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ASC Launches New Standards for Tropical Marine Finfish, Flatfish and Revision to Pangasius Standard

July 1, 2019

To meet the growing market demand for Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified seafood, the organisation has had to develop new standards. Last year saw the publication of the Sea Bass, Sea Bream and Meagre (SBSB) Standard and today ASC has released standards for Flatfish (FF) and Tropical Marine Finfish (TMFF).

The two new standards add 16 genera to the ASC programme, allowing for the transparent, third-party certification of an even greater number of species produced and consumed around the world.

“The addition of these two new standards represents the diversity and wide reach of the growing ASC programme,” said Chris Ninnes, CEO of ASC. “Aquaculture is a truly global industry, and to fulfil our mission to drive up fish farming standards worldwide our standards must reflect the variety of species produced and enjoyed in different regions.”

In 2018, total tropical marine finfish farmed production accounted for almost 3.7 million tonnes of global aquaculture production (FAO, SOFIA; 2018). In 2016, FAO aquaculture production information for the species covered under this standard accounted for about 1.5 million tonnes. Farming for these species is dispersed throughout tropical and subtropical Asia and Australasia and important production occurs in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Domestic consumption and inter-regional trade are both important market considerations behind the development of the TMFF standard and requests from key consuming markets where ASC is becoming increasingly embedded, including China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, were part of the rationale for the creation of the standard.

Farming production for the species covered under the flatfish standard is estimated at around 175 – 200,000 tonnes (FAO, 2016 and various national statistics). The majority (91%) of production occurs in Korea and China, with most of the remaining production taking place in Spain, Portugal and Japan (7%). Flatfish are an important part of the live-fish retail trade in China and Korea and are high-end fresh fish in Southern Europe and Japan.

How Does ASC Develop New Standards?

Key to developing any new ASC standard is the engagement of a broad range of stakeholders with an interest in the farming of the species covered. This diversity includes farmers, farming associations, NGOs, academics, supply chain companies, retailers and food service companies. All stages of the development process are featured on our website from the original publication of our intent to develop the standard, a consultation period on the Terms of Reference (TOR) and scope of the standard through to the publication of public consultation draft and the resulting stakeholder comments. All of these processes intersect the ASC’s two multi-stakeholder governance chambers, the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and the Supervisory Board. These guide the technical development of the content and its final approval respectively.

To develop the draft content for these standards, material was drawn from existing standards; but the content was significantly informed and subsequently modified as a result of the site visits undertaken with key stakeholders and public consultation rounds. As with all ASC standards, both environmental and social impacts are addressed.

The development of the ASC TMFF Standard has been a multi-year process. In 2013, WWF Indonesia and the WWF Coral Triangle Programme initiated a stakeholder dialogue to develop a standard for Grouper, Snapper and Barrumundi. In late 2016, the ASC was formerly requested to finalise the standard’s development and the scope of species covered was expanded. The ASC undertook two sixty-day public consultation rounds initiated in May 2017 and August 2017 that were compliant with ISEAL’s Standards Setting Code v6.0.

The stakeholder meetings brought a diverse group together from Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, United States and Vietnam, all with an interest to develop a standard that reduced the environmental and social consequences of current production methods. Representatives from the public sector (Department of Fisheries Penang, Department of Fisheries Pulau Sayak, Department of Fisheries Singapore, DG Aquaculture for Indonesia, Nha Trang University, Curtain University), the producer sector (Stanton Emms, GenoMar, Aquagrow Corporation, The Malaysian Fish Farmers Association, Penang Aquaculture Association, Palawan Aquaculture Corporation, Vinh Hoan, Aqua Ceria Group, Australis, Aquaculture Technologies Asia, Philipps Seafood, Baramundi Asia, Fin Fisher Pte, Australian Baramundi Farmers Association) and NGOs (WWF Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, US and the Coral Triangle Global Initiative).

In 2016, ASC also initiated a standard development process for commercially farmed flatfish species in accordance with ISEAL’s Standard Setting Code. The TOR was published for comment in April 2017 and public consultations were held in May and August the same year. Extensive pilot activities were undertaken in key producing regions. In China and Korea access to production and technical expertise was facilitated by CAPPMA and the Jeju Island Flatfish Producers Association. CAPPMA also hosts a Turbot Commission within its governance, providing a conduit for the collective voice for the many thousands of turbot farmers in China, and their input was also taken into account.

Public Consultation

Over the course of multiple rounds of public consultation for these standards, the ASC received substantial and substantive comments from stakeholders. In total 21 organisations submitted comments about 86 different indicators.

Stakeholders concerns mainly related to the following four Principles within the standard:

Principle 2: Conserve natural habitat, local biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function

Principle 3: Protect the health and genetic integrity of wild populations

Principle 4: Use resources in an environmentally efficient and responsible manner

Principle 5: Manage disease and parasites in an environmentally responsible manner

And related to the following metric indicators for:

  • Dissolved Oxygen
  • Escapes
  • Forage Fish Dependency Ratio (FFDR)
  • Antibiotic and anti-parasiticide treatments

Both standards released today now enter a six-month effective period; which allows time for all certification documents and processes to be developed by ASC’s accredited certification companies. During this time, farms can read the newly released standard and use the resources on the ASC website to review the requirements necessary to become certified and find a qualified certification company to perform audits to the new standard at the completion of the six-month effective period.

It may be possible for certification companies to assess farms prior to the end of the effective period if they can field qualified auditors to undertake the assessments and have completed all administrative arrangements for the internal management of the certification processes.

New Requirements for the ASC Pangasius Standard

Version 1.2 of the ASC Pangasius Standard was concurrently released today. The new version includes revisions that were finalised after multiple rounds of public consultations and will provide for increased protection of wetlands near pangasius farms, requirements to include fish meal and fish oil from IFFO RS certified sites or fisheries with lower FishSource scores (FS), and the disclosure of transgenic plant and plant-derived ingredients in feed.

The revision will also add additional requirements regarding antibiotics, as farms will have to verify the total amount of each antibiotic active ingredient used per tonne of fish produced per year and the frequency of treatments. As with all ASC standards, farms are not allowed to use any antibiotics on the World Health Organizations list of medicines critically important to human health.

Just as with the two new standards released today, the pangasius standard will also have a six-month effective period which will end on December 26, 2019 when farms will begin to be audited against the updated version of the ASC Pangasius Standard.


The scope of the FF Standard applies to all species belonging to the genera: Paralichthys, Scophthalmus, and Hippoglossus.

Common cultured species for these genera are:

  •    Paralichthys

o Paralichthys olivaceus (Olive Flounder)

o Paralichthys americanus (Winter Flounder)

o Paralichthys lethostigma (Southern Flounder)

  •    Scophthalmus

o Scophthalmus maximus (Turbot)

  •    Hippoglossus

o Hippoglossus (Atlantic Halibut)

The ASC Tropical Marine Finfish (TMFF) Standard is applicable to Groupers (species in the genera Epinephelus, Cromileptus, Plectropomus and Cephalophis), Snappers (species in the genera Lutjanus and Ocyurus), Pompano (species in the genus Trachinotus), Barramundi (species in the genus Lates) and Croaker (species in the genus Larimichthys) and in all regions globally where these fish are cultured.

Common cultured species for these genera are:

  • Cephalopholis miniata – Coral Hind
  • Cromileptes altivelis – Humpback Grouper
  • Epinephelus akaara – Hong Kong grouper
  • Epinephelus chlorostigma – Brownspotted grouper
  • Epinephelus coioides – Orange-spotted grouper
  • Epinephelus corallicola – Coral Grouper
  • Epinephelus fuscoguttatus – Brown Marbled Grouper
  • Epinephelus lanceolatus – Giant Grouper
  • Epinephelus malabaricus – Malabar grouper
  • Epinephelus polyphekadion – Camouflage Grouper
  • Larimichthys crocea – Yellow croaker
  • Lates calcarifer – Barramundi
  • Lutjanus argentimaculatus – Mangrove red snapper
  • Lutjanus argentiventris – Yellow snapper
  • Lutjanus erythropterus – Crimson snapper
  • Lutjanus goldiei – black snapper
  • Lutjanus johnii – John’s snapper
  • Lutjanus rivulatus – Blubberlip snapper
  • Lutjanus russellii – Russell’s snapper
  • Lutjanus sebae – Emperor red snapper
  • Ocyurus chrysurus – Yellowtail snapper
  • Plectropomus laevis – Blacksaddled Coralgrouper
  • Plectropomus leopardus – Leopard Coralgrouper
  • Plectropomus maculatus – Bar-cheeked Trout (Spotted Coralgrouper)
  • Plectropomus melanoleucus – Blacksaddled Coral grouper
  • Plectropomus oligacanthus – Highfin coral grouper
  • Trachinotus blochii – Snubnose pompano
  • Trachinotus carolinus – Florida pompano
  • Trachinotus falcatus – Permit
  • Trachinotus ovatus – Pompano
Confidental Infomation