ASC Regal Spring tilapia

At Regal Springs’ tilapia farms on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, tilapia grows in large floating cages to minimize pollution in local waters and the company regularly tests water quality. Every bit of fish waste and effluent is used somehow — whether in composting, rice field irrigation, collagen production or the biodiesel fuel that powers farm generators and trucks, says Magdalena Wallhoff, the Miami company’s VP of sales.

Water pollution — along with use of chemicals and antibiotics, fish escapes and the social conditions of workers — is one of the key areas addressed in standards to minimize environmental harm in fish farming and certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).

On 20 August, Regal Springs’ tilapia products became the first farmed seafood on the market to be ASC-certified.

And tilapia isn’t the only species to earn the new eco-label: The Tan Hoa farm of the Vinh Hoan Corp. in Vietnam in June became the first to be audited to ASC pangasius standards. At press time, pangasius products had not yet reached the market, but were expected to as early as this fall.

Initial European sales of certified products are going well, says Wallhoff.

“We want to see what happens in a few months. How are the orders going to continue now that the hype has died down?” says Wallhoff. A Dutch media outlet covered the introduction and some of the retailers and seafood companies promoted it with POS displays and press releases.

Albert Heijn, the largest seafood retailer in the Netherlands, is one of the retailers carrying the tilapia under its private-label brand. The company works with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a co-founder of the ASC, on its seafood sourcing policies. Retailers in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Spain and Canada are carrying the certified tilapia. Jumbo, a Dutch supermarket company, is carrying the certified product, says Wallhoff, as are German seafood companies TopSea, Costa and Bofrost.

The market milestone offers seafood buyers a third-party certification option for farmed seafood designed to parallel that of the Marine Stewardship Council for wild fish. It has been in the works for nearly a decade, starting with roundtable talks with buyers, producers, scientists and environmentalists that tackled environmental problems linked to fish farming. The WWF-led Aquaculture Dialogues created standards that spell out and define responsible production. WWF is also a co-founder of the Marine Stewardship Council.  “The introduction of the ASC tilapia in advanced markets as Germany and the Netherlands this summer was successful,” says Chris Ninnes, the council’s CEO. “The presence of ASC tilapia is from the start very prominent. We also expect a lot from the introduction of ASC pangasius in the market. The volumes are far bigger.”

ASC expects the first certified farmed shrimp and salmon products to reach the market next year. “We will make major steps,” Ninnes says.

Click here to read the full story which ran in the November issue of SeaFood Business > 

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