Seafood Watch releases assurance model covering aquaculture’s environmental impacts

In an effort to address concerns about the environmental impacts of aquaculture to coastal habitats and biodiversity – as well as multiple sustainability challenges related to disease, water quality, and high inputs from capture fisheries – the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program recently released assurance models for the industry. 

Standardization of the aquaculture industry, particularly on the small-to-midsize farm level, has been a concern for industry watchdog groups for the past decade, with the sector growing exponentially over that timeframe.

To address limited governance and management of the sector, non-government organizations (NGOs), businesses, and other stakeholders have developed various sustainability standards, certification schemes, and ratings programs to improve sustainability of production and to provide assurances to customers and buyers on the sustainability of the product, according to the new white paper from Seafood Watch.

“However, third-party aquaculture certification schemes make up only 6 percent of the global aquaculture supply (as of 2015), and are primarily production concentrated in a limited number of species and countries,” wrote the authors of the paper. 

Aquaculture production varies greatly between geographies, scales, species, and production systems, according to the paper. Barriers to the wider use of current assurance systems include limited local acceptance, cost, the requirement for a high degree of organization, and a focus on farm-level sustainability. 

The paper is being released collectively by Seafood Watch, Resonance, SGS, Seagreen Research, IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative), The Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative (ASIC), and Thai Union Group PCL. 

The group recognizes that the small-scale decentralized farms and supply chains that represent the majority of the industry haven’t embraced the existing aquaculture sustainability standards, codes of good practice, and certification schemes, a Monterey Bay Aquarium spokesperson explained to SeafoodSource in an email.

The Partnership Assurance Model brings together local and national governments, farmers in a specific production region, and committed end buyers (national and international) to co-design, implement, and verify environmental improvements throughout the production process. 

This approach seeks to make best use of the strengths and roles of each of the partners involved, making sustainability the responsibility of all stakeholders, Seafood Watch said. This includes farmers, processors, and buyers in addition to other stakeholders such as NGOs, government, input providers, banks/financial institutions, and technology companies, according to the authors of the report.

Image courtesy of the Partnership Assurance Model white paper


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