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Blue finance: Why investing in responsible aquaculture is good for the people and planet 

June 24, 2024

With global aquaculture set to grow by 35% in the next few years, impacts may also increase, making the role of certifications such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) even more crucial. As blue food becomes one of the solutions to solving hunger and food security worldwide, the role of blue finance and sustainable investments has become more important today. 

‘Blue finance’ is a buzzword in the aquaculture sector today, but what does it really mean? Blue finance simply means financial flow directed to investments and programmes that support positive impacts for the ocean economy.  

The World Economic Forum estimates that US$175 billion of blue finance will be required to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, ‘Life Below Water’, by 2030. Banks, insurers, and investors all have a part to play in transforming the ocean economy into a sustainable one. 

One of Taprobane’s certified shrimp farms. Investments are crucial in driving positive impacts in the aquaculture sector. Courtesy: Taprobane 

ASC CEO Chris Ninnes said, “Blue Foods are an integral part of global food security, but their potential is not yet fully realised amongst decision makers within the international community. Nor has their ability to both expand production and to do this more efficiently than farmed terrestrial protein understood. Through the adoption of credible but pragmatic standards, all of this can be achieved whilst promoting environmental sustainability and social responsibility. By investing in responsible aquaculture, Blue Foods will play a transformative role in the global supply of animal protein and providing farms of all sizes access to finance to implement needed improvements will drive this transformation.” 

 “I’m delighted to see this partnership between FMO and Taprobane Seafoods leading to the first ASC certified farm in Sri Lanka. This is the kind of collaboration ASC is helping to deliver, focused on a continued drive towards sustainability.”  

Why responsible aquaculture has become a focus for bank investors

We interviewed Presan Pahladsingh, an Investment Officer at FMO (the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank), who works in their Agribusiness, Food, and Water department to talk about why investing in responsible aquaculture is important in meeting their sustainability goals.   

Pahladsingh said, “We are committed to certain UN SDGs and addressing climate change and improving the livelihood of smallholder (female) farmers, is very important to us. Another SDG that we are committed to is Zero Hunger. When you look at aquaculture, it is very efficient in producing food that is highly nutritional. 

“That is one of the key aspects why aquaculture (and the seafood sector in general) is one of the industries that we want to look closely into.” 

FMO puts specific focus in financing seafood farms and shareholders from developing countries to help them develop their capacity and skills and improve their farming practices,  

Pahladsingh explained, “We have provided financing to companies in the seafood sector in Zambia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Latin America. We are also working on getting more feet on the ground in Asia, including India and Indonesia. We see the footprint of the seafood industry globally increasing especially in Asia.”  

First ASC certified farm in Sri Lanka

One of FMO’s financing projects in aquaculture was initiated in Sri Lanka. FMO granted a $15 million (€13.8 million) loan to Sri Lankan shrimp farm Taprobane Seafoods. 

Taprobane Frozen Foods’ Erukkalampidy shrimp farm has become Sri Lanka’s first to gain ASC certification. The ASC certified farm expands 57 acres producing 1,200 MT of shrimp annually.  The company aims to have all 1,000 acres of the farm eventually certified. 

Udari Morawake, Taprobane Seafood Head of Sustainability & CSR said, “ASC certification for our farm signifies a notable achievement in terms of environmental sustainability and social responsibility in shrimp farming in Sri Lanka because the ASC is a globally recognised certification programme that sets standards for responsible aquaculture practices. 

“Under ASC certification, we have made significant steps in both environmental and social aspects. Environmental improvements are evident through potential measures such as habitat conservation, indicating a commitment to minimising the impact on surrounding ecosystems and sustaining local biodiversity. Additionally, the certification likely reflects efforts in water quality management, showcasing Taprobane’s dedication to ensuring a healthy aquatic environment.” 

Morawake also highlighted the company’s significant strides in social welfare and the development of its employees. “This certification emphasises responsible labour practices, suggesting that Taprobane has improved conditions for workers, encompassing fair wages, appropriate working hours, and safe working conditions. Moreover, community engagement initiatives have been implemented, fostering positive relationships and contributing to the sustainable development of the local communities involved in shrimp farming. Taprobane invests in comprehensive training and development programmes, fostering continuous improvement in employee skills and knowledge.  

Nasha Baanu, production executive at Taprobane .Courtesy: Taprobane 

“We are really proud of our team and our commitment to empowering women in Sri Lanka’s shrimp farming industry. In fact, our farm is the only farm in the country to offer opportunities for women in field activities!” 

Obtaining market access for these farms is also one of the goals of blue finance. By achieving the ASC label, Taprobane has increased their buyers worldwide.  

Morawake said, “Being Sri Lanka’s first ever ASC certified farm certainly helps with our promotion. For Taprobane Seafoods, this certification serves as a valuable tool for setting ourselves apart from other Sri Lankan shrimp processors. It positions us as a preferred choice for partners who prioritise sustainability and social responsibility in seafood production. This recognition reinforces our commitment to delivering high-quality and ethically sourced products to the market.”  

Investing in responsible aquaculture proves to be good not only for the people, but also for the planet. With companies paying more attention to how they contribute to fulfilling the UN’s SDGs, investing in responsible business practices is a must.  

“The dream is to have sufficient food for the whole world, while protecting the environment,” FMO’s Pahladsingh concluded.

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