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ASC launches Stakeholder Consultation on important criteria in the upcoming ASC Farm Standard

September 1, 2023

As part of a commitment to continuous improvement and transparency, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is today launching a 60-day (1 September-30 October 2023) stakeholder consultation on three key areas: Cleaner Fish Health and Welfare, Shrimp Health and Welfare, and Living Wage indicators.

The three topics are pivotal in the development of the new aligned ASC Farm Standard. The Standard will be launched in Autumn 2024 and come into effect in Autumn 2025, bringing greater consistency to the ASC Programme.

ASC is also seeking feedback on the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Species Extension Project: Catfish, and the inclusion of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in the ASC Farm Standard.

Stakeholder inclusion and participation is a key element of the ASC Programme to ensure that the ASC standards reflect a breadth of knowledge, expertise and expectations.

Cleaner Fish Health and Welfare indicators

In response to the stakeholder feedback received during the previous consultation on Fish Health and Welfare in September and October 2022, ASC decided to include cleaner fish as part of the health and welfare content of the ASC Farm Standard.  With this in mind, the scope of existing indicators was broadened, existing indicators were slightly modified, or in some cases new indicators were written to cover cleaner fish. This was done in collaboration with a Technical Working Group (TWG) of cleaner fish experts.

Topics covered include hatchery origin, wild caught origin, routine health and welfare, therapeutants, handling, slaughter and The aim of the consultation is to establish whether the proposed content is relevant and if there are any missing topics.

ASC welcomes in particular feedback from producers, primary processors, retailers, NGOs, auditors and academia.

Shrimp Health and Welfare indicators

As a key species in terms of volume of ASC certified product, the growth and success of the shrimp sector must be underpinned by sustainable and responsible shrimp farming practices.

In recognition of the species-specific needs of shrimp and the feedback received during the September and October 2022 stakeholder consultation, ASC convened a Shrimp Technical Working Group (TWG) of experts to develop a proposal for a set of indicators to cover shrimp health and welfare. This goes further than the initial proposal.

The proposal is based on revision of the health and welfare indicators currently proposed in the ASC Farm Standard (criteria 2.14 and 2.16) and Shrimp Standard v1.2, re-use of indicators to cover shrimp where possible and the formulation of new indicators for those practices or situations that are specific to shrimp and are not yet covered.

The topics covered in this proposal include shrimp origin- featuring disease susceptibility and eyestalk ablation – fish health and welfare monitoring, handling, slaughter and veterinary therapeutants.

ASC welcomes in particular feedback from producers, primary processors, retailers and brands, auditors, NGOs, academia and research in South-East Asia and Central America.

Living Wage indicators

In December 2019, ASC endorsed a policy recommendation to join the Global Living Wage Coalition (GLWC) to engage with broader certification initiatives and begin work on living wage. In response to feedback received during stakeholder consultation in March 2022, ASC endorsed in January 2023 the development of living wage indicators and a living wage methodology.

The criterion intent is that ASC certified farms work towards the continuous improvement of wages, while paying all employees at or above the legal minimum wage.

These new draft indicators include indicators on wage and benefit measurement, understanding any gaps between wages and living wage benchmarks, improvement and reporting.

ASC’s living wage requirements draw from the GLWC and its research partner, the Anker Research Institute (ARI). This includes: using the GLWC definition of a living wage; adopting the ARI methodology for calculation of remuneration (total compensation including cash wages and allowable in-kind benefits and bonuses) and, where they exist, using ARI living wage benchmarks to measure the gap between current remuneration for workers, and what the living wage should be in that geographical location.

ASC would like to understand whether the draft living wage indicators indeed address key social and human rights issues around wages in line with stakeholders’ expectations, whether the proposed indicators are auditable from a Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) perspective, and what impact the requirement to pay workers a minimum of two-thirds of salary while on maternity leave would have.

Next steps and timeline

Following the stakeholder consultation, ASC will collate and incorporate feedback received into the presentation of the aligned ASC Farm Standard to the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) in January 2024. Following their endorsement, the full ASC Farm Standard will go out for final stakeholder consultation in Spring 2024.The Standard will then be launched in Autumn 2024 and come into effect in Autumn 2025.

For more information, please visit the Alignment: ASC Farm Standard page.

Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Species Extension Project: Catfish

ASC is also seeking feedback on the ToR of the Species Extension Project: Catfish.

The consultation is open for 30 days from 1 September 2023 – 30 September 2023.

As ASC is currently in the process of integrating all species-specific standards into one aligned ASC Farm Standard, and no further species-specific standards will be developed, ASC is developing a Species Scope Extension Procedure. This will be added to the Standard Setting Procedure.The aim is to streamline the process of adding new species to the ASC portfolio.

The Species Extension Project: Catfish seeks to include multiple catfish species (Clariidae spp. , Ictalurus spp. , and Silirus glanis ) to the scope of the ASC Farm Standard by adding species-specific metrics and, if needed, additional indicator requirements. The development will follow the ASC Standard Setting Procedure.

ASC is looking for insights on farming processes and data availability and welcomes in particular feedback from catfish aquaculture farms, farm inputs suppliers and service providers, processors, retailers and brands, auditors, communities, NGOs, academia and research, and government.

This feedback will help develop species-specific metrics and potentially new indicator requirements. These will be presented for stakeholder consultation in Autumn 2024, with further details to follow.

Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Inclusion of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in the ASC Farm Standard

Lastly, ASC is seeking feedback on the ToR of its Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) project which looks at the potential future inclusion of the FPIC concept into the ASC Farm Standard.

The consultation is open for 60 days from 1 September 2023 – 31 October 2023.

FPIC is a key principle of human rights law that protects the rights of Indigenous people.

Initial scoping in the first half of 2023 highlighted the complexity and sensitivity of this issue, and the degree of polarisation across the aquaculture sector.

ASC welcomes feedback from all stakeholders – in particular from representatives of Indigenous peoples, ASC certified farms and those seeking certification across all species, NGOs, academia, governments working on this topic, as well as processors, retailers, consumers, and auditors.

As the feasibility of implementation of community engagement according to the principles of FPIC will depend on national legal frameworks, it may not be possible to include a full FPIC process in the ASC Farm Standard. In that case the project will develop an alternative set of indicators. ASC intends to present draft indicators for stakeholder consultation in 2025, with further details to follow.


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