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Abalone Aquaculture Dialogue to Begin in April

Identifying Impacts, Principles and Criteria will be Focus of First Meeting

WASHINGTON, DC: The process of developing standards for certifying farmed abalone will begin April 29th at the first meeting of the Abalone Aquaculture Dialogue, to be held in Melbourne, Australia.

Abalone is a high-value seafood commodity. Due to depleted natural stocks, wild capture fisheries are not able to meet market demand for abalone. Abalone aquaculture helps fill this gap. Abalone aquaculture has a low impact on the environment, compared to other farmed seafood species. The standards will ensure that the growth of the abalone aquaculture industry occurs with little to no impact on the environment or society.

"As a practicing abalone farmer, I am looking forward to the Dialogue meeting," said Mark Gervis of Southern Ocean Mariculture in Australia. "The main aim for us as farmers is to ensure that the current environmental management systems we have in place are robust and of a high enough quality to receive the endorsement of WWF, a globally recognized organization."

The standards will be measurable and performance-based. They will be developed with input from a diverse group of stakeholders, including producers, academics, retailers, NGOs and government officials.

The goal of the two-day meeting in Melbourne is to identify the six to eight key environmental and social impacts of abalone aquaculture, principles (i.e., high-level goals) for addressing each impact and criteria to focus on to reduce each impact. Dialogue participants also will create a research strategy to address any areas of disagreement and gaps in information.

Later in the year, the Dialogue will reconvene to develop indicators, or points of measurement to determine the extent of each impact, and standards that evaluate whether the principles are addressed.

"Creating standards for this rapidly growing industry is critical," said Jose Villalon, director of aquaculture at World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) U.S. office. "We will work with our Dialogue partners as quickly as possible to create standards that are attainable, innovative and applicable globally."

A Dialogue on other mollusc species - specifically, the bivalve shellfish clams, mussels, scallops and oysters - is already underway. For these species, regional standards will be created. The development of standards for North American bivalve shellfish is expected to be completed in a year. The process of creating bivalve shellfish standards for New Zealand will begin April 17th at a two-day meeting in Port Nelson, New Zealand.

Other Dialogues, all which are organized by WWF, in progress are salmon, tilapia, shrimp and pangasius.

If you are interested in attending the meeting, please contact Dialogue coordinator Colin Brannen at colin.brannen@wwfus.org or (202) 778-9534 by April 1st.

For more information about the Dialogues, go to www.worldwildlife.org/aquadialogues