Aquaculture certifiers sign unique MoU

By

James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
April 23, 2013

Ever since sustainability certification was launched years ago, seafood buyers worldwide have complained about confusion among the various schemes and the duplication of efforts regarding audits and other regulatory steps in a complex and potentially expensive process.

But at the European Seafood Exposition in Brussels, the three leading aquaculture certification schemes signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work collaboratively to increase efficiencies and reduce said duplicative efforts.

The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), Aquaculture Stewardship Council and GLOBALG.A.P. will explore ways to make life easier for the buyers of certified seafood products. The announcement was about three years in the making.

“The impact, initially, is not so much about harmonization, but about reducing duplication. We hear of the expense of certification and company audits. This is everyone getting together and finding common overlaps and working together to make it much easier for a supplier to navigate the process and take some of the expense out,” Peter Redmond, VP-business development for the GAA’s Best Aquaculture Practices program, told SeafoodSource.

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step and this is a very large step,” Redmond continued. “We’re not sure where this will end up, with the three organizations, but certainly a commitment from all three to work toward common goals will make it easier not just for the supply chain but for retailers as well. To get the three of us to come to an agreement is a pretty good achievement. The fallacy of this industry is that we’re enemies and all throw rocks. We are friendly, but it’s still a competitive landscape and mindful of the impact we have on the supply chain.”

The three organizations will seek to develop common requirements related to feed; to explore common approaches to the management of certificate information potentially through shared IT platforms; to develop common approaches to auditor training; to develop shared approaches to chain-of-custody certification; and to encourage accurate and objective messaging regarding the claims made for certified aquaculture products.

Dr. Kristian Moeller, managing director and secretary for GLOBALG.A.P. in Cologne, Germany, says aquaculture certification organizations have been “given the mandate” to help the industry.

“We have a need to serve and it would be nonsense to serve our own interest as associations and work against the general interests of the industry,” said Moeller. “We’ve put the bar quite high with expectations now. All of you will hold us accountable.” 

The MoU has garnered support throughout the NGO community.

“The New England Aquarium, which helps seafood buying companies navigate the certification landscape, supports the spirit and intent of this MoU,” said Heather Tausig, associate VP of conservation for the New England Aquarium in Boston. “By facilitating greater transparency, alignment, efficiency and collective action among multiple standards, this collaboration helps bolster the credibility and integrity of certification as an important tool for sustainability.”

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