Today is the kick-off of the Think Fish Week in France. A campaign week in which we want to make French consumers aware that they have the choice to buy sustainable and responsible seafood, by choosing fish with an ASC or MSC label.
This way you contribute to a healthy future of our oceans, lakes and rivers and you support those fishermen and fish farmers who work responsibly. But what does responsible fish farming actually mean? What changes when an aquaculture farm decides to operate according to the ASC standards? We asked Catarina Martins, group manager environment and sustainability at salmon producer Mowi (formerly known as Marine Harvest Group).
“Fish farming is a particularly efficient way to provide the ever-growing world population with good proteins” Catarina Martins starts to tell enthusiastically. Because”, the driven sustainability manager continues, “fish, including salmon, requires much less feed than farmed livestock such as cattle and pigs”. Fish are cold-blooded. They therefore require much less energy to maintain their body temperature. In addition, the edible yield of a salmon is higher than that of cattle. “That is why fish farming is one of the most climate-friendly ways to produce food,” according to Catarina.
The strictest requirements for fish farming
At present, 90 percent of all wild fish stocks are already fished to their maximum capacity or even overfished. In order to have sufficient protein-rich food for current and future generations, aquaculture needs to grow. “However, this should be done in a responsible manner, to avoid the risk of damaging the environment. At Mowi we have therefore decided that we want to work with the strictest requirements for responsible aquaculture. These are the ASC standards, which were initiated and are endorsed by . WWF. And that is what makes ASC certification so special “.
Mowi, the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon, is working towards the certification of all its aquaculture farms. “By setting a good example, we are raising the sustainability bar for the entire salmon industry”, says the ambitious sustainability manager. By working according to the ASC criteria, the impact of the farms on water and the environment is limited. Moreover, salmon is produced in a socially responsible manner. An independent certification body checks on the spot whether the requirements are indeed met. “The sense of pride to work at an ASC certified farm is huge”, says Catarina. “The workers know that their farm meets the most stringent environmental and social standards for farmed salmon”.
Exact feeding, ‘cleaner fish’ and sturdy nets
What has actually changed since Mowi decided to achieve ASC certification? “We are developing fish feed with alternatives to wild-caught fish. This way we reduce the pressure on wild fish stocks. Currently the feed consists of only 25 percent fishmeal and fish oil. That means that for one kilo of salmon, only 700 grams of wild-caught fish is needed”. Mowi practices precision feeding. “The fish receive exactly the amount they need, no more and no less. That way the seabed under the farm stays healthy” explains Catarina. Treatments with chemicals and medicines are only allowed to a very limited extent. Antibiotics are not allowed to be used preventively. “To control parasites, such as sea lice, we use ‘cleaner fish’ – a type of fish which feed on sea lice – and lasers. The farmers also take measures to prevent the fish from escaping. “We use extra strong nets that are checked regularly by divers”.
Not only the environment, but also social responsibility is of paramount importance. All ASC farms are required to offer a safe working environment, where employees earn a decent salary within normal working hours. “At Mowi, we have regular meetings in which we train our employees in both the importance of ASC certification and the implementation of the standards. Safety is an important topic in these meetings. We also discuss and measure the satisfaction, commitment and insights of our employees,” says the Mowi spokeswoman.
The local community around the aquaculture farms is also involved. “We want to understand possible concerns local residents may have and, where possible, solve them jointly. We often work in remote, rural areas. Our presence there offers employment, good infrastructure and helps to maintain important local facilities such as schools and sports facilities. Many initiatives are supported by Mowi, such as sports and social events as well as sponsoring. In this way we support both our employees and the local communities”.
When choosing for an ASC certified salmon product, you really make a difference. You can be confident that it was produced with care for the fish, the planet and the people. “The label makes it easier for the consumer to opt for responsible products when shopping for food,” says Catarina. “If you are looking for tasty, healthy and responsibly farmed fish, choose salmon with the ASC logo”, she concludes.