By Lorraine Gallagher, Market Development Manager, UK and Ireland, Aquaculture Stewardship Council
With Hallowe’en just around the corner, it’s our seasonal mission here at the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) to help hospitality professionals overcome their fears and misconceptions about farmed fish.
Whilst aquaculture – the practice of seafood farming – has unfortunately suffered from a poor reputation in the past, there are thousands of farms around the world which practice responsible fish farming whose good work gets thwarted and overshadowed by a few unethical others. Our work at the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is to constantly assess and set the standards for what makes good, responsible fish farming, and to encourage as many farms as possible to strive for these standards and become certified with us.
So, in order to improve the reputation of aquaculture, we need to take the fear out of the word ‘farmed’ and show that farmed fish can – if the right standards are abided by – be the healthy, delicious and responsible choice. The most exciting update this year is that there are now over 30 Scottish Salmon farms now certified to the ASC standard or in initial assessment to become certified. This means British chefs can choose salmon that they know has been responsibly and locally produced.
There are really pressing reasons why we need to do this too: aquaculture produces over half of the seafood eaten around the world and will be vital in providing healthy, affordable protein to the world’s rapidly growing population in the future, as well as protecting at-risk wild stocks. It also provides an alternative source of protein to land-based meat as it tends to require less energy, fresh water, and land. Demand for salmon is going to stay the same, and farmed salmon is our only option to meet it – so we need to ensure that the farmed salmon we’re eating meets our ethical expectations.
For busy foodservice professionals it can be very demanding to keep up with all the environmental, ethical and animal welfare standards relating to farmed fish, knowing how to monitor your supply and what questions to ask. That’s why we’re partnering with the SRA to create a sustainable aquaculture guide. To ensure that we make this guide as relevant and useful for businesses like yours, we’d love to find a little bit about your knowledge of and relationship with farmed fish. Please take five minutes to complete this quick survey.
Farmed fish from ASC certified farms have to pass some of the strictest standards in the world, which cover not only environmental elements but animal welfare and social responsibility too. A short snapshot of some of the standards we uphold include:
Sea lice management: sea lice is probably the number one issue that anti-farming campaigners talk about, and it’s an important issue. Sea lice can spread in salmon populations where fish are in close quarters and can not only be damaging to farmed salmon’s physical wellbeing but can spread to wild salmon populations too. Our standards monitor the levels of common and rare sea lice species and enforce/require a number of measures to minimise outbreaks – but can only use certain medicines to prevent this under very strict conditions (for example, the use of medicine before a fish is diagnosed is strictly prohibited). Our producers need to manage their farms in such a way that salmon survival rate is high.
Pollution: ASC certified salmon farms are required to measure various water parameters (such as phosphorus, oxygen levels, etc.) at regular intervals and remain within set limits. Responsible farming can only take place in water bodies that are classified as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ (for example, by the EU Water Framework Directive). What’s more, copper release into the water must be minimised and monitored.
Fair labour: Our certification imposes strict requirements based on the core principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). These include prohibiting the use of child labour or any form of forced labour. All ASC certified farms are safe and equitable working environments where employees earn a decent wage and have regulated working hours. Producers also need to consult local communities, inform them about potential health risks, and provide access to vital resources.
Are you still feeling the fear? Complete the survey now. We’ll then use the findings to create a guide we hope will fill you with the confidence never to fear farmed fish again.
And of course – look out for the ASC logo!