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Setting Global Standards

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A full set of global standards for sustainable aquaculture will be established by the end of the year, writes TheFishSite senior editor, Chris Harris.

The standards are being devised by the industry, environmental groups and other organisations and are being spearheaded by the World Wildlife Fund.

The standards are being drawn up following intensive industry Dialogues and will cover five species of fish that is farmed as well as shrimp, abalone and four bivalves - mussels, clams, scallops and oysters.

Speaking to TheFishSite during the recent European Seafood Exposition in Brussels, Jose Villalon, the managing director for aquaculture at the WWF said: "This is the first time when setting standards, that everyone in the industry has been invited to take part.

"It has been an intensive and a long process."

The Dialogues were first started five years ago, and the first of the species to have a set of global standard established was Tilapia, where the criteria were finalised in December last year.

The next species to have standards laid down for farming will be Pangasius, which are expected to be set out in June.

The need for global standards became apparent as the aquaculture industry around the world started to grow and take on a more significant role in the food production and supply chain.

The WWF said that as the industry grew, it was essential to minimise the negative impacts on the environment and society.

The eight roundtable Dialogues between producers, conservationists and other stakeholders expect to form standards that will address up to 80 per cent of the problems caused by aquaculture.

When the standards have been formed, they are to be handed over to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council to certify compliance with the standards.

Mr Villalon said the standards have been and are being developed in the most credible way, because they have been all inclusive and not established by a small group imposing their views on the industry.

He said there has been complete transparency and more than 2,000 groups, organisations and people have participated in the Dialogues.

They have attracted input for environmental groups that may have been opposed to fish farms being established in particular areas through to leading retailers and major producers in the industry.

However, they have also included many small producers and their representative organisations and Mr Villalon said it has been essential to ensure that the Dialogues have been all inclusive and not established just for the big players in the industry.

"The small producer has been represented as well and has not been pushed aside," said Mr Villalon.

To this end projects have been established in countries such as Viet Nam and Thailand to ensure that the small producers there can also comply with the standards.

In these countries, Mr Villalon said that it would not be feasible for individual farms to be audited in the same way that major producers can be, but it has been possible to group producers together so that they can all be audited at one time.

In this way the process has helped the small producers to improve their production systems and standards.

He said that by getting cluster groups together, the producers start to build cooperation among them and they ahs have better access to markets.

The standards that are being rolled out through the Dialogues will cover a select number of important issues including feed issues, siting of farms, pollution and disease issues.

Mr Villalon said that by having a set of transparent global standards, the industry will achieve an improved market performance and the origin of the products will become fully traceable.

The standards have mirrored those established for the Marine Stewardship Council and the Forest Stewardship Council and the agriculture body Protected Harvest.

Following the establishment of the standards for Pangasius, standards will be set up for the other species.

The standards for shrimp are being based on the framework of the UN's FAO principles.

The Dialogue for the shrimp standard has included meeting in the Americas, Asia and Africa to gather information on what type of standards to create.

The first public comment period to establish an abalone standard started in March this year following work by the steering group to establish a framework.

The Dialogue to establish a salmon standard has included more than 500 people and over half the global salmon production.

The Dialogue for freshwater trout met in November last year and the one for Cobia met in February.

Once the standards have been approved further dialogues could be established of other farmed species such a cod and also for feed, Mr Villalon said.

However, once the standards are established and handed to the certifying body, the roll of the WWF could change into an advisory organisation to help producers continue to meet the global standard.

April 2010