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ASC Market Introduction on Track

03 April 2013

GLOBAL - In the run-up to the most important seafood exhibition of the world, the European Seafood Exhibition, Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s CEO Chris Ninnes gives an update on where the Aquaculture Stewardship Council stands at the moment.

ASC certified tilapia and pangasius are welcomed by the market. Almost 300 products bearing the ASC consumer facing logo for responsibly farmed fish are available in 16 countries, mainly in Europe but also in Canada, and there is much more to come.”

Transforming aquaculture

“The Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s aim is to transform fish farming towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility. To date 23 tilapia farms and 19 pangasius farms have successfully met the ASC standards and have all publicly acclaimed their ASC certificates. The farms are spread over Indonesia, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Taiwan, Honduras, Ecuador and Costa Rica” according to Chris Ninnes.

“Viet Nam is a good example of where ASC certification is being used to drive industry wide progress within the very important pangasius sector in the Mekong delta. ASC certification is demonstrating industry progress in addressing the adverse impacts of pangasius farming such as: pollution of the Mekong-river, uncontrolled catch of wild fish for feed production, misuse of antibiotics and high density in ponds. At the moment over 10 per cent of the production originates from ASC certified farms. By the end of 2015 commitments have been made by the sector that half of the production will be compliant with the ASC standards. With the help of government, WWF Viet Nam, IDH and SNV the pangasius farming industry is making amazing progress in transforming the sector.”

More species to come

“The ASC is now ready for their next big ‘exam’ as the first ASC salmon certification programme will soon go live.” says Ninnes. “The certifiers are trained and the first salmon audits are anticipated in a few months. Not only the major producing countries such as Norway and Chile are engaged, but also farms from the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand are eager to participate.

“We are also moving forward with the testing of the trout certification programme and pilot audits are now taking place in Denmark, England and Turkey. The final certification documents for bivalves are in their final approval stage with the ASC governance. Certifiers will start auditing later this year, after we have trained the auditors on the Bivalves Standard. The training date will be announced shortly. We are also seeing good progress with the final two standards for seriola/cobia and shrimp that are still being developed under the auspices of the Aquaculture Dialogues. The seriola and cobia standard is currently open for its first round of public consultation, the development of the shrimp standard is in its final stages and the draft audit manual is being revised following pilots undertaken by the Dialogue Steering Committee.”

Feed project

“The ASC will also shortly start another important initiative to consolidate the feed requirements across all of the existing ASC standards into a single ‘ask’ of the farming and feed manufacturing sectors” states Ninnes. “Feed represents a significant part of the environmental impact of fish farming, reflected in the use of fish meal and fish oil mainly sourced from wild catch. But also the use of soy and palm oil in feed is a growing concern. ASC’s approach will look to also invite other certification platforms to participate in the development of these requirements and ultimately use them so that we can collectively promote responsible feed use. This initiative will be managed by the ASC, will follow ISEAL protocols and will encourage broad stakeholder participation. We expect to have this work concluded by the end of 2015.”

Consumer research

“Because ASC values consumer opinion we carried out research in our two most important markets to date – the Netherlands and Germany. From 1,000 consumers we have learned about their attitude and main concerns about farmed seafood.

The main observations:

  • A label for responsible farmed seafood is welcomed, it will help the consumer make the right decision in buying a product
  • Main concerns regarding fish farming are: water pollution, misuse of antibiotics, working conditions for the staff and animal welfare
  • Just 20 per cent of the consumers know that the fish they buy is farmed

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