Our Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) programme has been established to develop a framework for measuring the impacts and positive change our standards have on the environment, conditions for farm workers and on local communities.
Our M&E system entails the following:
- Articulate our Theory of Change
- Set an M&E framework
- Define results chains with intended changes and unintended effects
- Set up a data management system
- Define indicators to monitor and evaluate those changes and effects
- Create a mechanism to adapt our programme over time
Our Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Framework, developed in full compliance with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Assessing the Impacts of Social and Environmental Standards Systems, ensures that our sustainability standards are accurately and transparently reporting on the impacts they deliver. Learn more about our M&E Framework.
ASC’s First Monitoring and Evaluation Report: Positive Impact
ASC has published its first Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) report, which uses extensive analysis of performance data and case studies from ASC certified farms to identify the impacts of the ASC programme and trends in certified farm performance around the world. You can download the full report here, or read on for a summary of the key findings. You can also read about the report on our news pages.
The ASC was formally established in 2010 and our first farm was certified in 2012. This all began with an extraordinary collaboration, started in 2004, across scientists, academics, NGO’s and members of the aquaculture industry that identified more than 100 credible environmental and social requirements of the aquaculture industry with meaningful science-based performance levels. Every farm must demonstrate they are meeting these requirements, on an ongoing basis, in order to be certified.
2004-10: Creation of the Standards: Species-group specific standards developed by multi-stakeholder dialogues, work on some species continued longer.
2010 -12: Establishment of ASC: Founded in 2010 by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) US, with assistance from The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and WWF Netherlands. First 4 standards handed to ASC in 2011, first farms certified in 2012.
2012- 15: The First Five Years: By 2015 ASC was becoming established: 148 farms certified, more than 2,500 ASC labelled products and more than 500,000 metric tonnes of ASC certified seafood.
2015-20: The Second Five Years: Rapid growth with more species standards; feed standard and group certification developed; over 1000 farms certified, nearly 18,000 products approved and nearly 2 million tonnes of seafood certified; and collaborations with other like-minded organisations.
The rapidly growing aquaculture sector is widely recognised as having the potential to help alleviate the world’s most pressing problems but this growth must be responsibly managed to protect vulnerable ecosystems, the rights of workers and local communities.
Committing to sourcing and buying ASC certified and labelled products supports responsible aquaculture that directly and indirectly makes a significant contribution to most of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ASC certification contributes to, amongst others:
- SDG 2: Zero hunger
- SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation
- SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth
- SDG 10: Reduced inequalities
- SDG 12: responsible consumption and production
- SDG 14: Life below water
- SDG 15: Life on land
- SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions.
Improvements required of farmers to demonstrate conformance to the standard are documented during the certification process.
For example, the data show:
- ASC certified salmon and shrimp farms decreased their use of wild-caught fish meal by over 3% in feeds between 2015 and 2018, thereby reducing their reliance on wild-caught fishery resources.
- Farms across the species standards are coordinating more closely with their feed suppliers to ensure they’re using responsibly sourced ingredients, driving the sustainable management of feed fisheries
Independent research shows use of less freshwater, land and other resources and lower impacts on surrounding air and water of ASC certified Pangasius farms compared to non-certified farms. The research concludes that: “…applying the ASC certification scheme garnered a significantly lower environmental impact with respect to certain resource…and emissions-related categories…due to better farming efficiency (i.e. a lower eFCR) and the management of nitrogenous emissions”
(Nhu t.t. et al. (2016). Environmental impact of non-certified versus certified (ASC) intensive Pangasius aquaculture in Vietnam, a comparison based on a statistically supported LCA. Environ Pollution. 2016 Dec. 219:156-165. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2016.10.006)
ASC certified farms also delivered improved conditions for their workers:
- Health and safety have been improved through better training, equipment provision and renovations to living quarters.
- Contractual obligations for workers, including increased medical insurance coverage, contract clarification and transparency in wage setting, were met and documented for farms undergoing assessments.
“Traditional farming activities are very hard and tiring and the working environment is poor. ASC certification and ASC requirements can improve the production and living environment of workers so that they can work with dignity and with regular and fair payment” Mr Wu Yongshou, President, Fujian China-Singapore Evervest Co., Ltd
- Case study interviews provide further evidence of these improvements. ASC certified Best Aquaculture Partners’ shrimp farm in Thailand have reported greater transparency and training on pay and working conditions, as well as increased health and safety training. In China, Fujian China-Singapore Everest’s abalone farm has gone to extensive lengths to improve working conditions, such as through the construction of new living quarters and the provision of sun shades and first aid kits:
“We changed our working hours to be more compliant with national and international standards. Wage calculations are now transparent, and all workers have been trained in how to calculate their benefits and rights.” Piyanan Sangmani, Assistant farm manager, Best Aquaculture Partners’ Thailand shrimp farm.
The integrity of the ASC programme is maintained through its robust chain of custody certification and allied measures. The high levels of assurance across the supply chain, from farm to end product, gives retailers and consumers confidence about where their seafood came from and how it was raised.
All farm audits are conducted by independent and accredited third-parties who are experts in their field. The extensive standards require transparency and stakeholder engagement throughout the process. As a full member of the ISEAL Alliance, our standards are required to be science-based and meet ISEAL’s best practice guidelines. Further, to ensure the ASC programme remains meaningful, effective and robust we continually strive to improve our standard through a revision process, the adoption of additional standards, monitoring and evaluation of our work and the use of data that contribute to knowledge on the performance of aquaculture systems globally.
ASC’s global market presence is the result of the many relationships we have developed in seafood markets around the world, with products in more than 80 countries handled by over 2,500 supply chain companies. Starting with strong and growing commitments from retailers and food service providers in Europe, global companies such as Lidl, IKEA and Nomad Foods Europe are making commitments to carry ASC certified products around the world. Commitments to source ASC responsibly farmed seafood have expanded to include the Americas, Asia and Australia. Each provides a measurable indication of the tremendous support that we receive from supply chain partners, a fundamental driver of the ASC programme’s growth.
The world’s first-ever ASC labelled product, a pangasius product sold by the Dutch brand Queens, went on sale in The Netherlands in September 2012, and since, the ASC has expanded to nearly 18,000 products globally as of the end of 2019, an increase of over 380% compared with five years earlier.
As more and more farmers become certified, negative environmental effects are mitigated and social improvements are promoted. At the time of publication 2 million tonnes of responsibly managed seafood is being produced annually across 42 countries by 1,134 certified farms, almost a five-fold increase in just five years. We expect this growth to continue as we take steps to improve the programme, such as increasing the range of species covered by our standards and making the programme more accessible to small-scale farmers by engaging them through the ASC Improver Programme.
Key projects that have already expanded our impact include the development of a Feed Standard, a Group Certification methodology, and our collaboration with the MSC to develop the Seaweed Standard.
Analysis of ASC certified salmon farm assessment reports in Norway, Chile, and Canada demonstrated continued improvement with evidence that producers with multiple farms are applying lessons learned from certified sites, such as updated fish health management plans and public reporting on wildlife mortalities, across their business.
The first oyster farms certified in Japan, as part of the Miyagi Prefecture Fisheries cooperative, found that their certification allowed them to access new markets. Sales revenues increased faster compared to oyster producers from other areas, and certification gave farmers a sense of achievement and pride. The changes implemented across the farm increased production volume and product quality, improved working conditions and reduced environmental impact. More efficient production systems led to many of the female workers being able to maintain their income and have more free time.
“I think the biggest change we experienced, is that the transformation to responsible aquaculture and acquisition of the ASC certification, has increased income by improving quality, reduced working hours and helped to attract new farmers into the profession” Fujio Abe, a director of Shizugawa Branch of Miyagi Fishery Cooperative.
The positive impacts highlighted are proof of concept for the ASC as a driver of environmental and social improvements in aquaculture, but we will continue to strengthen and expand the ASC programme to accelerate the transformation towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility. One of our largest commitments is to the ASC Alignment Project, developing a new core farm standard that integrates current content but also retains bespoke production and species-specific metrics and requirements. In addition, we are broadening our programme scope to cover feed production and working to further support efforts to improve fish welfare and disease management in the aquaculture industry.
We are collaborating with innovative partners, such as the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch programme and Fair Trade USA, to drive integration across our programmes with the aim of reducing costs for producers and providing clearer and more concise information to stakeholders.
We launched our Geographic Information Systems (GIS) portal to collect and share more precise data on farm locations and boundaries that will empower auditors and stakeholders and unlock new opportunities for collaboration.