The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has released Terms of Reference (ToR) for the development of new marine finfish standards.
The announcement was made against the backdrop of Seafood Expo Global 2016 in Brussels and represents a first for the ASC. The ToR advocates the development of standards for new marine finfish species based on the soon to be released standard for seriola and cobia.
Because the knowledge and expertise necessary for the development of standards for seriola, cobia and, in come cases salmon, is applicable to the development of standards for similar fish and farming systems, the forthcoming release of the seriola and cobia standard creates an opportunity to test the applicability of the standard to expand the programme. This is the first time the ASC has taken such an approach.
“The increasing demand for healthy protein has lead to a steep rise in aquaculture production around the world,” said Chris Ninnes, CEO of ASC. “With fish increasingly becoming essential to global food supply, concerns about the effects of fish farming on people and the ecosystem have escalated. Ensuring people -those who work on the farm and those living in the surrounding community- are protected from harmful practices is paramount for businesses; and a key feature of the ASC standards. It is therefore important that the ASC establishes standards for fish types not currently covered by the programme to further protect the aquatic environment and make sure that farms operate to the best social standard.”
The ToR is a direct result of the many requests ASC has received to create a standard for barramundi, European seabass and seabream. If it is determined that using the seriola and cobia standard is feasible this will provide a quicker route to the creation of standards for new species. As a market-based programme, the ASC must find ways to effectively respond to the needs of the growing community of farms and retail partners seeking certification for an increasing range of species. This new process could be an innovative way to leverage efficiencies across the organisation in order to respond more quickly to calls for new standards that will help farmers, workers, local communities and improve environmental protection.
The ASC standards address the negative impacts of fish farming, including dependence on fish for feed; inadequate supply of seed; lack of appropriate techniques; discharges of organic matters, phosphorus, and nitrogen; fish escapes; transfer of diseases parasites between farmed and wild fish; and introduction of non-indigenous species. It also mandates that all workers have freedom of association, employment contracts inline with ILO regulations, no child-labour and that the communities in which farms are situated be consulted on farm operations.
As part of a comprehensive programme that expands the use of responsible practices in the aquaculture industry, the ASC makes a significant contribution to mitigating negative impacts ‘on the water’, especially in countries where best practices for environmental and social responsibility are not yet the norm. A unique feature of the programme is the use of performance metrics to measure impacts of farming.
The ToR for marine finfish will officially begin with a field test of the seriola and cobia standard on selected finfish farms that have informed the ASC that they wish to be included in these initial pilots. No certificate is expected from the preliminary field-testing, however the results will help identify gaps between the existing seriola and cobia standard and what may be necessary to create a robust certification for other marine finfish. The feasibility of addressing these gaps will be evaluated, changes will be proposed and consulted on and a process to operationalize the new standard will be developed.
In the event that the pilot demonstrates that the use of the seriola and cobia standard is not feasible, the results of the pilot would provide important information to speed up the development of on-going and future standard development processes.
This ToR and associated pilot activity will also inform the emerging structure of ASC’s core standard development.
The document is now open for public comments and all feedback should be submitted using the form provided in the Annex to the ToR on the ASC website. Farms wishing to engage in the pilot assessments should contact an accredited certifier to undertake the audit and register interest with the ASC.
Transparency is integral to the ASC programme and all information regarding the standard setting process, including field-testing results, will be found on the ASC Website.