ASC consults on major programme improvementsConsultations on major ASC programme improvements will run for two months

ASC has today launched one of its largest ever public consultations and is asking stakeholders to have their say on major proposed improvements to the programme. 

ASC is firstly seeking feedback on proposed environmental requirements for the aligned Farm Standard to cover all ASC certified species, bringing efficiencies and improvements without compromising on quality. A second consultation covers the expansion of ASC’s supply chain assurance with the development of the ASC Chain of Custody Module introducing important requirements specifically for farmed fish.

“The knowledge and experience of our stakeholders to ensure these improvements are as effective as they can be. Multi-stakeholder working is one of ASC’s biggest strengths and I’d like to thank in advance everyone who can contribute to this next chapter in the ASC programme,” said ASC CEO Chris Ninnes.

Stakeholder input is an important feature of ASC programme development and anyone can take part in these public consultations, with the feedback of certificate holders, auditors, NGOs and supply chain partners particularly sought.

Both consultations will run for two months, from 8th March to 7th May 2021.

Farm Standard

The project to develop the aligned Farm Standard covering all ASC certified species is expected to provide greater consistency across species and culture systems, delivering efficiency and simplifying the introduction of updates across the programme.

Currently, ASC manages a number of separate farm standards covering different species. They all provide an industry-leading set of robust environmental and social requirements, but because they have been developed at different times, they can vary on how some of the impacts that are common across aquaculture are addressed.

The aligned Farm Standard will cover all of these common impacts in one robust and thorough standard, which includes species-specific requirements which must also be met by the relevant farms.

“ASC’s standards are the most robust in the industry, and that’s not changing. A salmon farm will still have to address all of the impacts of salmon farming under the aligned Farm Standard, and a sea bass farm will have to reduce all of the impacts of sea bass farming,” said ASC  Michiel Fransen.

“But what the new standard provides is greater consistency when it comes to the many impacts that are common to most aquaculture – things like siting, energy emissions, escapes, and water use. This means that culture-system impacts will be holistically covered and species-specific impacts will be retained and be as robust as when originally drafted. All these proposed improvements will go through the same comprehensive development process involving multi-stakeholder expertise and public consultation – but in a more efficient manner because consultation will no longer be required for individual species-standards.”

By developing one comprehensive standard covering all these impacts, ASC will be able to respond to changes in the markets and industry more swiftly – if a new species needs to be added to the programme, the species-specific requirements can be developed and added to the Farm Standard, rather than developing an entire separate standard from scratch.

“In an industry as fast-moving as aquaculture, it is important to be able to respond to these new developments, providing updated, credible standards to mitigate any potential impacts. This can never come at the cost of a transparent and robust process. The Farm Standard allows us to find that balance,” Chris Ninnes said.

The Farm Standard will be split into three principles covering legal compliance, environmental impacts and social impacts.

ASC Chain of Custody Module 

ASC is also expanding its Chain of Custody (CoC) requirements to strengthen its supply chain assurances to buyers and consumers and to better address the unique nature of farmed seafood.

Chain of Custody certification provides traceability along the entire supply chain ensuring that only certified seafood is sold with the ASC label. Since 2012, ASC has used MSC’s CoC certification to cover ASC certified product supply chains. This robust system is the leading international standard for seafood segregation and traceability and it covers the entire supply chain, from farm to final sale. ASC and MSC work closely together and have many shared objectives and a strong collective ambition to maintain and innovate this aspect of our certification programmes.

“That to fulfil this ambition additional requirements are needed is due to inherent differences in producing farmed and wild seafood. Additionally, as the ASC programme grows, a new suite of assurance activities and tools to address emergent issues such as seafood fraud, food safety and use of substances such as antibiotics are needed,” Chris Ninnes said.

“These new ASC requirements reflect and establish global best practice to address these issues and begin to incorporate innovation through use of technology such as digital traceability and product authentication techniques.”

The new requirements will be in addition to the existing MSC Chain of Custody requirements, and will apply only to ASC Chain of Custody certificate holders. The new module will have implications for stakeholders, particularly Chain of Custody certificate holders and Certification Assessment Bodies (CABs). However, ASC will work to ensure that impacts are minimised.

“These improvements help make the programme more effective and adaptive to new challenges, which will provide increased value and assurance to stakeholders. They are part of our ongoing work to constantly improve the ASC programme,” ASC Senior Programme Assurance Manager Wendy Banta commented.

“Giving our stakeholders a chance to provide feedback on our plans is another big part of that work, so we’re encouraging anyone who might be affected by these proposals to take part in the consultation.”

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