Human Rights in Aquaculture
At ASC we care about the people that are involved in farmed seafood, both those employed in its production and the communities where the farms are located.
Around 20.7 million people are involved in seafood farming globally and a further 7.5 million are employed in hatcheries, feed production, processing, and retail. The sector is a major contributor to people’s livelihoods and communities.
As with any industry, if not carried out with proper care and attention, seafood farming can have negative impacts on people’s wellbeing such as through poor working conditions, social exclusion, and land grabbing. To address these challenges, ASC’s certification programme includes comprehensive human rights requirements, and is constantly developing in line with latest information, and best practices.
Our vision for human rights in aquaculture
We envisage an aquaculture sector where employees and communities have a decent quality of life. It is our mission to protect the human rights of those who work in aquaculture, or live in surrounding communities, and improve their wellbeing. We also aim to act as a catalyst for broader industry-wide change.
Our human rights projects
At ASC, our work on human rights in aquaculture focuses on topics related to the rights of employees, Indigenous people, and communities. We constantly revise and update the human rights’ requirements in ASC’s standards and work on projects related to human rights, capacity development, programme innovations, advocacy, outreach, and collaboration, monitoring and evaluation, and learning.
FAQs about ASC’s human rights programme
How are human rights addressed in our ASC standards?
ASC manages 11 Species Standards, a Feed Standard and shares a joint Seaweed Standard and Chain of Custody Standard with MSC. These standards were developed through public consultation at different moments and vary in their inclusion of human rights requirements. The ASC Farm Standard will align all requirements into one singular standard.
All current ASC Standards cover the fundamental rights listed in the ILO Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work, including:
- Freedom of association
- No forced labour
- No child labour
- No discrimination
- Safe and healthy working conditions
Aspects that align with several other ILO and other conventions include:
- Fair wages
- Transparent contracts
- Decent working hours
- Fair disciplinary procedures
- Fair grievance mechanisms
- Good community engagement.
The ASC Feed Standard provides the most comprehensive human rights and labour requirements so far. It also includes a Country Risk Scorecard that assigns a social risk level to 184 countries. This guides feed producers on how much due diligence they must carry out in sourcing ingredients from different countries.
How are the human rights standards audited?
ASC has a Social Auditing Methodology (SAM), which requires a full social audit at every initial certification and recertification audit, and again during the certification cycle. The SAM requires that ASC social auditors follow processes as described in ISO 17021-1 and ISO 19011, as well as a set of ASC requirements, which include holding an opening and closing meeting at the social audits, conducting walkthroughs, reviewing documents and records, and a minimum number of private interviews with different personnel. Social auditors are required to have specific qualifications, experience and local knowledge, and ASC also trains social auditors on the specific ASC social requirements. As part of the SAM, ASC has developed a Social Auditing Risk Assessment calculator to determine the level of required audit effort based on several country and farm-level risk factors.
Is ASC transparent about its social certification and auditing processes?
ASC discloses all audit reports and audit results on its website (see Find a Farm page) including for farms that are certified, or that have had their certificates cancelled, suspended, withdrawn, or not awarded, whose certificate expired, failed an audit, or are in an initial audit stage. The audit reports contain information on the nature of nonconformances or grievances and stakeholders can comment on draft audit reports before they are finalised. Both the draft and final versions of the audits are published. The same will apply for feed mills once certified. The ASC GIS mapping portal shows the location of farms across the world and offers additional information about each farm.
How does ASC factor in multiple stakeholder views?
The initial ASC Standards were developed with a wide range of stakeholders in the Aquaculture Dialogues. Public consultations remain key in revising existing standards and developing new ones – with efforts made to include all relevant stakeholder groups. Technical Working Groups that advise on new topics for inclusion in the standards also include stakeholder groups. ASC is stepping up its efforts to involve harder to reach groups by working with trade unions, human rights NGOs, and representatives of Indigenous communities in the development of processes and governance structures.
Does ASC certification address remediation? If so, what are the requirements around remediation when abuses are found?
Yes, there are remediation requirements for child and forced labour, and guidance on remediation including timelines and best practices. The latest version of the ASC assurance documents (Certification and Accreditation Requirements, v2.3) that sit alongside the Feed and Farm Standards include updated references to remediation of human rights issues, focusing on engagement of farms to develop and implement effective remediation with oversight from the Certification Assessment Body or other bodies.
Partners we work with on human rights
- How the ASC Farm Standard can enhance the protection of the rights of Indigenous People in seafood farming
- How ASC promotes Human Rights in Aquaculture
- It’s Human Rights Day. But what does that have to do with seafood?
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