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Independent Accreditation Agency for Stewardship Council

Health Welfare Food safety & handling +5 more

NETHERLANDS - The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has taken another key step towards becoming fully operational with the appointment of an independent accreditation agency to accredit and oversee certifiers of aquaculture businesses seeking recognition under emerging gold standard sustainability standards.

The appointed agency, Accreditation Services International (ASI) has a long record of working with the now well recognised Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

“The appointment of ASI as our independent accreditation body marks an important milestone in our development,” said Philip Smith, CEO of the ASC.

“We are pleased that we can start working on the implementation of the Global Standards for Responsible Aquaculture in close cooperation with ASI.

“We are now in a position to set up an independent third-party verification scheme and work with producers and certification bodies to develop robust processes for certification against the standards.”

The ASC was founded in 2009 by WWF and IDH (Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative) to manage and implement the international standards for environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture developed by the Aquaculture Dialogues , which have since 2004 been bringing together a wide range of scientists, NGOs and the full range of industry interests from farmers to retailers.

The standards, when implemented on a farm level, will help minimise the key environmental and social impacts associated with aquaculture.

Three sets of Global Standards for Responsible Aquaculture have been completed by the Aquaculture Dialogues so far: for tilapia, pangasius and bivalves (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops). Standards for six other aquaculture species (abalone, freshwater trout, salmon, shrimp, Seriola and cobia) are expected to be finalised towards the end of 2010 or early 2011.

Currently the ASC is in its development phase. It is expected to be fully operational by mid-2011, when first certifications will be realised and a consumer-facing label will be launched.

“By including independent third-party accreditation as an oversight process the ASC is demonstrating the maximum credibility and effectiveness of the ASC verification system,” said Sam Ponder, ASI Managing Director.

“Accreditation endorses certification bodies’ competence, credibility, independence and integrity in carrying out their conformity assessment activities. One of the important outcomes of the implementation of standards by applicants for certification is that they assist in creating a benchmarking culture with the ultimate benefit of continuous improvement.”

The ASC will be inviting certification bodies to contact ASI to discuss how to become accredited.

In accordance with an agreement between WWF and GlobalGAP, a training programme for certification bodies focused on the tilapia standards has already started and field testing of the tilapia standards will shortly commence. The ASC will be building on experiences from these processes to develop the independent ASC verification scheme which will be overseen by ASI.