- Date: March 01, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC: Standards designed to minimize the potentially negative impact shrimp and abalone aquaculture can have on the environment, farm workers and communities near aquaculture farms were posted today for the first of two public comment periods. The draft standards are products of the Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue and the Abalone Aquaculture Dialogue, two roundtables that include more than 500 people, among them aquaculture industry leaders, NGOs and scientists.
The start of the shrimp and abalone public comment periods represents a pivotal moment for the Aquaculture Dialogues, a set of eight roundtables working to create measurable and performance-based standards for responsible aquaculture. In addition to the shrimp and abalone draft standards reaching the critical public comment period phase, the Dialogues’ tilapia standards are final and the pangasius standards are expected to be completed in April. The pangasius Dialogue has completed its public comment phase and will hold its final meeting in Vietnam this week.
“The 2,000 people involved in the Aquaculture Dialogues have been working hard over the last few years to develop standards that will help transform the aquaculture industry,” said Jose Villalon, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) US Aquaculture Program and coordinator of the full set of Dialogues. “They’ve been listening to stakeholders, learning from scientists and tapping into their own expertise so they can develop meaningful and credible standards.”
All of the Dialogue standards will address the key negative impacts associated with aquaculture instead of a long list of impacts, the latter which would likely increase certification costs. The shrimp and abalone standards will address such issues as using chemicals that can pollute the water, destroying ecologically-sensitive habitat to create farms, using high amounts of wild-caught fish to feed farmed shrimp and abalone, and conflicts with communities around altered use of land and water.
The shrimp and abalone standards will be the first global standards for these species that are created through an open, transparent process that is aligned with the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling Alliance’s guidelines for standard setting. The process encourages input from a broad and diverse group of people and ensures that their ideas will be considered by the full Dialogues. Similar processes have been used for some land-based agriculture industries, but not during such an early stage of the industry’s development.
Feedback received during the 60-day public comment periods will be used by each Dialogue’s Global Steering Committee to revise the draft standards before they are posted again for the last comment period. Final shrimp and abalone standards are expected by the end of this year.
The steering committees’ revisions also will be based on input received during outreach meetings that are being held worldwide with stakeholders to discuss what types of standards would help transform the industry in a positive way. This includes meetings with small-scale shrimp farmers in India, Vietnam and Thailand; people who live near shrimp farms in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Brazil; government agencies that provide assistance to farmers; and seafood buyers from Europe.
“We are committed to hearing from and listening to as many people as possible before this process ends,” said Dominique Gautier of Aqua Star, who is on the shrimp Dialogue’s steering committee. “Their input will help guarantee that the final standards offer a progressive definition of responsible shrimp farming.”
All of the Dialogue standards will be amended periodically to reflect changes in science and technology, as well as to encourage innovation and continuous improvement. These revisions will be coordinated by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), the new entity being developed to manage the standards, and the process will include many of the Dialogue participants.
“Our goal is to create a solid, credible set of standards that will help abalone farmers demonstrate their commitment to environmental and social sustainability,” said Colin Brannen of the abalone Dialogue’s steering committee. “We expect and encourage the standards to be updated throughout the years in accordance with changes in science and technology.”