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Taking a Lead in Setting Standards

NEW ZEALAND - New Zealand is helping contribute to the development of international standards surrounding shellfish farming, says Minister of primary industries Jim Anderton. It is in negotiation with WWF to help it develop an international commitment to specific production criteria.

He's proud the country is taking such a prominent role.

"New Zealand already has a good reputation for the sustainable management of its shellfish farms. It would be good to build on this reputation by being able to demonstrate our industry's performance against international standards,"," says Mr Anderton.

Recent talks in Nelson, as part of WWF Aquaculture Dialogues, discussed the global impact of aquaculture. Aquaculture New Zealand hosted the NZ round of talks that are an initial part of a process that aims to produce an international set of standards for shellfish farming. The standards will be measurable and performance-based.

"It's good to see New Zealand being part of the process of developing such standards," says Mr Anderton.

The Nelson discussions were facilitated by Aquaculture New Zealand for WWF International, in conjunction with marine and aquaculture scientists and stakeholders. The process of developing these standards is expected to take two to three years.

Worldwide Communication

WWF International has been having similar talks in other parts of the world since 2004, as part of the first step in its work to develop these international shellfish-farming standards.

"Demonstrating this sector's good performance through a set of measurable standards is an important part of that process. The Nelson talks provide a starting point for this"
Jim Anderton, NZ Fisheries Minister

"New Zealand aquaculture and our shellfish farming in particular is in a good position to become one of the first primary sector industries to demonstrate itself fully sustainable," says Mr Anderton.

"Demonstrating this sector's good performance through a set of measurable standards is an important part of that process. The Nelson talks provide a starting point for this."

Anderton says aquaculture is a comparatively new primary sector industry in New Zealand, and that good planning processes around environmental effects are an integral part of the approval process for establishing marine farming operations here.

Environmental Certification

WWF Aquaculture Dialogues were initiated in 2004, as a global programme of dialogues to embrace issues and impact of increasing aquaculture activity. They have involved a wide range of stakeholders within each country's industry and have sought to establish a set of standards that can be used, at a future date, as the basis of an environmental certification programme.

Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production system in the world as the need for readily available protein food sources increases in tandem with the earth’s growing population. As the industry grows there is a need to ensure the growth is managed positively and sustainably.

WWF has undertaken to develop through consultation an international consensus on the management of the key environmental, economic and social impacts of the industry throughout the world.

Recognised as a world player in the farming of shellfish it is New Zealand’s turn to contribute to the development of these standards. Currently underway, the two-day meetings have enlisted a group of invited stakeholders, who with the guidance of WWF International, will identify the impacts of the industry. The output of the dialogues will be then made available for comment.

It is an iterative process to ensure the identified impacts reflect the actual occurrence within the New Zealand environment. It is only when the true nature of the impacts are identified can a series of relevant standards be formulated.

Not 'Quick Fix'

“This process is by no means a ‘quick-fix’. It has to stand the test of time and be applied internationally. It is essential once the initial steering group has delivered its first round of findings the industry is invited to, and takes part”, said Mike Burrell, Aquaculture New Zealand Chief Executive.

“It is in New Zealand’s interest to play a role in the dialogue process. We as an industry pride ourselves on the sustainability and quality of our product. Through this process the industry will gain recognition for its products in the global market through internationally accepted standards.

“Playing a role in the development of an accepted international eco-standard is in the industry’s best interest even if we believe we set the standard now. Export markets and consumers are beginning to demand assurances the products they choose have been produced in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner. Being part of the Dialogues will allow us to play an informed role in the delivery of the outcome”, concluded Mr Burrell.