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GAA joins seafood certification elite

Rob Fletcher
Rob Fletcher
04 October 2017, at 1:10pm

The Global Aquaculture Alliance’s (GAA) Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) is the world’s first aquaculture certification program to be recognized by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI).

It joins a select group, as only three wild fisheries certification programs — the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Certification Program, the Iceland Responsible Fisheries Management (IRFM) Certification Programme and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - are already GSSI-recognized.

The news was announced at GAA’s GOAL conference, in Dublin, today after the GSSI Steering Board determined that the two-star certification against the BAP Finfish and Crustacean Farm Standards and BAP Salmon Farm Standards are in alignment with all Essential Components of the GSSI Global Benchmark Tool, independently verifying alignment with the FAO Technical Guidelines on Aquaculture Certification.

It was the seventh and final step in a process that began in December 2015 when BAP applied for recognition. On June 23, the GSSI Benchmark Report was published, triggering a 30-day public consultation in which stakeholders were encouraged to submit comments for consideration; one comment was submitted, and responded to.

“GSSI is an independent, multi-stakeholder benchmarking initiative and a powerful endorsement for the BAP farm standards and BAP program governance,” said BAP Standards Coordinator Dan Lee. “It is particularly important for a global program like BAP because it signifies compliance with the internationally agreed-upon UN FAO Guidelines.”

The GSSI Global Benchmark Tool encompasses three aspects of the BAP program: the technical content of the standards, the management of the program and the governance of the program, including the integrity of chain of custody and procedures for group certification. The scope of recognition applies to two-, three- and four-star BAP certification for the respective standards. As such, the traceability components of the BAP Seafood Processing Plant Standards were checked, and GAA submitted its procedures for group certification in support of the benchmarking process.

In addition to environmental responsibility, the BAP standards also address social responsibility, animal health and welfare, food safety and traceability. There are six sets of BAP standards: Finfish and Crustacean Farm Standards, Salmon Farm Standards, Mollusk Farm Standards, Hatchery and Nursery Standards, Feed Mill Standards, and Seafood Processing Plant Standards.

“We are pleased to receive this recognition of our Best Aquaculture Practices program,” said GAA Executive Director Wally Stevens. “The BAP program was first implemented in 2003 and this year will reach a milestone of 2,000 certified facilities around the world with anticipated farm-gate production exceeding 2 million metric tons. BAP, which currently provides the most comprehensive assurances to the marketplace and consumers, has benefited from the GSSI benchmarking process, as have, we suspect, the folks involved from GSSI.”

“The GSSI Benchmark Tool provides clarity on, and transparency in, seafood certification by recognizing robust and credible certification schemes. The BAP is the first aquaculture scheme to successfully complete the GSSI Benchmark Process. This marks a milestone in ensuring confidence in seafood certification, and we look forward to seeing other aquaculture schemes go through the process,” said GSSI Program Director Herman Wisse.

GSSI’s Global Benchmark Tool, launched in October 2015, was developed over a three-year, multi-stakeholder process involving environmental NGOs, businesses, independent experts, governmental and intergovernmental organizations, alongside two public consultations and a pilot test.