Aquaculture for all

Last chance to influence ASC's new farm standard

Welfare Certification Socio-economics +2 more

Stakeholders are being encouraged to take part in the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s final round of stakeholder consultation for its new farm standard, which closes on 20 May.

An aerial view of salmon pens.
ASC is aiming to address consumers' concerns over fish welfare by including a new principle in its new farm standard

The new initiative aims to align all of ASC’s species-specific standards into a single global standard - bringing greater consistency to the ASC programme and supporting the highest assurance throughout the supply chain.

It also addresses all relevant environmental and human rights impacts of aquaculture, regardless of production system or location of the farm.

It includes enhancements to existing requirements along with new requirements in key areas to address environmental and social impacts of aquaculture. The standard also enables ASC to act on market demand for new species and add new production systems to the programme more efficiently.

Michiel Fransen, ASC director of standards and science, said in a press release: “We encourage all stakeholders to actively participate in this last round of consultation. Whether you’re a producer, a retailer, an academic, an NGO or anyone else who is interested in what we are doing, we want to hear from you! This will help make sure that the ASC Farm Standard reflects your expectations, expertise and experiences.”

The content of the ASC Farm Standard is divided across four principles – now including a newly-created principle that covers fish health and welfare, to address key areas of market concern.

Farm management

This principle covers legal and effective business operations. New criteria include management systems and business ethics requirements, and existing criteria around traceability and disclosure requirements will be improved. Overall, the principle will help to reinforce domestic laws and regulations to maintain a culture that prevents corruption and bribery, tackling food fraud and leading to improved traceability and product integrity throughout the supply chain.

Environmental responsibility

This principle focuses on farming practices to reduce harm to biodiversity and the ecosystem surrounding the farm. New criteria include water quality, energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with improvements to existing feed, hatcheries and intermediate sites, environmental risk and benthic impact requirements. The inclusion in the Standard of key areas of concern for consumers and NGOs, such as GHG emissions and impacts from early stages of the life cycle, will help to mitigate potential supply chain risks for retailers. The principle will also support greater consistency of data reporting.

Social responsibility

The social requirements in Principle 3 cover the broadest range of human rights issues of any aquaculture certification programme.

New criteria include requirements to ensure farm employees' awareness of human rights, and improvements to existing forced and child labour, health and safety, discrimination and grievance mechanism requirements. To support the implementation of the Farm Standard, ASC is working on a wider project on worker voice and community engagement. Together, these developments will support improved working conditions – leading to a more engaged and effective workforce, with reduced absences and better staff retention on-farm.

Fish health and welfare

This Principle includes new criteria on handling, stunning and slaughter requirements and new eyestalk ablation restrictions for shrimp producers. Antibiotic usage restrictions for all producers will help drive ASC’s long-term approach to reducing antibiotic use in line with WHO’s ‘One Health’ recommended approach for reducing dependence on antibiotics.

Maria Filipa Castanheira, ASC standards coordinator for fish welfare, said: “We believe that these focused, clear requirements on animal health and welfare will support producers to transparently demonstrate their responsible practices to their supply chain. The welfare indicators, handling and slaughter requirements in particular will contribute to lower animal stress levels and better welfare, which will ultimately contribute to better product quality, higher survival rates and reduced expenditure on disease prevention.”

Next steps

This final round of consultation will be used to evaluate an appropriate transition framework for farms, which will be at least 24 months. ASC will confirm the transition period for farms in September 2025. Following approval, the new Farm Standard will become operational in early 2025.

To participate in the consultation, follow this link.

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