Aquaculture certification guidelines adopted

The world’s first global aquaculture certification guidelines are now one step closer to approval. On Friday, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Sub-Committee on Aquaculture of the Committee on Fisheries adopted the guidelines at meeting in Phuket, Thailand, attended by industry representatives, aquaculture experts and government officials from more than 50 countries.

The non-binding guidelines, which cover animal health, food safety, the environment and social welfare, will now go to the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries when it meets in Rome in January 2011 for approval.

“These guidelines have been developed to bring harmony to what is the fastest growing food sector in the world,” said FAO aquaculture expert Rohana Subasinghe. “Certification of aquaculture products has proliferated over the years, claiming all kinds of things. There was no criteria, no benchmarks or agreed principles. Aquaculture products are globally traded, and it is important that we ensure responsible production and consumer satisfaction.”

The FAO said it addressed the cost of certification, so that it’s affordable for small-scale fish farmers, which represent 80 percent of the world’s fish farmers.

The guidelines also call on governments to support capacity building for developing and complying with aquaculture certification systems.

“There are ways for small producers to operate within a modern certification system. For example, in India and Thailand clusters of fish farmers share the costs of certification so they are not too heavy for each farmer,” said Subasinghe.

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