In 2007, 30 people met in the United States to begin to develop global standards for filter-feeding bivalves: clams, oysters, scallops and mussels. Over a three-year period, almost 400 additional people joined the discussion. Their work ended in August 2010, when the first set of credible global standards for the bivalve aquaculture industry was published. WWF led this initiative. The final standards will help transform an industry responsible for producing approximately 25 percent of the world’s farmed seafood.
The group – called the Bivalve Aquaculture Dialogue – that created the standards was motivated by the need to minimize the potential negative impacts of bivalve farming and to give bivalve producers a means to verify the sustainability of their farming operations. The impacts associated with this type of farming include the introduction of exotic pests and pathogens into the ocean and bays, as well as conflicts that sometimes arise with neighboring communities over the shared use of coastal resources. For the most part, however, bivalve production has a positive impact on the environment. Filter feeders, like mussels and oysters, help improve water quality by removing excess nutrients.
Bivalve farmers who adopt the standards will earn a label from a new entity, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, certifying that their seafood was raised in an environmentally-friendly and socially-responsible way.