Plans for an international certification scheme for sustainably farmed fish and seafood have taken a step forward with the launch of standards for pangasius, a type of catfish, and bivalves such as mussels and oysters.
The standards were developed with stakeholder dialogue groups and cover issues like the use of chemicals, waste management, energy efficiency, feed sourcing and labour standards. Production of pangasius, traditionally eaten in Vietnam, has increased 60-fold over the past decade so this standard also includes rules on the type of land that can be used for farms.
Producers will be judged against the standards to determine whether they can be certified as sustainable.
Environmental group WWF, which is leading the development of the standards, admits the lists of issues they cover are not exhaustive. Instead the standards stick to the most pressing concerns in order to be simple enough for small-scale farmers to follow, it says.
The dialogue process included the views of about 1,000 stakeholders including producers, government officials, traders, food companies, academics and NGOs, and was headed up by two smaller facilitation groups. The Birds Eye Iglo Group and Cargill were members of the pangasius group and the Shellfish Association of Great Britain was in the bivalve group.
An Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), modelled on the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), should be established to oversee the certification process by the middle of 2011.
As with the FSC and MSC when they were created, plans for an ASC have proved controversial among some NGOs (ENDS Report 413, June 2009). They fear it is an attempt to legitimise the unsustainable production of cheap farmed salmon and prawns and think the process favours multinational food companies over small-scale farmers.
The first standard, for tilapia, was finished last year and six more are in the pipeline. These cover: abalone, cobia, salmon, seriola, shrimp and freshwater trout.