Transforming the aquaculture sector
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is a global, independent non-profit organisation established in 2010 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) to manage the global standards for responsible aquaculture with the aim to transform seafood markets towards responsible practices.
The ASC works with aquaculture producers, seafood processors, retail and food-service companies, scientists, and conservation groups around the world using its global influence to fulfil its mission to transform aquaculture towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
The ASC certification programme recognises and rewards responsible farming activities focusing on the preservation and quality of water resources, preservation of biodiversity and the diversity of species, no misuse of antibiotics, compliance with strict feed requirements and social responsibility.
The ASC logo is a globally recognised mark for responsibly farmed seafood that is fully traceable to a farm that has been independently certified to the ASC standard and cares for the environment, its workers and the local community.
A growing number of companies are making a stand to encourage responsible farming and consumers can be part of that change through their shopping choices. By choosing ASC labelled products consumers can help ensure the health of the oceans, the livelihoods of local communities, and the availability of seafood for the future.
Increased consumer demand for certified seafood influences lower performance farms in greater numbers to undergo the rigorous assessment against the ASC standards, thereby improve their farming practices and reducing adverse environmental and social impacts.
Demonstrating environmental and social responsibility
The ASC’s standards set criteria for responsible aquaculture that drive industry change and help farms minimise environmental and social impacts.
The farm standards were developed by more than 2,000 stakeholders globally through a development process that adhered to ISEAL’s Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards and the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) guidelines.
The standards focus on both the environmental and social impact of farming. Environmentally, farms must show that they actively minimise their impact on the surrounding natural environment. This extends to careful management of the fish health and resources. Socially, farms must be a good and conscientious neighbour; that means operating their farm in a socially responsible manner, caring for their employees and working with the local community.
To retain its independence, ASC does not assess fish farms itself. Independent third party certifiers audit farms against the ASC standards to assess whether they are operating responsibly. Certificates are issued by the independently accredited certifying agency. Assessing a farm’s operating systems and their environmental and social impacts is complex. But the basic concept is simple – farms must have in place the most effective systems that ensure minimal negative environmental and social impact.
ASC labelled seafood can be traced back through the supply chain to a responsibly managed farm. All companies that handle certified products have to hold a valid Chain of Custody (CoC) certification. In order to achieve CoC certification a company must meet strict requirements and have in place traceability systems that ensure no product mixing or substitutions can occur.
Every ASC certified farm has demonstrated that it is well managed and minimises any adverse impacts. By meeting the requirements of ASC’s standards, certified farms reduce impacts on the environment by delivering a cleaner seabed, cleaner water and healthier fish, preserving the diversity of the species and wild population, adhering to strict feed requirements and ensuring social responsibility by protecting local surroundings and wildlife, safeguarding the rights of workers and supporting local communities.
Growth, global commitments and the future
By the start of 2016, more than 200 farms had achieved ASC certification in 24 countries. The growing engagement of farms in the ASC programme has been matched by significant market commitments including the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games that have pledged to source seafood from ASC certified farms throughout the Olympic village for both athletes and spectators.
The ASC has also been developing its presence in North America and the U.S. The expansion in this important market is a keystone of the ASC’s future. In 2013, Canada’s largest retailer Loblaw became the first company in North America to introduce ASC certified tilapia in its stores. And, a year later the retailer was first in North America to launch ASC certified salmon.
In March this year, Taylor Shellfish Farms became the first U.S. grower to achieve ASC certification for their farming operation in Washington State. The Shelton, Washington based company received its ASC Bivalve Certification for a portion of its operations in the South Puget Sound basin, which comprises the area south of the Tacoma Narrows, including Olympia and Shelton.