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ASC Statement on Variance Request from Tassal 

18 January 2024

Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is committed to ensuring that seafood is produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way. The ASC Salmon Standard ensures that wildlife continues to be protected and that ASC certified farms adhere to good management practices to reduce impact on other wildlife species. 

On 12 December 2023, ASC received a Variance Request (VR) to the Salmon Standard from auditors SCS Global, on behalf of Tassal. The VR sought ASC to allow the use of seal crackers (referred to as ‘seal bombs’ by a local media article) in the eight Tassal salmon farms which are ASC certified.

The VR process enables ASC to evaluate an adaptation of a global standard to a local context under the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL) Codes of Good Practice. Any adaptation should still be in line with the original intention of the requirement.  

The VR has been technically reviewed by the Standard VR Committee, formed by ASC staff and members of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG). Following the review and taking into account stakeholder feedback, ASC has refused the VR to allow the use of seal crackers, under the circumstances proposed, in Tassal’s eight ASC certified salmon farms. The VR response was published on our website on 17 January 2024. 

Seal cracker definition under the ASC Salmon Standard  

Under the ASC Salmon Standard Criterion 2.5 indicator 2.5.1, the use of acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) or acoustic harassment devices (AHDs) is not permitted.  In September 2022, ASC issued an update to all relevant stakeholders, defining seal crackers to be an ADD. Prior to this date, these devices were considered to meet the ASC Salmon Standard and their use was declared by all ASC certified companies, including Tassal. 

For more information about the ASC Salmon Standard, click here.  

Transparency of the VR process 

ASC is committed to transparency and accountability and has strict procedures in place for managing and publicising VRs. In line with our process, the VR from SCS on behalf of Tassal was published on the VR portal of our public website on 14 December 2023.  

ASC encourages stakeholders to register on the VR webpage so they can be notified when a new relevant VR is published. This allows any stakeholder to respond and provide feedback on a VR for consideration by the VR Committee. Stakeholders who are registered for notification of VRs include some of the organisations quoted in the latest media coverage on this topic.  

The VR webpage and database on our website is also fully searchable by any interested party to ensure full transparency.   

Variance Requests (VRs) 

  • What is a VR? A request to adapt an ASC requirement to a unique local circumstance whilst adhering to the original intent. 
  • There are hundreds of ASC certified salmon farms around the world demonstrating that farming can be carried out in a responsible way. Every farm faces different challenges depending on its location, but every ASC certified farm must meet ASC’s stringent requirements.  
  • A Variance Request can be made by a farm to adapt an ASC requirement to a unique local circumstance whilst adhering to the original intent. 
  • For any VR to be approved, sufficient evidence must be provided to support the request and the farm must demonstrate that any adaptation is still in line with the original intention of the requirement. There should also be a commitment that the farm is working towards resolving the particular issue within an agreed timeframe.  
  • Rather than bypassing the standards, a VR is a way to ensure farms can work to continue to meet the standards. 
  • For more detailed information about the VR process, follow this link. 
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