ASC’s Improver Programme launches framework for credible AIPs offering shrimp producers new possibilities for support and development
September 7, 2023
Following successful pilots in different countries, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has presented the development of a framework for credible Aquaculture Improvements Projects (AIPs) under the ASC Improver Programme at this week’s Global Shrimp Forum.
ASC secured seafood leader Thai Union as one of their first partners to implement ASC’s AIPs for a total volume of 15,700 metric tonnes of shrimp by 2026. Producers can now apply to enter the programme and receive support to improve their farming operations.
ASC’s mission is to transform the aquaculture industry towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility. However, not all aquaculture producers are able to meet ASC’s robust and strict standards’ requirements. For this reason, ASC created the Improver Programme. The programme supports farms who are not ready or eligible for ASC certification but are committed to improving their farming practices. ASC is now launching a credible and transparent model for Aquaculture Improvement Projects (AIPs) designed to facilitate improvements and support producers to drive transformational change at scale.
ASC’s credible AIP framework offers two routes
Unlike the fisheries improvements space, the aquaculture industry was lacking a clearly defined AIP framework. For the first time, ASC set a structured approach to monitor AIP progress. Each AIP starts with a baseline measurement including a gap analysis and a time-bound project plan. Progress needs to be reported on a regular basis and will be verified by independent entities; all this info will be public on the ASC website under the “Find an AIP” search tool.
Producers can choose one of two tracks for their Aquaculture Improvement Project (AIP). The first is through the AIP to ASC certification route, where a plan of four phases is defined to improve performance to a level where the producer is ready to begin the ASC certification process by the end of the AIP. The second is the AIP to Better Practices route which is set out to facilitate producers who do not wish to become ASC certified but want to improve responsible practices in specific environmental or social areas.
By launching its new AIP model, ASC pushes the bar on transparency and credibility in the farmed seafood industry beyond certification. This transparency in turn will drive informed conversations on actions and investments required under an equitable and fair model.
Seafood companies can now play an active role in steering producers within their supply chain towards entering an AIP, that allows visibility of progress and performance over time, clarity on actions and investments required to improve performance, and to bring farms to a level that allows them to apply for ASC certification.
ASC will train a network of qualified Implementers and Verifiers, as well as cover the costs of verification of an AIP in order to give back to the industry.
“The launch of this framework for credible AIPs, together with the support and investment that ASC aims to provide to the sector, will be a game changer to the industry” says Roy van Daatselaar, ASC’s Global Lead Improver Programme. “Processors and seafood importers can now start an AIP within their supply chain and receive direct support from the ASC in the form of capacity building. Retailers and seafood buyers can now go to our website and see how AIPs are progressing, following independent verification and transparent reporting on progress.”
Successful pilots, Thai Union takes on programme
The first pilots were conducted in Indonesia with PT BMI, Sekar Bumi and JALA, which have all taken part in an AIP to ASC certification. Additionally, ASC is currently running pilots with Lenk Seafood Services and Luna Seafoods, who are working with 125 extensive monodon farmers in Bangladesh and are implementing ASC Group Certification following an AIP.
Thai Union, global seafood leader stock listed in Thailand, has recently launched their sustainability strategy SeaChange® 2030 which aims to help reshape the seafood industry with solutions across people and planet that better sustain a future for all. As part of their commitments, Thai Union will be one of the first setting up an AIP under the Improver Programme by ASC which aims to bring more than 4,000 metric tonnes up to ASC certification and another 11,700 metric tonnes in volume implementing best practices in line with the social and water quality requirements of the ASC Standards.
“We added Responsible Aquaculture as a new commitment within our SeaChange® 2030 strategy, addressing key impact areas including human and labour rights, health and wellness, climate action, and biodiversity,” says Adam Brennan, Chief Sustainability Officer of Thai Union.
“In July we committed to 100% of our shrimp and its feed being produced minimising ecosystem impact and meeting industry best practices in welfare and working conditions and that 100% of the farms we source from are a safe and decent workplace by 2030. With the framework that ASC has introduced, we are able to work with our suppliers on clear action plans, tracking, and verification in a way that wasn’t standardised in the past.”
Representatives from ASC and Thai Union announced the ASC Improver Programme at the Global Shrimp Forum in Utrecht, Netherlands.
ASC aims to scale up its portfolio in the coming years and offer support to AIPs in Southeast Asia and Latin America, while exploring with partners such as World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) how improvement efforts can be driven in the wider landscape and at jurisdictional level.
ASC welcomes application of shrimp farmers interested in participating in an AIP anywhere in the world. Interested stakeholders can contact the ASC Improver Programme team at email@example.com.
Following the launch of the ASC Farm Standard in 2024, ASC plans to open the AIP scope to other species.
The Improver Programme by ASC
By 2030, global markets will only demand around 20% seafood to be responsibly produced – so how do the others make a positive impact?
Find an Aquaculture Improvement Project (AIP)
Producers choose the ASC programme for greater access to global market demand. Learn more about our ASC standards and find out how to apply for certification.