On August 20, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) celebrated the market launch of its global, independent trademark for responsibly farmed seafood. Tilapia from Indonesia is the first farmed fish to meet the ASC’s certification standard. This tilapia is recognised through the use of the on-pack ASC logo. The logo reinforces to consumers that the fish they purchased is responsibly farmed so that adverse environmental and social impacts are minimised.
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council is an independent international initiative founded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). Fish farming is the world’s fastest growing food production sector. By 2018, more seafood will be farmed than caught from the wild. Already, almost half of seafood found on grocer’s shelves comes from farms. Addressing the negative impacts of this important sector at this point is timely and necessary. ASC certified farms limit their impacts on the environment from the effects of water pollution, the use of chemicals and antibiotics, and escapes of farmed fish. They also adhere to guidelines that promote the social conditions of workers and local communities.
Reducing environmental impact
“The demand for protein-rich seafood is rapidly increasing,” says Johan van de Gronden, director of WWF in the Netherlands. “If we do nothing, there will be major environmental consequences. Some fish and shrimp farms in Asia have seriously affected valuable mangrove forests areas that serve as nurseries for the ocean and constitute natural coastal defences. Aquaculture can contribute to feeding the growing world population, but this must be done responsibly. The introduction of ASC certified tilapia today is just the first step. Soon, other products bearing the ASC logo will be available in stores and in restaurants. Together we can make responsibly farmed fish mainstream.”
As an independent organisation, the ASC manages the standards and the certification process. ASC does not certify the farms itself; this is done by independent certifiers. The method is similar to the familiar certification programmes for wild capture fisheries (MSC) and forestry (FSC). The ASC logo on the fish packaging will make clear that the fish has been responsibly farmed. “Today marks a turning point for all those that care about how the seafood they eat has been produced. The ASC logo guarantees that the fish farm respects both the environment and the people involved in its husbandry by minimising the farm’s impacts on its surroundings and by behaving in a socially responsible manner. Never before have such credible endorsements been available that are underpinned by the most robust and transparent certification programme available globally. Soon seafood buyers will be able to buy ASC certified salmon, shrimp, trout, pangasius, bivalve and abalone products knowing that their concerns are taken care of. It can’t get any simpler,” said Chris Ninnes, CEO of the ASC.
The first ASC tilapia from Indonesia
The now/first certified tilapia farm in Indonesia is one of the biggest in the world and is operated by Regal Springs. The farm uses large floating cages that have demonstrated their minimal impact on the natural environment. In cooperation with NGOs and scientists, Regal Springs monitors the water quality continuously. Furthermore, good social working conditions and care for the local community are important corporate values enshrined in its approach to corporate responsibility
ASC tilapia available in many countries
ASC certified tilapia will be available in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Belgium, Spain and Canada. Albert Heijn, the largest fish retailer of the Netherlands, is one of the pioneers when it comes to sourcing its seafood and cooperates with WWF on its sourcing policies. Under its own brand, only sustainably caught or responsibly farmed fish will be sold by the end of 2015. In addition, tilapia sold by Queens using the ASC logo will be available in around 2,000 supermarket outlets. Dutch supermarket chains such as Jumbo and C1000 will also be offering ASC tilapia and seafood companies such as Mayonna in the Netherlands and TopSea, Costa and bofrost* in Germany are all supplying tilapia products carrying the ASC logo.
More tilapia farms in Honduras, Taiwan, Ecuador and Malaysia have all formally announced that they will be audited; and following a positive outcome, the supply of certified ASC products will substantially increase.
Other certified fish coming soon
Other seafood species will shortly also be ASC-certified. Pangasius products will be next and likely available early in the autumn of 2012. These products will be followed by certified clams, mussels, scallops, oysters, abalone and salmon later in 2012. The standards for shrimp and trout will soon be finalised and the first farm audits may take place before the year end.