An ambitious project involving ASC will enhance integration between certification and ratings schemes to help encourage more responsible aquaculture around the world.
ASC is working closely with partners at Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (SFW), with an ISEAL Innovations Fund grant (supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, SECO) on the project, which aims to improve collaboration even where different schemes operate at different scales.
This project will be centered around four outputs: identifying areas of overlap between standards; coordinating monitoring and evaluation systems; expanding joint aquaculture improvement projects; and improving product origin verification.
Each of these outputs may also include other projects, some of which are ongoing and some which are in the planning stage, but more details on the overarching plans for each output are below.
1. Identifying overlap and alignment across operational scales
A benchmarking exercise in 2020 identified areas of overlap or alignment between the schemes’ standards content, and information or data required for an assessment. This information will have far-reaching uses and will allow our organisations to rely on shared data and operate more efficiently.
ASC and project partners are defining those processes in our work that can effectively rely on the work of each other, such as data sharing pathways using aggregated farm data. This will require the development of a shared data repository and testing the efficacy of incorporating the data.
2. Coordinating Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systems
The coordination of shared information will provide more authoritative analyses as well as cost savings for those providing the information – usually farms. M&E is a critical aspect of the ASC programme, and though a shared framework would appear an ideal route, there are potential difficulties to this due to the differences in scale and scope of our different organisations.
Therefore, project partners will explore the development of a common M&E framework around the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
3. Expanding joint aquaculture improver programmes
ASC and its project partners are already involved in various improver programmes, which can help smaller scale producers not yet ready for certification make the journey towards more responsible production. As part of this project, joint improvement activities will be piloted in Indonesia and Vietnam to implement best management practices with the aim of improving farm and zonal management to mitigate critical production risks. These pilots will test new approaches in efficiency gains around key sustainability issues, improved data consistency and application and harmonized messages to the market place.
The pilot project will encourage producers to implement better practices both at and beyond the level of the farm, resulting in increased uptake of ASC certification and improved ratings from SFP and Seafood Watch assessments.
An important first step in the approach was to develop a detailed understanding of the needs of farmers in the two designated pilot project regions, to target trainings and guidance materials to meaningful areas of improvement. Local consultants were selected through an open tender process to conduct needs assessments that provide an overview of the status of shrimp farming, stakeholders engaged in the region, areas of practice for improvements, and training mechanisms most likely to be successful for the given audiences.
As an exciting addition to the pilot projects, the work will test the application of emerging technologies to assess the feasibility of remote regional monitoring, farm monitoring by satellite, and farmer self-reporting. It will also examine the different incentive models for engagement in improver programmes. Practical guidance and a feasible improvement pathway will round out the work and provide important lessons for future improver programs.
4. Improving product origin verification
Assurance of non-certified products supplied to markets could expand opportunities to those farms demonstrating verified improvements within defined timelines, but this presents a number of challenges, risks to the supply chain, and requires untested interest from markets. To consider the viability of such a system, ASC will explore key aspects of chain of custody to outline opportunities and risks.
Further work will dive into understanding the incentives that drives market uptake in order to examine variables in building the right incentive models, defining the drivers for engagement in improvement space and understanding who sees what benefits, by pulling from lessons across sectors.
This project is well underway, despite pandemic-related delays: in fact, the delays of 2020 allowed project partners the opportunity to review and reflect and propose improvements. The project will conclude July 2022 and its findings will be shared publicly. For more information contact Jill Swasey.