived in Rovinj, on the Mediterranean coast of Croatia, where he taught marine biology

As well as teaching marine biology to school classes, Dennis is a qualified rescue diver, and has written about such diverse topics as the electric organs of fish, great white sharks, and cartilaginous fishes in the Mediterranean. His fascination with the ocean began at an early stage: “When I was a kid I would collect shells from marine molluscs at the beach and categorise and label them – I had a collection of about 400 samples.”

While in Rovinj, Dennis (right) spent a lot of time on – and in – the Mediterranean

Geert Robben is another member of ASC’s Standards and Science team who has been fascinated by the oceans since he was a child. “I have loved the ocean ever since I was a young boy catching crabs on the beach in France during low tide,” he said. “When I was backpacking in 2009 I took a diving course in Colombia and I fell in love from my first breath under water.”

Since then Geert has dived in Belize, Bonaire and Egypt. The reason for his love of diving is simple: “Scuba diving is amazing because you enter a world that is different in so many ways that it feels alien.”

Geert fell in love with scuba diving from his first breath under water

For all of the ocean-loving ASC colleagues there is a clear link between their passion and their day job, and Geert described it perfectly: “Because I have seen the beauty of the underwater world I want to help preserve this. Through my work in aquaculture I want to contribute to the protection of endangered habitats like the oceans.”

Well said, Geert! And if you would like to play your part in protection the oceans, as well as rivers and lakes, one easy step is to think about the food you’re buying. ASC certified farms must minimise their impacts on the surrounding environment by limiting chemical usage, preventing escapes, monitoring the sea floor, and much more besides. On top of that they must be socially responsible, meaning they treat and pay their workers fairly and act as good neighbours to local communities. You can help support these responsible farms by looking for the ASC logo next time you’re shopping for seafood.

June 5 is an important date for those of us who love the oceans, for two reasons. It’s World Environment Day, which you may have heard of, but it’s also the UN’s International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, which you may not have.

International Day for the Fight Against IUU Fishing doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and it’s only been commemorated by the UN since 2018, but it marks a big milestone. On this day in 2016 the first international treaty designed to end IUU fishing (The FAO Port State Measures Agreement) came into force.

If you’re on the ASC website there’s a chance you’re already environmentally conscious and understand why it’s so important to end this kind of fishing – at a time when so many fish stocks are threatened it can undermine efforts to protect and preserve them. It might be a bit less obvious why it’s relevant to ASC, an organisation that focuses on aquaculture, that is, farmed rather than wild caught seafood.

But responsible aquaculture can also have an impact on wild fish stocks – and not just by taking pressure off these stocks by providing alternatives. Fishmeal and fish oil from wild capture make up the ingredients of many feeds used in aquaculture – but it’s important to note that the amount of wild caught fish used in feed has been shrinking since the 90s, and what is used is often coming from by-products. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), fishmeal production peaked in 1994 and has been in decline since then. At the same time, a growing share comes from by-products which were previously wasted – the FAO estimates that up to 35% of fishmeal now comes from these sources. It adds that the inclusion rates of fishmeal and fish oil in feeds “have shown a clear downward trend as they are used more selectively.”

This is good news as it helps to drive down aquaculture’s impact on wild fish stocks. But as always at ASC we want to do more to ensure that what fishmeal or fish oil is used has been sourced responsibly and sustainably.

While our standards already include requirements on the responsible sourcing of feed, we will this year be publishing a standalone Feed Standard that applies to all ASC farms and tackles this issue with unprecedented stringency.

ASC’s upcoming Feed Standard requires the responsible sourcing of every ingredient that makes up more than 1% of the feed

The ASC Feed Standard addresses marine ingredients like fishmeal and fish oil through a global improvement model that requires feed mills to source marine ingredients from fisheries demonstrating increasing levels of sustainability and eventually MSC certification. Once operational, feed mills will be able to apply for certification against the Feed Standard, and ASC certified farms will need to source feed from mills which are certified against the Feed Standard.

And although today is focused on IUU fishing, it’s also important to note that the ASC Feed Standard will be applicable to all feed ingredients that make up over 1% of the feed – this is really important because of course land-based ingredients make up a big portion of most feed and can also have negative impacts. On top of that, feed mills will have to demonstrate more generally that they are run in an environmentally and socially responsible way, covering issues such as fair treatment of workers, carbon emissions and water usage.

It’s important to remember that land-based crops used in feed also have impacts

Which brings us to the wider issues marked by World Environment Day. This has been going on for quite a bit longer – since 1972, in fact – but it also commemorates an international agreement to take action, in this case the first day of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Our standards cover more environmental issues than we can mention here, but they include: limits on medication and chemical use; limits on escapes; prohibitions on the use of critically important antibiotics; monitoring of nearby water and the seabed for pollution; and the protection of biodiversity and important habitats such as coastal mangrove forests. That’s on top of the social requirements that ensure that farms treat and pay their workers fairly, as well as maintaining good relationships with their neighbours. A farm can’t become certified unless it meets social and environmental requirements, because we don’t think the two can be separated – damaging or mistreating our shared environment has numerous social impacts, after all.

Getting your protein from seafood can also help reduce your carbon footprint: fish is one of the most efficient converters of feed into high quality food, with a lower carbon footprint compared to other animal production systems. To take just one example, farmed salmon produces a fraction of the carbon generated by the beef industry.

If you do want to learn more, you can do so at the World Environment Day website. And if you’d like to help reward responsible fish farming, one easy step you can make is looking for the ASC logo.

Today it’s International Day for Biological Diversity – a day to think about the importance of biodiversity to the natural world – and to us humans.

Biodiversity is an important subject for us at ASC – and our standards help to protect it in a number of ways. Our Salmon Standard, for example, requires that farmers focus on the wider area in which their farms are located: they must cooperate with other farms if necessary to produce an Area-Based Management (ABM) scheme to monitor and mitigate risks related to parasites and pathogens, disease management, sea lice, and protect biodiversity. Collaboration like this is essential to protect biodiversity.

ASC standards also require the responsible sourcing of feed used by farms. This covers not only the wild-caught fishmeal or fish oil that may be used in feed, but also some land-based crops – which actually make up the majority of the feed used by the aquaculture industry. Our upcoming Feed Standard strengthens these requirements even further by covering all ingredients comprising over 1% of the feed. Feed ingredients can include palm oil, soy, and rice, and the Feed Standard will require certified farms to only use certified feed – meaning all these ingredients come from responsible sources. Producing these crops in a sustainable and responsible way is a big part of the fight to protect biodiversity.

ASC’s upcoming Feed Standard uniquely includes requirements on land as well as marine ingredients

But to celebrate this year’s Day for Biological Diversity we’d like to focus particularly on one species that plays a crucial role in creating ecosystems that are absolutely vital to biodiversity, and on top of that are just genuinely fascinating: mangroves. Mangroves often occur in areas where shrimp are farmed, and for that reason there are specific protections in the ASC Shrimp Standard prohibiting their removal, or in some cases requiring their replanting.

Why are mangroves so impressive, and so important? Here are a few interesting facts…

Mangroves are tough

Anyone who’s tried and failed to keep a houseplant alive will know that some plantlife can be extremely sensitive to their surroundings. Not mangroves: they grow where a lot of trees wouldn’t. They grow in coastal water, meaning their roots are surrounded by salty water and mud with very little oxygen. Different species are adapted to different conditions, with some able to withstand not just seawater but water which has been concentrated by evaporation to be twice as salty as seawater.

Mangrove roots might look weird, but they’re very tough and play a vital role in the ecosystem. Image credit: NPS

Mangroves are excellent carbon scrubbers

Mangroves are very effective at removing carbon from the atmosphere, and a 2011 study in Nature Geoscience found that mangrove forests are removing up to four times as much carbon as other tropical forests. Other studies have also suggested that these forests contain a huge amount of carbon – which of course is released back into the atmosphere if the forests are removed. That’s just one of the reasons it’s so important to protect and recover these ecosystems.

Mangroves protect the coastline

Mangrove forests create huge root systems, and these actually slow down the tidal water flowing in and out every day. This can be especially important during storm surges and tsunamis, as the mangrove roots help to dissipate the wave energy. But the roots play an important role on a daily basis, as the slowed down water deposits more sediments as it flows through the roots, helping to maintain and build the coastline.

The Sundarban mangrove forest is home to tigers – but sadly they are under threat. Image credit: Soumyajit Nandy

A lot of creatures call mangrove forests home

Perhaps most importantly when it comes to biodiversity, the mangrove roots create an environment in which a huge variety of organisms thrive, and their leaves form the basis of a complex food web. The roots play host to algae, oysters and sponges, while shrimps, crabs and lobsters can often be found in the mud of a mangrove forest. These animals in turn are preyed upon by larger predators including herons, kingfishers, and monkeys. That’s not all – in the Sundarbans mangrove forest in India and Bangladesh you can even find bengal tigers. Unfortunately, these big cats are under threat as their habitat is shrinking thanks to rising sea levels – a sad reminder of how interconnected environmental issues are.

That interconnectedness means that of course mangrove forests are just one small part in the global biodiversity picture, but they are hugely important nonetheless. At ASC our standards are developed to look holistically at both the environmental and social impacts of farms, wherever they’re located. If you have a newfound admiration for mangroves, or just care about protecting the world’s biodiversity and want to help, it can be hard to know where to start. There is plenty of useful information on the UN’s website for biological diversity, and of course if you want to make a difference you can look for the ASC logo and reward ASC certified farmers who work hard to minimise their impacts on the ecosystems that we all rely on.

In the last week of April, a two-day meeting (remote, of course) marked the start of a process looking at how the ASC Salmon Standard helps protect both farmed and wild salmon and sea trout against parasites, and whether the latest science and research can perhaps help us do things differently and more efficiently.

By Javier Unibazo, ASC Standards Coordinator, Marine Cage Farming

The ASC’s current Salmon Standard – uniquely among certification programmes for farmed seafood – includes a number of requirements on sea lice, demanding regular monitoring and measurements, transparency, and collaboration with neighbouring farms.

But we want to make sure that the measure associated with this indicator under revision is set at an accurate level and that continues to reflect best practice within the global salmon industry, taking into account recent changes in the industry, new knowledge and the availability of more data.

As the Project Lead for this review, last month’s meeting was something I have been looking forward to for a long time. Even though it was only the start of the revision process, it is the culmination of the first stage of nearly one year of work that I have been carrying out, visiting experts and farmers around the world to research this issue and put together a representative and knowledgeable Technical Working Group (TWG).

The exact scope of the review is Indicator 3.1.7 of the ASC Salmon Standard, which deals with “maximum on-farm sea lice levels during sensitive periods for wild salmonids”.

But let’s take a step back – if you’re not familiar with the world of fish farming, you may be wondering what sea lice are and why we are so concerned about them – though you probably guessed from the name that they’re unwelcome and unpleasant creatures.   

Sea lice is a catch-all term for tiny crustacean parasites that are naturally found on marine fish, including salmon. They are unrelated to their human-bothering counterparts (which are insects) but there are similarities – they feed on the skin and blood of the fish, and can cause a number of health and welfare issues. There are many species of sea lice, but the ASC Salmon Standard focuses on those that commonly affect salmon species (and ‘which species we should focus on?’ is also up for debate by the TWG).

Though sea lice occur naturally in the wild, they can be more problematic in farms where salmon gather closely together in one location, making it easier for the lice to spread. There is then the risk that those lice could impact wild salmonids species if they are migrating nearby. Although the extent of that impact is still a matter of debate, the fact that the lice affect the health and welfare of the farmed salmon means tackling this issue should be a priority for everyone in the industry.

The good news is that the salmon aquaculture industry is adaptable, and embraces new solutions – visit the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI)’s website to see just some of the novel approaches being used on farms and potential new solutions being researched. The industry is also relatively young – growing rapidly in just the past few decades. This means that there is now a lot more data than there was even a few years ago (much of it thanks to the transparency of ASC, which requires farms publish regular performance data, including data on the presence and abundance of sea lice). So it makes sense that ASC commits to monitoring the industry and reviewing aspects of its standards when appropriate.

The April meeting was just the beginning – the current timeline estimates that this revision will take about two years. That may seem like a long time, but we fit a lot into the process. We have already consulted the public on the terms of reference for the review, but there will be two more rounds of public consultation as the TWG develops the content of the revision. This is very important for being transparent, accountable, and giving the opportunity for everybody to contribute, including the public. In between these consultations, the working group will also be consulting with the ASC’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG), made up of other aquaculture experts. Finally, it will be presented to the ASC’s Supervisory Board for final approval. So, yes, it is a long process and it involves a lot of consultation, and we think that’s exactly how it should be for such an important issue: this is something that must be done right.

But this isn’t the last you’ll hear from us on this subject until 2022. We intend to keep you updated throughout the process, and will keep the website up to date with the latest news, consultations, and more. And of course, if you want to get in touch with us about this revision please do so.

More information can also be found on the dedicated page for this review.  

Like in other countries, entrepreneurs and businesses in the Netherlands are being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and ASC certified producer Kingfish Zeeland is one of those adapting and using novel methods to continue their business.

By Dennis Wittmann, ASC Outreach Manager Germany, Austria, Switzerland

As we all know, the measures taken to restrict the spread of coronavirus globally mean significant loss of turnover for many businesses:  supply chains are disrupted, most shops and restaurants cannot open, and there are no big events requiring food service and catering.

Kingfish Zeeland produce Seriola (also known as Kingfish) in a land-based facility

The seafood industry has experienced all of these impacts, and the loss of income can’t be countered by simply reducing running costs. Animals need to be fed, water quality must be regularly measured to ensure the wellbeing of the animals, and farming equipment must be tested and kept safe. Most importantly, farming provides a livelihood for millions of workers and seafood remains a vital source of healthy protein: people still want and need to buy sustainable seafood.

Using Social Media to reach customers

Kingfish Zeeland are an ASC certified producer of Seriola – also known as Yellowtail or Kingfish. Based in Zeeland, the Netherlands, they were the first producer in the country to become ASC certified for their land-based farm.  They have been particularly affected by the lockdown because they mostly supplied the hospitality and restaurant industry. In response, they have called out to their social media community and now provide healthy and responsibly farmed Yellowtail directly to local consumers.

Seriola is a very versatile fish, suitable for all sorts of dishes

A good deal of ASC staff work in Utrecht, the Netherlands, where our headquarters are located, and we don’t just love driving up standards in fish production, we also love cooking and eating it – not to mention supporting responsible producers. So this seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, and a short message in our local ASC WhatsApp group was all it took for colleagues to mobilize families and friends. Before long we had two orders ready, one for colleagues in Deventer (a city in the east of the country) and one for the ASC staff in Utrecht.

Farm to fork in one day

But now the logistic question came up. The Netherlands is not a big country, but it still takes about one and a half hours to get from Utrecht to Zierikzee, where Kingfish sells the fish, and as we all know, traveling should be restricted to a minimum. However, we didn’t have to worry: Janneke van der Linde, sales and marketing manager at Kingfish told us they send the fish well packed with cooling packs. Fantastic! We ordered and the fish arrived the next day – from farm to fork, super fresh, sashimi quality! We coordinated, prepared disinfection material for the door handles and the ASC staff came one by one to pick up the fish. Where there is a will there is a way!

One ASC colleague used the Kingfish to make ceviche

We’re not trying to pat ourselves on the back with this short story (the delicious fish was its own reward), but hope to inspire you to support your local businesses if you can. We daily see wonderful examples of solidarity around the globe and despite the social distancing the pandemic can actually make us grow closer than before.

How can you help?

Don’t know how to prepare Yellowtail but keen to try it? Check out the photos of the ASC staff for some inspiration for Ceviche or simple battered and fried yellowtail – either way it is a tasty treat. If you feel like trying Yellowtail contact Janneke van der Linde.

And if you’re supporting your local seafood producer, or you’re an ASC farmer, distributor or other stakeholder adapting to the new circumstances and want to let us know please do get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Another colleague fried it – delicious!

The ASC logo indicates responsibly produced seafood – but what exactly does that mean? Understandably, many people think mostly about the environmental side of things – seafood that was produced without unnecessary chemicals or antibiotics, by a farmer that monitored their impact on the surrounding environment.

What you might not think about when you see the ASC logo is that it also means the workers who produced the seafood did so with proper health and safety policies in place. It might not be the first or most exciting thing that comes to mind, but health and safety is an important aspect of the ASC standards, which place equal importance on both the social and environmental impacts of fish farming.

The reason we’re talking about this today is because it is World Day for Safety and Health at Work – not that we need an excuse to talk about protecting workers in the seafood industry! Workplace health and safety have been the focus of an international day every April 28 since it was begun by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a way to raise the profile of these issues.

Different jobs, of course, have different risks. That doesn’t mean if you work in an office you don’t have to think about health and safety (work-related stress and long-term musculoskeletal complaints are both risks for office workers), but it does mean that it can be difficult to compile a comprehensive list of workplace risks.

Fortunately, the ASC standards instead include a number of overarching indicators that a certified producer must meet, which demonstrate they are placing the right importance on the health and safety of their workers.

Taking the ASC’s Seabass, Seabream, and Meagre Standard as an example, all workers must receive ongoing training on health and safety practices and policies (including what to do in an emergency), and they must be provided with the correct Personal Protective Equipment – and know how to use it effectively.

Workers demonstrating knowledge of first aid during an ASC audit

ASC certified farms must also carry out risk assessments and take preventative action against the risks they identify. And all accidents or health and safety violations must be recorded and corrective action taken if necessary – this is in line with ASC’s focus on the importance of thorough and transparent record-keeping, and using these records to improve practices.

Health and Safety isn’t just about accidents or physical harm – as the UN makes clear, emerging risks include the psychological impact of work-related stress. The causes of this can be manifold, not all of which can be prevented or predicted. Taking again the ASC Seabass, Seabream and Meagre Standard as an example, a number of other indicators require fair treatment of workers – such as effective conflict resolution, fair disciplinary procedures, and clean and sanitary living conditions for staff if they are living on site. These won’t on their own eradicate workplace stress, but they are an important recognition that fair treatment of staff goes beyond the physical.

ASC will continue to develop its social requirements to promote better practices in aquaculture, and if you see the ASC logo it’s a chance for you to support that work and help support seafood workers.

Today is Earth Day, and this year’s is a big milestone, marking fifty years since millions of people took part in protests on April 22 1970, helping to kick off the modern environmental movement.

Earth Day is now marked every year on April 22, and while a lot has happened since 1970, it is of course not nearly enough – and the focus of this year’s Earth Day is climate action.

At the moment it can feel difficult to focus on anything other than the daily challenges – so it’s understandable that Earth Day might not be at the forefront of your mind today. But such crises can also cause us to reflect on the wider issues raised by Earth Day every year, like our impact on the environment. If you do want to do something for this year’s commemorations, the organisers of Earth Day have come up with some ‘digital action’, and activities that can be done while adhering to social distancing – these include solo clean ups, and documenting air quality with an app. And at ASC we can help you with some easy ways to use your food choices to help fight climate change.

Climate change is an important subject to us at ASC, unsurprisingly – our mission is to reduce the environmental (and social) impacts of aquaculture. We also believe that responsibly farmed seafood has a vital role to play in the fight against climate change.

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs on this topic, fish is one of the most efficient converters of feed into high quality food, with a lower carbon footprint compared to other animal production systems. To take just one example, farmed salmon produces a fraction of the carbon generated by the beef industry.

That’s the good news. The challenge is that, just like all food production, farming fish does have environmental and social impacts. This might be from water use, pollution, or overreliance of chemicals and medication.

So as an ethical consumer who wants to play their part in the fight against climate change, does that mean you’re just back at square one, with no way of discerning what type of food is best for the environment? Well, not quite. At ASC we are doing the hard work for you, only those farms that can demonstrate they are minimising their environmental and social impacts can meet our standards and become ASC certified. Our standards are developed by experts from across the industry, academia and NGOs, and their hundreds of requirements are audited by independent teams – whose reports are then released for public consultation. So the ASC tick is a trusted indication that the seafood in the packaging came from a truly responsible farmer.

Our standards cover more environmental issues than we can mention here, but they include: limits on medication and chemical use; limits on escapes; prohibitions on the use of critically important antibiotics; monitoring of nearby water and the seabed for pollution; and the protection of biodiversity and important habitats such as coastal mangrove forests. That’s on top of the social requirements that ensure that farms treat and pay their workers fairly, as well as maintaining good relationships with their neighbours. A farm can’t become certified unless it meets social and environmental requirements, because we don’t think the two can be separated – damaging or mistreating our shared environment has numerous social impacts, after all. And if you’ve run out of lockdown reading already, you can see for yourself the full requirements for each species because all of our standards can be viewed on this website.

It can be tough trying to be an environmentally conscious consumer – even when we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic – there is a lot of information out there but it’s not obvious what you can trust. That’s why we’re totally transparent about our standards, process, and certified farms. As well as all of our standards, all audit reports, farm details, and much more can be found on this website. Because we want to help by ensuring that at least your choice of farmed seafood can be a simple one – just look for the ASC logo.

At ASC we are always looking at the direct and indirect impacts of aquaculture and reviewing how we help the industry minimise them. This is the reason behind our imminent Feed Standard, which will be applicable to all ASC certified farms and requires unprecedented traceability and sustainability of all of the ingredients of the feed used by farms.

So when we see reports and claims about the “hidden” wild fish content in aquaculture products, it’s an issue we know a lot about – we know about the impacts that do need to be minimised, but we also know that some of these claims may be based on generalisations rather than proper evidence.

The first thing to note is that while it remains absolutely vital that responsibly harvested wild fish are used in aquaculture feed (as our Feed Standard ensures), in fact the amount of wild caught fish used in feed has been shrinking since the 90s, and what is used is often coming from by-products. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), fishmeal production peaked in 1994 and has been in decline since then. At the same time, a growing share comes from by-products which were previously wasted – the FAO estimates that up to 35% of fishmeal now comes from these sources. It adds that the inclusion rates of fishmeal and fish oil in feeds “have shown a clear downward trend as they are used more selectively.”

Another thing to note is it’s just not as simple as replacing fishmeal or fish oil with other proteins and assuming that this makes feed more sustainable. At ASC we fully support the innovative aquaculture industry as it develops new ways to produce feed, but many of the alternative land-based ingredients, such as soy, rice, or palm oil, have their own impacts if they are not responsibly sourced. Many of these impacts will be well known, but the ASC Feed Standard is the first to include them as well as marine ingredients, meaning ASC certified farms will be able to assure customers that all of their feed has been responsibly sourced – not just the marine ingredients that often make up a minority of modern feeds.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the ASC provides transparency and traceability. Transparency is at the heart of everything we do, so it’s no surprise that the new Feed Standard requires this of feed mills. Every ingredient that makes up over 1% of the feed must be traceable, and as with all ASC certification, all audit reports and documentation will be accessible to all on the ASC website. Which is why it’s not true to say that all farmed fish contains “hidden” wild fish. Nothing is hidden when it comes to ASC certified farmed fish, and any wild fish that is used must have come from a sustainable source.

At ASC we’re a science-based organisation and we like to make claims based on facts and evidence. That’s why we don’t like sweeping generalisations. So while the facts suggest that, as a whole, fewer wild caught fish are being used in fish feed, we want to be able to provide more robust assurance to consumers than that. This is why our Feed Standard is so comprehensive and transparent. Simply focusing on wild caught fish used in feed actually risks downplaying some of the impacts of feed production. Fortunately, by purchasing fish with the ASC logo you are giving your money to farms that must take a much more holistic and thorough approach to responsibility, meaning you can enjoy your seafood safe in the knowledge that there are no “hidden” surprises.

By Contessa Kellogg-Winters

Over my nearly five years of working with ASC, more than half of which has been done over an ocean away from most of my team, I feel that I’ve become a bit of a pro at the working from home (WFH) game.

Just a note that you can also scroll to the bottom if you want a quicker read and you’ll find the recap in a list. We may all be sat at home, but time is still precious!

Set a few rules and organise your work space

One of the first things I learned is that I needed space to work, a dedicated space of my own with a comfortable seating area and all the necessities at hand. We’re all in different situations in regards to our home “office” setups and a lot of what’s possible comes down to available space. But no matter whether you use the kitchen table, a corner of your sofa, your bed (you lucky ones!) or if you’ve got an extra room at your disposal to create a bona fide office, I find that having an area that I know is my go-to spot for work helps give me peace of mind, brings structure to my day and makes things feel less chaotic. It’s also a signal to those that I live with that when I’m in this place, during these hours, and with a device in front of me don’t be surprised if I don’t hear you the first time you ask me about wallpaper.

When you work from home and your partner or roommate does too, not hearing them when they ask those questions can be stressful. For them, even if it’s maybe not so much for you.

Over the years when my partner has worked from home we’ve made agreements regarding (or learned, really, from past hilarious examples) where each of us would work in our shared space, how to interrupt during the day, and how to take calls, when things like the TV could be turned on or the table could be made ready for dinner. It will be important now that so many of us are in our homes during business hours to have these conversations, and to be as considerate as possible to reduce friction or stress. In my home, the rule is that interruptions that start with the other offering a mug of tea are allowed as long as one of us is not on a call. After 6pm, the interruptions must include a better social lubricant, but never, never prosecco.  We also agree that if we’ve got too much on or are on a deadline, things can be parked until the other person has completed their tasks. We understand that business is the priority during those hours. And this upfront agreement on prioritisation saves a lot of hurt feelings over the course of a shared WFH situation. Another important aid is earphones. Look, AirPods and the like are great for the gym or moving through an airport, but when you’re working from home you need a signal that also cuts out the noise. That’s why I fully advocate those massive things like a set of Bose or Beats—a proper set of actual headphones can be the most useful bit of kit when more than one of you is working from home.

When I’m not traveling, I’m on the East Coast of the United States and four days of the week I have my first scheduled event at 7am. These calls should never involve a camera. Especially as I am generally not yet brushed—neither hair nor teeth. Because I tend to spend the time between waking at 6am until the call time doing the bidding of my two adorable but demanding dogs, quickly scanning industry and major outlet news links and doing a quick scroll of my email, I’m also waiting for the caffeine to come off the boil when that call begins.  But as soon as the call is over, I make it a point to scrub up for the day. I find that even if it’s one of the few days that I’m going to slip into yoga gear, having showered makes me feel human and centred. And if I don’t take the time to do it, then the rest of the self-care I’ve scheduled also falls by the wayside during the day.


Remember to take breaks

And yes, I do mean scheduled— I put things like exercise and a break/lunch into my daily schedule. I learned the hard way that if I didn’t put it in, I’d end up working until my husband or one of the dogs demands that I stop.  (I’m not joking about the dogs setting limits, the eldest will get fed up and make maneuverers to separate me from the keyboard when she feels the work day is going on too long. I have one dead iPad due to her having sat on it and can provide photo evidence of some of her other numerous and well-honed tactics.) During those breaks I stretch, go for a walk with the dogs or practice my other little indulgences. These include picking up one of the many magazines I still subscribe to—generally the New Yorker or the Economist— and then stopping by a few websites to get my pop culture fix (oh, the rabbit holes I’ve gone down with Vulture.com!) just to you know, bring the silly. I will admit that I do not always eat lunch, but I do make a point to step away from my desk every 1.5 to 2 hours do some stretches. It’s not nearly often enough, I know, but it’s better than nothing. This habit had become engrained after many years of working with (read that as being lectured to by) my physio. At different times of the day I will do Child’s Pose, a knee-to-chest, seated spinal twists, and a good old-fashioned toe touches, amongst other stretches. It keeps me from getting too sedentary and reinforces good posture as well.  When I’m being really virtuous, I will take one of my calls in the car as I drive to the gym and use what would be a lunch break for a spin class or do a good 45 minutes or so on the treadmill. Please, no one ask how many times I’ve been virtuous over these years. But more on that later…

Outfit tip: be professionally comfortable

And what to wear when you WFH? Some of my fellow home-based workers commit to the body mullet. For those that don’t know what that term refers to, it’s that classic 80’s haircut which was short in the front (the business) and then long in the back (the party). You too can practice this divide on your actual person with the old nice top/ pearls/ tie/ collared shirt/ blazer on top and yoga pants/ sweats/ boxers/ lower half of your high school chipmunk mascot costume on bottom. Because no one’s gonna see your bottoms if you choreograph your call correctly. So why not secretly go maximum comfort while still looking the business for the camera? As for me, I don’t truck with that. I get dressed after that shower, full business. It makes me feel less bad about some of the internet shopping…which I will admit is another one of the things I also do on those breaks in my day. Hey, at least it means that more days than not I see other people who are also working. They just work for UPS, FedEx and DHL. And boy, they along with the doctors, nurses, carers, food prep and delivery drivers, warehouse workers and farmers, are right near the top of list of people we need to be thanking right now!

No, luckily you are not alone!

That brings me to another thing I’ve learned over my time working from home— talking to other people is key.  If I have a quick question, I like to take it out of email and get on the phone or an app. When I notice an email chain with one other colleague is getting too long, I give them a ring. Whenever I can make these calls a video call, and the other party agrees as well, then I do. Nothing is quite like meeting in person, but getting to see a person’s face when you’re having a conversation goes a long way to making you feel less alone when you’re WFH—and it adds a layer of warmth and friendliness to your work. I also love seeing other people’s paint colours, art, refrigerator magnets and the children and pets that pop into the background.  I’m glad to say that I’ve even had virtual happy hours with my colleagues and it really is much more fun than you’d think it could be.

Music always saves us 

I also think it’s important to have a soundtrack for your work. When I’m not on a call I’ve got music going in the background. And it tends to vary by mood and task (nearly always chamber music when I have a lot to write). I’m not sure what it says about me that over the last week my heavy rotation on Spotify is Gorillaz, The Cars, Supertramp, Kendrick Lamar (I mean, who doesn’t need to hear “Alright” every couple of hours right now?), Van Morrison (because, always, and also “Jackie Wilson Said” also needs to be listened to on repeat right now),  The Pixies and Thundercat? I think it mostly says that I’m old and looking for comfort.

Flexibility: a little treasure

Comfort and being nice to yourself, especially right now, are key to working from home. When I asked you not to ask me how many times I’d made it to the gym during my years WFH it’s because it both matters and doesn’t that I did or didn’t make it. One of the best things about this setup is the flexibility it offers. And I think a lot about definitions of work-life balance across different cultures.  I try to keep my breaks. I intend to take a shower at the same time every day. I promise myself that I will set parameters for a “work day”. Sometimes all of those things happen and other times some or none of them do. Sometimes I just work full-steam all day because that’s what needs to be done. And that’s OK. Tomorrow’s a new day and we try again. Amongst the skills I’ve learned is that it’s important to be understanding not just with others, but also yourself. And taking care of yourself looks different on different days. Reducing unnecessary pressures—and that includes any pressure you might feel because you don’t follow every best WFH practice— can also be considered self-care.

So, if you’re want the tl;dr version of my top tips they are:

  1. Define a work space.
  2. Agree with others sharing your space how you’ll navigate WFH alongside each other.
  3. Practice basic hygiene and find your personal dress code.
  4. Take a few breaks.
  5. Try to get a little activity in throughout your day.
  6. Eat if you’re a person who likes doing that kind of thing during the day. If you’re not, still take some kind of break at roughly midday and indulge in some way.
  7. Get off email and talk and video call with others whenever you can.
  8. Music!
  9. Be nice to yourself—it makes it even easier to be nice to others.

While this is how I’ve been able to make sense of my life WFH, I also know that very little makes sense to many of us right now. But we will get through this together by supporting each other and sharing what we can even as we stay behind our own doors. I hope these tips contain one or two pieces of advice that provide some comfort or helpful insight as we all do our best to protect those that we love, and promote good health and well-being as much as possible, by keeping ourselves to ourselves.

And don’t forget to wash your hands and your keyboard!

By Desirée Pesci

Climate change could have far-reaching consequences for many fish farmers, and the solutions will require urgent and collaborative action across multiple sectors. In that spirit, ASC recently attended the Diplomatic Academy Students’ Initiative Conference (DASICON) in Vienna. The conference took place on February 28 and is organised by the students of the Diplomatische Akademie Wien. It addresses different topics every year, and this year’s focus was on climate change, the challenges we are facing and the urgent need for climate action.

Representatives from the public, political and economic sectors were invited as speakers to describe their part in the fight against climate change. Prominent figures from the United Nations, the European Union, Fridays for Future, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Sustainable Energy for All, and many others, analysed current efforts made in their working environment and discussed new possible solutions to one of the biggest challenges of our time.

The first panel for dialogue was honoured by the presence of the Federal President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen, who stressed the critical importance of cooperative action and the role of younger generations in fighting the climate crisis. Other presentations and panels saw the exchange of ideas and opinions on several themes, such as the move from disposable to more circular economies, energy transition, and the empowerment of vulnerable groups. The debates highlighted the connections between different areas and the importance of collaborations between them.

The Federal President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen

A significant part of the discussion, which also arose from several questions from the public, was about the role of citizens. How do we incorporate the fight against climate change in our daily life? How can we contribute and put sustainability into practice? Answers from speakers ranged from suggesting ways to reduce emissions, such as choosing sustainable transport more often, keeping yourself always informed about climate related matters, joining environmental movements, taking part in peaceful protests, and staying engaged politically.

Climate change is a global issue with consequences that will have big impacts on matters that concern us all, and aquaculture is no exception to that. As we have said in a previous blog post, climate change, food security and food production are deeply interconnected issues. Unpredictable and extreme weather events, such as ocean acidification, floods, sea level rises and costal erosion, can be among the biggest threats not only to marine ecosystems and fish species, but to aquaculture as well. Many fish farms are of course sited in coastal areas, and small-scale farmers are even more vulnerable.

On the right: ASC Communications Manager, Desirée Pesci

Food security is at risk and being able to ensure food supply to the world’s rapidly growing population is part of ASC’s mission. Therefore, it is necessary for us to be part of the global dialogue on climate change.

We have previously made clear that responsible seafood should be part of the solution against climate change. Seafood production has a lower carbon footprint compared to other animal production systems, and the increase of its consumption as an alternative to red meat can reduce our environmental impact. For example, farmed salmon produces a fraction of the carbon generated by the beef industry and the pressure on the environment represented by feed to grow stock is the lowest by far with seafood production.

However, simply increasing seafood consumption is not enough on its own to combat the consequences of climate change, and this is why ASC plays a role on driving aquaculture towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Our standards include requirements in regards to protection of biodiversity, pollution measurement to remain within set limits, health surveillance and prohibition of the use of medicines before diseases are diagnosed.

One of the main topics of the DASICON conference was the role of citizens and what each of us can do to put sustainability into practice. One thing you can do is looking for the ASC logo and choosing responsibly farmed seafood, which can really make a difference in protecting our oceans, lakes, and rivers.

The seafood industry has been described as “women intensive but male dominated”, and despite around half of fisheries and aquaculture workers being women (and up to 90% of processing workers), the majority of senior positions in the industry are filled by men.

As with many other industries, it’s clear that more needs to be done to address this imbalance. All of ASC’s standards include social requirements that include fair treatment of all workers and the prohibition of any form of discrimination – and these requirements are checked by fully qualified social auditors. As with many challenges, gender equality will best be tackled by collaborative action across the industry.

International Women’s Day on 8 March is a timely opportunity to ask what it’s like for the women who have defied this gender imbalance in the industry. Last year we focused on our very own Van Roetert, ASC’s Head of Programme Assurance. This year we want to highlight the inspirational story of Truong Thi Le Khanh, the founder and chairwoman of Vietnamese pangasius producer Vinh Hoan.

When Madam Khanh founded Vinh Hoan in 1997, they operated out of a small leased factory with a daily output of 10 tons of fish and 70 employees. Today her company employs over 6,000 people in six processing factories.

Talking about her company’s success, Madam Khanh said: “We are lucky to live in the Mekong Delta, so we can benefit from the area’s strength, which is the fish here.” But of course there was more to it than that, and the challenges shouldn’t be overstated. “There are certain difficulties for women like us,” said Madam Khanh. “In order to succeed, women are expected to balance their work and life.”

Madam Khanh at Vinh Hoan’s headquarters in Dong Thap

Vinh Hoan sells pangasius around the world, and Madam Khanh has fond memories of the delicious fish, also known locally as ‘Basa’, from her childhood in Long Binh, situated near the Vietnamese-Cambodian border. “We enjoyed many delicious Basa meals prepared by my mum,” she remembers. “Sweet and sour Basa soup, caramelized Basa or Basa braised in fish sauce with a variety of country vegetables. These were the meals I missed the most when I left home for further education.”

This further education took place in the Vietnamese capital Ho Chi Minh City to study at the University of Finance and Accounting. After graduating in 1984, Madam Khanh worked briefly in the finance area before moving into import and export, and eventually the seafood export business where she first started to learn about exporting pangasius. She ended up working with Nguyen Thanh Hung, the first person to export pangasius from Vietnam, from whom she learned a lot: “He gave me the belief and foresight to see the bright future for the Basa fish and igniting the sparks of start-up business opportunity within me,” she said.

Madam Khanh at a ceremony celebrating Forbes’ Top 50 listed companies in Vietnam in 2019

The location of this start-up was to be Dong Thap, an area on the Mekong river with plenty of alluvial mudflats that are idea for farming pangasius. The first factory was leased in 1996, and the following year Vinh Hoan Limited was officially established. Around this time a new factory was also bought in Cao Lanh, the capital city of the Dong Thap province. Owning a factory outright was a big step for the company, and it also required a lot of renovation work. During this already busy period, Madam Khanh also found the time to get married to Le Viet Tien, and have her first child! But she certainly doesn’t look back on this time with anything other than fondness: “With the encouragement from this new life, I was determined to hunker down with my co-workers through many difficulties to renovate and upgrade the factory with joy and optimism in the future,” she recalls.

Over the following years Madam Khanh saw Vinh Hoan expand steadily while being careful not to grow too rapidly. And looking to the future she is keen to expand beyond traditional products, looking at new uses for pangasius.

But it’s clear that growth or sales aren’t as important to Madam Khanh as working with a good team and treating them well. ASC certification has helped with this aspect of things too. “ASC helps us to understand that it’s not just about fish farming, but about responsibility to the environment, to the community, and to our people,” she says. “ASC standards are also meaningful in terms of social community works. As farmers we understand that we cannot survive without our surrounding community. So we are always open-minded and develop sustainably, and as a result we have a better relationship with our community, and we give each other mutual benefits.”

An audit at one of Vinh Hoan’s ASC certified pangasius farms

It’s hard to imagine a more scenic setting for aquaculture than Jersey Oyster Company’s site in the Royal Bay of Grouville on the south coast of the island, overlooked by Mont Orgueil Castle.

It’s here that the company’s oysters come to maturity on 40 hectares of intertidal trestles, benefitting from the rich nutrients brought into the bay by the third highest tidal range in the world – during Spring tides the sea can go out two miles and the island doubles in size.

The Jersey Oyster Company was the first oyster producer in the world to become ASC certified, achieving this in 2015 before gaining recertification in 2018. Charlie Mourant, Technical Manager at the company, remembers the process: “It was a straightforward process for us, and helpful in that it gave us a checklist to help marshal our thoughts. Although we already had a big focus on responsible farming, it was important to have this checked by an independent outside body. And the ASC and MSC Chain of Custody element reassures our customers of the authenticity and provenance of our oysters.”

An arial view of Jersey Oyster Company’s site in Le Hocq

Why did they go for ASC? “We wanted an international standard that encompassed the environmental aspects of responsible farming but also the social element of things – it’s very important to us to be good neighbours on the beach,” Charlie explains. And it’s a very well used beach – as well as two other farms sited nearby, the beach is used recreationally for swimming, sailing, kite-surfing, and simply for enjoying its scenery.

“The coast where we’re sited is part of an area of wetlands protected under the Ramsar Convention,” says Charlie. This is an intergovernmental treaty signed in 1971 aiming to designate and protect wetlands of international importance, and it means the use of Jersey’s south-east coast is closely monitored. Charlie is positive about this. “It’s another level of monitoring, another body of professionals keeping an eye on our environmental impact,” he explains. And it seems the company is a welcome addition to the important wetlands, he adds: “The trestles create a reef environment, break up the water and provide habitats for other creatures – levels of seagrass are increasing, for example.”

Charlie joined Jersey Oyster Company in 2014, making the switch to seafood from land-based agriculture, having worked as a technical manager at a farming cooperative. He was hired to look at various areas he had previously specialised in on land, such as stock control and purification.

New trestles being unloaded

In some ways oysters are less complicated than a lot of land-based farming. “Oysters feed themselves from the nutrients in the sea, and we don’t need to give them any medication, it’s a very natural process,” Charlie says, but it’s clearly no easy job to produce high quality oysters: “The oysters are in mesh bags, which need to be regularly moved – unhooked and flipped over to prevent seaweed growing on one side or the other. But it’s a balancing act – if you move them too much they tend to hunker down, and won’t grow as much, especially in the summer.”

Oysters also have an unhelpful habit of fusing together and forming reefs, and so need constant tapping and chipping away to keep them in the classic teardrop shape we all recognise.

Then there’s the fact that they might grow at different rates, as Charlie explains: “We can manage their growth, bringing them up the beach to spend less time in the water to slow them down, or vice versa. Chris is very adept at getting the best growth out of oysters though, as he’s been doing it all his life.” That’s Chris Le Masurier, owner of Jersey Oyster Company, who is the third generation of his family to farm oysters after his grandfather set up the company in 1973.

The work doesn’t end when the oysters are mature. Then they’re moved to a part of the beach where they will spend around six hours a day out of the water – four weeks of this prepares them for being out of the water during transport, and less stress during transport means stronger oysters that stay closed and fresh. Finally, they’re purified – but even this is done using natural processes, as Charlie explains: “Seawater, pumped up at high tide, is filtered and UV treated before being used in our state of the art purification system.”

So while their environmental footprint might be tiny, producing the perfect oyster is certainly no picnic. Is it worth it – is Charlie an oyster fan? “I love them, raw or cooked,” he replies, not missing a beat. His passion is clear as he immediately starts giving advice on cooking techniques: “Cooking is ideal for the larger oysters, because they shrink a bit when cooked. Just stick them in the oven, the shell will pop open, then you can take them out and drizzle some garlic butter over them – or something more adventurous.” Sounds good to us!

When fish welfare was discussed at a recent meeting of EU politicians, ASC’s Head of Standards & Science Michiel Fransen was on hand to deliver expertise based on ASC’s ongoing work in this area.

While debates on animal welfare in the agriculture industry have been underway for many decades, until recently there has been less discussion of the topic in aquaculture, in part because of a lack of knowledge and research and in part because of the relatively recent growth of the aquaculture industry.

That is starting to change, as the rapid growth of the industry has led to more research of the animals involved, and greater awareness of the need to include their welfare in considerations about what responsible aquaculture means.

This was reflected in the meeting of the EU’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, at which Members of European Parliament (MEPs) discussed the possibilities for integrating fish welfare into the EU’s aquaculture development plans. The Intergroup brings together MEPs from all political groups to discuss and take action on animal welfare issues. The EU is currently drafting the Strategic Guidelines for the Sustainable Development of Aquaculture, which will establish priorities and subsidies for the industry over the coming years.

So what did Michiel tell MEPs, and what does ASC have to say about this increasingly important issue?

Michiel’s presentation set out ASC’s objectives for its animal welfare work, what work has already been completed towards these objectives, next steps and some of the challenges faced.

ASC standards already include requirements that cover animal welfare, but has been working to expand and standardise these, using the very latest science to address the concerns and demands of consumers and other NGOs. ASC is not an organisation that was ever intended to stand still – ongoing review based on the latest knowledge and developments is inbuilt into the programme.

ASC has already engaged with retailers, industry bodies, academics and fellow NGOs, and has consulted on a Terms of Reference and position paper, which were well received, with responses making clear there is clear demand for the work ASC is undertaking in this area. A Technical Working Group (TWG) is about to be set up – as with all of ASC’s working groups, this one will be multi-stakeholder and includes experts from all of the above sectors.

Now that the groundwork has been laid, the TWG will assess the current research and collaborate with academics to develop an assessment model, while also drafting the requirements themselves, which will be integrated into ASC’s upcoming aligned Farm Standard – applicable to all ASC species.

One of the key challenges of the work is that the term ‘fish welfare’ belies a huge diversity in the species covered by ASC standards – a salmon doesn’t have the same welfare needs as a shrimp, for example. This challenge is compounded by the research gap that exists between species, which can also lead to misconceptions among consumers and others about what constitutes good practice when it comes to the welfare of different species.

As the Intergroup has noted, the relative youth of aquaculture as a major food industry presents an opportunity to ensure that animal welfare is integrated into its development from an early stage. The ASC programme uses market forces to encourage producers to act in a more responsible way, and in the coming years a lot of work will go into expanding what this means to include more requirements on animal welfare. But ASC is also a collaborative organisation, recognising that industry-wide change comes quickest when NGOs work with retailers, producers, governments and more – and Michiel’s presentation to European lawmakers was a perfect example of that. ASC will continue to work closely with everyone who shares the goal of an aquaculture industry that acts in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

Today is the United Nations World Day of Social Justice – but what is social justice, and why do we need an international day for it?

The principles of social justice include ideas such as equality of opportunity, fair distribution of wealth, and removing barriers that people face based on gender, age, race, religion, disability, or culture. The UN has marked its commitment to these principles every February 20 since 2008, but ideas of social justice go back much further than that – back to classical philosophers, in fact – and it’s not hard to see how they are still relevant in every society in the world today.

The 2020 theme for World Day of Social Justice is “Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice”. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), over 200 million people are out of work around the world, and of those who are employed, over 60% lack any kind of employment contract.

Where does aquaculture fit into this, and why is ASC so interested in a day of social justice? Well, our standards place social issues at the heart of what it means to be a responsible producer. All ASC certified farms must demonstrate social responsibility as well as environmental responsibility, and the independent teams of auditors that visit farms to audit them against the ASC standards must include a qualified social auditor.

Aquaculture can play a vital role in closing the inequalities gap. It provides jobs and livelihoods to millions of people, many in developing countries. But creating jobs is only half the story – if people aren’t fairly paid or treated, those jobs will do nothing to improve social justice.

ASC standards are applied by independent teams that must include a qualified social auditor

ASC’s standards include requirements that all workers are fairly paid, and farms are not allowed to use any form of forced or child labour. But fair treatment of workers goes beyond fair pay, and so do ASC’s standards. All ASC certified farms must provide a safe working environment for their workers – that means properly assessing risks, providing the right training and safety equipment, and covering the medical costs of job-related illness or injury. Farm workers must not be discriminated against based on race, gender or other characteristics, and must be free to collectively bargain, and form or join trade unions if they so wish. Threatening, humiliating or punishing disciplinary practices are also forbidden on ASC certified farms.

The ASC standards go beyond the farm as well. Farms exist within communities, and it is important that they respect these communities and listen to them. That means meaningful consultation with neighbours, respecting the rights and cultures of indigenous communities and maintaining their access to vital resources.

Being socially responsible means being a good neighbour as well as a good employer

All of the above falls into the category of social justice in some way or another – making sure everyone is paid and treated fairly, while providing them with opportunities to thrive. Some or all of the above may strike you as things which all employees should be doing as a matter of course, and we would certainly agree with that. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. And contrary to some assumptions, these issues aren’t simply a problem in developing countries. Social injustices occur everywhere, in different guises, including examples of forced labour and trafficking in more affluent countries, for example, demonstrating that social justice isn’t something that anyone should be complacent about. Every fish farm that applies for ASC certification has to show independent auditors that they are socially responsible, no matter where they are operating.

The ILO has made clear that globalization has provided new opportunities for economic growth and global interconnectedness while also providing new challenges to the principles of social justice. It also provides opportunities for you to take action to preserve and promote social justice, wherever you are. ASC certified farms operate on every continent and you can find ASC certified products in dozens of countries. If you buy one, you will be rewarding a producer that is treating its workers and neighbours fairly, and playing a small part in promoting the principles that we celebrate every February 20.

Read more about ASC’s social and environmental requirements on our Farm Standards page

Do you have plans for this Valentine’s Day, or do you prefer to pretend it isn’t happening? Whether you’re an unapologetic romantic who loves making February 14 a special occasion, would rather have a quiet night in, or will just be hanging out with friends, we’ve got some recipe ideas just for you.

The origins of Valentine’s Day as a romantic celebration are a little unclear – there is more than one Saint Valentine, for a start. Medieval English writer Geoffrey Chaucer provided the earliest example of a link between Valentine’s Day and romance back in the 14th Century – but it may have been a different Saint Valentine, and a different day to February 14 (by the way, although we found this interesting we accept no responsibility for the consequences if you decide to start lecturing your date about the history of Valentine’s Day over a romantic dinner). The celebration really took off after the reduction in postage prices in England – some 400,000 valentine cards were sent the year that a new cheaper stamp was introduced, proving once and for all that there is nothing more romantic than being frugal.

Unfortunately for those of us who like to save money, Valentine’s Day has since become big business. The National Retail Federation in the United States estimates that this year Americans will spend over $27 billion on the celebrations!

We all know about the classic aspects of a modern Valentine’s Day – cards, chocolates, flowers, a romantic meal. Of course, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate Valentine’s Day – if you want to celebrate it at all. But if your plan this year involves eating at home, well, we can certainly help you with that.

So whatever your opinions on Valentine’s Day, we hope we can all agree that cooking up some responsibly produced seafood isn’t a bad way to spend any night at home. And here at ASC we want to help you do just that with a few recipes you might like to try. These are all taken from our recipe pages, so if nothing below takes your fancy make sure you check out the rest.

For the Fine Dining Experience: Pan-seared Cobia with Jalapeno

If you’ve decided to stay in this Valentine’s Day, but still want that fine-dining experience, this cobia dish from Open Blue is ideal. Not only does it look impressive, you can save yourself some time on the day by preparing the tomato jam in advance.

The Show Stopper: Squid Ink Pasta with Prawns

For those who really want to impress that special someone (but would still like to keep things a bit simple) this deceptively easy pasta dish is the perfect way to enjoy some responsibly farmed prawns. All you really need to do here is season and cook the prawns, fry the veg and cook the tagliatelle, but the inclusion of squid ink to colour the pasta really makes the dish a show-stopper. Now it’s up to you if you reveal to your other half how simple it was to make: we’re not judging.

Quick and easy: Pasta with Mussels

Not much goes together better than mussels and pasta, and the beauty of this dish is its simplicity. Just cook the linguine in one pot, and everything else in another pot. This is a perfect meal to share, and doesn’t require many pots, so you can avoid any arguments about washing up!

Fun to Prepare: Pizza with Shrimp

Cooking should be a fun activity, right? And making a pizza together is a great activity – for couples, friends, family, whoever! Shrimp is a delicious pizza topping, but this recipe is just a starting point – the beauty of making your own pizza is you can add pretty much whatever you like!

Perfect For Me-Time: Salmon Burger

We know that Valentine’s Day isn’t for everyone, and some of us will want to ignore all of the hype and enjoy some time on our own this Friday. If so, what better way to treat yourself than these tempting salmon burgers with guacamole? Much healthier than the beef variety but still delicious, and if you’re using ASC certified salmon then they’re good for the planet too. Each burger simply requires one salmon fillet meaning this recipe is easy to scale up or down depending on whether you’re cooking for a whole family, or treating yourself.

Whatever you’re doing this Valentine’s Day, we hope we’re inspired you to try out some responsibly-produced seafood soon. Whether it’s a brand new recipe or one of your old favourites, if you are using ASC certified seafood then you’re making a real difference by rewarding farmers who are minimising their environmental and social impacts.

A little more than a year ago, my colleague from the Program Assurance Team wrote a blog about the importance of knowing the location of ASC certified farms. What has become of this project, and where will it go in the future?

By Laura Guthschmidt, GIS Coordinator

Last year we had the intention of collecting more accurate coordinate data to create a ‘certification map’.  As a Geographical Information System (GIS) person, this wasn’t enough for me. The ASC species standards allow for far more interesting data to be captured than just precise coordinates.

If we truly want to make use of the possibilities that geospatial data offers, then we have to get access to more descriptive farm data; this is where polygons come in.

A polygon doesn’t look like much more than a bunch of lines covering an area, but in reality you can use these lines to systematically analyze the surroundings of a farm.

In the case of ASC this means we can track the boundaries of certified farms to verify compliance with some of the standard indicators, we can measure farm growth over time, and we can calculate production area versus production volume if the data quality allows it. A simple coordinate point would not offer this capability.

In the image above, a (fictive) farm location is displayed using only coordinates (in yellow). It appears to show that the farm is not sited in the Protected Area (in green) – and is around 82 metres away. Compare this with the fuller picture provided by polygons below.

In the above image, polygons (blue lines) make it possible to calculate exact overlap between the fictive farm boundaries and the Protected Area. The additional detail given by the polygons reveal that the farm does in fact overlap with the protected area.

In order for ASC to become a more data-driven organisation, many processes have to be automated. Ensuring the standardisation of data collection is a first step in this process. From there, the data becomes usable for analyses, and therefore more valuable.

The standardisation of incoming geospatial data plays a big role in ensuring that ASC can meet our GIS goals.

From February 5 this year, farms will be required to submit spatial data as part of their annual audit process.

To enable the collection of polygon data that meets our requirements, we have developed a GIS Online Portal that includes an app with all our certified ASC farm coordinates on it. Farmers can now go to this app and draw their farm boundaries to form a polygon according to guidelines that can be found on the portal as well.

The ASC GIS app also contains a number of geospatial data layers that are either directly or indirectly related to one of our species standards – these range from a World Database on Protected Areas to data on indigenous peoples’ land boundaries.

Even though we try to have the best possible data available, as with all geospatial data it is reliant on a number of other factors such as coverage, resolution, accurate time range,  how it was acquired, the source, and the copyright. A metadata table on our GIS portal covers these values for each layer in the GIS app.

All ASC farms undergo surveillance audits at least once a year, which means we will have polygon data for all ASC certified farms in just 12 months’ time – February 5 2021! Then we can begin the fun part of analyzing.

Of course, we want to make this process as simple and straightforward as possible, and all Conformity Assessment Bodies (that’s the auditors) and certificate holders (that’s the farms) have been notified of this requirement, and the reasons behind it, via email and a series of webinars.

From the beginning, ASC has worked according to a Theory of Change that supports a transparency ethos, by providing free and unrestricted access to all audit reports, as well as status of sites within our program, through the ASC website.

This project supports the greater aim of transparency and accountability, improvement of services and the creation of new environmental and social value of data. If you want to know more about this project, see our Storymap!

Let there be fish every year! That’s what you might hear at a Chinese New Year meal – because the Chinese word for fish is a homophone for the word for surplus. So the phrase ‘Let there be surpluses every year’ sounds the same as ‘Let there be fish every year’, and is often said when fish is eaten during New Year celebrations. For the same reason, fish is associated with surplus and plenty. Sounds to us like a very good reason to tuck into some seafood.

As you may know, Chinese New Year is this Saturday, on 25 January. The Chinese traditional calendar is Lunar based (fans of pedantry may be interested to learn that technically it is lunisolar, as it takes into account the sun as well as the moon). The same, or very similar calendar is used by a number of other countries, including Vietnam and Korea – both of which are also celebrating New Year on Saturday.

In China, New Year celebratory meals tend to be large, involving all manner of vegetable, meat and fish dishes. Of course, popular dishes vary widely from region to region, but many involve seafood – such as abalone – and the New Year’s Eve meal will often involve a whole fish. But, because of the aforementioned link between fish and prosperity, the whole fish is not eaten – often the head and the tail will be saved for the next day, to ensure ongoing ‘surplus’ in the coming year.

Pan fried Korean dish, known as Jeon. Image credit: Maggie Hoffman
Jeon is a pan-fried Korean dish that can be filled with all manner of ingredients

 

 

 

In Vietnam, the new year is known as Tết. As in China, it is largely a time of year for family gatherings. Vietnamese children will be looking forward to the first day of the new year especially, as they are traditionally given a red envelope containing money. In Korea too, the new year (or Seollal, or 설날) for most people means spending time with family, and this time of year will see huge numbers of Koreans travelling the country for this reason.

One food that is popular for new year meals in Korea is Jeon – this is a pan-fried dish that can include all manner of vegetable, meat or fish fillings. The filling is mixed with flour before being fried. The seafood variety, known as Saengseon-jeon (생선전) can include all manner of seafood, a couple of examples (that happen to be ASC certified species) include Daeha-jeon (대하전) made with prawn and Guljeon (굴전) made with oysters.

You can search by cuisine type on our Recipes page

 

 

And in case you were wondering, 2020 will be the year of the Rat, according to the Chinese Zodiac, which is observed not only in China but also in South Korea, Vietnam and other East Asian countries (with a few small differences). The rat is associated with being quick-witted and resourceful, as well as kind.

This is a very important part of the world for aquaculture, which is a vital part of many economies and livelihoods in Southeast Asia. So it is no surprise to see plenty of ASC presence in many of these countries. At the time of writing this blog there are around 200 certified farms in Vietnam, mostly producing shrimp and pangasius, 18 in China (shrimp, tilapia, bivalves, and abalone) and 15 abalone farms in South Korea. The programme is growing all the time though, and you can find out how many farms are in a particular country, or search for particular farms or species, using the Find a Farm feature on our website.

Vietnam was the location for the launch of the ASC Group Certification Methodology in 2019

 

 

 

 

If you’re inspired by the New Year celebrations to try out some Asian cuisine, our Recipes page can help you out! It features recipes from around the world, and you can even filter recipes by world cuisine (as well as many other filters including difficulty, species, and cooking time) using the tick boxes on the left side of the page.

Wherever you are in the world: Happy New Year from everyone at ASC, and let there be fish every year!

It wouldn’t be January without learning about a new kind of diet, right? And just when you think you’ve heard of them all, a new one comes along. We like to stay ahead of trends here at ASC, and we also love seafood (believe it or not), so when we heard of a new diet trend called Seaganism we had to find out more.

Before you roll your eyes, Seaganism is more than clever wordplay. While the term first appeared in 2007, it has recently started to attract media attention with some predicting it could be the next big diet trend, and has been the focus of an awareness campaign from UK-based Seafish, including useful recipe ideas and meal plans.

As you may have figured out from the name, Seaganism combines a plant-based vegan diet with seafood. Think Pescatarian, but without the animal products like dairy and eggs.

What are the reasons for people adopting this kind of diet? Well, we all have different priorities, lifestyles and needs when it comes to food and as with all dietary choices, the reasons will vary from person to person. But two of the main reasons often given are health and the environment. The diet combines the health benefits of many plant-based foods with the additional vital oils and nutrients that seafood is so effective at providing. Meanwhile, the carbon footprint of seafood production is far lower than that for other meat, making it a more environmentally friendly option – but only if it has been responsibly produced, of course.

Of course, strict diets aren’t for everyone, and not everyone wants to pigeon-hole their eating habits into a specific word or rule – while it is helpful for some, others prefer to make decisions on what they eat on a slightly more flexible basis – perhaps you’re Pescatarian most of the time but enjoy the odd bit of cheese, mostly vegetarian except on holiday, or you’ll eat just about anything as long as it’s been produced responsibly. There’s no one way to eat right, but if you’re approaching the issue from a standpoint of wanting to limit the environmental and social impacts of your food, then you’re probably on the right track (and if you’re on the ASC website you’re also in the right place).

If you have decided to give Seaganism a go, or if this article has inspired you – even if it’s just to eat a bit more seafood – we can help. There are plenty of meals on our recipes page that fit the bill (and many more besides, so there’s something for everyone!) If you’re looking for a bit more advice, Seafish have a number of materials on their website to help you out, including FAQs and menu plans.

At ASC we have staff members enjoying all different kinds of diets, but with one thing in common – we all care deeply about where our seafood comes from, and about rewarding those producers who are minimising their social and environmental impacts. Whatever your own diet plans are for the year ahead, we hope this has inspired you to also think about where your seafood is coming from. If you want to join us in rewarding responsible producers, it couldn’t be easier – just look for the ASC logo. This means a producer has been independently audited against the highly stringent ASC requirements. Happy New Year and happy eating!

Tempted? Here are a few recipes to try out

Published on
Monday, 13 January 2020
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