ASC welcomes constructive feedback from all its varied stakeholders, and notes that SeaChoice continues to consider ASC’s standards more rigorous than other aquaculture certifications. However, SeaChoice’s criticism of the latest changes to the ASC Salmon Standard includes misleading inaccuracies and seeks to pre-emptively undermine the progress that will be made in addressing sealice with the new approach.
The original PTI methodology was created amidst a lack of information about the actual performance of salmon farms and their use of parasiticides and as such was essentially untested. ASC strongly believes in the importance of regularly monitoring and assessing its standards and is proud to be able to do so in this case by using data that would not be publicly available without the ASC programme. This update is based on several years of analysis of information collected through our programme and other performance data generated by governments and salmon producers across the world. We found that while PTI was an innovative solution at the time, advances in technology and knowledge since then have left it less effective.
It is not possible to compare the outdated PTI methodology with that of the new Weighted Number of Medicinal Treatments (WNMT). There are a number of differences between them – for example, the inclusion of hydrogen peroxide treatments in WNMT that were not included in PTI – that mean any straight comparison between the two is inaccurate and oversimplified. Attempting to simply calculate the percentage difference between these two very different methodologies is misleading.
Ultimately, ASC would like to see innovation and farm performance progress to such an extent that the medicinal treatment of sealice would no longer be necessary. However, at the same time we also recognise that this scenario is not yet achievable. Only by engaging with a significant portion of the salmon farming industry can the ASC programme credibly, measurably and effectively help transform the industry on a global scale; and do this in the short- to medium-term. If farms are not part of the ASC programme – and subject to the unparalleled levels of transparency and performance based-measurements required – they don’t have an incentive to make the improvements that are required of all ASC certified farms.
SeaChoice does briefly acknowledge some of the other improvements that have been made in this standard update, such as the requirement for farms to monitor benthic sediment for parasiticide residues and the requirement to publicly report chemical treatment types, amounts and frequency. However, their criticism of the new WNMT methodology suggests they have not considered the update as a whole. WNMT is an important, effective and flexible tool to reduce chemical treatments, but is part of a number of requirements in the standard that work together to create a standard that is the most robust in the world while also incentivising constant improvements by farms.
These reviews have involved multiple rounds of public consultation over multiple years – some of which SeaChoice and its members have participated in – and ASC has proactively sought the feedback of stakeholders representing fellow environmental groups, scientists, government, as well as industry. While we make every attempt to provide stakeholders the opportunity to participate in these processes, this does not mean that all stakeholders will be satisfied with the outcome.
Refusing to update requirements based on the latest data and farming practices would result in a less effective and counterproductive programme. As an environmental and social NGO committed to sound science and transparency, ASC will continue to invite and value feedback from SeaChoice and other stakeholders dedicated to creating solutions to help transform aquaculture towards environmental and social responsibility.
About the ASC
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation co-founded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) in 2010 to manage the certification of responsible fish farming across the globe. The ASC standards require farm performance to be measured against both environmental and social requirements. Certification is through an independent third party process and reports are uploaded to the public ASC website. The on-pack ASC logo guarantees to consumers that the fish they purchase has been farmed with minimal impacts on the environment and on society. For more information about ASC please visit www.asc-aqua.org.