The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has welcomed more than one hundred certified farms into its certification programme in just over two years. And, in the last year alone it’s seen the number of farms in the programme double.
In August 2012 Regal Springs’ Toba and Kedung Ombo tilapia farms were the first globally to gain ASC certification. At the time, ASC only had operational standards for tilapia and pangasius. In 2013 the bivalve, abalone, salmon and trout standards were launched, followed by shrimp in 2014.
By the end of 2013 there were 57 ASC certified farms. And, over the last year, the programme has seen a 103 per cent growth – bringing the total number of farms in programme to 116.
With a growing selection of ASC certified seafood available, consumers across 40 countries can now choose from almost 1,500 products. In the last year alone ASC has seen a 148 per cent increase in approved products, from 602 at the end of November 2013.
The growing engagement of farms has been matched by significant commitments from influential seafood buyers, with world events such as the Rio 2016 Olympic Games pledging to source seafood from ASC certified farms. The commitment of retailers and seafood brands has also been particularly strong. All Dutch retailers have aligned themselves to only sourcing ASC certified seafood, while an additional 15 retailers and seafood brands in Europe and six globally are committed to supplying ASC certified products.
Growing commitments to responsible farming
Since the ASC programme opened for assessments we have witnessed the Vietnamese pangasius industry work with a range of organisations and leading European importers to reduce their impact on the environment and local communities to become ASC certified. In two years, around 20 per cent of the industry earned ASC certification.
Just over a year ago, over 70 per cent of the salmon aquaculture industry pledged to significantly improve their key environmental and social impacts. Collectively known as the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI), they committed to achieving ASC certification by 2020. There are now 18 ASC certified GSI-member farms.
And, this year, the Belize Shrimp Growers Association has been preparing member farms, representing 67 per cent of Belizean shrimp farms and 90 per cent of total farmed shrimp production in Belize, to enter assessment against the ASC Shrimp Standard. The first farm audits took place recently and draft reports are expected in January.
In this short period, farms in the ASC programme have already made real changes for the better. For example, the pangasius farm Thuan An invested in upgrading their infrastructure to include a waste treatment system. Their sludge is now collected to make compost for agriculture and they have reinforced their pond embankments to prevent escapes during flood seasons. Since achieving ASC certification they have reduced mortality to around 10 per cent and increased their feed use efficiency.
Trapia Malaysia worked with their supply chain particularly on substituting untraceable and uncontrolled marine ingredients and replacing these with marine by-products or fish derived ingredients from sustainable fisheries.
And, salmon producer Tassal implemented significant upgrades across their farms. For example, improving their feed formulation to reduce the reliance on fish meal and fish oil; replacing the last of their copper treated nets; introducing a fish health department and fish welfare programme; and creating an ASC dashboard that publicly reports on any antibiotic use, wildlife interactions or unexplained fish loss. Other examples of how ASC certified farms are reducing their environmental impacts or improving their social responsibility can be found on our website.
Meeting a growing demand responsibly
Now, more than half of the fish consumed globally comes from fish farming and this is set to increase as the population grows and the pressure on wild capture fisheries intensifies.
“Aquaculture production is expected to continue growing by over 4 per cent a year until 2022, according to the latest FAO report. This rapid increase can bring problems – the faster the aquaculture industry grows, the greater its potential impact on the environment and local communities. Now is the time to address this,” Chris Ninnes, ASC’s CEO said.
“Aquaculture can meet the growing demand for seafood and through the work of programmes like the ASC we seek to help industry do that responsibly. It is fantastic to see large parts of the industry putting aside competition to collaborate on improvements, moving the industry towards sustainability.
“I’d like to thank the farms, businesses and organisations that have contributed to the fantastic growth that the ASC has experienced. It is only by working together, harnessing the support and efforts of our partners and collaborators, that we will be able to reduce the environmental and social impacts of an industry vital to future global food security and livelihoods.”