The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF USA) paved the way for the ASC by initiating and coordinating the Aquaculture Dialogues. Aquaculture Dialogues were a multi-stakeholder roundtable formally started in 2004 with the goal to:

  • Develop verifiable environmental and social performance levels that measurably reduce or eliminate the key impacts of salmon farming and are acceptable to stakeholders
  • Recommend standards that achieve these performance levels while permitting the salmon farming industry to remain economically viable

Universal, open and transparent, the Aquaculture Dialogues focused on minimising the key environmental and social impacts of aquaculture. Each Dialogue produced standards for one or a range of major aquaculture species groups that are science-based, performance-based and metrics-based and globally applicable to aquaculture production systems, covering many types, locations and scales of operations.

The dialogues took place over more than a decade. The process was transparent and inclusive, conducted in scores of cities around the world to ensure a multi-cultural, mutli-stakeholder process. The dialogues, and the resulting standards, reflect the direct input of more than 2,000 NGOs, scientists, farmers, retailers and other important stakeholders within the aquaculture industry.

The aquaculture dialogues resulted in standards for 12 species: salmon, shrimp, tilapia, pangasius, trout, abalone, bivalves (oysters, mussels, clams and scallops) and seriola and cobia. The initial species were selected based on their degree of impact on the environment and society, their market value, and the extent to which they are traded internationally.

The Netherlands based Sustainable Trade Initiative IDH joined forces with WWF Netherlands to create the Aquaculture Stewardship Council in 2010. The ASC was established as a fully independent, not for profit organisation to both manage the standards developed for each species and to create future standards based on need and market demand.

Since its founding, the ASC has set up its own system to develop, operationalise, manage, review and revise standards based on the original Aquaculture Dialogue. To do this in a credible manner, our system has been independently evaluated against ISEAL’s Codes of Good Practice–a globally-recognised framework for effective, credible sustainability systems. More information at isealalliance.org.

In 2012, Regal Springs tilapia farm in Indonesia became the very first ASC certified farm.

Interested in learning more about the ASC programme?

ASC celebrated its tenth birthday in 2020, and to mark the occasion we put together a coffee table book about the remarkable journey that took us from a need identified by WWF to the world’s leading programme for certifying responsible fish farming. That journey isn’t anywhere near complete, but the book celebrates what has already been achieved, commemorates all those that have helped us so far, and looks forward to a future where even more of the world’s protein comes from responsible aquaculture. Not only that, it also includes fascinating interviews and case studies and delicious recipe ideas!

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