WASHINGTON, DC: Mollusc aquaculture stakeholders participating in the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-initiated Mollusc Aquaculture Dialogue will meet this winter and spring to develop standards for certifying molluscs farmed in North America. The standards will minimize or eliminate the main negative effects of mollusc farming, which were agreed on by Dialogue participants last fall.
A critical step in creating standards is identifying criteria (i.e., what to focus on to reduce the negative impacts of mollusc farming) and indicators (i.e., points of measurement to determine the extent of an impact). Dialogue participants began this process last week in North Carolina and will continue the discussion in Orlando, Florida February 11th and Providence, Rhode Island April 8th. Meetings will be held later this year to draft and finalize measurable, performance-based standards.
The standards will be for clams, oysters, mussels and scallops - all of which are filter-feeding bivalves. Unlike most finfish and crustaceans, farmed bivalves exploit naturally occurring phytoplankton at the base of the food chain, which eliminates the need for external feed inputs. Also, they often help keep the water clean by filtering sediment and unwanted nutrients. Regardless of these benefits, mollusc aquaculture is not without its challenges - both real and perceived
"We are confident that the diverse set of stakeholders participating in our transparent, consensus-oriented Dialogue meetings will develop standards that simultaneously protect the environment and ensure mollusc farming is economically viable," said Jose Villalon, director of the WWF-U.S. Aquaculture Program.
Bob Rheault, owner of Moonstone Oysters in Rhode Island, agrees. " We are proud of our reputation as environmental stewards working within a sustainable industry and we look forward to working with WWF to craft standards for shellfish aquaculture," Bob said. "We hope this effort will help us dispel some of the misperceptions about shellfish aquaculture."
The standards will focus on molluscs produced in North America. Standards for other regions of the world will be created through Dialogue meetings held later this year in key mollusc-producing regions. Ultimately, the standards will be harmonized into one global standard for the mollusc industry.
Producers, buyers, academics, representatives from nongovernmental organizations and others participate in the Dialogue meetings. This is one of five Dialogues facilitated by WWF. Other Dialogues are underway to create standards for shrimp, pangasius, salmon and tilapia.
"Aquaculture is here to stay," said Villalon. "Few will deny this. The standards we create through the Aquaculture Dialogues will represent the future of the commodity seafood supply."