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Standards for Certifying Mollusc Aquaculture Products Moving Forward

WWF-Initiated Mollusc Aquaculture Dialogue Group to Meet in Oregon this Autumn

WASHINGTON, DC: Mollusc producers and buyers, as well as other stakeholders, from throughout the United States and Canada will meet in Oregon October 12th to discuss standards for the certification of mollusc aquaculture products, which make up one-quarter of the world's aquaculture production.

The purpose of the meeting is to finalize the list of key environmental and social impacts of mollusc aquaculture (e.g., transfer of diseases to wild caught species and harvesting techniques, such as dredging, that harm critical habitat), establish goals and objectives for the group and create a steering committee to spearhead the group's work.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will convene several meetings of the Mollusc Aquaculture Dialogue over the next year to develop principles, criteria, and then credible, measurable and voluntary standards geared toward minimizing or eliminating the main environmental and social impacts caused by farming clams, oysters, abalone, scallops and mussels. Once finalized, the standards will be handed off to a certification entity to manage the system.

"Mollusc aquaculture has great potential to be certified as environmentally friendly," said WWF Aquaculture Program Officer Colin Brannen. "We are confident that our open, consensus-building process used for creating the certification standards will not only protect the environment but create a system that makes sense for producers, retailers and consumers."

Certification could take a number of forms, from a buyer or investment screen to a third-party eco-labeled product sold in supermarkets and restaurants. Producers participating in such a program could benefit from preferential treatment from lending agencies, retailers or chefs, as well as increased or differentiated market access, and possibly, premium prices.

WWF works with other dialogue groups to develop standards for salmon, shrimp, and tilapia aquaculture. New dialogues for trout and Pangasius will begin in the fall. Each dialogue group is a network of producers, members of the market chain, researchers, non-governmental organizations, government officials, and investors. They use a transparent, multi-stakeholder process to develop the standards. WWF used a similar process to create standards for forestry, fisheries and agriculture certification programs.

WWF's approach to developing standards for molluscs is different than the approach used for other aquaculture species. Rather than conducting dialogue meetings on a global scale, WWF will convene regional dialogues. This strategy addresses the fact that there are significant differences between the species produced and how they are produced in various regions of the world. As a result, the environmental and social impacts are different. The strategy also recognizes that most mollusc aquaculture is done on a smaller scale than that used for other types of fish farming. The initial focus will be on the United States and one additional region in 2007, before expanding into two more regions in 2008.

The first meeting of the Mollusc Aquaculture Dialogue was held in 2004. The dialogue was postponed until this summer, due to delays in funding. The second meeting will coincide with the annual conference of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association at The Resort at the Mountain in Welches, Oregon October 9-12.

For more information about molluscs and the WWF dialogues, go to www.worldwildlife.org/aquadialogues.