Aquaculture Stewardship Council

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Program Overview

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is an independent, international non-profit organization that has developed a certification programme for responsible aquaculture. ASC's mission is to transform aquaculture towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility using efficient market mechanisms that create value across the chain. The ASC uses market forces to transform aquaculture by reducing its key negative social and environmental impacts through compliance with standards at the farm level.

There are three key processes:

  1. Create a standards holding entity (the ASC) and consumer label.
  2. Develop and implement an outreach and marketing program that creates demand for ASC products in the marketplace.
  3. Institute a certification process that uses independent third-party entities to certify farms.
Certified Businesses
Certification Criteria

Aquaculture Certification

The ASC standard for responsible fish farming covers seven principles:

  1. Legal compliance (obeying the law, the legal right to be there)
  2. Preservation of the natural environment and biodiversity
  3. Preservation of water resources
  4. Preservation of diversity of species and wild populations (e.g., preventing escapes which could pose a threat to wild fish)
  5. Responsible use of animal feed and other resources
  6. Animal health (no unnecessary use of antibiotics and chemicals)
  7. Social responsibility (e.g. no child labour, health and safety of workers, freedom of assembly, community relations)

In total, eight standards, covering 12 species, have been formulated by the Aquaculture Dialogues initiated by WWF. Six standards - for abalone, bivalves, freshwater trout, pangasius, tilapia and salmon, shrimp, and seriola/cobia will follow.

Steps to Certification

The ASC assessment has 5 steps to certification:

  1. Public farm audit announcement and assessment team formation
  2. Information gathering, stakeholder meetings, and on-site auditing
  3. Public review of the draft assessment report
  4. Final report and determination
  5. Public certification report and certificate issue

Once certified, a farm's certification lasts for three years and requires annual surveillances. At the end of three years, the farm is fully assessed once again against the ASC standard.

Chain of Custody Certification

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council also oversees a Chain of Custody certification standard to ensure that the certified responsibly farmed products are traceable throughout the supply chain. Any company wishing to sell products as ASC certified must have ASC Chain of Custody certification for each species they wish to sell. 

The ASC Chain of Custody primarily assesses that processes are in place to track the ASC certified seafood and keep it separate from non-ASC-certified seafood in the supply chain. These certifications are completed by an independent, accredited third-party certifier and are valid for three years.  

Any company wishing to use the ASC logo on products or restaurant / foodservice operation using the logo on menus must also enter into a separate Logo Licensing Agreement with the ASC. 

There are four principles for the ASC seafood traceability standard:

Principle 1: The Organization Shall Have a Management System

The organization shall maintain documentation of their management system, which can vary based on the size, complexity, and personnel of the organization. 

Principle 2: The Organization Shall Operate a Traceability System

The organization shall maintain records that allow any product or batch of products sold by the organization as ASC certified to be traced from its sales invoice to an ASC certified source and vice versa.

Principle 3: There Shall Be No Substitution of ASC Certified Product For Non-ASC Certified Product

ASC certified and non-ASC certified products shall not be mixed if the organization wishes to make a claim about these certified products, except as in 3.1.1. The organization shall operate a system for ensuring that packaging materials and other identification materials bearing the ASC logo cannot be used for non-ASC certified products.

Principle 4: There Shall Be a System to Ensure All ASC Certified Products Are Identified

  • The organization shall ensure that ASC certified products are identifiable as such at all stages of purchasing, storage, processing, packing, labeling, selling and delivery.
  • The organization shall ensure that only ASC certified products covered by its scope of certification are identified as such.
  • The organization shall only label ASC certified products with the words “Aquaculture Stewardship Council” or use the ASC logo and claim if it has been granted approval to do so by ASCI under the terms of the Logo Licensing agreement.

Certification Bodies

For a current list of companies accredited to certify against the standards of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, please visit Accreditation Services International.