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ASC launches universal aquaculture standard consultation

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
1 March 2022, at 12:01am

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has announced plans to launch a universal farm standard which will cover producers of all ASC-certified species.

a man holding a salmon
ASC currently uses separate standards for different species groups, but now plans to launch a universal farm standard

© Mowi

Before the new farm standard takes effect, ASC will be holding one of its largest ever public consultations to seek stakeholder feedback, in a bid to enhance the efficiency and accountability of the ASC programme for the benefit of all stakeholders.

The development of the universal farm standard represents the biggest overhaul of ASC certification programme and aims to drive efficiencies into the system and enhance the ASC’s impacts.

According to ASC, “farmers and auditors will benefit from greater efficiencies, while other stakeholders including NGOs will find it easier to assess and compare the ASC’s requirements, making public consultation more efficient.”

The standard, which has involved years of research and development, will be split into three parts, called principles. Principle one covers legal compliance and effective business management, principle two covers environmental sustainability, and principle three covers social responsibility. As with ASC’s current standards, farms must meet all indicators in all three parts to achieve certification.

This round of public consultation covers the entire standard, except for fish welfare which was the topic of a separate public consultation in 2021. Ultimately, this fish welfare content will be adopted into the ASC farm standard as well.

ASC’s director of standards and science, Michiel Fransen, said in a press release: “ASC’s farm standard will address all main impacts of aquaculture in a consistent manner across the industry in a more effective and efficient manner.

“We are now coming to the final stages of this project, and are asking for stakeholder feedback so we can be sure the final standard will meet expectations of all those that will use it.”

Stakeholders can view details on the proposed farm standard and ways to provide feedback, including through a survey and by joining workshops, on the ASC website. The consultations will run from 1 March to 30 April 2022.

This round of consultation covers a number of vital issues including proposals for requiring all certified farms to report energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, a proposal aimed at combatting sea lice, and the introduction of risk management plans for key topics like health and safety.

By developing one comprehensive standard covering all these impacts, ASC will be able to respond to changes in the markets and industry more swiftly. All new developments or reviews will continue to be developed by multi-stakeholder governance groups and undergo public consultation – all in line with best practices according to ISEAL.

Due to the size of the farm standard, ASC has organised several rounds of public consultation. This is the second and final consultation for the legal and social principles. After public feedback has been considered, principle one and principle three will be finalised and sent to ASC’s supervisory board for approval with an aim of publishing thereafter.

ASC will conduct a final round of consultation on the environmental criteria later this year, while also carrying out on-farm pilots to understand where clarification in standard writing is needed. Principle two will be finalised and sent to ASC’s supervisory board for approval in September 2023, with an aim of publishing thereafter.

Find out more and get involved in the public consultation.