By Suzi Dominy*
Understanding who they are, what they do and how much value to put on their processes and stamps of approval has become confusing, to say the least. We are pleased to see that three of the largest and most influential organizations, The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) and GLOBALG.A.P., have been working together for the last year to help bring about environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture.
When it comes to aquafeed, the three standards rely on external certifications covering feed ingredients and feed raw material suppliers (e.g.: the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the Roundtable for Responsible Soy (RTRS) and the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)) and/or on compliance with the local legal requirements to verify that they meet the programs’ requirements.
GLOBALG.A.P. has its own compound feed manufacturing (CFM) standard that covers all feed manufacturing processes. The scope of this CFM standard does not cover the feed ingredient suppliers and feed raw material production.
Certified aquaculture farms and GLOBALG.A.P. compound feed manufacturing certified companies must have statements from their feed supplier(s) that their products meet specific requirements, ensuring sustainability, traceability and transparency.
These requirements include: traceability to the species and country of origin; no use of material sourced from endangered species based on IUCN´s red list; avoidance of fish sourced from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU); and preference for feed manufacturers with publicly available evidence of responsible sourcing, such as sourcing of fishmeal and fish oil derived from third-party certified fisheries and aquaculture operations, including fishmeal and fish oil derived from fish by-products.
The GAA’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) feed mill standards address the environmental sustainability of reduction fisheries by requiring that by June 1st, 2015, a minimum of 50% of the fishmeal and fish oil derived from reduction fisheries or fishery by-products must originate from certified sources.
ASC has similar criteria requiring seafood ingredients to be sourced from ISEAL compliant certified sources five years after publication of its standards.
Responsible Feed Dialogue
In their work towards the mutual goal of achieving efficiencies across the programs to help accelerate progress, the partnership is working together to develop the ASC Feed Standard, including GLOBALG.A.P.’s long experience with its CFM standard.
Last year, ASC started a major project to develop a standard for feed mills producing feed for aquaculture, which will be applicable to farms seeking or holding ASC certification and could also be used by other certification programs.
Both GAA and GLOBALG.A.P. are actively involved in the development of this feed standard, along with feed manufacturers, retailers, farmers, IFFO and other commodity certifiers including MSC, RTRS, RSPO.
The Steering Committee for the Feed Dialogue is currently finalizing the work plans of its technical working groups that will move detailed discussions forward around the key environmental and social issues identified.
The ASC Feed Standard will enable aquaculture operations to source certified feed and will allow producers who can demonstrate their environmentally and socially responsible feed production methods to gain recognition for their efforts. The ASC Feed Standard should be finalized by the end of 2015.
Social Responsibility and the Thai fishing vessel scandal
Although rumors and accusations by media and NGOs about conditions on commercial fishing vessels have been circulating for a while, a shocking report by the U.K. Guardian newspaper claiming Thai fishing vessels that enslave, brutalize and even kill workers are linked to the global shrimp supply chain, galvanized the industry.
The newspaper pointed a finger directly at shrimp farming giant, Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand Foods, accusing the company of buying fishmeal for its shrimp feeds from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats that are said to use slave labor. It also named supermarket chains that stock Thai shrimp, frightening some into switching suppliers.
CPF, a subsidiary of Thailand’s largest agricultural conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, responded by saying the portion of fishmeal that may be involved in such practices is minimal since 72% of its suppliers are certified.
Charoen Pokphand has five certified aquafeed mills in Thailand. It sources the fishmeal to make aquafeed from 55 independent fishmeal processing plants of which 40, are certified. It aims to source all its fishmeal from certified suppliers by 2015. It explained these independent plants process fishmeal from either by-product or by-catch. It also claims to be the only manufacturer paying a premium for fully certified products. At the end of 2013, CPF paid an additional 48.2 million baht (USD$1.5 million) in premium payments, a local newspaper reported. CP said it is auditing its entire operation and will implement an independent spot check coordinated system to ensuring its supply chain is and continues to be slavery-free.
The International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO) announced in July that CP has been awarded the IFFO RS Chain of Custody standard and is currently sourcing IFFO RS approved products from the Southeast Asian Packaging & Canning Ltd (SEAPAC) factory which is the first Asian factory to be audited and compliant against the RS standard for its fishmeal and fish oil derived from tuna by-products. IFFO said it hopes this will be the first of a number of factories which in future will be able to supply CP with RS approved feed ingredients. CP and IFFO are also working closely with a number of interested parties in Thailand, India and Vietnam to improve the management of the fisheries so that in future it might prove possible to use some of them as raw materials for further IFFO RS certified products.
The work of ASC, GAA and GLOBALG.A.P. is focused on the environmentally and socially responsible production of the farmed product. So social rights are a fundamental aspect of all three of the programs’ farm standards, setting out requirements covering the rights of aquaculture farm workers and local communities. Requirements on the fishing vessels that supply to feed producers are beyond the scope of the programs’ standards, as the standards do not cover the certification of wild capture fisheries. Working conditions on those fishing vessels are however recognized as a very important issue. To start to address critical social issues like forced labor, the industry as a whole will have to work together along with specialists in the field, they say.
This collaboration is essential to deliver the tools and links needed throughout the supply chain to provide the necessary assurances that purchasers need. It will take some time, but it is by working collaboratively that such abhorrent practices are eliminated.
ASC and GLOBALG.A.P. will be joining the discussion on social justice aboard fishing vessels for reduction fisheries at GAA’s GOAL 2014 conference in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, from October 7th-10th. A day-long workshop specifically on feed is being held on October 7th. For the workshop, GAA is bringing together many of the world’s leading seafood non-governmental organizations and industry representatives to discuss solutions to this difficult issue.
Suzi Dominy is the founding editor and publisher of aquafeed.com. She brings 25 years of experience in professional feed industry journalism and publishing. Before starting this company, she was co-publisher of the agri-food division of a major UK-based company, and editor of their major international feed magazine for 13 years.