ASC marks five years of farmed seafood certification with a look forward

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) celebrated its fifth anniversary at Seafood Expo Global 2015 with a panel on Wednesday discussing the state of aquaculture and a look ahead at what the next 10 years may hold for the industry worldwide.

ASC CEO Chris Ninnes (pictured) and Commercial Marketing Manager Esther Luiten joined Libby Woodhatch, head of advocacy at U.K.-based Seafish; Trygve Berg Lea, international product manager for Norwegian salmon farmer Skretting; Catarina Martins, group manager for environment and sustainability at Marine Harvest and Philippe Toussaint, sustainable sourcing manager at Colruyt. Blake-Lee Harwood, communication and strategy director for the nonprofit Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, moderated the discussion.

Ninnes kicked things off with an overview of ASC’s efforts over the past five years to certify aquaculture operations worldwide as sustainable. Among the accomplishments Ninnes listed:

  • Global Salmon Initiative members, who represent 70 percent of global salmon aquaculture production, have committed to certifying their farms to the ASC Salmon Standard by 2020
  • Five of eight shrimp farms in Belize, representing 90 percent of that country’s total farmed shrimp production, have recently become certified
  • An estimated 20 percent of the Vietnamese pangasius production has been certified against the ASC Pangasius Standard
  • The Rio 2016 Organizing Committee is pledging all farmed seafood for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be ASC certified

“I think the journey we’ve been on has been quite remarkable,” he said.

Ninnes also noted how aquaculture itself has changed in recent years, with the amount of farmed seafood worldwide surpassing the amount of fished seafood for the first time in 2014.

“It’s quite a milestone we passed in 2014, and it will only increase going forward,” he said.

As for the future, the panelists agreed that new technology will drive the industry. Lea said he imagines feed systems containing omega-3 oils produced by algae and bacteria culture helping to replace traditional fishmeal.

“There will be innovative solutions,” he said.

When asked about the use of closed-container aquaculture in the future, Lea said technology once again will determine what is possible, and even what it will cost. To critics who argue land-based salmon farms, for example, are too expensive, Lea noted diseases, sea lice and other contaminants present in open-water pens are not a problem, and that alone saves a great deal of money.

“If you can reduce or eliminate that cost, you have already financed your land-based aquaculture,” he said.

The possibilities, he said, will appeal to small-scale farmers who wish to produce for a local market.

“I foresee a future where (farms) outside Boston (are) sending salmon to local restaurants,” he said.

Harwood, whose group works directly with retailers, said European consumers in particular have come to accept farmed seafood, with negative feedback slacking off in recent years.

“Europeans are very chilled by it,” he said.

Retailers have helped by being very up-front about where the seafood comes from, Harwood said, even going so far as to display pictures of farms at the point of sale.

“They’re not kidding you by just showing you the ocean,” he said.


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