WWF responds to ASC opposition

The World Wildlife Fund has responded to the non-governmental organizations that oppose the formation of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), which will oversee the certification of fish farms worldwide. While the WWF intends to move forward with the council, the organization is listening to the opposition’s concerns.

“WWF agrees with this coalition of NGOs that aquaculture can have a negative impact on the environment and society,” said Jose Villalon, managing director of WWF-US’s aquaculture program.

“But aquaculture is the fastest growing food production system in the world, and it is here to stay,” he added. “That is why WWF and the 2,000 participants of the [Aquaculture] Dialogues are committed to creating standards that will measurably reduce the key impacts associated with the industry. Aquaculture, if done responsibly, is a viable path to meet the demand for seafood.”

WWF noted the inclusion of over 90 NGOs in the ongoing Aquaculture Dialogues, a series of meetings that began in 2004 to establish global standards for aquaculture certification. Currently, six dialogues are underway: salmon, tilapia, pangasius, shrimp, mollusks, Seiola/cobia; two others, abalone and trout, are due to start later this year.

“Each dialogue is managed by a steering committee that uses input received from dialogue meeting participants, technical working groups, advisory committees and others to make final decisions about the Dialogue process and standards,” explained Villalon. “The process, therefore, is open and all feedback is taken into consideration by each steering committee.”

WWF will continue to welcome feedback from opposing groups such as the Mangrove Action Project and Red Manglar.

“We have been in communication with MAP since last fall to determine the most effective way to engage local communities and indigenous groups in the process of creating the standards,” said Villalon. “We recognize the importance of receiving input from as many people as possible if we want to see change in the aquaculture industry.”

The WWF will hire a director in the next few months to oversee the development of a business plan in conjunction with an advisory committee of diverse stakeholders, including the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative.

The ASC is expected to be in operation by 2011.

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