ASC-certified farms given 24 months to meet new feed standards

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
16 January 2023, at 11:10am

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has announced that feed mills can now apply for certification to its Feed Standard – giving ASC certified farms until 14 January 2025 to switch to ASC compliant feed.

aerial view of shrimp ponds
An ASC certified shrimp farm in Nigeria

Farms such as this are being given 24 months to meet ASC's new feed standard criteria

ASC’s Feed Standard covers legal social, and environmental requirements for both the feed mill’s own operations and for the suppliers of ingredients. It aims to tackle one of the biggest drivers of environmental and social impacts of aquaculture – the manufacturing of feed and its raw materials. More than 70 percent of aquaculture production (excluding algae) is dependent on feed, and it drives major environmental and social impacts of aquaculture. By requiring responsible sourcing for all major feed ingredients, ASC aims to address issues in both the supply chain and at raw material level. Requirements on reporting of performance will also improve assurances by creating unrivalled transparency throughout the entire aquafeed supply chain, as well as rewarding environmental sustainability and assisting future research into responsible feed.

Feeding the world through responsible feed sourcing

ASC CEO Chris Ninnes said sourcing aquaculture feed responsibly is necessary for feeding the world's increasing population, whilst minimising impacts on land resources. In 2020, total seafood production reached 213 million tonnes and provided billions of people an important source of animal protein, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s SOFIA 2022 report.

“Aquaculture provides 58 percent of this production by weight and 67 percent by value and the macro-nutrients this provides is an essential and undervalued component of global food security. Fortunately, farmed seafood provides these food security and nutritional benefits with a much lower carbon footprint than protein from terrestrial farmed livestock.

“Increasingly, more fish and invertebrates are fed during their life cycle (in 2020, 63 million tonnes were fed, compared to non-fed at 24.3 million tonnes) and this represents an increasing interface between aquaculture and agriculture. Much attention, often negative, is focused on the inclusion of fish meal and fish oil in farmed diets, whilst almost ignoring completely the impacts of terrestrial plant materials that constitute up to 85 percent of the diets of carnivorous fish.

“To farm seafood responsibly demands that the ‘upstream’ impacts associated with the production of feed ingredients be monitored and reduced, with an imperative focus on social responsibility and environmental improvement. This is exactly the role that the new ASC Feed Standard will play by incentivising these improvements. Given the increasing importance of farmed seafood within global food systems, this has become ever more crucial as the population of the world increases. Ensuring the feed used by this vital sector is sourced responsibly through the holistic approach set out in the ASC Feed Standard is essential to achieving sustainable aquaculture. I am especially proud that the ASC Feed Standard upholds key labour requirements across feed ingredient supply chains and seeks to mitigate and reduce risks of deforestation and land conversion.” Ninnes explained.

Responsible sourcing of marine and terrestrial ingredients

Certified feed mills must source environmentally responsible marine and terrestrial ingredients. The ASC Feed Standard uses an improvement model for marine ingredients which requires feed mills to source increasingly from responsibly managed fisheries over time. MarinTrust and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), both full members of the ISEAL Alliance, play a crucial role in this mechanism and form the key steppingstones for improvement.

The model offers a unique opportunity for feed mills to work together with their fish meal and fish oil suppliers to meet the increasing requirements over time. Ultimately, the majority of volume of marine ingredients needs to be derived from MSC fisheries.

For terrestrial plant ingredients such as soy or wheat, feed mills are required to record and report all ingredients that make up over 1% of feed and will need to take steps to ensure they have been responsibly sourced. Similarly, feed mills must also work and commit towards ensuring their supply chains become free from risks of deforestation or land conversion.

Moreover, ASC certified feed mills will have to record and report their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and work to improve energy efficiency, use of renewables, and water usage.

Social impacts in the feed industry

Feed industry operations contribute to the economic backbone of the local communities in which they are located.

Therefore, another core requirement for feed mills is adhering to social responsibility. This includes fair treatment and wage of employees, respect of indigenous and tribal people’s rights, and ensuring that no child or forced labour exists. The ASC Feed Standard includes many other social and effective management system requirements, including policies, procedures and processes for topics such as the prevention of corruption, bribery, or falsification of documents.

ASC certified feed mills are also required to conduct due diligence on their supply chains to assess and mitigate these key social risks.

Next steps

“We look forward to supporting feed mills who want to work towards ASC certification, as well as helping producers prepare to transition to sourcing ASC certified feed over the next 24 months,” said ASC director of standards and science Michiel Fransen.

“By incentivising more feed mills to work towards certification to meet the growing demand from ASC certified farms, we ensure that aquafeed and raw ingredients supply are produced responsibly.”