The Global Aquaculture Alliance facilitated the official launch of a new, independent not-for-profit organization, Global Seafood Assurances (GSA), on Wednesday, 25 April, during Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium. The new venture will address marketplace expectations for assurance involving environmental responsibility, social responsibility, food safety, and animal welfare for both farmed and wild-caught seafood.
Assurances that fall under the GSA umbrella will flow from third-party certification programs that have been benchmarked by a combination of the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), and recognized social compliance programs. Any certification program that meets the aforementioned criteria and “that chooses to be a part of full supply-chain assurances for either farmed or wild seafood” will be eligible for GSA, GAA said in a press release.
The United Kingdom’s Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish) has signed a memorandum of understanding with GSA as a means to address a major gap in fisheries certification. The terms of the agreement will span from 1 May, 2018, and conclude no later than 1 May, 2020, Seafish said in a prepared statement.
In support of the MoU, GAA has established the nonprofit GSA Program, “which will bring together a network of standards to ensure all aspects of the wild seafood supply chain are covered, with the RFS a key standard in this new suite,” Seafish said. In turn, Seafish will retain responsibility for the ongoing management and delivery of the RFS in the U.K., as it works with GSA collaboratively to develop the RFS standard to version 2, to ensure ILO 188 compliance.
“We are thrilled to have reached this agreement with the GAA and its new Global Seafood Assurances Program. We are confident that the Program will be able to deliver and grow the RFS both in the UK and on a global scale,” Seafish CEO Marcus Coleman said.
“GAA is honored to have been granted this opportunity to work with Seafish and our respective global partners to further develop and implement credible vessel standards, particularly as relates to labor issues,” added Wally Stevens, who will be stepping away from his role as GAA’s executive director to lead GSA. “We applaud the good work which Seafish has led in developing the RFS scheme and look to see this program increasingly adopted in the U.K., while using the program to inform vessel standards development around the world.”
Other fisheries stakeholders around the world will also be working with GSA to develop new vessel standards for social responsibility, GAA said.
“GSA is pleased with and will support the contemplated formation of the Global Fisheries Alliance (GFA) as it takes the lead role with developing international fishing vessel standards. The work of GSA with RFS program should serve to inform GFA on creating international vessel standards,” the GSA said in its announcement.
The GSA Seafood Processing Standards will face a public comment period, and then will head to market. Once it does, it will exist as the first and only seafood-specific processing plants standards for both farmed and wild seafood.
“Based on the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) Seafood Processing Standards, the GSA Seafood Processing Standards are comprehensive in that they encompass all four pillars of responsibility — environmental, social, food safety, and animal welfare,” GAA explained.
Overall, the new certification effort seeks to reinforce and verify responsibly produced seafood across all facets of the supply chain.
“The sum of the whole is bigger than the individual parts,” Stevens said. “Currently, there are gaps in both aquaculture and fisheries certification, and the purpose of GSA is to fill those gaps and provide credible assurances to the marketplace that farmed and wild seafood is responsibly produced throughout the entire production chain. We need to fill the gaps while linking the various silos of certification together. What we need is comprehensive representation.”
While GSA seeks to fill in gaps within the current seafood certification paradigm, “It’s important to note that the work of GSA is not intended to result in harmonization of existing certification standards for aquaculture and fisheries but rather to represent critical assurances to the marketplace,” GAA said.
“Qualifying certification programs will continue to operate separately, though there’s the potential for realizing efficiencies through combining administrative and service oriented tasks such as traceability technology, data analysis, certification body management, and accounting,” the organization added.
Other relevant areas that will fall under the GSA’s scope include traceability systems, cost containment through reduced audit duplication, and outreach to smallholders. Ultimately, GSA’s core objective is more credible assurances, more cooperative marketing, and consequently, increased consumption of seafood, whether wild-caught or farmed-raised.
GSA was formed with encouragement from a number of marketplace leaders and the leadership of GAA. GAA will provide the initial funding for the new independent not-for-profit organization as it gains momentum during its early stages.