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Why Seafood Watch still considers ASC salmon from British Columbia a ‘buy option’

December 17, 2021

If you have seen that Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch has rated farmed salmon from British Columbia as ‘red’ in its latest ratings, you would be forgiven for thinking that meant all salmon from this area should be off the menu – but you’d also be wrong.

In fact, Seafood Watch rates all ASC certified salmon as a buy option for environmentally conscientious shoppers – and that covers ASC salmon from every region, including British Columbia.

So can I eat farmed salmon from British Columbia, even though it’s rated red?

If it’s ASC certified, you can be assured that it’s been responsibly produced. And that’s a pretty good rule of thumb no matter where the salmon was produced.

We will admit that this can be a little confusing, and that’s because seafood is a complex industry and simple answers don’t always give us all the information we need. Even so, looking for the ASC logo is a pretty straightforward way to minimise your environmental and social impacts.

What is Seafood Watch?

Seafood Watch is a ratings programme run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It develops standards and makes recommendations on the environmental sustainability of different seafood species produced in different regions. Seafood Watch recently updated its ratings, and downgraded its overall recommendation for farmed salmon from British Columbia to a ‘red’ rating – but this does not apply to ASC certified salmon from British Columbia, which is rated as a ‘buy option.’

Spot the difference

To understand why you can still purchase ASC certified salmon from British Columbia even if that region is rated ‘red’ by Seafood Watch, it’s necessary to understand the difference between ‘ratings’ and ‘certifications’ – two different, but complementary tools.

Ratings focus on assessing as many seafood sources as possible in different markets to provide information on the full spectrum of performance. This information can be used to identify opportunities for producers to pursue improvement projects and certifications, as well as help businesses evaluate sourcing options. It can also flag where more businesses or consumers might want to seek additional information and assurance on certain seafood products from certain regions.

Certifications directly engage with fisheries or farms and require them to address social and environmental challenges to improve and meet the certification standard. Certifications also engage with the supply chain to provide additional assurance. ASC certification is a specific assurance based on rigorous audits at individual farms. Chain of Custody certification then ensures that the entire supply chain is certified, meaning that only seafood from certified farms can end up in certified products.

Which is better?

Both can be extremely helpful to consumers and businesses! For a start, the more information and publicity out there about responsible farming, the better. At ASC we are passionate about our approach, which is individually certifying farms and providing consumers with trusted information so they can reward responsible producers. But ratings programmes provide a complementary service. Because ASC is based on auditing individual farms, we can’t comment on those farms that haven’t been audited. A ratings system can give a more general picture of what farming is like for a particular species in a particular region. It can be a great starting point for the conscientious business or consumer.

So Seafood Watch still recommends ASC salmon?

Yes, all ASC certified salmon, from anywhere in the world, is rated as a buy option for environmentally conscious consumers. This overrides any rating that a region may have been given. This is because Seafood Watch have benchmarked ASC’s Salmon Standard and recognised it as consistent with their own criteria for environmental sustainability.

It can be confusing looking for food that has been produced responsibly. At ASC we make it as simple as possible by only allowing our logo to be used on products from farms that have demonstrated their excellent social and environmental performance. So, if in doubt, look for the ASC logo!

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