The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) biennial State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report is an important reference document for the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), enabling us to keep track of the scale and scope of our work to drive up standards across the industry.

The latest report was published at the end of June 2022. Here are our main take-aways and what they mean for ASC:

  • Aquaculture production is at a record high (122.6 million tonnes in 2020)

In 2020, animal aquaculture production reached an all-time high of 87.5 million tonnes: 6% higher than in 2018, 30% higher than the average in the 2000s, and more than 60% above the average in the 1990s.

Asia continued to dominate world aquaculture, producing 91.6% of the total output. In addition to aquatic animals, a further 35.1 million tonnes of algae were produced for food and non-food use, plus 700 tonnes of shells and pearls for ornamental use, making a live weight total of 122.6 million tonnes in 2020.

The figures show the relevance for ASC to aim for truly global coverage. ASC’s current 11 species-specific standards cover around 45 % of the animal aquaculture production. With the upcoming aligned Farm Standard ASC will be able to further increase this share. ASC also operates a joint seaweed standard with MSC that covers all species of macro and micro algae.

  • If done sustainably, the sector has great potential to feed the world’s growing population

As aquatic production has increased, the contribution of aquatic foods, excluding algae, to global food security and nutrition has increased at an average annual rate of 3% since 1961, to reach 20.2 kg per capita. Consumption today is more than double that in the 1960s. Improvements in post-harvest practices and changes in dietary trends are projected to drive a 15% increase in aquatic food consumption, to supply on average 21.4kg per capita in 2030.

While aquaculture will play an ever-increasing role in providing a steady supply of resource efficient and affordable seafood, aquaculture can add to the pressure on ecosystems if not conducted responsibly. The report therefore highlights the relevance of ASC’s mission of transforming the sector towards more sustainable practices. 

  • Aquatic food production supports millions of livelihoods but needs uplift working conditions for small scale producers

According to the SOFIA report, 20.7 million people are engaged just in the primary aquaculture production sector, of which 28% are women. The report demonstrates that small-scale producers are still vulnerable, with sometimes precarious working conditions. ASC social audits, which are included in all our fish, shellfish, algae and feed standards, can really make a difference here – ensuring that farms meet health and safety requirements, pay fair wages, treat workers well and engage with local communities. Additionally, the ASC Improver Programme has been developed specifically to support improvements in farms that cannot achieve ASC certification, which is often the case with small or less technical operations. This approach is fundamental to make certification more accessible, ensuring sustainability and equitable development at a global level.

  • A ‘Blue Transformation’ is necessary

In the report, the FAO calls for a targeted ‘Blue Transformation’ to help achieve a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable fisheries and aquaculture sector that can meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The growth of fisheries and aquaculture is vital in our efforts to end global hunger and malnutrition, but further transformation is needed in the sector to address the challenges. We must transform agri-food systems to ensure aquatic foods are sustainably harvested, livelihoods are safeguarded, and aquatic habitats and biodiversity are protected,’’ FAO Director General, QU Dongyu said.

ASC recently researched how our standards, requirements and assurance systems address SDG targets. We found that 49% of the 169 SDG targets are within the scope of the aquaculture industry and that the ASC programme addresses more than 80% of those targets in scope, across all 17 SDGs, either well or very well.

Inaugural Shrimp Summit A Success for Certified Seafood

On July 12-13, 2022 the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) hosted its inaugural 2022 ASC Shrimp Summit in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The first-of-its-kind event served to unite North American retailers with Ecuadorian producers of ASC-certified and labeled shrimp – offering an intimate look at the supply chain right where it starts: on the farm. 

ASC gathered 14 representatives from major retail companies including Alberton’s, Ahold Delhaize USA and Loblaws, along with industry heavyweights like Sysco, for a series of farm tours, panels and workshops over the two-day summit.

Known as the “gateway to the Galapagos,” Guayaquil is a port city located in southern Ecuador, nestled beside a confluence of rivers and just a short drive to the Andes. Greater Guayaquil stretches across land and coast where its diverse ecosystem strikes a unique balance with the largest shrimp industry in the world. 

The country went from 5.6% global production in 2010 to 22.1% in 2021, exporting over $5 billion USD in shrimp alone.

ASC-certified Ecuadorian Shrimp Farm

ASC worked closely with Ecuadorian-based Sustainable Shrimp Partnership (SSP) to ensure over 40 aquaculture companies were represented as part of the effort to expand dialogue between the two markets.

Retail panel moderated by ASC’s Peter Redmond
The packed agenda included: 
  • Trips to four ASC-certified shrimp farms demonstrating a wide range of production volumes and environments, including those using sea water (high salinity) and river water (low salinity), with both resulting in healthy mutual water exchange 
  • An up-close look at hatcheries and harvest activities, which is when ASC-certified farms are audited to monitor and document practices taking place during the busiest times of year 
  • Samplings of ASC-certified shrimp dishes, showing the unique flavors that come from Ecuador’s mid-salinity environment where antibiotic-free, responsibly farmed Pacific white shrimp are raised 
  • A series of panels and workshops between retailers, producers and processors to foster improved understanding of the North American marketplace and ASC-certified, labeled shrimp production in Ecuador.
Roundtable at SONGA, an ASC-certified shrimp farm

“We are extremely pleased with the attendance and engagement of all those who joined us for the inaugural shrimp seminar here in Guayaquil, Ecuador,” said Peter Redmond, ASC’s Senior Market Development Manager. “A special thanks to our retail and foodservice partners that participated to make this event a success, the likes of which has never been held in-country before. 

“The key point presented to all was the need for continued use of the ASC label on-pack – the best way to assure that what’s in the bag is what’s actually in the bag. The summit sought to showcase just how robust the ASC standards are with items like the elimination of antibiotic use in shrimp, which works well in Ecuador where the country itself has passed a law banning their use in farmed shrimp.” 

Feedback from attendees concluded that the summit more than met its goals to improve connections between supply and demand, while demonstrating the value of ASC-certified and labeled shrimp coming from Ecuador. 

Many attendees stayed on to visit additional farms, travel the Galapagos Islands and tour Guayaquil. All committed to continue elevating the sustainability and social responsibility of Ecuador’s shrimp farming industry through ASC-certification. 

ASC has already confirmed future summits for: 

  • 2022 Salmon Summit, Chile from October 26-29 
  • 2023 Shrimp Summit, Ecuador, summer 2023 

Those interested in attending future summits can contact Peter Redmond, ASC.

ASC’s Peter Redmond on the farm

Kathleen McDavitt presents ASC’s new North American marketing campaign
Marcos Moya speaks on global production and ASC’s Shrimp Standard

Know where your seafood came from and how it was raised. Learn about the meaning behind ASC’s sea green label here. 

For the second year, ASC was delighted to sponsor the sustainability seminar at the North Atlantic Seafood Forum (NASF) in Bergen, Norway, alongside NASF, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Global Seafood Alliance (GSA).

This year’s seminar was a hybrid event with speakers both on-site and joining remotely, as well as an in-person and online audience, which was welcome after last year’s conference which was entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The overall topic this year was on how to accelerate towards a more sustainable seafood sector. The seminar was made up of two sessions considering tangible ways to achieve this goal – the first looking at the power of data and the second at marketing sustainable seafood online. 

Here are 10 key insights from the seminar:  

  • To harness the full potential value of all our data and create a data-sharing economy, we need to consider what incentivises industry, governments and science to exchange their data (Elisabeth Haugsbø, Hub Ocean) 
  • The ‘biggest pitfalls’ of data can be data outputs only being as good as data inputs, the challenges of public misunderstanding of data and human biases at play in data analysis (Clarus Chu, WWF-UK) 
  • Collaboration for data sharing is key. The biggest potential might lie in exchanging data between certification and ratings organisations given the breadth of data they collect, and tech companies. Young companies are more willing to exchange (Mike Velings, Aqua-Spark) 
  • Data sharing requires investment in building relationships, trust, and clarity on how data will be used and for what purpose. Memorandums of Understanding and Non-Disclosure Agreements are a helpful underpinning for these relationships (Paul Bulcock, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership) 
  • The standardisation of data is critical, and legislation needs to keep up with data demand which it is currently failing to do (Cameron Moffat, Youngs) 
  • To motivate a customer to purchase your product, marketeers need to activate the ‘reward’ system in the brain. The more a brand overlaps with and shares the consumer’s goals, the higher the brain’s reward activation (Marc Heimeier, Decode) 
  • E-commerce platforms are more influential than social media channels for consumers in China when seeking seafood. More than half of consumers shop online for imported seafood (Andreas Thorud, Norwegian Seafood Council) 
  • Seafood is one of JD’s, one of China’s leading e-commerce companies, most rapidly growing categories; and Chinese consumers buying online have increasingly high expectations around the quality and sustainability of the products they buy (Feng Yu, JD) 
  • Each process in the journey of a product needs to connect back to the brand and the story you are trying to tell – if you can get this right, it will all ‘ladder up’ into sales (Jennifer Bushman, Kvaroy Arctic) 
  • Any ecological mission needs transparency, no matter whether you are an NGO or a business. Transparency is also key in helping consumer understand why it is worth to pay more for a sustainable production. (Julius Palm, followfood)

Sustainability has been a buzz word for some time now as we realize the impact humans have on our planet. We need to protect tomorrow from what we do today, or, as the United Nations (UN) World Commission on Environment and Development defines it:

“Sustainable development … meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Sustainability has also been described as having three pillars – most obviously environmental but also social, protecting the interest of workers and communities, and economic: if activity depletes financial reserves and reduces incomes then that is not sustainable.

As our awareness of sustainability has grown, so has the need to add more definition, and set goals to guide business and government.

In 2015, the UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The blueprint is made from 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They expand on the previous three categories and recognize that, for a sustainable future, ending poverty, gender discrimination and hunger go with protecting oceans and forests, improving education, health and economic growth.

So why is this important to the consumer? We are all affected by the actions of governments and industry and should all be concerned about the future of our planet. Under each SDG are a number of targets to achieve by 2030 – these provide a measure of what progress industry and governments are making, allowing the public to make informed choices in their purchasing or voting. If the future of the planet is important to you, the SDGs are one of the best indicators of how society is doing to achieve a sustainable future.

ASC fully supports the UN SDGs and is most directly involved with SDG 14, Life Below Water, as we work to reduce the environmental impact of aquaculture and improve social standards. For us, it’s not just about Life Below Water – our mission has been “For the people, planet, and the future” and we touch every SDG in one way or another, with nearly a half of the SDG targets being particularly relevant to the aquaculture industry. Strong contributions include:

  • SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) as aquaculture provides food for the future,
  • SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) recognizing the importance of the Omega 3’s, high protein and low carbohydrate nutrition offered by farmed fish,
  • SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) ensuring aquaculture does not pollute, and
  • SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) allowing consumers to make informed choices.

Progress is reported by the UN annually. Some targets are proving harder to achieve than others – the COVID pandemic and other factors making it unlikely all of the 2030 targets will be reached. Nonetheless, ASC is committed to progressing the UN SDGs wherever possible. We are currently analysing the contribution of responsible aquaculture to the SDGs and will be reporting our findings later this year.

In the meantime, choosing aquaculture products that carry the ASC logo is your chance to help protect the needs of future generations and our planet.

The worlds of wine and seafood are wide, but they have a lot in common when sustainability is on the table. According to the Wine Institute, U.S. wine drinkers consumed over three gallons of wine on average in 2021, while Americans overall enjoyed more than 19 pounds of seafood per person, with the consumption of farmed seafood rising rapidly.

Just as wine grapes are grown in vast conditions around the world, farming seafood can take on many forms, including special care for species in different regions and variations in farming techniques and innovations. The term merroir, inspired by terroir, has become commonplace in describing the essential, regional flavors of high-quality seafood.

Oysters wine and lemon

“In wine, terroir is the concept that flavor is derived from a sense of place. The terrain, soil, sunlight, water or even the climate. All of the things that contribute to wine’s unique provenance beyond just the grape varietal,” says Jennifer Bushman, Chief Creative officer at Kvaroy Arctic, an ASC-certified Norwegian salmon farm.

“In French, the word mer means sea, and so the term merroir has been adopted to describe a sense of terroir for oysters and other types of fish and seafood. That each species is intimately impacted by the body of water it comes from, the algae it feeds on, the strength of currents and tides, the mineral content of the seafloor, the season and more. “

Farming Responsibly

Whether you shop for wine in your local grocery aisle, specialty store or online, you’ve likely seen signs for “organic,” “biodynamic” and “sustainable” appearing more and more. These aren’t just buzzwords, but indicate techniques in the farming and winemaking process, from no pesticides or added sulfites (organic) to special soil preparations and lunar cycles (biodynamic) to emphasis on resource management and community (sustainable).

You may be wondering: what does any of this have to do with farmed seafood? More than you might think!

Grape harvesting

Just as the wine industry is evolving to explore definitions of “sustainability” and examine farming practices more closely, seafood farming – also known as aquaculture – has grown into a tech-forward, trailblazing industry with an increased focus on responsibility toward the environment, our communities, and in helping us know exactly what’s on our plate and where it came from.

“In fish and seafood, we not only have an incredible partner in the wines that we choose to pair with the dishes, but we also have a perfect partner when it comes to sustainability,” adds Bushman. “Grape growing can be an environmentally friendly practice just as rearing a fish can.”

Kvaroy Artic Farm
A salmon farmer at Kvaroy Arctic, Norway

In honor of National Wine Day, we asked the experts to break down their favorite wine and seafood pairings – including the lessons in sustainability they’ve learned along the way.

The New Way to Seafood & Wine

Salmon

Chef Kiki Aranita, James Beard-nominated writer and Owner of Poi Dog Sauces, is a food lover who is serious about sustainability. “When it comes to salmon, every bit is usable and delicious,” says Aranita. “We don’t let any of it go to waste, making the skin into chips, the bones into broth, the head into curry. I have the same approach to wine – every drop is usable and delicious.”

Aranita opts to pair a very Dry Rosé or an Oregon Pinot Noir with her salmon – you can find her current favorite bottle here: 2020 Meinklang “Prosa” Dry Frizzante Rosé.

“Crispy salmon skin also goes beautifully with wine!” exclaims Aranita, keeping in line with the whole-fish theme. “My husband and I savor the salmon skins as much as salmon flesh and I toast them until totally crisp in the oven, salt them, keep them in an airtight container and sometimes, right before serving, I’ll pop them in an air fryer.”

Kiki with Salmon
Chef Kiki Aranita cooks responsibly by using every part of the salmon

ASC-certified Skuna Bay Salmon is a favorite among chefs for being craft raised in pristine waters and deliciously easy to cook with. “Salmon is so versatile, the possibilities are endless,” notes Skuna Bay’s General Manager Max Depondt. “Personally, I like to keep it simple and respect a nice piece of fish, so it’s actually everything else that determines the wine. A simple sear with fresh asparagus on the side? Try a Dry Riesling or minerally Sauvignon Blanc. Grilling over open fire with a lot of spice or seasoning? I’m probably thinking red wine for that.”

Depondt has a soft spot for Dry Riesling or Muscadet with salmon at the helm. “For most of my life, part of my family Christmas tradition was a seafood and pasta dinner on Christmas Eve, and my French grandfather always insisted on Muscadet from Alsace for this occasion. So I have extended it to be my go-to with many salmon dishes, although I think salmon works with most types of wine if you really want it to.”

Skuna Bay Salmon in restaurant

Depondt nominates the Oysterman collaboration as a current favorite. A portion of sales revenue from this stainless steel-aged Loire Valley Muscadet is donated to various conservation organizations dedicated to revitalizing coastal ecosystems through oyster bed replenishment. It’s a win-win!

Wine and seafood can both be a bit intimidating for newcomers, yet Depondt warns against shying away.

“Salmon is really easy to cook – you can do it!  This is by far the biggest question Skuna Bay customers have in retail situations. I am always preaching that you don’t have to be a professional to cook salmon and enjoy the outcome.”

Depondt offers additional encouragement: “If you are reading this, thank you for making the effort to learn about sustainable aquaculture. Now go tell your friends! Our future food and climate security literally depend on it. Maybe you can cook them a tasty dish of high-quality, ASC-certified salmon to spark the discussion.” Get started with Skuna Bay’s chef-approved collection of easy salmon recipes.

Kanpachi

If you’re not familiar with kanpachi, we’ve got you covered. This member of the Amberjack family has a clean, fresh, and subtle flavor profile with firm flesh and slightly pink coloration that is prized by chefs, making it ideal for sushi preparations and fine dining. The Hawaiian Kanpachi™ raised by Blue Ocean Mariculture, ASC’s first certified finfish farm in the U.S., is no stranger to wine.

Kanpachi in Hawaii

“I always recommend people drink the wine they like, no matter the food. But it is true that white wines go best with light, flaky fish,” offers Dick Jones, CEO of Blue Ocean Mariculture and wine afficionado. “Our Hawaiian Kanpachi is a bit heartier and pairs nicely with a Pinot Noir. If I want something lighter, I would pair our fish with a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley or New Zealand, or perhaps a cold, crisp Rosé. All that being said, I’ve enjoyed a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon with kanpachi, it’s all about the experience!”

When it comes to kanpachi, there is plenty to experience. Jones’s go-to dish is Kanpachi Puttanesca. “I make the sauce separately, then quickly sear the kanpachi loin and place it in the puttanesca. I then place it in the oven for 15 minutes. The preparation matches nicely with a big Cab, which is my favorite. I’m all about New World wines, and I love Napa Valley, so I might uncork a BV Cabernet Sauvignon with this dish.”

Dick Jones wine
Dick Jones of Blue Ocean Mariculture, responsible aquaculture advocate and wine lover

For those in a lighter mood, Hawaiian Kanpachi Piccata may be just the ticket. Jones cooks the loin piccata-style using white wine as the base of the lemon-butter-caper sauce. He then pairs the same white wine with the dish when serving. Using wine in the sauce ties the whole dish together.

“I am a big fan of Honig Wines,” adds Jones. “They are a family-run winery that cares about sustainable production, including a lens on packaging, energy use and water use. They produce great wines, including a clean, crisp Sauvignon Blanc that pairs so nicely with Hawaiian Kanpachi!”

Shrimp

A familiar player on the seafood scene, shrimp can be suited to every palate and there is almost always a wine that fits right alongside it. ASC recently partnered with Coastal Seafoods serving up ASC-certified shrimp tacos at the Minneapolis GrillFest. Naturally, we tapped their Director of New Business Development, Kelly Cosgrove – a former wine & spirits director – to get the skinny on shrimp.

Her go-to for this delectable crustacean? Albariño or bubbles (Champagne, Cremant, or Cava).

“Albariño generally is bright citrus with a little honeysuckle and can be medium-bodied but with a great acidity and finishes with some salinity, which I find goes well with many shrimp dishes,” says Cosgrove.

“For bubbles, I generally stick to a drier style of bubbles, made by methode champenoise. While the weight and flavors can change by producer, the lively bubbles and acidity make it an easy pairing. Plus, I always feel a little fancy with bubbles.”

Coastal Seafoods Shrimp Ceviche

Cosgrove tells us that Shrimp Ceviche with a glass of Cava is her perfect pick. “When at home I prefer to use Del Pacifico’s ASC-certified raw shell-off shrimp, and I add a little Aji Amarillo paste to help give it heat and a little more of that authentic Peruvian flair (both products are available in Coastal Seafoods retail stores). It pairs great with a glass of Cava that I find refreshing, fun, and a great way to start any amazing meal.”

But that’s not all – Cosgrove has the classics covered, too. “I also love Shrimp Scampi, one of the few dishes my mom liked to cook, paired with a Vermentino. Again, I prefer the flavor of the ASC-certified Del Pacifico shrimp dripping in butter, or Ashman’s Shrimp Scampi marinade which elevates a good scampi and expedites getting the shrimp to the table. That’s hard to beat and the Vermentino tends to be medium to full-bodied while remaining crisp and citrusy, which stands up to the sauce and helps to balance the richness of all that beautiful butter!”

Her top choices to make your shrimp sing include La Cana ‘Navia,’ an Albariño from Spain, and another Spanish favorite, Champillon Secret Reserva, Brut Nature.

Kelly Cosgrove
Kelly Cosgrove of Coastal Seafoods

Cosgrove also likes to consider where the wine is made. If it’s near the sea – like Rias Baixas in Spain, parts of Provence in France, Santorini in Greece – there’s a good chance seafood is a large part of the cuisine and naturally pairs well.

“I also think about the type of seafood I’m eating and try to go like-with-like – an oily fish, I’ll generally look for a fuller bodied white wine (Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne, etc.), or lighter bodied reds (Pinot Noir, Gamay, Frappato); crisp oysters tend to be great with minerally and higher acid wines (Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc). But, bubbles are always a perfect pairing in my opinion!”

She offers two big pieces of advice for diving into wine and seafood:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and for recommendations – I do it all the time! Letting either the server or wine merchant know what you’re cooking or ordering, what you like to drink, and a price range, helps them give their best recommendations. Wine lists and selections are always changing, and the people working will be more familiar with their lists, and most will know some facts about the winemakers, flavor profiles, and how they produce the wine in terms of sustainability.
  2. Drink what you like! Do you want to drink a full-bodied juicy Zinfandel while eating oysters because that’s what you like? Do it and don’t let anyone make you feel bad. At the end of the day, you’re the one enjoying the seafood and wine, and if it makes you happy, that’s really all that matters.

Barramundi (a.k.a. Asian Sea Bass)

Barramundi is a hearty yet delicate white fish native to Australia and the Indo-Pacific. This ancient species is renowned for its versatility, offering a clean, buttery flavor and meaty texture that appeals to seafood experts and novices alike.

Australis Aquaculture (The Better Fish®) is an ASC-certified producer spearheading the global emergence of best-in-class, ocean-farmed barramundi as a healthy, environmentally-friendly fish for the future. Barramundi has the highest omega-3s of any white fish, is lean yet protein packed, and plays well with a wide selection of wines. Even better, Australis farms their barramundi in a way that is climate-smart and supports the recovery of wild fisheries.

So what to drink with this up-and-coming seafood star? Julie Qiu, Marketing Director for The Better Fish®, has some ideas.

“I’ve been on a Spanish white wine kick! So Albariño, Verdejo, and Txakoli. I had the opportunity to visit Txomin Etxaniz last summer and love their Txakoli.”

Qiu recommends a Spicy Corn Roasted Barramundi Ceviche – “an easy and fun summer dish to pair with a sparkling white. I make it at home using this recipe.”

Barramundi ceviche

The Better Fish® teamed up with Blue Apron’s Culinary Director on a wine pairing blog that deep dives into the flavor profile of barramundi and its spirited counterparts. Click here to learn more about How to Choose the Right Wine for Barramundi.

Qiu urges those new to pairing wine with barramundi, “leave your assumptions at the door and try unconventional ideas out. It may sound weird, but the results may surprise you (in a good way)!”

Seaweed and More

Seaweed may not be the first seafood that comes to mind when you’re uncorking a bottle, but it would be impossible to ignore this trending superfood. Jennifer Bushman is a huge proponent of serving seaweed – check out her Top 10 Ways to Eat Seaweed Beyond Sushi for inspiration.

Seaweed lemon dish

“When it comes to pairing seaweed with wine,” says Bushman, “the species of seaweed and the preparation will best determine the wine that goes with it. Generally, I have found that a dry crisp sparkling wine will work well. One that has not been aged too long on the lees. I like the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, made from 100% Chardonnay. The other option is to have a wine that contrasts with the seaweed. Like in the case of a spicy food, a pairing that would go well with the seaweed would be the Dough Wines Sauvignon Blanc.”

Bushman advises all seafood lovers to choose their own “House” wine. “For us, it is the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs or Rosé. We keep several bottles on ice in the fridge to pour after work or to hand carry to a special occasion! This Blanc de Blancs has aromas of Granny Smith apple, lemon-lime and even a fresh baked bread. While this wine can be enjoyed by itself as an apéritif, it is perfect with fresh oysters and other shellfish, crab cakes, ceviche and grilled sea bass. It is also delicious with lemon chicken and Thai curries. Serve with aged Gouda or other hard cheeses, and as a counterpoint to soft triple crèmes.”

Shrimp Tacos

Her favorite dishes to pair?

“Creating a great fish taco has been the envy of many cooks, but it’s actually quite simple! Start out with a beautiful fillet – one of my absolute favorites is ASC-certified Kvaroy Arctic salmon, a sustainably-raised salmon from the Arctic Circle. Bread it cold and fry it just before you’re ready to place it into the taco shell. Serve this with your favorite coleslaw and the kelp lime mayonnaise for a perfect finish. It pairs well with either a sparkling wine or a lovely Sauvignon Blanc!” Find Bushman’s taco recipe here.

In keeping with the unexpected, Bushman also suggests accenting Kvaroy Arctic’s popular ASC-certified salmon burgers with a tasteful seaweed-and-wine combo. “I love to take a kelp puree and blend it with mayonnaise and a bit of fresh lemon juice. Fry or sauté the burger and serve on a toasted bun with all of your favorite toppings, the kelp mayo and a Pinot Noir, preferably from the central coast of California!”

Try this quick and tasty salmon burger recipe with a glass of 2017 Kosta Browne Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.

Eating and Drinking Responsibly

Like wine, seafood that is responsibly farmed with care demonstrates the best of what we can cultivate on the farm, in our communities and at the table. Being conscientious about our choices does not mean we have to sacrifice flavor, quality or our health.

“Start with what you already know and enjoy,” suggests Jones. “Pair the wine you like most with your favorite seafood, and next time, if the wine you like most is a red, try a white! You’ll begin to learn what you truly like, and what wine goes best with your favorite seafood. Once you’ve got the pairing figured out, you can research how your wine and seafood act as responsible advocates for sustainable practices. An easy way to start is to look for the ASC logo!”

ASC Shrimp Tacos

Visit our recipes page to explore meal ideas for all of these ASC-certified species and more!

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.

You have probably read about the health benefits of omega-3, and that it can be found in fish. But for many of us, that’s about as much as we know. So, what exactly is omega-3, is fish really a good source of it, and why do we need it in our diets? Read on to find out more about your new favourite unsaturated fat…

What is omega-3?

A more accurate question would be what are omega-3s, because it is the name of a number of different polyunsaturated fatty acids (try saying that with your mouth full). They are known as ‘essential’ because humans (like other animals) need them for normal growth. The three types of omega-3 fatty acids relevant for humans are known by extremely long names that are shortened to ALA, DHA and EPA. ALA can be found in a number of plants, while DHA and EPA are found in algae and fish.

Why are omega-3s important?

Fatty acids in general have a lot of uses in the human body, such as energy storage and making the membranes of our cells. But there are lots of different types of fatty acids, so what makes omega-3s so special? They, along with omega-6 fatty acids, seem to be more important with effects on the cardiovascular system and inflammation, for example. Modern diets tend to include enough omega-6 fatty acids, so there is more of a focus on omega-3.

Another important thing about omega-3s is that the body can’t make them out of nothing. Humans can’t synthesize ALA, and can only synthesize DHA and EPA if they have ALA. A varied diet can help ensure your body has enough of all of these acids.

What are the health benefits of omega-3?

There is no doubt that these fatty acids are essential, and particularly beneficial to heart health.

Many websites will provide a whole laundry list of things that omega-3s will help to prevent, cure, or improve. It is generally very difficult to prove cause and effect when it comes to our diets, with so many variables involved. So rather that just one thing making you live longer or healthier, it’s about an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.

Having said that, plenty of studies do suggest that omega-3s affect the cardiovascular system (your heart, arteries and so on) in lots of positive ways. These include lowering blood pressure to reducing inflammation to improving atherosclerosis.

Scientists agree that omega-3 – found in salmon and trout – has health benefits for the heart

For this reason, the European Food Safety Authority recommends a daily intake of DHA and EPA of 250mg. This is because ‘studies  indicate  that  oily  fish  consumption  or  dietary … polyunsaturated  fatty  acids supplements decrease the risk of mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD) and sudden cardiac death.’

Similarly, the American Heart Association says that ‘studies suggest that people at risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) benefit from consuming omega-3 fatty acids.’ They recommend that all adults eat fish – especially oily fish – at least two times a week. Oily fish includes species such as salmon, trout, and mackerel. For people who have coronary heart disease they recommend an intake of around 1g of EPA and DHA (combined) per day.

So I should be eating more fish?

That is the American Heart Association’s recommendation and at ASC we would certainly agree! There are also other sources of fatty acids, such as fish oil supplements. However you get your omega-3, your body will thank you. But there are a few extra benefits to choosing fish. You’re not only getting those fatty acids, but also getting a healthy source of protein that’s low in saturated fats. In fact, some studies suggest that the interplay between all of these benefits might make fish more beneficial than supplements. Aside from that, it’s also delicious! Speaking of which, our recipe pages are filled with ideas for healthy and tasty seafood dishes.

Eating salmon or trout not only tastes delicious, it has a number of health benefits

Is it true that only wild fish contain enough omega-3?

This has been claimed by some anti-farming campaigners, but it is simply untrue. One recent study of various farmed and wild salmon products of different species in Canada found that they all surpassed the government’s minimum daily recommended dose of Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. The authors concluded: ‘farmed Atlantic salmon may be the most convenient and affordable option for the nutrient density it provides, especially for consumers who regularly include salmon in their daily meals.’

Does salmon contain toxins that outweigh the benefits of omega-3?

Some campaigners say that seafood like salmon contains so much mercury it outweighs any health benefits. This is another incorrect statement, that risks putting consumers off a healthy source of nutrition. An academic study found that for species like farmed salmon and trout, the benefits of omega-3 outweigh any risk from mercury. In fact, the only species for which the risk of mercury did outweigh potential benefits were swordfish and shark.

It’s not true that farmed salmon are more toxic than beneficial – and ASC farms have to monitor water quality

Conclusion

It is clear that omega-3s are very important for the body, and very likely to benefit your heart especially. However you get your omega-3, you are certainly benefitting your health. Getting it from some salmon or trout could give you even more benefits – just make sure it’s good for the environmental as well by looking for the ASC logo!

ASC has teamed up with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch on a project that will enhance integration between certification and ratings schemes. The project, Integration of seafood certification and jurisdictional assurance models, is funded by an ISEAL Innovations Fund grant supported by State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

Recently we published part one of a blog by ASC’s Jill Swasey and SFP’s Paul Bulcock about some of the things they’ve learned so far. Read on for part two…

Data sharing isn’t and shouldn’t be a one-way street

Our previous blog suggested that data sharing under this project was a one-way street with SFP and Seafood Watch receiving information from ASC farm audits and offering nothing in return. For data sharing to be sustainable, it should be reciprocal and benefit all the organizations involved. Therefore, the second part of the data sharing project focused on using indicators from SFP’s FishSource Aquaculture profiles and their five principle scores, and Seafood Watch reports and their individual criteria scores to support ASC’s data needs.

Although this information does not feed directly into ASC farm-level audits, there is clear value in these data that may apply to ASC assurance tools. In one example, data from these assessment reports could be used as third-party risk indicators to inform development of ASC’s Improvement Program Risk Calculator – see below. Information from SFP and Seafood Watch has already been passed to ASC; however, this information transfer still requires automation to match the utility provided by the Sharepoint link.

Introducing the ASC Improvement Programme Risk Calculator

The ASC Improvement Programme Risk Calculator helps ASC trained ‘verifiers’ evaluate initial ‘self-assessments´ as well as the progress of improvement plans, both of which are core management requirements of the ASC Improver Programme.

The calculator rewards improved performance by adjusting the intensity of remote and on-site verification requirements based on a range of group-specific and external risk indicators.

Group-specific or ‘internal’ indicators include the number of sites, size and spatial distribution, data management, sales characteristics, as well as their history of social/environmental deficiencies and associated corrective actions.

External indicators are based on:

  • wider national sectoral assessments of certified farms against ASC standard requirements*
  • ‘third-party’ indicators including the six World Governance Indicators (WGI) and SFP and Seafood Watch scores at country-species level.

All farms identified as high risk based on the above criteria will be subject to more intensive verification measures. But other farms can also be subject to these more intensive measures at random, based on a probabilistic sampling element.

Key findings to date

Although the data sharing process is still in its infancy, the initiative has met with early successes. One of the most immediate was the use of farm-level production data to inform SFP’s annual Target 75 analysis – where information provided by ASC was combined with information from other certifications to determine the total volume of certified seafood under various aquaculture sectors and countries.

Meanwhile, information from the Sharepoint portal has contributed toward forthcoming updates of the FishSource Aquaculture profiles for major shrimp producing provinces in Thailand. It quickly became apparent that although ASC certified production in Thailand was limited, audit information was able to move the dial slightly on some of the five principle FishSource Aquaculture scores.

From this, we can see that ASC information will have a greater impact on assessments for industries with a relatively high percentage of certified production. The next steps involve using this information to inform assessments of major shrimp producing provinces in India and Vietnam.

A strong foundation

As you can see, the data sharing is a work in progress, but it has already yielded positive results laying the groundwork to support greater use of public data between the three organizations.

Just as importantly, it also strengthens the relationship between these three organizations – a relationship that can be built upon in to innovate and support each other’s programmes and data needs in the future.

* Based on an analysis of non-conformance data documented in farm audits available from the ASC’s Find a Farm service.

Recently we published a series of mythbusters about farmed salmon. Now we’re turning out attention to a farmed fish that may be the victim of even more myths and scare-stories: the humble pangasius.

The pangasius goes by many names including basa, swai or river cobbler. The reason for some of these names may be that the poor pangasius has experienced some bad PR over the years. But we don’t think another rebrand is needed: the truth behind some of the myths below demonstrates that this affordable, versatile fish is actually a seafood superstar.

If you’re looking for more information about the pangasius, we have a whole page dedicated to them, not to mention lots of recipes to try at home.

Just one of the ways this versatile fish can be used – see our recipe pages for more inspiration

Myth One: all pangasius is filled with water

This refers to ‘glazing’: a protective layer of water is added to the outside of the fish to protect it during shipment. But, given that water is cheaper than pangasius, there can be a temptation to add a lot of water to increase the weight, meaning the consumer gets less fish than they paid for.

This issue has made headlines in the past, and there are unscrupulous actors in any industry, but the idea that all pangasius is being pumped full of water is far-fetched. What’s more, in many regions there are strict rules about labelling, meaning that consumers can always check exactly how much fish they’re buying. Europe is perhaps the most important export market for pangasius, and the EU has strict rules meaning the weight displayed on packaging must be the weight of the pangasius without the glaze.

These rules have two effects. If you’re in the EU, of course, it will directly protect you from being misled by packaging. But because the EU is such an important market for pangasius producers, these rules make it less worthwhile to add lots of glazing to products in the first place.

A Vinh Hoan pangasius farm in Vietnam. Some misconceptions about farmed pangasius are linked to unfair assumptions about Vietnam, a major producer of the fish

Myth Two: pangasius is filled with toxic chemicals from the Mekong River

This is a particularly unfortunate myth. Many websites and news stories claim that pangasius is filled with remnants of the pesticides dropped on Vietnamese forests by the US Air Force during the war.

When scientists took these (usually unsourced) media claims and decided to test pangasius to see if they contained any of the laundry list of scary chemicals, they found ‘no food safety concern’. For many chemicals they found that Vietnamese pangasius contained less than other fish produced elsewhere in the world.

One unpleasant thing about this myth is that it is founded in a very real tragedy. Harmful pesticides really were dropped on Vietnam, and in the areas where these pesticides were stored there continue to be harmful levels of toxic chemicals affecting the people living there. As if that wasn’t bad enough, some critics now seek to use this against the Vietnamese, as evidence that their exports cannot be trusted. We think what can’t be trusted is unsourced claims. The fact is, when people actually bothered to test pangasius from Vietnam, they found no such risk existed.

Myth Three: pangasius is a garbage fish

This criticism suggests that pangasius eats anything, including literal garbage, and is therefore unsafe to eat. This has led some to claim, unfairly, that pangasius is a garbage fish, not fit for human consumption. But what a pangasius can or can’t eat in certain circumstances is irrelevant: what matters is what they are actually being fed.

As with the claims on toxic chemicals, much of these claims are based on the idea that the Mekong River is dirty, and therefore all fish processed in the Mekong Delta must be dirty as well. But in Vietnam, pangasius producers are bound by rules on food safety and hygiene. In addition, legislation covering imports requires food safety requirements to be met – again, the EU is a good example of this, and its importance as a market means its rules are likely to be followed by Vietnamese producers.

Feeding time at a pangasius farm in Vietnam: no garbage in sight

Myth Four: pangasius farmers pollute the environment

As we’ve said many times before, any claim this vague has very little value. As with all food production, some farmers will be less responsible than others, and if it isn’t done properly pangasius farming can of course affect the environment. Fortunately, ASC’s Pangasius Standard includes strict requirements on monitoring water quality, and limiting environmental impacts of feed ingredients and waste, among many others.

So, if you look for the ASC logo, you can be assured that the pangasius you’re buying is not only very underrated and surprisingly tasty, but also responsibly produced. And that’s true no matter what name you call it.

 

ASC has teamed up with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch on a project that will better integrate aquaculture certification and ratings schemes. The project is funded by an ISEAL Innovations Fund grant supported by State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

Here, ASC’s Jill Swasey and SFP’s Paul Bulcock share some of the things they’ve learned so far…

To be transparent or not to be transparent

Industries, markets, consumers and others rely on high quality assessments to provide critical information on the performance of aquaculture systems. However, searching for quality data to use in aquaculture assessments and to support sustainability claims can be daunting.

Several industries, most notably in the salmon sector, make this task easier by publicly providing key information on industry performance – often down to individual farm-level. Examples include Scotland’s Aquaculture in the UK, the BarentsWatch portal and Yggdrasil map in Norway, and the Global Salmon Initiative. Meanwhile, data and reports provided by Sernapesca and other authorities and organizations in Chile provide a similar function.

While these sources vary in their content, form, and scope, they all bring together data from multiple regulatory authorities and provide tangible evidence that the industry is being monitored. Through public reporting, they also provide information on a range of sustainability criteria, such as results of environmental monitoring, disease outbreaks, and often include associated enforcement and corrective actions.

The salmon farming sector already publishes a great deal of information about performance

This situation is in marked contrast to the shrimp and other sectors in major producing countries. These typically differ from salmon due to the dominance of smallholder producers, greater fragmentation and number of stakeholders within the supply chain, and shorter crop cycles. All of which lead to a situation where public information is often limited and scattered across multiple, fragmented sources.

Of course, there is an argument that when performance is less than optimal, increased transparency can be used to criticize the industry. But even in these cases greater transparency through public reporting provides confidence that the industry is being regularly monitored. As a result, key and emerging issues can be quickly identified and improvements introduced. Overall, greater transparency should be viewed as a crucial component of any aquaculture industry’s commitment to sustainability.

This relative lack of transparency outside of the salmon sector also presents those searching for aquaculture performance and sustainability indicators with a time-consuming search for information. Compounding this issue, researchers from different assessment organizations often search for the same information independently of one another.

ASC audits and digitalization to the rescue

ASC has long been a champion of greater transparency and continues to innovate in this area through its participation in the Certifications and Ratings Collaboration and its Sustainable Seafood Data Tool,  as well as its monthly certification updates and the recently launched Aquaculture Stewardship Council Impacts Dashboard.

Due to the publication of certification reports of individual farm audits through its ‘Find a Farm’ search function, ASC has long been recognised as a valuable source of information on the performance of ASC-certified farms. However, these audits and the information they contain, were previously only available in pdf format and on a certification-by-certification basis. This meant that analysts needed to spend a considerable amount of time reviewing key information from multiple reports. The introduction of a new ASC digital farm audit approach has changed this dynamic.

Information about all ASC certified farms can be found using ASC’s Find a Farm feature

Recognising an opportunity for data sharing, as part of our ISEAL Innovations Fund project Integration of seafood certification and jurisdictional assurance modelswe mapped the data needs between project partners, all of which are committed to greater transparency and are members of the Certification and Ratings Collaboration.

Initial assessment found that direct data and information alignment across all the three schemes was low, primarily due to the varied geographic scales of the assessments (farm, province, and national); however, the greatest alignment was identified within the fields of feed, effluent, and health and disease.

The Data Mapping report stated that “where the data collected apply at different scales, there is the potential to build a more robust understanding of farm-level and industry contributions to cumulative impacts”. In other words, there was an opportunity to scale up farm level information from ASC audits to inform SFP and SFW assessments – two organizations that rely upon and score the availability of public information under their respective FishSource Aquaculture profiles and Seafood Watch reports.

The project ran with this finding and, with a focus on shrimp production, created a restricted access portal under Sharepoint[2] that consolidates key quantitative information from ASC audits for use by analysts from SFP and SFW.

Part two of this blog will follow next week. In the meantime, learn more about this important collaborative project.

  • Jill Swasey is ASC’s Head of Monitoring & Evaluation. Paul Bulcock is SFP’s Aquaculture Information Manager. 

[1] The Streamlining the path towards sustainability in the aquaculture industry is a project under the ISEAL Innovations Fund supported by State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

[2] Sharepoint is Microsoft’s online file exchange part of Microsoft Teams.

 

 

 

 

Public consultations are carried out by all kinds of organisations for all kinds of reasons. We certainly make good use of them at ASC. But what makes them so important? Read on to find out more…

Public consultations are particularly vital for organisations like ASC whose focus is on building trust with many stakeholders. In fact, they’re so important, they have an entire clause to themselves in Codes of Good Practice set out by ISEAL, an international body set up to improve sustainability systems.

At ASC, consultations are so important to us we run at least two rounds of consultations when developing new standards – but that’s not all. They’re also used when we are reviewing or updating our current standards. They even form part of every single farm certification. Part of the audit process is a period of public consultation where anyone can have their say on the farm.

Engagement

Public consultations are important for a few reasons. One is engagement. What this means is working with all interested groups and people in a meaningful way. Something like responsible farmed seafood has a lot of stakeholders who are potentially interested. This can include (among others) farmers, local communities, auditors, environmental NGOs, governments, and of course consumers.

If we only engage with one or two of these groups, the others may feel like their views are not being heard, and as a result may not trust the programme. Trust is hugely important to ASC – it is because of the trust in our label that consumers and retailers seek it out, which rewards certified farmers and encourages more to follow suit.

Without meaningful engagement, this trust is hard to build. One way to ensure engagement is through public consultations – taking the time to invite opinions and suggestions from all interested stakeholders

(By the way, if you’re not sure what we mean by stakeholders, check out this blog for an explanation!)

Expertise

Another important reason is expertise. We have a very diverse and knowledgeable team at ASC, with decades (maybe centuries!) of experience in the seafood sector between us. But we would never presume we know everything! Every stakeholder brings their own experiences, point of view, and knowledge, and the more people you ask the more of that you get to tap into.

It is this expertise that means an organisation should never view public consultations as something they do for their stakeholders, or a job that simply needs to be ticked off. This is a two-way street with benefits for the people being consulted and the people doing the consulting.

This is especially true in a truly global industry like seafood. A shrimp farmer will have different experiences and expertise to a mussel farmer. But a shrimp farmer in Vietnam may also have very different experiences to a shrimp farmer in Ecuador. This is a diverse industry in every sense, and public consultations help take advantage of that diversity and ensure it is reflected in our work.

Making it meaningful

That’s why they’re important. But how do you ensure a public consultation actually meets the needs of your stakeholders and your organisation? How do you make sure it isn’t simply a box-ticking exercise, but something meaningful?

ISEAL’s Codes of Good Practice, mentioned above, includes a great deal on ensuring public consultations are meaningful, and as a full ISEAL member ASC ensures it meets these codes. If you’re just after a summary, a few important things to consider are below.

Opportunity and transparency

Stakeholders should have plenty of opportunity to fill out the consultation – they will all have their day jobs to be getting on with after all. ASC’s public consultations always last at least 60 days for this reason.

They will need to know about it in the first place, of course. Transparency is an important part of public consultations. Stakeholders need to know how and when they can provide feedback. And if certain groups might be underrepresented, or might be harder to reach, it’s important to be more proactive in seeking out their feedback. Quietly opening a consultation and hoping people find it isn’t enough. That’s why at ASC our consultations are widely publicised, and proactively supported with webinars, emails, and other communications.

Finally, for a consultation to be meaningful, you have to take on board the feedback. At ASC our team goes through every response – they’re an integral part of the process when developing or reviewing standards. And to ensure trust and transparency, a summary of responses is published online.

Get involved!

Interested in getting involved? You can check whether any public consultations are currently open, on our Programme Improvements page. But you don’t have to wait until a consultation is running to provide feedback: we welcome feedback on the programme at any time. Find out how to get in touch about our standards, a specific farm audit, or the programme generally on this page.

Last year we decided to set the record straight by setting out the truth behind some common myths around salmon farming. It turns out there are so many of these misconceptions, we couldn’t fit them all into one blog.

So here are a few more myths that need busting about salmon farming. At ASC we are an evidence-based organisation, and we would never claim that salmon farming is impact-free (no food production is). By the same measure, the only way to be sure a salmon farm (or oyster farm, or seabass farm, or any other farm) is really minimising its environmental and social impacts is by checking whether it is ASC certified.

ASC certification requires a thorough multi-day on-site audit against the most stringent requirements in the industry. By achieving this, salmon farms are demonstrating that they are taking action to reduce the impacts of their farm. Because ASC certification is based on a farm-level audit at the time fish are actually being harvested, it provides a specific and robust assurance that certified seafood really was produces responsibly.

But there are still some general misconceptions out there that suggest all salmon farming is inherently bad. Here are a few more myths about salmon farming, and the truth behind them.

Myth: salmon farming can only be sustainable if it is done on land


Truth:
Any type of farming, or food production generally, will have environmental and social impacts. Different methods of farming will produce different impacts, but what really matters is how an individual farm is managed. That’s why it’s not helpful to make general statements about all farms of this or that type. That’s also why ASC certification, based on on-site audits of individual farms, provides the best indication of whether a salmon farm is responsible.

It is true that land-based farms will not have certain impacts such as escapes. But other impacts, like energy use, may be higher. None of this means one method is better than the other, it means we need to assess farms based on their individual practices. Fortunately, ASC certification does just that and specific guidance is available for net pens in the sea and land-based farms.

Myth: land-based salmon farming should not be allowed

Truth: Maybe it says something that land-based salmon farming can be both portrayed as a necessary replacement of traditional farms and criticised as something that should not be permitted. We think this demonstrates our point above – general statements about entire methods of farming are too vague to provide helpful information about whether something is sustainable. So, once more: the truth is that different methods of salmon farming have different impacts, and that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Let’s take a farm-by-farm approach to provide real assurance that farming is being done responsibly.

Myth: salmon farmers don’t care about animal welfare

Truth: This is a big generalisation that doesn’t take into account the individual practices of different farmers. It also ignores the basic economic facts – good welfare means healthy fish that grow well whereas poor welfare creates conditions for disease, poor growth and the need for expensive medical treatments. At ASC we know, thanks to rigorous audits by independent auditors against our standards, that certified farms take a number of steps to protect the welfare of their fish. This includes:

  • A Fish Health Management Plan (FHMP) which includes actions to reduce the risk of disease and ensure staff are trained
  • Antibiotics cannot be used preventatively, which encourages farmers to maintain good fish health without resorting to antibiotics
  • Proper accounting, reporting, and responsible removal of mortalities
  • A specific ‘mortalities reduction programme’ with defined annual targets

Welfare is such an important issue that a major ongoing project is looking at strengthening requirements around welfare. As with all programme improvements, this project has involved input from ASC stakeholders including farmers, so we do not agree that all salmon farmers don’t care about this issue.

Myth: Salmon farming depletes wild stocks rather than protects them

Truth: Like most myths, these sorts of statements are so general they don’t tell us much about salmon farming. It is true that salmon farming can have impacts on wild populations – if it is not done responsibly (but it is also the case that wild salmon stocks have declined in areas where there is no salmon farming.)

The ASC Salmon Standard includes a number of requirements to minimise these impacts. This includes limits on the number of sea lice permitted during sensitive periods for wild populations, strict limits on water quality in and around the farm, and limits on the use of medications and chemicals.

At the same time, salmon farming can help to protect vulnerable wild stocks by providing an alternative to consumers. Again, we would not say that one type of salmon is always better than the other: the key is to assess each product on how it was produced. And that’s where ASC’s robust certification and transparent standards can help: simply look for the ASC logo the next time you’re in the seafood aisle.

Got any other myths you keep hearing about farmed seafood? Let us know and we’ll add them to our next mythbuster!

Published on
Friday, 14 January 2022
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Confidental Infomation