ASC launches public consultations on feed standard and fish welfare requirements

Published on
September 7, 2021
A worker holds a scoop of aquaculture feed near a net pen

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council has initiated a public consultation on new requirements in its standards to improve the welfare of farmed fish on issues related to water quality, stocking density, and slaughter.

The public consultation is now open, and allows for feedback on the proposed new requirements in the ASC standards. The ASC said it is interested in hearing from producers, experts from animal welfare NGOs and charities, scientists and researchers, and auditors.

The consultation is the first phase of ASC’s focus on fish welfare, and a second phase will include further research and development bringing in other species and further welfare issues.

“There is an understandable desire among our stakeholders, and many consumers, to see more welfare requirements added to the world’s strictest aquaculture certification scheme. At the same time, with some of these issues, we are in uncharted territory. Sometimes developing new indicators is a case of gathering preexisting evidence, but in the case of some welfare issues it has required commissioning our own research,” ASC Welfare Coordinator Janneke Aelen said. “ASC is first and foremost an evidence-based organization. This approach allows us to tackle the most-urgent welfare issues while ensuring we don’t stray from our principles for rigor and evidence.”

ASC has also launched a public consultation on important documents that will accompany the recently published ASC feed standard. This standard is intended to provide assurances to consumers that the feed used on ASC-certified farms is responsibly sourced from either marine or land-based ingredients.

Both consultations will run for 60 days, and can be found on the ASC's Fish Welfare page and Feed CAR page.

The ASC Technical Working Group for Fish Welfare – which includes scientists, NGOs, producers, and retailers – has been reviewing the issue and commissioning research to inform the new requirements. The group has decided the first phase will focus on topics like water quality, stocking density, and potential prohibitions of certain slaughter practices.

The requirements will apply to ASC-certified finfish farms, but this first phase will include a requirement for good management practice for all farmers of fish, crustacean, and bivalve species – covering issues such as staff training and risk assessment.

In addition to the welfare requirements, two new draft documents have been published by ASC to accompany the new feed standard -- the certification and accreditation requirements (CAR) and the requirements for unit of certification (RUoC).

The ASC standard itself provides indicators to be met by a mill to be produce responsibly sourced feed, and the CAR document details the requirements a certification body needs to follow to conduct audits and certify against the ASC feed standard. The RUoC provides details for the steps a feed mill will need to take in order to enter and undergo the audit and certification process for the ASC feed standard. 

New elements for the feed standard include requirements for due diligence on ingredient suppliers and two established models, known as mass balance and segregation, used to account for ingredients in certification programs.

“Our standards are at the heart of what we do at ASC, but the supporting documents provide instruction on how the audit process should be conducted from initial application through to certification,” ASC Program Assurance Manager Jennifer Glancy said. “These documents are therefore vitally important to the effective functioning of ASC as we work to improve the responsible production of feed ingredients. We want to make sure they are as effective as possible so we’re urging stakeholders to help us by providing their expertise and experience.”  

Photo courtesy of Parilov/Shutterstock

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