The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) announced that Taylor Shellfish Farms has become the first U.S. grower to achieve responsible aquaculture certification for their farming operation in Washington State.
The Shelton, Wash. based company received ASC Bivalve Certification for a portion of its operations in the South Puget Sound basin, which comprises the area south of the Tacoma Narrows, including Olympia and Shelton. The certification was achieved after an on-site assessment by independent auditors SCS Global Services. Chris Ninnes, ASC’s CEO, announced the company’s certification on March 7th during Seafood Expo North America in Boston, MA.
The ASC is an independent, not-for-profit organization co-founded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) in 2010 to manage the certification of responsible fish farming across the globe. An independent, international organization, the ASC aims to transform the aquaculture industry to a higher standard through a global certification and labelling program with a focus on good management practices, including the conservation and quality of water resources. The certification system meets international codes of good conduct, including FAO Guidelines for eco-labelling and ISEAL Standard Setting Codes.
“Taylor Shellfish Farms is dedicated to providing our customers with the freshest, highest quality shellfish available and doing so in ways that respect the environment, our communities and the people who work for us,” said Bill Taylor, company CEO. “We believe the ASC to be the gold standard for assessing shellfish farm performance, and we are very gratified to have completed the work to become the first farm in the U.S. to achieve this certification.”
“This achievement distinguishes Taylor Shellfish as an innovator in the seafood market and is proof of their strong commitment to responsible farming and good social practices,” said Chris Ninnes, CEO of the ASC. “We are thrilled they have become the first farm in the United States to join the programme. The U.S. is a hugely important market in terms of global aquaculture consumption and, by partnering with industry leaders such as Taylor Shellfish, we can make a strong case that responsibly farmed fish is better for business and better for the environment.”
The company says it will actively pursue certification for all its farm operations in Washington State.
The ASC Bivalve Standards evaluates the performance of shellfish operations against criteria related to the natural environment and biodiversity; water resources and water quality; species diversity, including wild populations; disease and pest management and resource efficiency. The standards also address social issues related to a company’s engagement and support of local communities and the quality of the workplace for employees.
The ASC bivalve standard was finalized in 2012 and the first shellfish farm was certified in South America in 2014.
“Consumers, wholesalers and retailers increasingly want to understand and validate how the products they sell or consume come to market,” Taylor said. “The ASC’s independence, high standards and transparent process provide a strong assurance that companies that pursue certification take responsible shellfish farming very seriously.”
Credibility and independence, core values of the ASC, are underpinned by the transparency of the audit process. ASC does not audit the farms itself and the standard is also completely independent of the seafood industry. Assessment and verification of compliance is performed by an external, third-party auditors known as a certification body. The certification bodies are in turn accredited and monitored by Accreditation Service International (ASI), an independent, international organization associated with ISEAL.
Meaningful engagement is also built into the ASC certification program and public feedback and input from stakeholders is actively solicited during the certification process. Every audit report is made public on the ASC’s website, allowing for stakeholder input through a public comment period, a unique feature of the ASC program, to ensure that the principles of inclusiveness and openness are preserved.
These principles are also enshrined within the ASC’s organizational structure and approach. Everything from standard setting to certification is done in a transparent manner. The ASC engages with NGO’s, academic experts and non-profits to ensure that the standards remain meaningful and robust.
Despite the fact that the first farm only entered assessment in late 2012, at the time of writing there are 243 ASC certified farms in 27 countries and over 100 more in assessment. Certification is available for the most in-demand seafood and the program has an estimated total production volume of more than one million tons. Consumers can enjoy ASC certified products in more than 54 countries and the program continues to grow to meet global demand.