Sustaining aquaculture as ASC continues to grow

Just two years after it started, the ASC now has 116 certified farms in its programme. Photo: Marine Harvest/ASA Just two years after it started, the ASC now has 116 certified farms in its programme. Photo: Marine Harvest/ASA

The aquaculture industry is moving towards a sustainable future with the help of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) which has seen the number of certified farms in its programme double in the last year alone.

Since 2012, when Regal Springs’ Toba and Kedung Ombo tilapia farms were the first to gain ASC certification globally, the programme has grown significantly, with a total of 57 farms at the end of 2013. And, over the last year, the programme has seen a 10% growth, bringing the total number of farms to 116.

“Aquaculture production is expected to continue growing by over 4% a year until 2022, according to the latest FAO report. This rapid increase can bring problems – the faster the aquaculture industry grows, the greater its potential impact on the environment and local communities. Now is the time to address this,” said Chris Ninnes, CEO, ASC.

With a growing selection of ASC-certified seafood available, consumers across 40 countries can now choose from almost 1,500 products. In the last year alone, ASC says it’s seen a 148% increase in approved products, from 602 at the end of November 2013.

Also doing their bit are major industry players, like all Dutch retailers that now only source ASC-certified seafood, while an additional 15 retailers and seafood brands in Europe and six globally are committed to supplying ASC-certified products.

“Aquaculture can meet the growing demand for seafood and through the work of programmes like the ASC we seek to help industry do that responsibly. It is fantastic to see large parts of the industry putting aside competition to collaborate on improvements, moving the industry towards sustainability,” Mr Ninnes added.

Beginning in 2012, ASC only had operational standards for tilapia and pangasius. In 2013, the bivalve, abalone, salmon and trout standards were launched, followed by shrimp in 2014.

Since the ASC programme opened for assessments the Vietnamese pangasius industry has worked with a range of organisations and leading European importers to reduce their impact on the environment and local communities to become ASC certified. In two years, around 20% of the industry earned ASC certification.

Just over a year ago, over 70% of the salmon aquaculture industry pledged to significantly improve their key environmental and social impacts. Collectively known as the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI), they committed to achieving ASC certification by 2020. There are now 18 ASC certified GSI-member farms.

And, this year, the Belize Shrimp Growers Association has been preparing member farms, representing 67% of Belizean shrimp farms and 90% of total farmed shrimp production in Belize, to enter assessment against the ASC Shrimp Standard. The first farm audits took place recently and draft reports are expected in January.

Now, more than half of the fish consumed globally comes from fish farming and the ASC says this is set to increase as the population grows and the pressure on wild capture fisheries intensifies.


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