Certified environmentally and socially sustainable aquaculture

by Thomas Jensen

The Global G.A.P. Aquaculture Standard incorporates feedback from 500 stakeholder across the globe and includes criteria for food safety, workers’ welfare, animal welfare, and environmental protection.

The GlobalG.A.P. Aquaculture Standard is a voluntary standard developed by a private sector body that sets criteria for legal compliance, food safety, workers’ welfare, animal welfare, and environmental and ecological care.

The latest GlobalG.A.P. Standard, Integrated Farm Assurance Version 4, is the result of four years of research and consultation. Released in March 2011, Version 4 now covers a wider diversity of fish, crustaceans and molluscs and includes all hatchery-based farmed species, as well as the passive collection of spat.

Extensive consultation contributed to setting of standards

In order to create a comprehensive set of requirements, GlobalG.A.P.’s Technical Committee on Aquaculture obtained feedback from 500 stakeholders worldwide to put together a standard that meets the needs of consumers and producers alike. These stakeholders represented 116 organizations, among them those with direct industry involvement such as suppliers, farmers, producer organisations, retailers, and food service representatives. Contributors with administrative and technical interests included certification bodies, research centers, universities, NGOs, GlobalG.A.P.’s National Technical Working Groups, consultants, the animal health industry and metrology institutes. The Technical Committee used the FAO Technical Guidelines on Aquaculture Certification as a reference throughout the standard development process.

The Version 4 Standard is a more concise and comprehensive standard for users. It contains new criteria, such as a mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for all producers. This criteria ensures that aquaculture farms show special consideration for animal welfare and the effects of farming practices on their immediate surroundings. “We strongly support the Aquaculture Standard Version 4, as we see it as the most complete standard for sustainable aquaculture. Not only is food safety covered by the standard, environmental aspects and animal welfare are considered as well, which are the core issues in aquaculture,” says Mr. Juergen Matern, Head of Sustainability & Public Affairs, Metro AG. “In the long term, we intend to involve our suppliers and farmers in GlobalG.A.P. Aquaculture Version 4 Certification to provide our customers a sustainable assortment of aquaculture products.”

Close monitoring of certification bodies

GlobalG.A.P. operates in more than 100 countries, working with certification bodies accredited in accordance with ISO 65. Producers all over the world can choose from a wide range of experts to carry out their annual independent farm audits. Maintaining certification integrity in a globalized food market has always been of upmost importance for GlobalG.A.P. All GlobalG.A.P. approved auditors and inspectors meet the prerequisites in terms of formal education and training, and are required to also complete an annual training programme. An integrity programme continuously monitors and calibrates the performance of the certification bodies with which GlobalG.A.P. works. And specialists from the organisation actually audit the auditors – both at the certification bodies’ offices and during farm inspections. This integrity program underpins the fundamental quality of GlobalG.A.P. Certification – and helps the system grow continuously in strength and reliability.

Ecuadorian shrimp farmer reaps the benefits of certification

Shrimp farming took off in Ecuador some 35 years ago – by chance, according to some accounts, when high tides deposited shrimps in shallow lagoons where they subsequently thrived. Entrepreneurs spotted the opportunity and started farming the new arrivals. Before long, shrimps became a flourishing business.

This did not go unnoticed. Shrimp farming spread to other countries, particularly in South East Asia, and the international industry grew quickly. But with successful farming came the downside: market saturation, leading to a downward spiral in prices. Farmers felt the pressure to intensify their yield; inevitably quality dropped and so did consumption. In response, the Omarsa company decided on a different strategy. Instead of low-cost high-quantity production they focused on high-quality shrimp farming following Good Aquaculture Practice and applying the strictest processing standards.

Now, among its current certifications, Omarsa has achieved GlobalG.A.P. Aquaculture Certification to demonstrate the quality, safety and sustainability of its product.  As a result the company has regained its position in the market, becoming one of the first farmers and processors to recognize and implement certified farming practices for shrimp.

One certification system for the entire production chain

Certification of the supply chain – the Chain of Custody – is an important part of the GlobalG.A.P. Aquaculture Standard. It ensures the validity of the certification status of the product throughout the entire process, from producer to retail counter. Chain of Custody elements include, for example, hygiene requirements in handling certified products and proper segregation of certified and non-certified items in processing operation units. The Chain of Custody can be checked through the GlobalG.A.P. Number (GGN). This is a unique identifier for the individual producer that enables the origin of the farmed product, the processing, the packing and the storage to be traced. It even allows the distributor to print the GGN on the consumer packaging.

GlobalG.A.P. has recently developed a consumer aquaculture website www.my-fish.info, which extends transparency all the way to the end consumer. Producers are encouraged to print their GGN on their consumer packaging, so consumers can find out information about the producer and the criteria they met to achieve GlobalG.A.P. certification.

The compound feed manufacturing standard

The new Compound Feed Manufacturing Standard – Version 2.1 became available for certification in December 2011. The Livestock and Aquaculture Technical Committees collaborated with industry experts on t
he updated standard, which offers broad assurance on all food safety and sustainability aspects in compound feed production. It is specifically aimed at commercial rather than home-mixed feeds.

Today more than 20 countries have implemented the GlobalG.A.P. Aquaculture Standard, and certification soared in 2011. GlobalG.A.P. certified products from Belgium, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Faroe Islands, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Suriname, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe, which totalled over two million tons in 2011 – four times the figure in 2010.

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