15 Facts about the ASC
April 5, 2022
1) The ASC is an independent organisation—registered as a charity in both the UK and the Netherlands— and operates a third party certification and labelling programme for aquaculture around the globe.
We are a completely independent organisation with a mission to transform aquaculture towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
2) The ASC standards resulted from the Aquaculture Dialogues, initiated by WWF USA to address the most pressing environmental and social impacts of aquaculture.
In total 8 Aquaculture Dialogues were conducted over nearly a decade. More than 2,000 conservationists, NGO’s, academics and industry leaders dedicated their time and expertise to find meaningful, science-based solutions to move aquaculture towards sustainability.
Each Dialogue was conducted in an open and transparent process with all meetings open to the public and held in various locations around the world and all meeting notes and information was posted to the internet. The process resulted in standards for one or a range of major aquaculture species groups that are science-based, performance-based and metrics-based and able to be applied globally to aquaculture production systems, covering many types, locations and scales of aquaculture operations.
3) The ASC is fully independent from IDH and WWF.
We believe a collaborative; multi-stakeholder approach is key in transforming the aquaculture industry. Although our mission can only be fulfilled in partnership with local communities, various government agencies, NGO’s, scientists, academics and the industry, the ASC is completely independent and is committed to transparency in all operational matters.
4) The ASC does not certify farms or processors.
The ASC is the standard holder, but it has no part to play in the certification process. We follow a third party verification system— this type of certification is recognised around the world as the highest level of assessment— and all those seeking to become certified must be audited by qualified, external, independent assessors known as conformity assessment bodies (CABs) who operate with impartiality.
5) The ASC receives no money from the certification process at any time.
It is simply not possible to buy ASC certification. Not only does the ASC not perform the audit, all fees for the audit process are agreed with the CAB and paid directly to the auditors. The ASC does not receive any money for any aspects of the audit or any pre-audit process a farm may choose to undertake. We only receive income from certificate holders in the form of a percentage of total sales of certified product sold with the ASC logo. The use of the logo is optional and it not a requirement of becoming ASC certified.
6) ASC standards are developed in line with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Guidelines and is the only aquaculture certification scheme to be recognised as a full member of the ISEAL Alliance.
Since its founding, the ASC has set up its own system to develop, operationalize, manage, review and revise standards based on the original Aquaculture Dialogues.
To do this in a credible manner, all ASC standards are created according to the ISEAL Alliance Code of Good Practices for Setting Social and Environmental Standards. This code of good practice complies with the ISO/IEC Guide 59 Code of good practice for standardization, and the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement Annex 3 Code of good practice for the preparation, adoption and application of standards.
ISEAL requires inclusive and transparent standard setting and ASC is a full member alongside organisations such as the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade International, Forest Stewardship Council, UTZ and the Roundtable for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.
7) ASC standards address 7 principles and criteria to minimize environmental and social impacts.
ASC certificate holders must operate at the highest industry standards to ensure the preservation of the natural environment, biodiversity and water resources and provide good working conditions for their employees. To establish whether an operator meets the standard, a conformity assessment body (CAB) will perform an audit to determine compliance with the ASC Standard in the following areas of aquaculture:
- legal compliance with national and local laws and regulations
- preservation of natural habitats, local biodiversity and ecosystem
- preservation of the diversity of the wild population
- preservation of water resources and quality
- responsible use of feed and other resources
- improved fish health and controlled and responsible use of antibiotics and chemicals
- farms to be socially responsible toward their workers and the local community.
8) Social responsibility is a key component of the ASC Standard.
Child labour is not allowed and workers must have contracts in line with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) regulations. Regulations must also be in place to protect the health and safety of workers and freedom of assembly cannot be infringed.
9) The ASC believes a farm cannot be said to be acting responsibly if the community in which is it situated is negatively impacted by its actions.
For this reason, our Standard includes indicators to measure the impact of a farm on the community and each audit includes opportunities for community feedback and multiple opportunities for public comment.
10) ASC Chain of Custody (CoC) certification ensures that every distributor, processor, and retailer trading in ASC certified sustainable seafood has effective traceability systems in place.
This assures consumers that ASC labelled seafood they buy has not only been sourced legally from a certified responsible farm, but that it has been separated from non-certified seafood, and can be traced along the supply chain from farm to the final sale.
11) ASC Standards are reviewed regularly.
We are a dynamic programme and, as science changes and new information relating to better farm management and practices becomes known, our standards must evolve to remain robust. We are committed to conducting regular reviews of all standards— every three years at a minimum, earlier if necessary— to ensure they remain robust and continue to meet or exceed best industry practices.
12) The ASC on pack logo is a key part of our strategy to move the aquaculture industry towards sustainability.
Because consumer choice has a huge impact on the marketplace, our logo is a key part of fulfilling the ASC mission. When consumers see the ASC on pack logo, it offers an assurance that the fish within has been responsibly sourced, with minimal impacts on society and the environment, and is fully traceable back to a well-managed farm. For the consumer, the logo is means to support farmers who share their values and it can nudge those who don’t meet the standard into better practices to meet the demands of a discerning public.
13) Every ASC certificate holder must undergo reassessments at regular intervals to remain in the programme.
All ASC certified farms and CoC license holders must keep up with any changes in the Standard that are in place at the time of each audit. Farms certified under a previous set of requirements must comply with the new indicators at the time of reassessment. This practice is fully aligned with the intent of the programme which is dedicated to ongoing improvements.
14) ASC standards set strict limitations on the use of chemicals and antibiotics.
No antibiotics on the World Health Organization list of Critically Important Antimicrobials for Human Medicine can be used and any antibiotic administered to fish on an ASC certified farm must be prescribed by a veterinarian after a treatment plan has been put into place.
15) The ASC requires that each farm and CoC certificate holder maintains a level of transparency and accountability previously unseen in the aquaculture industry.
Before an audit begins, the CAB conducting the examination must post a notice on the ASC website. The certification process includes multiple opportunities for public comment and each audit report is posted online to enable public comment well into the final stage of the certification process. A farm can only be certified once all objections to a report are addressed in writing by the CAB.