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Certified Aquaculture Development

The importance of aquaculture as a source of protein for human consumption will only increase in the future with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) predicting aquaculture will contribute an additional 16-47 million tons of fish by 2030. What role will certified aquaculture play in providing wholesome responsible fish and seafood products going forward? To answer that question let’s begin by exploring how certified aquaculture evolved.

FAO statistics for total aquaculture production date back to 1950 when 584,387 metric tons of fish and seafood was produced. By 2014, this figure had risen to 73.8 million of metric tons. Imagine, total aquaculture production has more or less doubled every decade since the 1960s (it quadrupled in the 1950s). This is what the growth of total aquaculture production looks like when compared to wild capture fisheries. (Insert Figure 1 SOFIA 2016).

As aquaculture production rapidly increased so did the recognition of not only its benefits, but also its potential negative social and environmental impacts. Governments globally acknowledged the need to develop responsible guidelines and in 1995 the “Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries” was adopted, “The Code, which was unanimously adopted on 31 October 1995 by the FAO Conference, provides a necessary framework for national and international efforts to ensure sustainable exploitation of aquatic living resources in harmony with the environment.”[1]. In particular, “States should consider aquaculture, including culture-based fisheries, as a means to promote diversification of income and diet. In so doing, States should ensure that resources are used responsibly and adverse impacts on the environment and on local communities are minimized.”[2]. In 1995, total aquaculture production (including aquatic plants) was 31,2 million metric tons. At this time, the primary jurisdiction for promoting the sustainable development of aquaculture was the responsibility of nation-states. Unfortunately, not all governments were able (or willing) to apply and regulate the Code of Conduct at the farm level. This prompted the rise of certified aquaculture, an independent system to implement and monitor responsible practices at the farm level as well as a market incentive to do so.

Certified aquaculture began by creating species specific principles and ‘good aquaculture practices” for use at the farm level based upon the Code of Conduct and other internationally recognized documents.[3]. Shrimp and salmon were among the first species and today over 30 species are covered by comprehensive standards. In 2002 the first shrimp farm was certified to principles and in 2004 the first salmon farms were certified to ‘standards’. Between 2004 and 2014 total aquaculture production has grown an additional 46,5 million metric tons and certified aquaculture now represents 4.5 million metric tons or 6.3% of conventional aquaculture production.[4]. While this represents an average growth rate of 76% year between 2003 and 2015[5}. the work of certified aquaculture is only beginning. As a new generation of consumers globally takes a more active interest in the origin of their food and the method of production, certified aquaculture will provide that additional assurance that food safety, animal health and welfare as well as environmental and social issues are addressed.

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[1]  FAO, Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, Rome FAO 1995  p.  vi
[2]  Ibid p. 7
[3]  CODEX alimentarius “Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery products”, ILO “Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work” and “The ILO’s Fundamental Conventions”, OIE “Aquatic Animal Health Code” and “Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals” and WTO “Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement” and “Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures”
[4]  Potts, J, Wilkings, A., Lynch, M. and McFatridge, S., 2016, State of Sustainable Initiatives Review: Standards and the Blue Economy, IISD 2016 p. 36
[5]  Ibid