As the global aquaculture industry continues to expand rapidly to meet a growing demand for protein, so the need for responsible environmental and social certification becomes ever more important.
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is an important part of the picture. ASC aims to become the leading certification and labelling programme for responsibly farmed seafood, and is on track with ambitious plans to transform the world’s seafood markets and promote the best environmental and social aquaculture performance.
To date, more than 600 farms have been certified, the majority of which are in Europe and Asia, and 11,000 different products are available on the market bearing the ASC consumer label.
“We have come a long way since 2010 but to ensure we remain in tune with the needs of our farmers, we undertook a global survey at the end of 2017. We asked what fish and shellfish farmers value most about ASC certification and what economic, environmental, worker and social benefits they have derived from it,” said ASC Chief Executive Officer Chris Ninnes.
The results were very encouraging, with the majority (92%) of respondents stating that their reputation had been enhanced by certification, 90% benefited from meeting the preference of buyers, and 87% gained access to new market opportunities.
In addition, farmers valued the opportunity to reduce their environmental impact, and three quarters had become more aware of sustainability issues related to feed use.
More than one third of the farmers found that their use of antibiotics and therapeutic medicines had decreased, whilst a quarter reported that their feed conversion ratio had lowered, with a consequent reduction both in the cost of feed and its impact on the environment. Notable improvements in water quality and a reduction in fish mortalities were also linked directly to working through the ASC certification process.
In the open response portion of the survey, one farmer praised the way in which ASC certification is helping to develop local aquaculture. “It is important for expansion of the industry in our region to show that we are good stewards of the environment. ASC certification serves as the ‘grade’ for this social licence for moving our industry forward in a sustainable manner,” he said.
ASC certification was also found to have a positive effect on local communities, with 67% experiencing improved relationships. Over two thirds of farmers were found to actively support local communities through social projects, financial support and sponsorship of sporting events.
For others in the programme, the defining of formal channels of communication with communities and workers was a definite benefit.
Around half of workers benefitted from an increase in training related to health and safety and good farming practices, and a similar number felt that working conditions had improved since their companies underwent ASC certification. Just over one third of employers reported that workers’ wages had increased and worker turnover reduced. Other reported benefits were fewer accidents and a decrease in worker sickness.
“Overall the survey showed us that we are doing a lot of things right. Our farm partners are important stakeholders and these findings are also an opportunity for us to further improve our offering. We are grateful to all of those that participated in this research,” said Chris Ninnes.
About the ASC Farmer’s Survey
Aquaculture Stewardship Council commissioned GfK Netherlands to conduct online research of eligible ASC certified farms from 5 December 2017 through 18 January 2018. The survey garnered a 21% response rate and farms certified to all eight ASC Farm standards participated.
For more information, contact ASC for full results.