Fish farms in Vietnam, Mexico achieve milestone sustainability certifications

Published on
March 2, 2021

Seafood producers in Mexico and Vietnam have achieved firsts in earning certification from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) program.

On Tuesday, 2 March, Australis Aquaculture said it had become the world’s first producer to secure certification under the ASC's tropical marine finfish (TMFF) standard for its ocean-based farm in Vietnam.

The barramundi supplier, which caters to markets in the U.S., Australia, and elsewhere, chose its farm sites in Vân Phong Bay, Vietnam to “showcase a novel approach to sustainable aquaculture in the marine tropics,” the company said. This farming method involves the integration of “seaweed cultivation and a purpose-built frozen supply chain that minimizes food waste and CO2 emissions,” according to Australis.

ASC U.S. Market Development Manager Kathleen McDavitt views Australis’ latest certification as a win for American consumers.

“This is another milestone for the ASC and we’re thrilled to see a farmer with such an obvious commitment to environmental sustainability embracing the program,” McDavitt said in a press release. “This is also really great news for conscientious American consumers, as it helps to meet a growing demand in the country for responsibly produced seafood. Barramundi isn’t something most people eat every day, but it’s easy to cook at home and delicious – an ideal way to support responsible food production.”

Barramundi’s popularity is well-established in Southeast Asian and Australian cuisine, and the fish has become “the fastest-growing aquaculture species globally over the past decade,” ASC and Australis said. Australis Aquaculture Co-Founder and CEO Josh Goldman profiled over 30 different fish species before deciding on barramundi as the centerpiece for a vertically-integrated farming operation in the marine tropics “built from the ground up,” with hatchery, nursery, grow-out, harvesting, processing, and packaging capabilities.

For Goldman, the certification represents a fortification of the trust consumers have for the company and its brands, which include seafood products under The Better Fish and Clean Harvest banners.   

“Australis chose ASC because it is widely recognized for its comprehensive, science-based approach. ASC’s new tropical marine finfish standard brings a thoughtful and well-structured approach to measuring social and environmental accountability of aquaculture,” Goldman said. “ASC’s market links will enhance trust in our brand and deepen our connections with our customers.”

Launched in 2019, ASC’s TMFF standard “is one of the most wide-reaching ASC standards, covering nine separate genera of fish, including barramundi, groupers, snappers, pompano, and croaker,” the certifier said.

“The standard was intended to meet growing demand and reflects the diversity of global aquaculture industry. In 2018, total farmed tropical marine finfish production accounted for almost 3.7 million [metric tons], mostly centered around tropical and sub-tropical seas is Asia and Australia,” ASC said.

The BAP program also reported a world-first achievement in the new year for Mexico’s Earth Ocean Farms. The North American producer of totoaba and red snapper became the world’s first to earn BAP certification for its totoaba processing plant.

The La Paz, Mexico-based facility processes both totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi), a large member of the drum family that is endemic to the Gulf of California, and red snapper. Both species are farmed by Earth Ocean Farms in submersible sea pens off the coast of Baja Sur.

“Earth Ocean Farms is fully integrated. The company rears fingerlings in its own hatchery from carefully selected broodstock. Once the fingerlings reach optimal size, they are stocked at the company’s well-situated farm in the open-ocean waters of the Sea of Cortez, providing ideal conditions for fish growth. The fish are then processed and sold throughout Mexico and North America,” GAA and Earth Ocean Farms said in a press release.

Its new BAP status is just the first step for Earth Oceans Farms, according to BAP Market Development Manager for Latin America Bill Hoenig.

“We were really excited to work with the entire team at Earth Ocean Farms to get them into the BAP program, but that was just the starting point. Now we look forward to continuing to work with them to promote the company’s commitment to responsible aquaculture to buyers and consumers in Mexico and North America,” Hoenig said.

Earth Ocean Farms Director General Pablo Konietzko said the BAP achievement lets customers know the company’s commitment to responsible seafood is paramount.

“This achievement provides an important step forward for all of our team,” Konietzko said. “It is also an important signal for our many customers that we take seriously our responsibility to provide the freshest, highest-quality fish backed by this quality assurance standard. To provide the best and healthiest fish to feed current and future generations, we care about the entire process monitoring the right temperature, light, and filtrated recirculated water where we raise our juvenile fish. The custom diet matters as it reflects our experience when it comes to superior taste and quality.”

The BAP program has 31 farmed seafood species represented with the addition of totoaba, it confirmed. At the end of 2020, the program tallied 2,918 BAP-certified facilities in 39 countries, up 10.7 percent from the end of 2019.

In other BAP-related news, the program released its Issue 3.0 of the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) Farm Standard to the public on 1 March.

The renamed BAP farm standard replaces Issue 2.4 of the BAP finfish and crustacean farm standard and adds a number of new requirements under BAP’s four pillars of sustainability — food safety, social accountability, environmental responsibility and animal welfare, GAA said in a press release.

All feed-fed finfish and crustacean species are covered by the new standard, BAP said, however, “separate sets of standards continue to exist for salmonids raised in marine net-pens (covered by the BAP salmon farm standard) and unfed mollusk species such as mussels, clams, and oysters (covered by the BAP mollusk standard).”

As of 1 March, 2022, Issue 3.0 of the BAP farm standard will be mandatory for new and re-certifying facilities, GAA said. A 60-day public comment period culminated for the issuance on 26 September, 2020, with a total of 43 individuals and organizations providing feedback.

The new requirements included in Issue 3.0 of the BAP Farm standard include:

  • A ban on antimicrobials designated as critically important for human medicine by the World Health Organization;
  • Additional social accountability clauses related to equality and worker safety;
  • Additional wildlife protection clauses about acoustic deterrent devices and entanglement;
  • Clarity on metrics such as feed conversion ratio, fish in/fish out ratio and effluent nutrient loads;
  • Specific consideration for environmental requirements for reservoir/lake-based cage farms, recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), and coastal flow-through farms;
  • The scope of Issue 3.0 includes “fed” mollusks such as abalone, sea cucumbers, and other aquatic invertebrates grown in land-based facilities;

GAA said it is hosting a webinar on 11 March that will provide an overview of the new standard, which can be viewed in its entirety on the organization’s website.

Photo courtesy of Earth Ocean Farms via GAA

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