Aquaculture Stewardship Council

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Program Overview
Aquaculture Stewardship Council Certification

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is an independent, international non-profit organization that manages the world's leading certification and labeling program for responsible aquaculture. ASC's mission is to transform aquaculture towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility using efficient market mechanisms that create value across the supply chain. ASC delivers on this mission by:

  1. recognizing and rewarding responsible farming practices;
  2. influencing the choice people make when buying seafood; and,
  3. working with partners to transform the seafood market to a more responsible level

There are three key processes:

  1. Create a standards holding entity (the ASC) and consumer label (the green ASC logo).
  2. Institute a certification process that relies on independent third-party entities to assess farms against environmental standards.
  3. Develop and implement an outreach and marketing program that creates demand for ASC certified products in the marketplace.
Certified Businesses
Certification Criteria

Aquaculture Certification

ASC certificate holders must operate at the highest industry standards to ensure the preservation of the natural environment, biodiversity and water resources and provide good working conditions for their employees. To establish whether an operator meets the standard, an independent conformity assessment body (CAB) will perform an audit to determine compliance with the relevant ASC standard in the following areas of aquaculture:

  1. Legal compliance (obeying the law, the legal right to be there)
  2. Preservation of the natural environment and biodiversity
  3. Preservation of water resources
  4. Preservation of diversity of species and wild populations (e.g., preventing escapes which could pose a threat to wild fish)
  5. Responsible sourcing and use of animal feed and other resources
  6. Good animal health and husbandry (no unnecessary use of antibiotics and chemicals)
  7. Social responsibility (e.g. no child labour, health and safety of workers, freedom of assembly, community relations)

ASC Farm Standards 

There are currently 11 ASC standards which cover 17 species groups: abalone; bivalves (clams, mussels, oyster, scallop); flatfish; freshwater trout; pangasius; salmon; seabass; seabream; meagre; seriola and cobia; shrimp; tilapia; and tropical marine finfish. There is also a joint ASC-MSC standard for seaweed.

Steps to ASC Certification

There are five steps to ASC certification:

  1. Public farm audit announcement and assessment team formation
  2. Information gathering, stakeholder meetings, and on-site auditing
  3. Public review of the draft assessment report
  4. Final report and determination
  5. Public certification report and certificate issue

A farm's certification lasts for three years and requires annual surveillance audits. At the end of three years, the farm is fully assessed once again against the ASC standard.

Chain of Custody Certification

Chain of Custody certification ensures that companies selling certified seafood have identification, segregation and traceability processes and procedures in place. Each company in the supply chain handling or selling an ASC certified product must have a valid Chain of Custody certificate. This assures consumers and seafood-buyers that ASC labeled products come from a certified responsible farm.

The ASC uses the Marine Stewardship Council’s Chain of Custody (CoC) Standard to verify the origin of seafood sold as ASC certified. This process benefits companies that handle both ASC and MSC certified seafood by allowing them to do a combined audit, although separate certificates are issued.

There are five principles in the Chain of Custody Standard:

  1. Companies must purchase certified product from a certified supplier
  2. Certified products are clearly identifiable
  3. Certified products are separated from non-certified
  4. Certified products are traceable and volumes are recorded
  5. The management system addresses the requirements of the Chain of Custody Standard

CoC audits are done by a third-party conformity assessment body. CoC certificates are valid for three years and require annual surveillance audits.

Certification Bodies

For a current list of companies accredited to certify against the standards of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, please visit Accreditation Services International.

Using the ASC Logo

Using the ASC logo provides companies with a competitive advantage and is proof of achievement in a market-leading program for the production of responsible aquaculture. The logo can be used on packaged products, in fresh fish counters, on restaurant menus, in marketing materials, and in many other ways.

The ASC Logo User Guide sets out the requirements for companies who want to use the logo.