Sustainability group seeks to mobilise Asian shrimp industry

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Aquaculture

New protocols aim to reform shrimp aquaculture, address feed ingredient use, says consultant.

We caught up with Corey Peet, founder of Postelsia and consultant with the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative​ (ASIC) to hear about developments on a new standard system, the Southeast Asian Shrimp Aquaculture Improvement Protocol (SEASAIP​), aimed at helping aquaculture producers in Southeast Asia.

He said the initial focus is on shrimp farming, but work on standards for other aquaculture species has started.

Peet was speaking about the group’s work at the F3: Fish-Free Feed Challenge event in California last week.

Part of the initial prompting for SEASAIP was that it would offer a way for producers to add value to their production, with the goal of improving practices, he said.

“If we’re truly interested in sustainability, then we need to engage producers where they’re at,” ​he told us. “It’s time to start exploring how we can create a different shrimp aquaculture industry,”​ he said.  

The SEASAIP project involves international actors such as Seafood Watch; its steering committee includes representatives from several South East Asian countries and non-voting industry members, said Peet. The effort is an attempt to get buy-in from local producers.

“We also listened to them; we let their voice come out – nobody wants to be told what to do,” ​he said. “We’re trying to let them build their own thing.”

Designing the system

The new standard system or protocol is set to be aligned with international standards and to correlate with the levels in the Seafood Watch program​, said Peet. “Most buyers have some sort of sustainability pledge, and there are a lot that use the Seafood Watch program,” ​he added.

We’re “trying to help foster improvement with shrimp farmers,” ​he said. “We took their existing regulatory standard and a good aquaculture practice standard and hybridized.”

When completed, there are set to be multiple levels for producers, he said.

The level one standard has been written to be equivalent to the basic acceptable level set by Seafood Watch, and a second standard is in progress - it would match seafood watch best choice, said Peet. A third level is being discussed, but has not been decided upon yet.

“We’ve got our draft out for public comment,”​ he said of the work on the level two standards. Comments will be discussed at the group’s next meeting and when finished, it will be field tested, he added.

“It will probably take until June or July when we have level two finalized,”​ he said

Feed criteria 

One section of the standards will look at aspects of the feed and ingredients​, said Peet. “It’s one of the key criteria,”​ he added.

One of the feed related aims is ensuring the use of fishmeal and fish oil from illegal, unregulated, or unreported fisheries is minimized or eliminated.

In terms of fishmeal inclusion levels, the feed mill standard calls for less than 20% or 25% if fisheries byproducts account for at 20% of the fishmeal used in the feed formula.  

The percentage of fish oil to be used should be less than 4%, according to the criteria. The feed supplier must provide a movement document or receipt to the farm or broker, while the movement of feed must be in compliance with national and or regional laws, if applicable. The name and contact information for all feed suppliers used by the farm must be available, according to the standard.

Diamonds in the rough 

“We’re effectively we’re looking for the diamonds in the rough – we find the diamonds and celebrate them,”​ he said. “[We want] ultimately to drive improvement in the industry – shrimp [farming] is not going to go away, so we need to fix it.”

Farming operations in four different countries have already been assessed under the SEASAIP project; further evaluation work is scheduled in Myanmar, said Peet. While some facilities reviewed were already meeting the lowest level of standards, others still need work to reach that mark.

Another part of the project is to develop a way for producers that are seeking to improve further to partner with companies or organizations and secure financial support for those efforts, he said. “You’re not supposed to stay at yellow [level one], you’re supposed to move up.”

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