Certifying producers in the aquaculture sector

by Thomas Jensen

GLOBALG.A.P. ensures safe, responsible and transparent practices throughout the production process

This article was featured in Eurofish Magazine 4 2023.

GLOBALG.A.P. (Good Agricultural Practice) is the world’s leading farm assurance program. The organization provides certifications to fruit and vegetable, floriculture, and aquaculture farms that meet its standards for safe agricultural practice. The purpose of the certifications is to ensure that producers’ practices are safe and responsible while also creating transparency for consumers.

The organization started to provide certifications to aquaculture producers in 2004, which was a species-specific standard for salmon at that time, and today offers certifications to fish farmers in countries all over the world and for all aquatic species, whether these are finfish, crustaceans, molluscs or algae. For this industry specifically, GLOBALG.A.P. only provides certifications to producers whose practices are certifiable throughout the entire supply chain. This means that a producer’s fish can only be certified if they are fed with fish feed that is also certified.

Transparency from feed to final fish product through ­aquaculture certification

The organization was founded in the late 1990s in response to food security issues, particularly in relation to fruits and vegetables. It originated as a group of food retailers who worked in collaboration to manage the risks associated with the insecurities they were facing at the time. According to Remko Oosterveld, Key Account Manager, the organization has developed a lot since then. GLOBALG.A.P. currently works to regulate all sorts of farming practices, and they manage these farming ­practices ­throughout the entire production process to ensure that they are safe and responsible. Mr. ­Oosterveld stated that in 2004, the organization became involved with the fish industry when it introduced a standard for aquaculture. The standard sets at every stage of the aquaculture production a high threshhold for best animal welfare practices. The terms of the standard were not just implemented for good practice, but also because of the organization’s ethical duty to prevent and combat animal cruelty – that is why animal welfare is deeply embedded in the company DNA. GLOBALG.A.P. aims to provide transparency through the entire production process, from start to finish, and there is growing interest from retailers to provide their customers with this transparency as consumers become, for example, more climate conscious.

Certification is useful to producers because it opens new markets and actively helps them comply with supply chain requirements and makes their products more appealing to many customers. To achieve certification the GLOBALG.A.P. standards are written in a clear and detailed manner that are used as a tool by producers to be their managers in all aspects by the holistic approach of the standard, explained Mr. Oosterveld. The organization helps their clients to improve these issues as they have connections throughout the supply chain that their clients often do not possess.

Mandatory feed ­standard is unique


The organization has both an aquaculture standard and a feed standard. The former covers the hatcheries, nurseries, and grow-out of fish farms while the feed standard covers the production of the feed which fuels the larvae, juveniles, and fish. The organization follows the chain of custody until the final stages of production in fish farms to ensure that there is no mixing or contamination with any uncertified products. The organization’s obligatory feed standard is unique and has been active since 2010. GLOBALG.A.P. currently covers the most important aquatic species in Europe, with a large percentage of the main aquaculture production volume certified, according to Mr Oosterveld. GLOBALG.A.P., is a cost-effective solution for retailers, which chiefly explains the company’s dominance of the aquaculture certification market. Many Eastern European producers do not have certification due to their small size, but several have begun to demonstrate an interest in certification. To increase accessibility, the organization also offers group certification which is more cost effective and might make certification for smaller fish farms more feasible. What is complicated about working with smaller producers, though, according to Mr. Oosterveld, is the need for collaboration throughout the chain of production. The organization designed their group certification process to promote collaboration throughout the supply chain so that, even while working with smaller producers, from feed production to nurseries, the entire process can obtain certification.

An important part of the organization’s work is to communicate with stakeholders and inform consumers about the meaning of the certification. To do this, the organization has spent time considering the effectiveness of the GGN label used to signify certification and offer more transparency for consumers. In 2021, the organization introduced a universal label to be used for all their certifications that replaced the individual logos for aquaculture, floriculture, and fruit and vegetables. Mr. Oosterveld explained that they did this to promote their recognizability. Their new GGN label is an illustration of a magnifying glass representing transparency as well as a farmer denoting the process of production rather than just the final product itself being the scope of certification. The idea here is that each production step is clear, understandable and also ­comprehensible for the end consumer, says Mr. ­Oosterveld. The GGN Label is combined with a numeric code which consumers can type into the organization’s website (ggn.org) to learn more about the product’s production. The new logo will be available to use on products from over 200,000 producers across all areas of certification. The consumer recognition that stemmed from the consolidation of the logo has had very positive impacts on GLOBALG.A.P.’s popularity and recognizability throughout Europe, says Mr. ­Oosterveld.

Certification gives access to certain ­markets

The costs associated with GLOBALG.A.P. certification ­consist of three elements, the certification fee, costs for the implementation, and costs for the certification. The GLOBALG.A.P. certification fee itself is extremely cost-effective and is only a fraction of the total costs. The cost for the implementation of certification consists of staff responsible for quality assurance, establishing protocols, staff trainings, etc. The final cost of certification is linked to the actual certification performed by an independent certification body. Costs associated with this are linked to a daily fee and travel expenses. Mr. ­Oosterveld explained that the total cost of certification is a limitation for certain, often smaller, producers. Although it is hard to know exactly the direct benefits that the certification has on a producer’s sales and success, experience from certified producers indicates that it opens new markets and supports a robust management.

One of GLOBALG.A.P.´s core values is to be innovative, cost efficient, and offer transparent solutions, allowing safe and responsible grown food around the globe. The organization makes its own revenue by way of its certification fee, the various trainings that it provides, and the GGN label.

More remote auditing is likely in the future

During the Covid pandemic, as transportation came to a halt, GLOBALG.A.P. developed new rules which enabled them to introduce remote audits. Remote audit allowed the issuing of a new certificate, but an on-site audit was required within the 6-12 months following the certification. Currently, there are only on-site audits and certifications, but there was much that the organization learned from providing remote audits which would be useful if introducing a remote option for certification and auditing in the future. Because auditing is a time-consuming job that requires extensive travel, offering a remote option may create space for auditors to visit and work with more clients in a shorter period. Increased efficiency will benefit clients as well and should ultimately lead to more sustainability and greater transparency for all the links in the aquaculture value chain.

Nora Goodman, Eurofish

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