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China’s First Large Yellow Croaker ‘Smart Aquaculture Ship’ Earns ASC Certification

February 9, 2023

China-based fish-farming ship Conson No. 1 has become the first large yellow croaker (Larimichthys croceus) farm to achieve the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification in December 2022. It is the world’s first full-scale “smart farming ship” which can produce 3,700 tonnes of large yellow croaker annually. Local high-end retail company Ole has begun discussions to promote and source ASC certified large yellow croaker for consumers in China.

ASC’s large yellow croaker certification is based on the ASC Tropical Marine Finfish Standard. The standard has more than 150 assessment indicators, including protection of ecosystems and biodiversity, strict control of antibiotic use, reduction of pesticide and chemical use, implementation of efficient resource and energy management systems, promotion of responsible feed sourcing, and a strong focus on community and social responsibility.

Large yellow croaker is one of the most popular marine finfish in China and is often eaten as a key part of celebratory meals and during holidays. It also has a long history in the Chinese diet and records dating back to 400 BC document its early consumption. Around 180,000 tonnes of large yellow croaker are consumed annually. Considering its significance in the local Chinese market, Conson No. 1 prioritised farming large yellow croaker over other species.

Aquaculture Made Possible in a ‘Smart Ship’’

Conson No.1 Aquaculture Ship is owned by Qingdao Conson Blue Silicon Valley Development Co., LTD; a pioneer of closed-ship aquaculture. Conson No. 1 combines ample space with an advanced digital management system that closely controls the environment of the growing conditions.

The aquaculture ship cruises in waters up to 100 nautical miles offshore; carefully considering the seawater temperature along the route to match the growth of the large yellow croaker. Advanced weather monitoring systems avoid natural risks such as storms and typhoons. Water is circulated in the growing to simulate ocean currents and forms a rotating flow to mimic the natural environment.  Additionally, because large yellow croaker have a relatively strong stress response to noise, the ship has advanced noise reduction technology to optimise growth. Onboard technology also enhances oxygenation inside the tanks, automatically provides intelligent- lighting and monitors and manages water cleaning and waste removal.

Auditors examined and verified the compliance of the entire process of fish farming on the ship against the ASC Tropical Marine Finfish Standard – from the fulfilment of legal requirements and regulations to the environmental and social performance and the aspects related to fish health and biosecurity. Additionally, auditors have also reviewed Conson No.1’s compliance with regulations and permits concerning water quality impacts in accordance with the legal requirements. For example, Conson No. 1 has among other key equipment an automatic extraction of dead fish and removal of dirt.

“The certification of the first smart aquaculture ship reflects the substantial efforts made by Qingdao Conson Blue Silicon Valley Development Co., towards a more sustainable farming of large yellow croaker. We would like to congratulate all those involved with the management and operation of the Conson No. 1 for their commitment towards responsible aquaculture and for its dedication and efforts towards innovative fish farming and technology,” said Chris Ninnes, CEO at ASC.

Achieving the Most Robust Responsibly Farmed Seafood Standard

Dong Shaoguang, Deputy General Manager of Conson Group, said “ASC certification is the gold standard for sustainable development of the aquaculture industry. It is recognised globally by sustainability-minded consumers and is also the screening basis for procurement conditions of sustainable seafood for the majority of China’s high-end supermarkets and starred hotel chains.

“Conson No. 1 simulates the wild growing environment of large yellow croaker in the cabin with industrial and intelligent technology to farm large yellow croaker in an artificial environment, with a focus on complying to ASC’s guidelines. ASC certification of the large yellow croaker from the Conson No.1 aquaculture ship proves that the practices and objectives of China’s aquaculture industry and market in the field of sustainable development are in line with the consensus direction of the international community. In the future, Conson Group will continue to work more closely with ASC on its aquaculture projects.”

Conson No. 1 officially started operating in May 2022, and soon after started the improvement of its aquaculture system to meet the ASC standard.

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