Annual Report 2021: Transforming Aquaculture
Continued improvements, programme developments and increasing awareness in support of our mission.
With our first Annual Report “Transforming Aquaculture”, ASC looks back on 2021 and reflects on 10 years since the first aquaculture farm achieved ASC certification.
We celebrate the growing recognition for responsible aquaculture and our partners and stakeholders that continue to support our mission and challenge us to drive improvements. In this report, ASC shares progress across our programme, developing improvements, growth in certification, increasing demand and awareness, and where we continue to refine our strategies.
“While 2021 challenged ASC’s innovation to continue promoting our programme and ASC labelled products we found new ways to reach our audiences, drive improvements to our systems and invest in our organisation.”
Chris Ninnes, CEO ASC
The aquaculture industry is already supplying more than half of all seafood consumed worldwide, but meeting that need increases the risk of negative environmental and social impacts. ASC continues to work hard to encourage responsible farming practices and to promote the benefits of responsible aquaculture.
In 2021, ASC’s efforts resulted in continued program growth with activities dedicated to improving the accessibility of ASC certification, maintaining presence in existing markets and expanding to new ones, and putting over 20,000 ASC certified products in consumer hands.
12 Standards bringing a variety of certified seafood to the world
ASC works closely with producers, markets, and all interested stakeholders to ensure our standards represent the best performance across these sectors and respond to emerging needs. Eleven ASC standards along with the joint ASC-MSC Seaweed Standard define responsible social and environmental performance across 17 species groups.
In 2021, the first farm under the ASC Flatfish Standard achieved certification in the Netherlands. We celebrated growth across all our standards with certified farms globally reaching 1,648 sites covering 49 species.
Increasing accessibility to certification and enhancing our commitment to mitigating impacts
ASC continued to strengthen and further develop our global standards and certification programme through key improvements. The ASC Shrimp Standard was revised to include additional crustacean species, expanding the scope of the standard to freshwater shrimp and crayfish; and the Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) Module was released to reflect the growing trend of RAS within the aquaculture industry.
With the launch of the ASC Feed Standard, we extend our approach to responsible aquaculture to the feed mills that manufacture aquafeed, as well as the suppliers of their ingredients and the production of raw materials. This is the first standard to take into consideration all major impacts of feed ingredient production and feed supply chain traceability.
Monitoring impacts is a key component of the ASC programme, and in 2021, ASC conducted a full review of our Monitoring and Evaluation Framework. ASC’s M&E system focuses on three major results area (i) social and environmental performance of the farm, (ii) certification system effectiveness and efficiency, and (iii) market performance; and monitors these areas through a series of indicators that measure our Growth & Reach, Strategy, and Sustainability.
Driving improvements for people and the environment
ASC certified farms evidence their compliance with the legal, environmental, and social requirements in ASC Standards. Transparency in operations means that farms must evidence their improvements when not fully compliant with our rigorous requirements. In 2021, 543 ASC units of certification (UoCs, representing 987 farm sites) were assessed for improvements made and actions taken. In 89% of those UoCs, one or more improvement was made. This sends a strong signal to the industry – while we recognise the best performing farms across the sector, they continue to improve their performance and mitigate their impacts under the ASC programme.
In 2021, ASC certified farms made 2,780 improvements across 11 standards.
- 65% (1800) Improvements on environmental performance
- 32% (893) Improvements on social responsibility
- 3% (87) Improvements on legal compliance
Number of ASC certified sites by year
ASC labelled products in markets globally originate from countries around the world
50% of ASC labelled product volume are consumed in Netherlands, Germany, and France
By the end of 2021, the availability of ASC certified products grew by 10% compared to the previous year, bringing over 20,000 ASC labelled products to consumers, with over 275,000 tonnes sold. Global retail markets continued to demonstrate a strong preference for salmon and shrimp, which account for 70% of ASC labelled product weight. Moreover, demand is rising for other important regional species, such as trout, seabass, and seabream. We witnessed a strong uptake of ASC labelled products in Southern European markets and increased strategic focus on bringing key species to US and UK markets.
90% of countries with ASC certified farms experienced growth in the numbers of farms achieving certification in 2021
In 2021, ASC experienced a 20% growth in the number of certified farms sites from the previous year, increasing the global production of seafood that meets the social and environmental sustainability requirements of ASC standards to over 2.5 million tonnes. Key producing countries contributing to this volume included Norway and Chile (each with over 800,000 tonnes of salmon), Vietnam (with over 200,000 tonnes of shrimp) and Ecuador (with 120,000 tonnes of shrimp), critical to meet the increasing demand for ASC certified products. Demands from both US and European markets continued to incentivise update across key shrimp producing countries. Interest in domestic supply solidified, as observed by growth in bivalve production in China, seaweed production in South Korea and red seabream in Japan, the latter two achieving ASC certification to provide local supply to domestic and retail brands.
Increasing the awareness, value and demand for ASC certified seafood
ASC’s successful communications targeted at businesses have resulted in visible market growth, which in turn drives increasing farm production. ASC is now looking to increase creative efforts focused on engagement with consumer audiences. Campaigns are a powerful engagement opportunity, creating a significant impact. Our partners have included retailers, fish suppliers, fishmongers, top brands, restaurants and food chains, NGOs, zoos, aquaria, and museums.
ASC labelled products by country
In 2021, by collaborating with over 230 commercial and non-commercial partners, we have empowered consumers to be confident that their seafood choices are helping to protect fish and the environment for future generations.
Our work in 2021 contributed to a solid foundation with great results suggesting growing demand for ASC certified seafood. While our campaigns across the world are numerous, the examples provided highlight the depth and breadth of work across corporate and consumer engagement to drive incentives for responsible aquaculture production.
In 2021, ASC teamed up with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to organise five consumer campaigns across eight countries on three continents.
Bewuste Visweek | Think Fish Week.
For the ninth consecutive year in the Netherlands, and the seventh year in Belgium, our joint marketing campaign Think Fish Week is an engagement highlighting stories from our farms, demonstrating the impact of ASC and MSC certifications and the values of partnerships. Working with local culinary influencers, consumers received “a good story on your plate” – coupling the stories of the impact of our labels on the environment and the lives of farmers and local communities with recipes featuring certified seafood.
Programme assurance provides stakeholders confidence that the ASC Standards are effectively implemented and audited.
ASC’s Assurance Programme delivers trust to costumers and stakeholders in the claims that accompany our label. Together with our accreditation body Assurance Services International (ASI), ASC sets annual performance targets to evaluate farm and assessor performance to ensure programme integrity is maintained. In 2021, 67 assessments of CAB performance were conducted covering 92% of defined target areas and to address incidents.
In 2021, the number of CABs in the programme grew to 14, representing 184 auditors worldwide qualified to evaluate farms against ASC’s strict environmental and social requirements.
Accredited CABs also play a critical role in ensuring that only compliant product enters the supply chain as ASC certified, and in 2021, 28 certificates were suspended or cancelled either voluntarily, due to failure to comply or exceeding allowable limits.
Secure and reliable supply chain
Assurance services developed by ASC combat risks of seafood fraud in the supply chain through use of innovative technologies. Trace Element Fingerprinting (TEF) allows traceability of products to the source farms by evaluating products against a database of known samples. This allows us to examine a sample from an export market or retail product against known references to determine from where the sample originates.
ASC engagement with key audiences
Initially developed through extensive stakeholder dialogues, ASC’s standards and certification systems rely on understanding and reflecting stakeholder priorities along with solid science. ASC is committed to listening to stakeholders and ensuring we continue to be the best global aquaculture certification programme. In 2021, ASC conducted public consultations on four key programme improvements – the ASC Farm Standard, CoC Module, Fish Welfare, and Feed CAR & RUoC. Consultations met overarching participation goals, though we aim to improve representation of producers across all ASC certifiable species.
Stakeholders from 35 countries provided feedback through ASC’s consultations in 2021.
In 2021, ASC continued to experience robust growth in income from logo licensing and has been a fortunate recipient of charitable grants promoting a range of activities in support of responsible aquaculture. More than half of our expenditure in 2021 supported our operations to implement the activities and initiatives demonstrated throughout this Annual Report.
Looking forward, ASC’s work will be supported by our strategy revision taking place in 2022. With clear progress across all aspects of our programme, we will continue our focus on achieving a strong global certification programme, improving farm production through engagement with producers, further developing the ASC certification across markets, raising awareness of the ASC, working collaboratively, and strengthening our institutional development.
We are thankful to all ASC certified farms, Chain of Custody clients, customers, colleagues, and funders for their continued support of the ASC programme and shared commitment to transparency that was critical to the delivery of this report’s contents and our developing work moving forward.