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ASC the Only Major Aquaculture Certification Still Rated “Buy” in Chile’s Red Regions

December 20, 2022

Recent Rating Downgrades by Seafood Watch Highlight Strength of ASC’s Leading Global Standards

Although Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch recently rated steelhead trout as Red (Avoid) in key regions of Chile, farms with ASC certification are still recommended as “Buy” (Good Alternative).

This is critical for the large-scale retail and foodservice operators who rely on two mainstream global certification programs when sourcing net pen farmed steelhead trout from Chile – the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP).

At present, Seafood Watch’s overriding “Buy this certified product” recommendation applies only to ASC-certified steelhead trout from the region.

This is because ASC certification provides the most rigorous aquaculture standards and enforcement for concerns raised by Seafood Watch: use of antibiotics, pesticides, fish escapes and environmental impact on surrounding oceans. However, the strength of ASC’s certification program goes beyond these issues alone.

There are important differences between ASC and the other mainstream certification that begin at the farm level and extend to verifying custody of certified seafood throughout the supply chain. Examples include tracking mass balance, making unannounced inspections of seafood farms, and requiring strict usage controls around ASC’s certification label on seafood packaging.

ASC is the only mainstream aquaculture certification actively implementing this level of assurance.

A similar situation occurred in December 2021 when Atlantic salmon produced on ASC-certified farms in Canada’s British Columbia region was recommended a “Buy” option despite the region’s overall Seafood Watch ratings falling from yellow to red. This recommendation remains in effect.

These instances demonstrate that farmed seafood certifications are not equal.

If a certification program cannot verify farmed seafood’s origin and that it was responsibly raised, retailers cannot confidently know what they are selling to shoppers and therefore risk making false claims about quality, sustainability and labeling.

“As an industry, we are not near the finish line,” asserts Chris Ninnes, CEO, ASC. “Greenwashing hampers progress and prevents finding real solutions to the challenges that arise with aquaculture’s inevitable expansion. The status quo simply won’t be enough to get us to a meaningful place. Much work is still needed to demonstrate true ‘responsibility’ in caring for the well-being of the environment, the seafood being raised and the individuals who produce and consume it. That’s why ASC is taking the lead in pushing for higher standards, new technology and innovation, tougher rules for transparency, and increased traceability.”

More Detail on Ratings Changes

For background, in its new and updated ratings publication issued on December 5th Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch confirms that net pen farmed steelhead trout in Chile’s Los Lagos and Aysén regions were downgraded due to red Chemicals and Escapes ratings, and in the Magallanes region due to red Effluent and Escapes ratings.

“The high use of antimicrobials and pesticides to control bacterial diseases and parasitic sea lice and the potential development of antimicrobial resistance across Chile are significant concerns,” the assessment reports. “Escaped farmed trout pose a high risk to wild, native species through predation and resource competition.”

Meanwhile it states that “Effluent impacts on the seabed can be substantial, and compliance with impact thresholds is poor in Region XII [Magallanes], which is particularly concerning given the ongoing expansion of production. Furthermore, large-scale escape events and trickle losses continue to occur.”

Marine-farmed salmonids – trout and salmon – are certified according to ASC’s Salmon Standard requirements, which continue to be recognized worldwide as a “Buy” option by Seafood Watch.

Learn more about ASC’s Salmon Standard here.

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