A widely publicised problem with the shrimp farming industry is its impact on local environments – particularly the clearing of mangroves. But it isn’t just the environment that is affected. Poorly managed shrimp farming can have a detrimental effect on local communities.
ASC certified shrimp farms must meet these challenges head on:
ASC certified Shrimp farms minimise impacts on their neighbouring ecosystem in a number of ways, such as partial restoration of lost mangrove forest, the development and implementation of a biodiversity-focused environmental impact assessment (B-EIA) and ensuring farms are not sited in critical habitats. Since shrimp farming often occurs along coastal areas, a permanent coastal barrier must be in place between the farm and the coastline.
ASC certification requires shrimp farms to adhere to strict limits to minimise use of wild fish as an ingredient for feed. In addition, the standard requires farms to ensure full traceability back to a responsibly managed source, preferably certified, for wild fish, but also for palm oil and soy.
ASC certified shrimp farms are required to measure water quality parameters (nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen levels, etc.) at regular intervals and remain within set limits. Treatment systems for waste water need to comply with strict requirements. Discharge of sludge is not allowed.
ASC certified shrimp farms must adhere to rigorous requirements to minimise disease outbreaks. A health plan for the shrimp must be developed and implemented on the farm. This plan details steps for biosecurity management, including the use of pathogen-free shrimp larvae for pond stocking. In addition, the use of medicines before a disease is diagnosed (prophylactic use) is prohibited. Medication may be used for animal welfare reasons and only under strict conditions. Producers need to manage farms in such a way that shrimp survival rates are high.
The use of medications, including antibiotics, are restricted under all ASC standards and the use of any antibiotics on the World Health Organization’s list of critically important antimicrobials for human medicine are strictly prohibited on any ASC certified farm.
Should the farmer use antibiotics or medicated feed for shrimp health and welfare consideration, the ASC Shrimp Standard allows for some level of antibiotics to be used, but the treated shrimps will not be authorised to be sold as ASC certified (those shrimp products are thus not allowed to carry the ASC label). If ASC becomes aware that a labelled product tests positive for antibiotics, a thorough investigation will be undertaken to determine where/how the product came into contact with the antibiotic(s). If it is determined that antibiotics were used in contravention of the farm or chain of custody (CoC) Standard, the farm or processor may be suspended from the programme or have their logo license agreement revoked (See also: Programme Assurance).
Antibiotics can also be found as residue in water systems where medicines have been used, and can occur naturally at very low levels in the environment. With advances in technology these residues may be detected at low levels and can sometimes be detected in shrimp even if no antibiotics have been used on the farm. Consequently, ASC recognises that ASC labelled shrimp may contain residues but in all cases these residues must meet the legal requirements of the importing country.
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. Certified farms need to consult and engage with local communities to ensure they provide access to vital resources and deal with complaints or conflicts in a proper manner.
- Revision of the ASC Shrimp Standard
ASC has started the review and revision process of the Shrimp Standard. This process will include a review of the current antibiotic related requirements. Efforts will be made to review the applicability of these requirements, including the monitoring of antibiotic use and the application of antibiotics in a responsible manner, to establish a unified approach to antibiotics across all ASC Standards.