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New BAP Farm Standards Rigorously Address Social Responsibility

Sustainability Economics Politics +2 more

GLOBAL - The new Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) standards for finfish and crustacean farms reached a landmark on 31 January with the end of the 60-day public-comment period.


It’s expected that the new BAP farm standards will go live in the spring of 2013, following further technical scrutiny by the Standards Oversight Committee. Currently, the comments - which were received from fish farmers, academics and NGOs from Australasia, Asia, Europe and America - are being reviewed and will be published, along with the BAP responses and any changes to the standards, on the GAA website.

Logistics aside, the new BAP farm standards tackle the issue of social responsibly much more rigorously than the previous BAP farm standards, which were separately tailored for shrimp, salmon, tilapia, Pangasius and catfish. The new BAP farm standards apply to all types of production systems for finfish and crustaceans, excluding cage-raised salmonids, for which separate BAP farm standards exist.

Awareness of social responsibility - and the need to ensure that workers on farms and in processing plants are safe and treated fairly - has increased significantly in the decade since the first BAP farm standards for shrimp were created, said BAP Standards Coordinator Dan Lee.

Thus the new BAP farm standards contain 33 clauses relating to worker safety and employee relations, compared to just 12 clauses in the BAP farm standards they are replacing.

In an interview, Lee explains why social responsibility is such an important part of the new BAP farm standards.

Why has the number of clauses relating to worker safety and employee relations been more than doubled in the new BAP farm standards?

If you consider that the BAP shrimp farm standards were launched almost a decade ago and how the industry has progressed, it’s easy to understand that the consensus on best practices for social accountability has evolved and requirements are now stricter and more comprehensive. Thus, during a BAP inspection, the third-party auditor is now expected to spend more time probing social issues.

Other than the number of clauses doubling, how do the new BAP farm standards address social responsibility much more rigorously?

What stands out now is that the requirements are spelled out in greater detail so that program participants can be under no illusions about the high standards needed to get a BAP certificate.

Examples of topics that are now covered in more detail are child labor, forced or bonded labor, wages, benefits, holidays and overtime, deductions, migrant workers, sub-contracted workers, piece workers, contracts and harassment. On top of all this, there are requirements relating to worker health and safety. So, in total, the requirements amount to a very comprehensive package of assurance.

There’s a heightened awareness of social responsibility as of late. What would you say to a seafood supplier or retailer who’s increasingly concerned that a particular country’s labor laws are lacking or aren’t being properly enforced? Can a third-party certification program like the BAP program be part of the solution?

Yes, indeed it can. Nearly all countries have detailed labor laws, and they are often drafted to comply with international labor standards. But the problem is, to a very great extent, one of weak enforcement. Third-party schemes can play a valuable role in ensuring that legal requirements are complied with. And it is the export sector that often leads the way in driving up social standards. The BAP program has the added advantage of tackling social issues at all levels of the supply chain, including at the hatchery, feed mill and processing plant, as well as the farm.

What type of feedback was received during the public-comment period?

The public-comment phase is a critical step in the development of transparent standards because it allows any interested stakeholder to provide input. I was particularly impressed by the attention to detail in these responses - they are very constructive.