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The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) on Tuesday marked the end of the organization’s development phase and the beginning of its operational phase.

During a brief ceremony at the European Seafood Exposition, the first four sets of farmed-seafood standards developed by the World Wildlife Fund-organized Aquaculture Dialogues — tilapia, pangasius, abalone and bivalves — were officially handed over to the ASC. Jose Villalon, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund’s aquaculture program, was there to ceremoniously hand over the standards to Bas Geerts, the ASC’s new director of standards.

The organization also announced the timeline for certifying against the standards as well as the timeline for launching the ASC eco-label. Supervising board member Peter Hajipiers said the tilapia standards should be live by August and the rest by then end of 2011. He also said that chain-of-custody standards will be outsourced to the Marine Stewardship Council to avoid duplication and that training of certification bodies will be handled by GlobalGAP.

“Aquaculture is now rapidly surpassing wild capture food production, and that’s an important milestone,” said Hajipiers. “[The Aquaculture Dialogues] were the most thorough and intensive painstaking standards process ever in fish farming.”

Just last week, the ASC hired Geerts of UTZ Certified to serve as the organization’s director of standards. Previously, Geerts, who assumed the role on Sunday, served as manager of traceability services and the new business developer at UTZ Certified, which is based in the Netherlands. He has also served as the new business developer at the Netherlands office of the World Wildlife Fund.

“We feel that the Aquaculture Stewardship Council is absolutely the most credible certification system out there,” said Aldin Hilsbrands of Royal Ahold, who participated in the development of the standards at the retail level. “It has involved many, many different stakeholders over a long period of time, and it’s got to a point where the market really needs to pick up the certification and embrace it. We need to collectively work together to make this a success.”  

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