Seafood Summit: Schemes square off

By

James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
February 1, 2010

Editor’s note: SeaFood Business Associate Editor James Wright and SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Lindsey Partos are in Paris this week covering the Seafood Choices Alliance Seafood Summit.

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food-production system in the world, and it is here to stay, said Jose Villalon, director of the World Wildlife Fund’s U.S. aquaculture program on Tuesday at the Seafood Choices Alliance Seafood Summit in Paris.

And, Villalon added, if current global seafood consumption continues at its current 8- to 10-percent clip annually, aquaculture production will need to increase 50 percent by 2050. Therefore, the need for environmental safeguards is incredibly high.

“When you see this type of expansive growth in industry, environmental issues often take a back seat to business expansion and development,” said Villalon, who coordinates the WWF Aquaculture Dialogues, a multi-stakeholder approach to creating measurable environmental and social aquaculture standards. “WWF initiated the process and coordinates it. But we are only one stakeholder at the table, with one vote.”

Also participating in the panel discussion “Aquaculture Standards: Winner Take All?” were Nigel Garbutt, chairman of GlobalGAP, and Peter Redmond, VP of marketplace development and communications for U.S.-based Global Aquaculture Alliance. The three gentlemen summarized the merits of their respective programs, all of which are seeking to improve farmed seafood quality, safety and environmental stewardship.

“The market decides who wins this,” said Redmond. “Ours is a living, breathing program” that doesn’t exist solely on paper, he added. Redmond said that the GAA, which created a set of criteria called Best Aquaculture Practices, is responsible for helping more than 1.1 billion pounds of certified farmed seafood enter the marketplace.

“Competition in standards is a good thing; monopoly is a bad thing,” he said.

Both WWF and GAA also shared their 2010 expectations: BAP standards for salmon and mussels will be completed this year, and feed-mill standards are due in the coming weeks. BAP standards already exist for pangasius, tilapia, shrimp and U.S.-farmed channel catfish.

Villalon said that 2010 will mark the arrival of finalized certification standards for 11 species: pangasius, oysters, clams, mussels and scallops in the second quarter; and abalone, shrimp, salmon, freshwater trout, seriola (yellowtail) and cobia in the fourth quarter. Standards for tilapia were finalized in December.

WWF and GAA, however, do have several differences in their respective approaches: GAA certifies feed mills, hatcheries, farm operations and processing plants; also, a product can attain BAP certification at any one of those levels, which Redmond refers to as the BAP’s “four pillars,” and then use the BAP eco-label on product packaging. Redmond said the marketplace is annually accepting 400,000 metric tons of BAP-certified finished product at the processor level, with 150,000 metric tons also attaining certification at the farm, or production, level.

Redmond also noted that other certification programs do not share the BAP’s rigorous traceability criteria. “If you don’t have traceability, it’s very hard to endorse what you’re doing,” said Redmond. “You must have that component.”

Villalon, who stressed that the Aquaculture Stewardship Council will take over the Aquaculture Dialogues process when it is fully formed in mid-2011, said the strength of the WWF-led process is based in its broad stakeholder participation — including more than 2,000 participants — and its focus on reducing environmental and social impacts.

“Standards are going to be fair and have support in the marketplace,” said Villalon.

All three groups, however, agreed that there should be enough room in the marketplace for all of them, and potentially others. But the key for producers and buyers is to get on board now, they agreed.

“Let’s all get on the journey together,” said Garbutt. “To quote a Chinese proverb, all journeys must begin with a single step.”

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