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Weaker Aquaculture Standards Would Boost Risk to Oceans, WWF warns

23 September 2015

GLOBAL - The WWF has raised concerns about proposed standards released by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).

In public comments, WWF urged the ASC to strengthen its proposed criteria for fish feed, which can have significant environmental impacts on the wild-caught fish and agricultural crops from which it is made. Specifically, WWF called for ASC to require feed manufacturers to source wild fish from fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which maintains the leading standard for sustainable fishing.

“ASC has established the most credible and effective standards to ensure that aquaculture is environmentally and socially responsible,” said Dr Aaron McNevin, director of aquaculture for WWF’s Sustainable Food programme.

“With its draft feed standard, ASC has a significant opportunity to improve the way it measures and manages the environmental impacts of feed. ASC should reaffirm its support for MSC certified feed in order to protect wild fish stocks.”

A new WWF report on ocean health highlights the need for stronger feed standards. The oceans’ vertebrate populations declined by 49 percent between 1970 and 2012, driven in large part by overfishing for human consumption and aquaculture.

According to a World Bank report, approximately one-fifth of all fish harvested from the oceans is used to produce fish meal and oil, most of which—about 60 percent of fish meal and 80 percent of oil—are fed to farmed fish.

When they were released starting in 2009, the farm-level ASC standards for salmon, shrimp, tilapia, abalone, trout and pangasius required that all marine ingredients in feed be sourced from MSC certified fisheries within five years of ASC certification. In the current draft standard, ASC would allow farms another 10 years to meet this requirement.

“By requiring reduction fisheries to be MSC certified, ASC can most effectively protect biodiversity in our oceans,” continued Dr. McNevin. “Feed companies and the aquaculture industry have had five years to build a sustainable, MSC certified supply of marine feed ingredients. It’s time for progress, not further delay. We can’t kick this can down the road any longer.”

WWF also advised ASC to work with agriculture experts and those involved in other commodity roundtables to ensure credible criteria are developed for soy, corn, palm oil and other terrestrial crops used in feed.

ASC is the only aquaculture certification scheme that is a member of the ISEAL Alliance, an international body that has established a code for the development of credible sustainability standards. Among ISEAL’s requirements for standards development, certifications must demonstrate how issues or concerns raised in public comment phases have been addressed in the revisions of each standard.

WWF is a founding member of ASC and MSC. WWF works with communities, governments, fishers, suppliers, retailers and other stakeholders to promote healthy oceans and responsible fishing and aquaculture. 

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