Our ASC Farm Standards reward aquaculture producers who treat their fish, as well as their staff and neighbours and the surrounding ecosystem, with respect.
Protecting animal health and welfare in farming of all kinds is an issue that everyone can agree on. There are also many overlaps between responsibly environmental practices and good animal welfare, meaning what is good for the environment is often good for the fish too.
ASC standards include a number of requirements which promote animal health and welfare. These include:
- regularly reviewed fish health management plans
- regular visits from qualified veterinarians
- strict requirements to regularly monitor and maintain water quality
- prohibition on the preventative use of antibiotics, meaning farms must keep fish naturally healthy
- thorough investigations of any unexplained or unexpected mortalities
- fish density requirements for pangasius
- prohibition on killing endangered mammals or birds on or near the farm
But because this is such an important subject, we want to go even further, by developing specific health and welfare related requirements that will be included in our upcoming aligned Farm Standard, applicable to all ASC certified farms. Fish farmers will need to comply with these welfare indicators in order to obtain ASC certification.
Fish welfare is still a relatively new area of study and there are many things we still don’t know – but research is expanding rapidly, and ASC is using this research but also contributing to it.
To develop the new requirements, a ‘technical working group’ has been formed – this is made up of academics, fish farmers, industry members, environmental and animal welfare campaign groups, who will use the latest research, public consultations, and their own experience to draft requirements on fish welfare.
This working group will be looking at many different aspects of aquaculture that could impact on welfare. These include:
- keeping fish at the right density, e.g. not too many or too few
- water quality
- slaughtering methods
ASC is also working closely with partner organisations to gather more information and conduct more research on fish welfare. For example, there is very little knowledge on what is the most humane method of stunning and slaughter for pangasius, and ASC is part of a research consortium investigating this in Vietnam. There is still much to learn on the topic of animal welfare in the aquaculture industry, and ASC is very much part of this exciting process.
Look for more information on our Fish Welfare project page.