Called the ASC Improver Programme (AIP), it is aimed at “producers that are not yet ready for certification to improve their practices and mitigate their environmental and social impacts”. It also provides “support to help more farmers update their practices, even if they decide not to attain all the benefits of ASC certification”.
“Until now there has not been guidance for producers on how to improve their practices so they can meet the requirements in the ASC standards, but the Improver Programme will help to bridge that gap,” said Roy van Daatselaar, producer support manager at ASC.
“The aquaculture industry includes a significant number of small-scale farms, particularly in Asia, and providing guidance to these producers on how to improve practices will play an important role in the ASC’s mission to raise the overall standards of aquaculture worldwide,” he adds.
The AIP will not only help producers through access to expertise and networking opportunities, but it will also benefit the wider industry by encouraging a pre-competitive and collaborative approach to improvement. Farmers who participate in the AIP will be supported by the ASC and given access to tools and networks to help them succeed through the ASC’s online academy. The AIP will be open both to those producers that want to obtain certification and those that simply want help to improve farming practices without certification as an immediate goal.
As well as supporting individual farmers, the flexibility of the AIP will allow collaboration with groups of producers, and local governments, to implement improvements on a larger scale.
Work within the AIP programme already begun, including the collaboration with the Vietnamese government and WWF Vietnam to produce a benchmark between VietGAP, the local Vietnamese certification, and the ASC standards for shrimp and tilapia. 85 per cent of shrimp in Vietnam is produced by small farms, meaning that targeted guidance to help them improve their practices could have a big impact on overall aquaculture standards.