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ASC Farm Standard – Principle 2

ASC Farm Standard – Principle 2  in development – 

The forthcoming ASC Farm Standard will be split into three principles. Principle 1 covers legal compliance and effective business management, Principle 2 covers environmental impacts and Principle 3 covers social impacts.

Contact person: Michiel Fransen

Aquaculture is a varied industry in terms of species cultured, production systems used and the ecosystems in which farms are sited. As a result, a wide range of impacts are identified, some relevant to practices of all farms, others to more specific situations or to certain species.

The ASC’s forthcoming Farm Standard defines these key impact areas for all main culture systems and considers specific requirements where needed. The industry, science and expectations evolve meaning some impact areas need updating as well as alignment between existing requirements in ASC’s 11 species standards.

The intended outcome of Principle 2 is that ASC certified facilities operate in an environmentally responsible manner, by ensuring that:

  1. The farm’s siting and operation does not impact wider ecosystem functioning
  2. Resource use is optimised
  3. Any discharged outputs do not exceed ecosystem absorption rates
  4. The aquatic species cultured do not harm native species and/or ecosystems

Collectively, the ‘environmental’ impacts of farm activities will be covered by the following 17 Criteria:

Criterion 2.2 – Ecologically Important Habitats

The development and activities of aquaculture operations can disrupt ecosystems and reduce valuable ecological services across marine, terrestrial and freshwater habitats. Maintenance of essential ecosystem functions and the free movement of organisms can be achieved through effective ecological buffer zones and protected areas. Through ASC requirements, the farm contributes to the conservation of essential ecosystem services and the habitats on which wildlife depend.

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.3 – The UoC minimises wildlife interactions

Aquaculture operations may attract and interact with wildlife and rely on wild population for breeding or stock. In order to protect wildlife and the farmed animals, farms should minimise interaction, and both unintentional and intentional injury and mortalities. The ASC Farm Standard sets requirements for limits to wildlife mortalities, use of broodstock, identification and mitigation of the risks of interactions, and reporting on wildlife mortalities. 

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.4 – The UoC avoids the culture of new non-native species

Non-native species are widely farmed outside their natural range. They can escape, become established, and impact native species and local ecosystems. The ASC Farm Standard only permits the farming of non-native species under specific conditions such as fully-closed recirculating aquaculture systems to mitigate the risks of non-native species entering local ecosystems. 

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.5 – Escapes

Escapes from aquaculture can impact wild native populations in various ways. Loss of stock also has an economic impact on the producer. The ASC Standard requires that producers minimise escapes through good management and control measures. The proposed ASC Farm Standard also sets metric limits of allowable escapes over a set period of time. 

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.6 – Benthic Impacts

Aquaculture operations might discharge effluents containing organic material such as faeces and uneaten feed into surrounding water bodies. When this discharge occurs at a rate that exceeds the capacity of the environment to process the additional inputs, changes in the chemical and physical composition of the sediment can occur, which in turn can negatively affect the (in)faunal benthic community. The ASC Standard requires farms to regularly monitor the level of seabed organic enrichment  of the area surrounding the farm in order to minimise benthic impacts. 

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.7 – Water Quality

Release of nutrients from aquaculture operations can contribute to accelerated eutrophication of receiving waters. The ASC Farm Standard aims to minimise the risk that nutrients and suspended solids negatively impact the quality of the receiving waterbody and its associated ecosystem structure and function. 

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.8 – Salinisation

Salinisation is the increase of salt concentrations in soil or freshwater systems, which can have negative effects on the environment with consequences extending to affect local communities. This criterion intends to ensure low risk of salinisation of soil and freshwater resources from farm activities by requiring mitigation measures, for example, non-plastic pond liners. 

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.9 – Biosolids

Biosolids contain organic wastes and sediment and accumulate in the farming system. Unregulated disposal can cause negative impacts on the environment. This Criterion intends to ensure appropriate handling of biosolids, including re-use where possible.

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.10 – Freshwater Use

Globally, freshwater is a limited resource and demand for it is increasing. The use of freshwater in aquaculture needs to be considered within the ecosystem context to ensure that use is not at a detriment to the natural environment. Farms should be aware of the volume of water they are using, and work towards increasing efficiency. 

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.11 – Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Food systems, especially animal production systems, account for a large portion of global greenhouse gas emissions. The climate impact of aquaculture production is driven by both feed use and on-farm energy use. ASC certified farms measure and track their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and seek ways to improve efficiency and reduce their climate impact. 


Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.12 – Material Use, Waste and Pollution Control

The construction, operation, and decommissioning of aquaculture farms uses materials and generates waste. Material use and waste disposal, if not managed responsibly, can negatively impact human health, neighbouring communities, the environment, wildlife, and farmed aquatic organisms. For this reason, the ASC Farm Standard requires farms to prioritise re-use and recycling, reduce waste generation, and ensure responsible handling of hazardous materials and disposal of waste to prevent pollution. 

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.13 – Feed

Feed is a major resource-input in global aquaculture. ASC tackles the various impacts associated with feed in a holistic manner. The ASC Feed Standard addresses the key impacts associated with raw material production and feed manufacturing. The ASC Farm Standard addresses the environmental impacts resulting from the use of feed, as well as efficiency of the use of resources. 

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.14 – Fish Health and Welfare

Farmed fish are susceptible to diseases that have the potential to be amplified and transferred, thereby posing a risk to the health of fish and other marine organisms in adjacent ecosystems. One of the best ways to mitigate the risk of disease transfer to wild stocks is to reduce or eliminate disease outbreaks. The ASC Farm Standard seeks to ensure proactive health management on the farm through comprehensive health management plans including requirements for on-farm biosecurity, disease monitoring and veterinary oversight. 

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.15 – Parasite Control (including Sea Lice)

Parasites on aquaculture farms may cause direct harm to farmed and wild species, or they may act as a vector for disease transfer. Improper use of parasiticides can lead to resistance and contamination. The ASC Farm Standard requires farms to minimise parasite load on-farm and the risk of transfer to the wider environment.

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here.

Criterion 2.16 – Antibiotics and other Veterinary Therapeutants

Effective antibiotics are critical in combatting disease, not only in fish and livestock, but also to ensure human health. For this reason, the ASC Farm Standard’s antibiotic requirements have been aligned with the One Health Approach for responsible use of antibiotics. This includes avoiding antibiotic use where possible, but if needed, applying effective antibiotics. The ASC Farm Standard also requires farms to reduce antibiotic use over time.

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion 2.17 – Hatcheries and Intermediate Sites

Farming occurring upstream of certified sites has the potential to create negative environmental and social impacts. Hatchery or juvenile production will be required to adhere to the same environmental and social elements as farm sites.

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Criterion: 2.18 – Area Based Management

Farms often rely upon, or impact, shared resources, and are susceptible to regional diseases. Wider area management is challenging, but information sharing is a key principle to enable further action. The ASC Farm Standard requires farms to actively share relevant information with surrounding farms on disease occurrence.

Watch a short video explaining this criterion here

Annex 2 – Data recording and submission

Transparency is key to ASC’s credibility. Data is also essential for impact monitoring, standard development, facilitate risk-based auditing and researchASC aims to improve the quality, extent, and standardisation of reporting. Data will be submitted by the Farm site or the UoC through the webportalChainpoint.​

Watch a short video explaining this annex here

Annex 3 – Risk Management Framework (RMF)

ASC is working to develop a Risk Management Framework (RMF) that will provide farms with clear and consistent elements needed to support the implementation of a risk-based approach to the requirements. The framework covers: Environmental impacts, Community impactsWorker’s health and safety, and Child and forced labour.

Watch a short video explaining this annex here

What’s next?

Feedback from the consultations is used to adapt the proposals. Fish Welfare was open for public consultation until the end of October 2021. The current round of public consultation for the remaining P2 criteria/indicators runs until in April 30th 2022. After this feedback has been collated and reflected upon, a final round of public consultation on the complete proposed P2 will take place September/October next 2022. The target is to release the P2 requirements in 2023 and implement in 2024.

More information

[Page last updated on 19.05.2022]

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