The ASC label on seafood: what does it mean?
July 11, 2023
You may have seen our green label on seafood packaging in your local supermarket. But what choice are you actually making when you buy ASC labelled seafood? In this blog, we’re delving into what the label means for seafood lovers, the standards we set for the farms who are part of our programme, and why we believe certification is so important.
What does the ASC label mean for you?
The ASC label means you’re making a responsible choice. You can be confident that your fish has been responsibly sourced from a farm that takes care of its animals, its workers, and the environment. It means that the supply chain that brought the fish from farm to supermarket is fully traceable. And it assures you that there’s been no mixing between fish from a certified farm and fish from other farms during the packaging or transportation processes.
By making the choice to buy fish with the ASC label from a certified farm, you’re also helping us drive the industry forwards into a more sustainable future. You’re showing that consumers care where their food comes from and want farms to be accountable for their impacts on the environment.
What does ASC stand for, and what do we do?
ASC stands for Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Let’s break that down:
- Aquaculture describes the practice of farming seafood, which is what our Standards regulate.
- Stewardship describes “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”. This is our relationship to aquaculture – we aren’t seafood farmers, but rather the custodians of Standards to help improve the industry.
- As a Council, we represent our stakeholders and are committed to ensuring that our work is transparent.
ASC exists to promote the responsible farming of seafood. We do this through our certification programme, which has the highest standards in the world. All farms have to meet these standards before they can use our label on their seafood products.
We believe that setting high standards and building a network of farms that adhere to them will allow the industry to provide food and jobs to billions around the world while minimising the environmental and social impacts.
Why is certification important?
Seafood farming provides more than half of the seafood consumed globally, and demand is forecasted to increase as the population grows. In developing countries especially, a ready supply of fish is crucial to feed the population.
Wild fishing alone cannot meet this need. Around the world, 33% of wild seafood stocks have reached their biological limit. That means they’ve been fished faster than new fish can grow, causing a decrease in species numbers. So we need a sustainable alternative to wild-caught fish to help us meet the global demand for seafood.
The growing demand has also led to more seafood farms opening around the world, many of which are not managed well. These farms don’t prioritise animal welfare, good working conditions for staff, or environmental protection.
ASC was set up to combat this. You can now find ASC labeled seafood in 90 countries around the world, supplied by a network of farms who are proud to meet our standards and use our label. Importantly, it’s not possible to buy certification, it must be achieved by operating at the high standard we insist upon.
To achieve ASC certification, farms are thoroughly audited by independent third parties. The standards they have to meet include:
- monitoring water quality
- responsible use of feed
- preserving natural habitats
- controlled and responsible use of antibiotics and chemicals
- safe working conditions for farm workers
- good relationships with local communities.
When you buy ASC labelled seafood you can be confident that your fish has been farmed with care. And by making the choice to support responsible seafood farming, you can help us make sure that the industry is able to supply fish to the world for generations to come.