Certified shrimp operation a roadmap for ‘the other 80%’

Aquaculture experts around the world generally agree that only 20 percent of the world’s farmed fish supply has earned sustainability certification, a prerequisite for doing business with a growing number of international seafood buyers. The questions that arise from that statistic include, “How do we get the other 80 percent of suppliers certified?” and, for the skeptics among us, “Do those suppliers really need to be certified?”
Jeff Sedacca, president of National Fish & Seafood’s (National) shrimp and aquaculture division, has a pretty good idea about the first of those two questions. Last week, we reported that Penver Products, a farmed shrimp supplier in India, was the first aquaculture company on the subcontinent to earn four-star Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification. Four stars denotes that the hatchery, the feed mill, the farm and the processing plant involved with the fish or shellfish’s production all meet BAP standards.
What’s unique about this set-up is the set-up itself: Sedacca describes the organization as an “integrated network” of companies, as opposed to one vertically integrated supplier. National contracts with shrimp farmers through Penver to produce goods for his supply network (National is a division of Pacific Andes International Holdings Ltd.), using BAP-certified seed and feed providers it also works with.
“We have what amounts to one big company; we own the production,” Sedacca told SeafoodSource recently. His company’s role, as he described it, is as an educator; this project with Penver has spanned the past few years. “We’re getting away from being seafood traders and going toward being integrated parts of a supply chain.”
Sedacca added that National — which he expects to import more than 40 million pounds of shrimp this year, roughly half of it from small-scale producers — has 20 projects similar to this one in key shrimp-producing areas like Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and India. He’s learned that the cost of certification can be out of reach for many small-scale farmers. “We looked at the costs of getting farms certified. It’s untenable for thousands of farmers with one or two ponds. So we assembled them in clusters or groups,” he said. “The other ’80 percent?’ We weren’t ignoring them, there just wasn’t a way to reach them.”
This “cluster management” style of organization, as he termed it, could really drive aquaculture sustainability in areas that need improving, and also serve as a model for other producers to follow. That would be just fine with Sedacca, who clearly sees certification as a key to opening sales channels and improving aquaculture practices overall. (It should be noted that National Fish & Seafood is a founding member of the Global Aquaculture Alliance, which created and maintains the BAP standards.) He views this method of improving aquaculture practices as “rewarding.”
“What we’re doing is developing a mechanism and a roadmap for others to do the same thing. That’s why they’re pilots,” he said. “The big challenge is to be able to reach the small farmers, and convince them that sustainability is an important thing in maintaining access to the market and the environment and their family’s access to income.”
As shrimp production throughout Southeast Asia recovers from early mortality syndrome, India has been ramping up production dramatically. Sedacca says annual volume growth could grow by 10 to 15 percent a year for the next several years. How much of that product will carry an eco-label remains to be seen.
And as for the second question mentioned above, whether certification is necessary, Sedacca has thoughts on that as well: “We’re going to get to the point where certified shrimp is not something special; it’s the standard. As certification becomes standard, as more companies demand it, we want to be careful not to disenfranchise the small farms, that they don’t lose their access to the marketplace.”


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