A study from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), The Netherlands, reveals that to date, more than 600 farms have been ASC-certified, the majority of which are in Europe and Asia, and 11,000 different products are available on the market bearing the ASC consumer label.

“We have come a long way since 2010, but to ensure we remain in tune with the needs of our farmers, we undertook a global survey at the end of 2017. We asked what fish and shellfish farmers value most about ASC certification and what economic, environmental, worker and social benefits they have derived from it,” says Chris Ninnes, chief executive officer.

The results showed that the majority of respondents (92%) stated that their reputation had been enhanced by certification, 90% benefited from meeting the preference of buyers and 87% gained access to new market opportunities.

In addition, three-quarters of farmers have become more aware of sustainability issues related to feed use.

More than one-third of the farmers found that their use of antibiotics and therapeutic medicines decreased, whilst a quarter reported that their feed conversion ratio lowered, with a consequent reduction both in the cost of feed and its impact on the environment. Notable improvements in water quality and a reduction in fish mortalities were also linked directly to working through the ASC certification process.

“It is important for expansion of the industry in our region to show that we are good stewards of the environment. ASC certification serves as the ‘grade’ for this social license for moving our industry forward in a sustainable manner,” Ninnes says.

ASC certification was also found to have a positive effect on local communities, with 67% experiencing improved relationships. Over two-thirds of farmers were found to actively support local communities through social projects, financial support and sponsorship of sporting events.

Around half of workers benefitted from an increase in training related to health and safety and good farming practices, and a similar number felt that working conditions improved since their companies underwent ASC certification. Just over one-third of employers reported that workers’ wages increased and worker turnover reduced. Other reported benefits were fewer accidents and a decrease in worker sickness.

“Overall, the survey showed us that we are doing a lot of things right. Our farm partners are important stakeholders, and these findings are also an opportunity for us to further improve our offering. We are grateful to all of those that participated in this research,” says Ninnes.