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Promoting biodiversity: ASC brings aquaculture expertise to UN Food and Agricultural Organisation dialogues

June 26, 2018

The ASC represented global aquaculture with a keynote speech at a multi-stakeholder dialogue on biodiversity hosted by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in May.

The Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on Biodiversity Mainstreaming across Agricultural Sectors was held at the FAO’s headquarters in Rome from 29 – 31 May, and attendees included government ministers, experts and stakeholders from agriculture, forestry and the environment. The ASC provided input and expertise from the aquaculture industry.

Michiel Fransen, Head of Standards and Science, and Contessa Kellogg-Winters, Director of Communications, represented the ASC at the event, which involved a number of working groups discussing current and future issues with raising the profile and importance of biodiversity in different sectors and regions.

Contessa delivered a keynote speech to one of the working groups, looking at how biodiversity can be encouraged or promoted using voluntary certifications schemes such as the ASC.

Contessa gave a number of examples of some of the different ways the ASC standards help to promote biodiversity, as well as some of the challenges in achieving large-scale change.

How is the ASC helping to promote biodiversity?

Methods to protect biodiversity vary, as do expectations between different species and industries, and the ASC’s individual standards reflect these challenges. However, some of the examples that Contessa highlighted at the FAO included:


One of the best-known environmental impacts of shrimp farming is the clearing of mangrove forests, which protect the local ecology and promote a great deal of biodiversity. The ASC shrimp standard states that farms may not clear mangrove forests, and in some cases requires that they restore lost mangroves. With shrimp farms often placed in coastal areas, the ASC standard also requires permanent coastal barriers to prevent erosion that could lead to habitat loss.

  • Find out more, and watch a short film about a responsible shrimp farm in Vietnam on our Shrimp standard page.


Given the popularity and value of salmon around the world, the importance of promoting responsible farming of this fish cannot be understated, and the ASC standard aims to help mitigate some of the unique biodiversity risks associated with salmon farming.

A key part of the ASC’s salmon standard is the focus on the wider area in which farms are placed, and the requirement for cooperation between farms to ensure an Area-Based Management (ABM) scheme is in place to monitor and mitigate risks related to parasites and pathogens, the management of disease, sea lice, and protect biosecurity. These must cover at least 80% of the species in a given area – even if some of these farms are not ASC-certified. This means a farm seeking certification must work collaboratively with its neighbours to protect local biodiversity and ecology.

  • Read more about how our Salmon standard minimizes environmental and social impacts of farms.


The majority of feed used in aquaculture comes from land-based agriculture. This makes it much harder to monitor and control the environmental impact of this feed, which can have complex and opaque supply-chains. The ASC’s feed standard aims to help promote the use of terrestrial crops that are more transparently sourced, from lower-risk areas in terms of environmental impact. The use of wild fish for fish feed and fish oil also adds to the environmental impact of aquaculture, especially if that fish is not responsibly sourced. The feed standard will require that farms ensure more of their wild-caught feed comes from these responsible sources.

  • Find out the latest updates in the development of our feed standard.

What are the challenges?

In her keynote address, Contessa highlighted that the rapid growth of ASC certification, despite it being voluntary, shows the economic appeal that farms see in the scheme, and the strength of the market-driven approach. However, she also recognised that such a scheme on its own cannot bring the biodiversity changes at the scale required.

This is why a multi-stakeholder approach is at the heart of everything the ASC does, and why the ASC is proud to be representing the aquaculture industry at multi-stakeholder dialogues such as this, with its opportunity to learn from and influence both governments and experts.

Raising the profile and priority of biodiversity will require contributions from voluntary certification schemes such as the ASC, as well as national governments with their power to create legislation, NGOs and conservationists, and of course all of those involved in meeting the world’s rising demand for food. Meeting this demand without causing irrecoverable damage to our climate and environment will require all of us to work together not just to make more food, but to make it smarter.

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