Seafood assurance has a major role to play; the benefits of sustainable fisheries and fish farming and the need to mitigate the environmental impacts of fishing and aquaculture are increasingly in the public consciousness. A shining example of best practice is the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s farm fish standard which continues to deliver increasing value to organisations worldwide.
Here, Duane Wood describes why the standard has taken off and what makes it the benchmark for the sector.
What do the ASC standards address which other standards don't?
There are a number of excellent standards for the aquaculture sector, each with their own merits and benefits. However, the ASC standards cover 12 diverse species, from salmon and trout to shrimp and bivalve. The ASC farm standard focuses on the environmental and social responsibility of commercial aquaculture sites. With robust criteria across the suite of eight standards and clear commercial and consumer benefits, ASC certification is seen as the leading standard for the farmed seafood sector.
Each standard has its own unique elements, but all examine farm management and stock health as well as the environmental and the social impact of the farms on its employees and the local area.
Designed with input from retailers, NGOs and academics, these standards have been built to ensure producers meet truly industry leading levels of best practice before they can achieve certification.
Who is driving the need for ASC certification?
Ultimately the primary macro driver is the rapidly growing requirement for sustainable protein, sourced in an environmentally sound and socially responsible way. With traditional land-based agriculture unable to meet the world’s growing needs, we’re increasingly turning to farmed seafood for this.
Growth in aquaculture in particular has exploded since the 1970s and is close to providing us with as much of our seafood as commercial wild caught fisheries. When you consider as recently as the 1980s farmed fish accounted for around 10% of consumption, it is essential that the sector implements systems to ensure it continues to meet not just consumption requirements, but also environmental and social criteria.
Consumers are more inquisitive about where their food comes from, who was involved in its production and what impact it had on the environment. As long as this interest continues to grow, producers, retailers and hospitality providers will look for ways to demonstrate that they meet best practice. ASC certification is already playing a big part in promoting the larger market leaders and we can expect other producers to get involved due to the very clear benefits.
What are the primary benefits of ASC certification?
Unlike some standards, which primarily provide a licence to operate, the ASC standards are truly industry leading and as a result the benefits are more apparent. One of the clearest benefits is that certification helps signpost to retailers and consumers that producers are minimising the environmental and social impact of their sites, while meeting industry best practice.
This in turn can open products up to new markets or give businesses the edge over competitors who have yet to adopt ASC. An additional and hugely significant benefit is that only products traced to source are allowed to display the ASC consumer logo. This is done through a chain of custody assessment and ensures complete supply chain transparency - an invaluable benefit at a time when food fraud is an increasing concern for those working across the industry.
What would your advice be to producers looking to adopt ASC?
There is no doubt that ASC is a complex standard and a big commitment but the path to certification is clearly set out and designed to deliver continual improvement along the way. Our advice to a customer would be to examine their sites and see how close they are to meeting the relevant standard’s requirements. If the view is that they believe that they are ready for the audit, then we’d suggest they act quickly to ensure they don’t miss out.
We’ve already seen global players like Marine Harvest leading the way through their commitment to ASC, and just recently there have been other breakthroughs as the likes of Nomad Foods (Findus) have started marketing ASC certified dishes to the market. These players are ahead of the game and when you look at the big retailers such as Walmart committing to ambitious long-term sustainability targets for seafood, its evident early adopters will reap the benefits in the short and long term.
There is no doubt that seafood is big business; as our valued client Cargill highlights in their June 2017 Feed4Thought consumer survey, seafood is in higher demand than ever before, with 82 percent of Americans adding salmon, shrimp and tilapia to their lunch and dinner plates. However, they won’t settle for just any seafood. They want to know where it’s coming from and that it was sourced responsibly, a theme that resonates with the team here at LR.
Cargill Aqua Nutrition also supplies feed which meets the requirements of the ASC and Cargill continues to work with ASC to develop feed standards for the future. I am proud that LRQA delivers ASC certification services to Cargill, along with a range of other food safety assurance services.
What has LRQA's involvement in the aquaculture sector been to date?
LRQA is very active in the aquaculture sector and has been for a number of years. Initially our work entailed a high volume of management systems inspections and specialist on-farm tailored solutions. This work has evolved in recent years, following the acquisition and integration of market leader Acoura. Now we have capacity and scale to deliver what we firmly believe is the widest range of audits and services to the sector.
This work ranges from the delivery of audits across the hugely premium Scottish salmon industry, to ASC and GAA BAP audits globally. Right now, we are delivering ASC audits in all the core aquaculture regions worldwide, and we expect this to continue to grow as customers see the benefit of the standards our experts can deliver.
LRQA is the only service provider able to offer true sea to fork coverage with joined up technology-based solutions. We also play a pivotal role in the advancement of sustainable fishing through our work on various technical committees.
It has always been our aim to work in partnership with customers in the sector and through this we’ve also been able to develop our online technology and align it with the standards. This approach brings added value to multi-site producers, helping them gain invaluable insight into compliance and further protecting their brand.
For more information about LRQA's range of seafood assurance services email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LRQA will be at the GFSI’s Global Food Safety Conference from 5-8 March in Tokyo where we will be showing our wide range of assurance services, including seafood.
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