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Can aquaculture certification schemes really make a difference?

5 August 2020, at 1:15pm

ASC certification has led to a clear improvement in the environmental performance of shrimp farms in Vietnam, as well as salmon farms in Norway, Canada and Chile, according to a new report.

In Vietnam - where 47 percent of the shrimp sector is ASC certified -  the process has been shown to have a marked reduction in their environmental impact
In Vietnam - where 47 percent of the shrimp sector is ASC certified - the process has been shown to have a marked reduction in their environmental impact

The ASC's first monitoring and evaluation (M&E) report has been hailed by the organisation as "demonstrating for the first time the impact of certified responsible aquaculture".

The report is a product of ASC’s measurable performance requirements, commitment to transparency, and its requirements that farms make public their performance on more than 100 indicators. The M&E report uses thousands of data points from hundreds of certified farms to analyse trends in their performance – reinforced with case studies illustrating social and environmental gains, and market access achieved by ASC farms.

Among the report’s findings it reveals that ASC-certified shrimp farms have increased their ongoing compliance to the environmental performance requirements by 50 percent between 2014 and 2018. The report also found clear evidence that certified farms are learning to work together, and with their feed suppliers, to reduce their reliance on wild-caught fish in the feed they use, helping to reduce the pressure on wild fishery stocks.

Social responsibility

ASC standards also include requirements for social responsibility such as treating staff and local communities fairly, and the report has revealed the importance of this, with demonstrated improvements in working hours and overtime across all species and countries looked at, especially across shrimp farms in Vietnam, Ecuador and Honduras, and salmon farms in Chile.

The report also found that farm performance improves the longer it is in the ASC programme, and producers with more than one farm will share the learnings about responsible performance from their certified to their non-certified farms.

“Reporting on our impact is a key part of the ASC mission, and this report demonstrates the value of transparency in a certification programme,” said Jill Swasey, head of monitoring and evaluation at ASC.

“ASC certified farms must go above and beyond when it comes to publicising their performance data. We can use that to identify trends and further adapt the ASC standards, and the wider industry can use it to identify challenges and opportunities for improvement.”

Other findings in the report include:

  • Shrimp farms in India and Vietnam have improved how they monitor their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions as a result of certification.
  • Indian shrimp farms show marked improvement in community relations – this is due to better communicating with local communities and sharing conflict resolution policies.
  • Nearly 18,000 products were able to carry the ASC logo around the world through 2019, a 380% increase in five years.
  • By the end of 2019, over 1,100 farms had been certified (across nine standards), in 42 countries, producing nearly 2 million tonnes of seafood.
  • Almost 13,000 people are working on ASC certified farms around the world, where they are protected by the ASC’s social requirements

Along with the impact evaluation, the report also looks in more detail at a number of case studies, illustrating various social and environmental improvements around the world, including a Thai shrimp farm that has made key improvements to working conditions, and a Japanese cooperative which bounced back from the 2011 tsunami to improve their environmental and social practices and become ASC certified.

Another case study highlights the importance of ASC’s market-driven approach to improvement in its partnership with Ikea. Ikea has committed to only serving farmed salmon that is ASC certified, helping to drive up market demand for certified seafood and reward responsible farmers.

ASC will continue to evolve its monitoring and evaluation programme to learn from results and deliver impacts in a transparent and accessible way more regularly for stakeholders.

The M&E report can be found on the ASC website, where it can be downloaded in full, along with a summary of the key findings