With the release of a new benchmark report today, Monterey Bay Aquarium has recognised Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified tilapia as equivalent or better to their Seafood Watch yellow rating—the colour associated with their Good Alternative category. The recommendation comes after an independent review of the standard by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. In its report, the agency cited the ASC requirements for data collection, effluent limits and environmental impacts assessments as some of the many features of the standard that lead to the buy recommendation.
“We are very happy that fish certified to the ASC Tilapia Standard is recommended by Seafood Watch,” said Peter Redmond, ASC’s Vice President of Market Development for North America. “We believe this demonstrates the robust nature of the standard and is also a direct result of our desire to collaborate with all parties that share our interest in further advancing the goal of responsible aquaculture through certification.”
“The improvements ASC has made to their farmed tilapia standard, particularly the mandate to further reduce antibiotic treatments during production, allow us to recommend ASC certified tilapia to our partners, the public and sustainability organizations that rely on our recommendations,” said Ryan Bigelow, Program Engagement Manager, Seafood Watch. “We support continuous improvement and hope that the ASC will continue to strengthen its standards.”
Fang Qing, China Commercial Manager for ASC said, “With the recognition of ASC certified tilapia by Seafood Watch, we see a great opportunity for all our certified producers, including those in China. The update provides further recognition for a product that is not only raised according to good environmental and social practices, but is also fully traceable from its point of origin throughout the full supply chain. The farmers that have invested in improved practices will be rewarded for their efforts and dedication to responsible aquaculture according to ASC’s transparent and public facing certification process.”
The standard was benchmarked by Seafood Watch after the completion of the review of the ASC Tilapia Standard. The review commenced alongside those for the ASC Salmon Standards and ASC Pangasius Standard in 2015. At the conclusion of the process, the ASC Tilapia Standard was updated to include further restrictions on the use of medicines to treat illness occurring on the farm. The standard also includes a restriction common to ASC standards prohibiting the use of any antibiotics on the World Health Organization’s list of medicines critical to human health to treat fish. Both changes were factored into Seafood Watch’s ratings decision.
Today’s announcement comes just weeks after Seafood Watch’s upgrade of the ASC Salmon standard to Good Alternative. A variety of seafood certified to the programme have received positive ratings from Seafood Watch, including ASC certified pangasius; mussels, oysters, clams and scallops certified to the ASC Bivalve Standard; and shrimp that been ASC certified.
Seafood carrying the ASC logo comes from farms that have achieved the highest social and environmental standard. When consumers purchase products bearing the logo they are rewarding producers who share their goal to protect vital ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.
This announcement is also notable because it comes in the lead up to the fifth anniversary of the first ASC farm. A farm in the Regal Springs group became the first in the programme —by coincidence a tilapia farm—when it achieved ASC certification in August 2012.
Regular reviews to maintain best practices
As a mission driven organization working to improve the environmental and social performance of the aquaculture industry, the ASC conducts regular reviews of each of its eight farm standards to maintain a comprehensive, industry leading programme.
The recently completed review of the ASC Tilapia Standard included an analysis of a selection of performance criteria, to ensure that the standard continues to include the latest science and best practices.
Responsible farming to drive environmental and social improvements
ASC’s standards for responsible aquaculture are based on best practices and sound science and apply globally to farming systems covering all locations, types and scales of operations. To ensure a credible, inclusive and transparent standard setting process, the standards were developed in line with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) guidelines for responsible aquaculture. Furthermore, the ASC is the only independent, third-party, certification scheme for aquaculture to be a full member of ISEAL. ISEAL is the global membership association for sustainability standards, and defines what good practice looks like along with the core characteristics of credible standards. ISEAL members demonstrate their ability to meet ISEAL’s Codes of Good Practice and accompanying requirements, as well as commit to learning and improving to deliver positive impacts.
The ASC Tilapia Standard aims to address the key negative environmental and social impacts of tilapia farming. Farms must actively minimise the impact on the local ecosystem through many measures, including the development and implementation of an environmental impact assessment plan, controlling fish escapes and continuously measuring water parameters to ensure they do not negatively impact the quality of the water where they operate. Careful management also extends to fish health and the use of resources. Strict requirements must also be in place to minimise disease outbreaks and farms must use sustainably sourced fish feed.
In addition to meeting strict environmental performance criteria, all ASC certified farms must observe stringent requirements based on the core principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), including prohibiting the use of child labour or any other form of forced labour. The ASC also goes beyond those requirements and mandates that farms operate in a socially responsible manner, caring for their employees and the local community.
A multi-stakeholder process
The ASC farm standards were developed through a comprehensive multi-stakeholder process that included participation from farmers, seafood suppliers, NGOs, scientists, government officials and other interested parties.
Transparency is a key component of the ASC programme and supports all steps of the certification process. The ASC does not assess farms itself but relies on independent third party certifiers who audit farms against the ASC standards. If the audit proves the farm is operating responsibly, farms are issued the ASC certificate.
Stakeholder views are actively sought as part of the audit process. Farm audits are publically announced at least 30 working days ahead of the assessment. And, all audit reports are made public on ASC’s website allowing for stakeholder input through a public comment period. This is a unique feature of the ASC programme that ensures the principles of inclusiveness and openness are followed.
In keeping with the commitment to transparency and accountability, each review is also done in a consultative manner and includes a public comment period.
Notes to Editors:
About the ASC
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation co-founded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) in 2010 to manage the certification of responsible fish farming across the globe.
The ASC standards require farm performance to be measured against both environmental and social requirements. Certification is through an independent third party process and reports are uploaded to the public ASC website.
The on-pack ASC logo guarantees to consumers that the fish they purchase has been farmed with minimal impacts on the environment and on society.
The ASC standard addresses the following seven principles:
- Legal compliance (obeying the law, the legal right to be there)
- Preservation of the natural environment and biodiversity
- Preservation of the water resources and water quality
- Preservation of the diversity of species and wild populations (for example, minimising escapes that could become a threat to wild fish)
- Monitored and responsible use of animal feed and other resources Animal health (no unnecessary use of antibiotics and chemicals)
- Social responsibility (for example, no child labour, health and safety of employees, freedom of assembly, community relations).
For more information about ASC please visit www.asc-aqua.org.
About the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program helps consumers and businesses choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that protect sea life and habitats, now and for future generations. Their recommendations indicate which seafood items are “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives,” and which to “Avoid.”
They raise public awareness about sustainable seafood issues through their consumer guides, website, mobile apps and outreach efforts. Since 1999, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch has distributed over 56 million consumer guides and their smartphone app has been downloaded over 1.5 million times. They also encourage restaurants, distributors and seafood purveyors to purchase from sustainable sources and partner with over 200 organisations across North America, including two of the largest food service companies in the U.S.