ASC launches largest-ever public consultations on new standards

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) on Monday, 8 March announced the launch of its largest-ever public consultations, seeking feedback on two separate changes to its standards.

The public consultation, which seeks input from stakeholders, is looking for feedback on the council’s proposed environmental requirements on the aligned farm standards, which according to the ASC will cover all certified species “bringing efficiencies and improvements without compromising on quality."

The second standard change involves the ASC’s supply chain assurances and the development of the ASC chain of custody module, “introducing important requirements specifically for farmed fish.”

“Both of these consultations concern important innovations in the ASC program, and as always we want to use the knowledge and experience of our stakeholders to ensure these improvements are as effective as they can be,” ASC CEO Chris Ninnes said in a release. “Multi-stakeholder working is one of ASC’s biggest strengths and I’d like to thank in advance everyone who can contribute to this next chapter in the ASC program.”

Changes to the farm standard, according to the ASC, will bring “major improvements to the program,” providing consistency across species and systems, in addition to simplifying the introduction of future updates.

Currently, the ASC said, the council maintains multiple farms standards covering different species – some of which contain differences in language regarding common impacts of aquaculture that are consistent across the entire industry. The new effort will create one standard, which then will include species-specific requirements, ASC said.

“ASC’s standards are the most robust in the industry, and that’s not changing. A salmon farm will still have to address all of the impacts of salmon farming under the aligned farm standard, and a sea bass farm will have to reduce all of the impacts of sea bass farming,” ASC Standards and Science Director Michiel Fransen said. “But what the new standard provides is greater consistency when it comes to the many impacts that are common to most aquaculture – things like siting, energy emissions, escapes, and water use.”

By developing just one set of standards covering all the consistent aspects of aquaculture, the ASC will be able to “respond to changes and industry more swiftly,” the council said.

“In an industry as fast-moving as aquaculture, it is important to be able to respond to these new developments, providing updated, credible standards to mitigate any potential impacts. This can never come at the cost of a transparent and robust process. The farm standard allows us to find that balance,” Ninnes said.

The second standard that is being revamped is the ASC’s chain of custody module. The council plans to expand its requirements, to “better address the unique nature of farmed seafood.”

Those changes will be in addition to the Marine Stewardship Council chain of custody certification. The ASC has used the MSC certification standards to cover ASC-certified product supply chains since 2012, but according to Ninnes, over time, differences between the two products have emerged that need to be addressed.

“Additional requirements are needed is due to inherent differences in producing farmed and wild seafood,” Ninnes said. “Additionally, as the ASC program grows, a new suite of assurance activities and tools to address emergent issues such as seafood fraud, food safety, and use of substances such as antibiotics are needed.” 

According to the ASC, the new standard will have implications for stakeholders, “particularly chain of custody certificate holders and certification assessment bodies (CABs).”

The public consultation is a chance for those stakeholders to have input on the changes, the organization said.

“These improvements help make the program more effective and adaptive to new challenges, which will provide increased value and assurance to stakeholders. They are part of our ongoing work to constantly improve the ASC program,” ASC Senior Program Assurance Manager Wendy Banta said. “Giving our stakeholders a chance to provide feedback on our plans is another big part of that work, so we’re encouraging anyone who might be affected by these proposals to take part in the consultation.”

Both public consultations will run from 8 March to 7 May, 2021.  

Photo courtesy of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council


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