New ASC standard aimed at supporting the adoption of sustainable feeds

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Urvashi9
© GettyImages/Urvashi9

Related tags ASC Skretting BioMar

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has just launched a feed standard to tackle any unsustainable and irresponsible practices across the aquaculture feed supply chain.

Vidar Gundersen, global sustainability director, at Danish feed feed manufacturer, BioMar spoke about how great it was to finally see the ASC feed standard being launched, after many years in development.

We believe it will help drive the adoption of sustainable feeds across the aquaculture industry,” ​he told us.

A steering committee involving a diverse group of experts comprising feed producers, retailers, NGOs, farmers, and other stakeholders were involved in the standard's development phase. Addressing that aspect, Therese Log Bergjord, Skretting CEO, also weighed in on the development for us:  

The launch of the new ASC Feed Standard is good news for our industry. This is the result of a long process in which different stakeholders and experts worked together to raise the bar when it comes to addressing the most relevant environmental and social challenges and opportunities faced by aquaculture globally."

She believes it will support the aquaculture sector's goal of becoming an "even more transparent and sustainable" i​ndustry.

Responsible sourcing 

Feed mills under this standard must meet strict environmental and social requirements; source ingredients from socially responsible suppliers; and use environmentally responsible raw materials. Requirements on reporting of performance will also improve the transparency of the industry, reward environmental sustainability, and assist future research into responsible feed, said the ASC.

The standard now enters a 14-month trial like period, allowing auditors, feed manufacturers and their suppliers to familiarize themselves with it and prepare for certification. It will be effective from autumn 2022, at which point farms will then have 24 months to switch to ASC compliant feed in order to continue meeting the ASC farm standards.

Most aquafeed ingredients come from land-based agriculture

Following the Netflix film, Seaspiracy, there has been much debate about the impact of the marine ingredients used by fish farms, acknowledged the Council.

ASC’s feed standard makes clear that while certified mills must source increasing levels of environmentally sustainable ingredients, marine ingredients in fact make up a minority of feed ingredients, with around 75% of global aquafeed ingredients derived from agriculture – crops like soy, wheat and rice. These have their own impacts, notably deforestation and land conversion, which are often overlooked in debates about the industry, it said.

Chris Ninnes, CEO of ASC, said: “Aquaculture is already providing over half of the seafood consumed around the world, livelihoods to millions of people, and without it we will not be able to achieve food security for a growing global population with a low carbon footprint. But this positive impact will be undone unless the feed used by the industry is sourced responsibly. ASC has spent the last decade incentivizing producers to reduce the impacts of their farms, and now we’re spreading this approach to the wider supply chain.”

Marine ingredients play an important role providing vital nutrients to farmed fish, but like everything they must be used and sourced responsibly. Rather than driving substitution of one type of ingredient with another, the ASC feed standard recognizes that all ingredients – marine and agricultural – can have benefits as well as impacts, and must be addressed holistically, added Ninnes.

We know many producers and feed manufacturers are already taking this issue seriously, and we want to reward them and incentivize others to follow suit to tackle what could be the biggest threat to the industry’s reputation.”

Feed mills will need to carry out due diligence

The feed standard takes the ASC’s approach to responsible aquaculture and extends it to the feed mills that manufacture aquafeed, as well as the suppliers of their ingredients, said the organization.

These mills will be the facilities audited against the standard, but they and farms will be given time to ensure their supply chains meet ASC requirements. The standard will also incentivize more feed mills to work towards certification to meet growing demand from ASC farms.

As well as environmental sustainability, mills must also ensure they and their suppliers are socially responsible. For instance, independent auditors must verify that mills are not using forced or child labor, pay and treat their staff fairly, and must not discriminate on any grounds. They must also be responsible neighbors, communicating proactively with their local communities.

Certified feed mills are required to conduct due diligence on their supply chains to adhere to these principles as well, ensuring an impact in areas where the risk of these issues are more prevalent. As a source of protein, aquaculture has one of the lowest carbon footprints, but it is important that the industry monitors and works to reduce its footprint along the entire supply chain, reported the Council.

Ultimately, the major volume of marine ingredients needs to be derived from MSC fisheries. For plant-based ingredients, as with marine based, mills will have to record and report all ingredients that make up over 1% of a feed and will need to take steps to ensure they have been responsibly sourced.

Crucially, they will have to assess the risk of a particular ingredient contributing towards deforestation or land conversion and must commit to transitioning to a supply chain free from these key negative impacts.

Next steps

ASC will be providing additional documents for auditors and feed mills to provide clear guidance on how the standard should be implemented. It is also working with mills to ensure these documents are appropriate on the ground and looking at ways to make the audit process as efficient as possible.

In addition, said the ASC, guidance workshops will be held for stakeholders to learn more and ask questions.  

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