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ASC Reaches out in North America

March 11, 2013

Boston, 11 March 2013 – Today, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) held a dedicated meeting at the International Boston Seafood Show 2013 to inform and update the North American market on its latest progress. After its successful launch of the tilapia and pangasius standards in 2012, ASC is now  the market launch of its Bivalves (clams, mussels, oysters, scallops), Trout, Abalone and Salmon standards, which can be expected in the next couple of months. Over 300 ASC certified products already carry the easily recognisable turquoise ASC logo on the packaging. The logo guarantees consumers that the seafood they are purchasing has been farmed responsibly.

Urgency to transform aquaculture

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) was founded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative. Fish farming is the fastest growing food production sector in the world. The amount of seafood originating from aquaculture used for human consumption already surpasses that of wild caught fish. ASC certified aquaculture farms operate with respect for the environment and social conditions of farm workers and for people living around the farms. For example, the standards’ stringent requirements for waterquality have a direct and positive influence for communities also depending on the same water sources as well as on the quality of the farmed fish. Other requirements are aimed at preventing farmed fish escaping, reducing the impact on local wild species.  Another example relates to the strict requirements farms have to meet regarding their treatment of employees and local communities. Social audits use a participatory approach and must be undertaken by an experienced social auditor.

As an independent organisation, the ASC manages the standards and the requirements for the certification process. The actual certification of farms is done by external, independent certifiers, not by the ASC. These certifiers need to be approved by an independent organisation (ASI), which assesses the certifying companies’ ability to conduct audits and monitors their performance once approved. This approach has also been successfully used by other leading certification programmes for sustainable fisheries (MSC) and forest management (FSC).

“The demand for protein-rich seafood is rapidly increasing,” says Chris Ninnes CEO of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. “If we do nothing to improve production, there will be mainly unintended, yet major environmental consequences. Some fish and shrimp farms in Asia have seriously affected valuable mangrove forests areas that serve as essential nurseries for the ocean and constitute natural coastal defences. Aquaculture can contribute to feeding the growing world population, but this must be done responsibly. The introduction of ASC certified tilapia and pangasius were the first steps to improve the situation on the ground. Soon, other products bearing the ASC logo will be available in stores and restaurants worldwide. Together we can make responsibly farmed fish mainstream.”

Rapid development in Vietnam

Recently, ASC celebrated the market launch of ASC certified (Vietnamese) pangasius with its global, independent trademark for responsibly farmed seafood in Hamburg, Germany. For this event, a Vietnamese delegation including members from the Vietnamese Directorate of Fisheries (D-Fish), the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), the International Collaborating Centre for Aquaculture and Fisheries Sustainability (ICAFIS), and the first ASC certified pangasius farm “Vinh Hoan” were in attendance to support this important milestone for the ASC. “The development of the criteria for the responsible farming of pangasius took more than three years and involved some 600 people from different backgrounds. This industry, which is so important for the region, can only grow responsibly if its impact is reduced. Decreasing the pollution of the Mekong River and other rivers is one of the largest priorities in this respect”, says Chris Ninnes, ASC’s CEO. “Among other things, ASC farms must therefore invest in the proper treatment of wastewater before it is discharged into the river”. In recognition of the challenges this industry faced leading national organisations with the support of the Vietnamese government have invested considerable efforts to reduce the industry’s impact. The commitment to certify 10% of Vietnamese production to the ASC standard by 2012 has been met, and further investments aim to have at least 50% of pangasius production ASC certified by 2015. Currently there are 16 ASC certified farms in the Mekong Delta supplying ASC certified pangasius, while at least 7 more farms are well advanced in the process to achieving ASC certification.

ASC certified tilapia and pangasius available in many supermarkets

ASC certified tilapia and pangasius have already been available in many supermarkets throughout Europe starting August 2012. In North America, Canada’s largest retailer Loblaw has offered ASC certified tilapia from the beginning of 2013. More North American retailers are expected to follow suit.

Freshwater Trout standards handed over the ASC

The Freshwater Trout standard was handed over to the ASC from the Aquaculture Dialogue on 20 February this year. The standard has been keenly anticipated by the market and has been warmly welcomed by both retailers and producers such as one of Germany’s leading quality seafood brands Gottfried-Friedrichs and the The Danish Aquaculture Organisation. Next steps will be the pilot testing of the draft Trout Audit Manual – a document containing clarifying guidance for farms and auditors – in collaboration with producers globally. The outcome of the pilots will be processed into the final Audit Manual for Trout. In addition, all auditors must also successfully conclude an ASC-organised training course on the ASC Trout Standard and this will be scheduled shortly after the Audit Manual has been finalised. ASC certified trout is expected to be available in the market before from the end of 2013.

Other fish species

Following tilapia and pangasius, other fish species will also be ASC-certified and available to the market in the near future: salmon (expected: Q4-2013), bivalves (clams, mussels, oysters, scallops; expected Q4-2013), abalone (expected Q1-2014) and trout (expected Q3/4-2013). Standards for responsibly farmed shrimp and a combined standard for seriola and cobia are still under development and are expected to be handed over to the ASC in spring and in 2014 respectively.

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