Responsible Fish Farming With the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
Globally, overfishing, unsustainable and illegal fishing practices have depleted wild fish stocks, significantly degrading ecosystems, unbalancing the marine ecology, and pushing some species to extinction. Overfishing means fish are caught faster and in more significant volumes than stocks can replenish, making it among the key drivers of ocean wildlife population declines.
With the demand for marine protein increasing dramatically, overfished stocks have tripled in the last 50 years, with one-third of worldwide fish stocks pushed beyond sustainable biological limits1. With an estimated 90% of fish populations in trouble2, fish farming has been introduced to help meet global fish consumption requirements.
What Is Fish Farming?
Aquaculture involves cultivating fish and aquatic organisms in managed environments such as ponds, tanks, ocean enclosures, and inshore net pens. The practice includes freshwater fish farming of trout, catfish, and tilapia and marine fish farming of saltwater species such as sea bass, sea bream, and salmon. Brackish-water fish farming occurs in salty freshwater, rearing species such as mullet and certain shrimp.
Aquaculture practices are diverse, from entirely “free-range” farming with little human interference to intensive systems requiring feeding, water and disease management, and other interventions. Fish farms can support global food security and marine conservation when managed well. In addition, while conventional fishing yields a significant carbon footprint, sustainable fish farming is more energy efficient. However, this more sustainable outcome requires responsible, ecologically conscious approaches.
In response, more sustainable aquaculture is becoming increasingly essential. Many stakeholders, including fishers, fisheries, retailers, and environmental organizations, are working to improve ocean resources management and conservation while sustaining reliant livelihoods and food security. Among these initiatives are fishery improvement and sustainable aquaculture education and certifications, such as from the ASC, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), and the Fishery Improvement Project (FIP).
What Is Sustainable Fish Farming?
Sustainable fish farming aims to reduce or prevent environmental impact and ensure the welfare and health of the fish and consumers. Methods include Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) – the cultivation of multiple species, for example, fish, seaweed, and shellfish, adjacently. This approach promotes a more sustainable and balanced ecosystem, utilizes different ecological niches, and reduces waste.
Other sustainable expectations include responsible water usage, monitoring, and responsibly sourced feed to provide a balanced, mainly vegetable-based diet. Also required are reduced waste and avoiding chemicals, additives, antibiotics, and hormones.
Simultaneously, poorly managed aquaculture can contribute to environmental damage and water pollution. Proper water management, feed, and technology adoption are vital in making farming operations more efficient and sustainable while encouraging and enhancing environmental stewardship. The ASC is one global entity overseeing this guardianship.
What Is the ASC?
The ASC is a volunteer-managed NGO created to help the aquaculture industry feed the expanding population, support livelihoods, and respect and protect the planet. The council aims to optimize the welfare of farmed fish, workers, and local communities while minimizing environmental impact through an independent sustainability certification program.
Buyers can enjoy peace of mind and support this impact-driven farm-seething through a supply-chain initiative by sourcing suppliers that are ASC certified, signified by its distinctive logo. Aquaculture producers should have their processes and product ASC certified for enhanced customer trust and equity.
How is the ASC endorsement different from the MSC guarantee? While the ASC certification focuses on farmed seafood, the MSC accreditation applies to wild-caught fish in marine settings.
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