After 7 years of development, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has finalised farmed shrimp standards, which set out a series of requirements to address the adverse impacts of the industry by preserving wetlands and mangroves, reducing disease, ensuring the sustainable use of water and feed, and addressing biodiversity issues. In addition, the standards define guidelines covering the rights of employees and local communities.
After the successful introduction of standards for farmed tilapia, pangasius, abalone, trout, salmon and bivalves, the standard for shrimp is the seventh to join ASC’s global programme for responsible aquaculture.
The ASC joins force with supply chain companies and retailers to encourage producers to improve their practices, and actively engages with governments and the fishing/fish farming industry in producing countries. One of the ASC’s cofounders, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), has built an “impact-oriented” coalition of multinationals (e.g. farmed fish producers, retailers), civil society organisations, governments to help create shared understanding and values among all the partners. IDH has also established a “Farmers in Transition” fund to stimulate and support the production of responsibly farmed shrimp. IDH aims to increase “responsible production of the European import of shrimp, tilapia and pangasius by 15% in 2015”.
The majority of global shrimp farming takes place in Asia (China, Thailand, Indonesia) and Latin America (Brazil, Ecuador). However, as indicated in the last Globefish report, Madagascar remains a significant but diminishing supplier of the EU market (France). Several Malagasy companies belonging to the GAPCM association were part of the Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue steering committee (GSC), which elaborated the ASC standards over several years.
Tropical shrimps have become the most valuable imported seafood in the EU, a large part (54%) of which consists of farmed shrimps. Given the increasing emphasis placed on sustainability issues for the European markets, it is therefore crucial that ACP countries (e.g. Madagascar) address those issues if they want to maintain their farmed shrimp exports to the EU. The new ASC standards are very much in line with the FAO Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification, adopted in 2011, and are welcomed as an effort to streamline the various existing ecolabel schemes for farmed products. The support provided through the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) to gather all the stakeholders from the sustainable fish farming value chain and, particularly, the establishment of the “Farmers in Transition Fund” is of considerable interest. Indeed, the transitional costs and investments, which are difficult to pass on to the final consumers, often hinder fish farmers from changing their production to a more responsible model.