A number of issues have been associated with pangasius farming. In particular, concerns over pollution of the Mekong river and water quality. Other major concerns are outbreaks of diseases and the overuse of antibiotics.
ASC certification demands that farms adhere to strict guidelines to ensure they produce a healthy product while minimising the negative environmental and social impacts associated with pangasius farming:
ASC certified pangasius farms minimise impacts on the local ecosystem in a number of ways. They can be located only in approved areas for aquaculture and they need to prove they do not impact endangered species. Fish escapes must be minimised and trapping devices are installed to recapture any fish that do escape. Since pangasius farms often use water from surrounding sources, limits are set for how much of this water can be allocated to the farm.
ASC certification requires pangasius farms to adhere to strict criteria for the use of wild fish as an ingredient for feed. Fishmeal and fish oil products sourced for feed must be ISEAL certified. In addition, the standard requires farms to ensure full traceability back to a certified source for ingredients from wild fish.
ASC certified pangasius farms are required to measure various water parameters (nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen levels, etc.) and remain within set limits. Treatment systems for waste and sludge need to comply with strict requirements before discharging can occur.
ASC certified pangasius farms must adhere to rigorous requirements to minimise disease outbreaks. A health plan must be developed under supervision of an aquatic animal health specialist and implemented. This plan details steps for biosecurity management. In addition, the use of medicine before a disease is diagnosed (prophylactic use), and the use of medicines as growth promoter are prohibited. A producer can only use approved medicines, no antibiotics critical for human health are allowed, and all treatments (also in the hatchery) need to be disclosed. Mortalities need to be monitored carefully.
ASC certification imposes strict requirements based on the core principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), these include prohibiting the use of child labour or any form of forced labour. All ASC certified farms are safe and equitable working environments where employees earn a decent wage and have regulated working hours. In addition, certified producers liaise directly with communities to solve conflicts and complaints and recruit workforce from the local community above migratory workers.
NB: Following review, the latest version (v1.2) of the ASC Pangasius Standard was published on July 1, 2019.