Aerial shot of fish ponds with mangroves in the background. / ©: Bertrand Coûteaux

Responsible Aquaculture

Almost half of the seafood we eat comes from farms.

And seafood farming—also known as aquaculture—is the fastest growing food production system in the world. But not all impacts from the industry are good.

When produced responsibly, aquaculture can thrive alongside healthy wild fish populations and without harming the marine environment, for the benefit of both businesses and local people.
Fish farming (aquaculture) is a promising solution—producing enough food for a growing population without having to rely exclusively on wild fish stocks.

Already, half the seafood we eat comes from farms. As the majority of wild seafood is already overfished, we will have to rely on aquaculture to satisfy growing demand.

► What are the environmental impacts of aquaculture?
 
85% Percentage of the world’s marine stocks that are either fully exploited or overfished, driving accelerated growth in the farmed seafood industry (FAO).

Our approach

For aquaculture to hold its promise to meet our future food demands, it will also need to demonstrate that it can produce better farmed seafood.

This means limiting the use of antibiotics and excessive feeding, avoid destroying coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, and ensure that the surrounding waters stay clean.  

This is precisely what the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), a certification scheme set up by WWF and partners, aims to do. With its partners, the ASC runs an ambitious programme to transform the world's farmed seafood market and promote the best environmental and social aquaculture performance.

► Read more about how WWF works with the aquaculture industry
► Read about the latest progress of the ASC in certifying the seafood industry

POSITIVE IMPACTS

Businesses that join the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) commit themselves to a better way of producing farmed seafood that has less impact on the environment. On the ground, this translates into practices that are mindful of people’s working conditions, biodiversity preservation, water quality and how much of it is used, and taking good care of animals.

These practices are enshrined in tough standards. For example, farms that get certified by the ASC can’t destroy mangroves (in the case of shrimp), operate in natural wetlands or where endangered species live. There are strict controls over escapes of farmed fish into the wild and—unique to the ASC—farmers who want to use fish meal made from wild-caught seafood have to ensure it comes from credibly certified sources. This includes strict limits on how much wild-caught fish can be used per kilo of fish raised. No Genetically Modified (GM) animals can be farmed.

Working conditions on ASC farms are also well regulated. Farms have to undertake a Social Impact Assessment based on ILO requirements or SA8000 which looks at conflict resolution, non-discrimination and indigenous people rights, amongst others.

Such is the appeal of the ASC that members of the Global Salmon Initiative, representing 70% of farmed salmon production worldwide, have committed to 100% ASC certification by 2020.

Better Production for a Living Planet

 / ©: WWF
► Aquaculture case studies (WWF and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council websites)
More case studies

CASE STUDY: RESPONSIBLY FARMED SHRIMP AND SALMON

 / ©: Regal Springs Tilapia
ASC certified tilapia will be available in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Belgium, Spain and Canada.
© Regal Springs Tilapia
A small corner of Nicaragua’s Lake Apoyo used to be home to a tilapia farm. But when some of the fish escaped from the farm, the non-native species wiped out one of the lake’s vital food plants. It has taken a decade for the lake to begin to recover.
A few 100 kilometres from Lake Apoyo, tilapia is farmed in a very different way than it used to be farmed in the lake. At Regal Springs’ Aquafinca farm in Honduras, measures have been taken to monitor water, maintain fish health, while feed derived from threatened fisheries is prohibited.

The farm is the first to meet the standards of the Tilapia Aquaculture Dialogue – a set of measurable standards for responsible aquaculture developed by WWF and other environmental organisations, scientists, retailers and producers, to achieve change in the water.

READ FULL CASE STUDY

CONTEXT

Threats
  • Aquaculture industry must reduce dependency on fishoil and fishmeal, a key feed ingredient, representing a third of the global fish harvest;
  • Risk of disease and parasite outbreaks between farmed and wild fish, and among farms;
  • Pollution or depletion of local waterways, including salinization in the case of shrimp farming;
  • Excessive use of chemicals (antibiotics, fertilizers and pesticides) can harm marine organisms and human health;
  • Habitat conversion;
  • Farmed species escape can impact genetic diversity of wild species.

Opportunities
  • ASC certification encourages improvements to coastal zone and small pelagic fisheries management;
  • Well-managed aquaculture can be part of the solution to feed the planet, as many marine fish stocks are overfished;
  • The growth of aquaculture is linked to innovation in production methods, a good environment in which to enact change around reducing impacts.

Be part of the solution

Farms, seafood processors/traders and retailers can join the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), the world's leading certification and labelling programme for responsibly farmed seafood. ► Visit the ASC website 

Are you worried that the farmed seafood you buy has caused environmental damage? Look for produce with the ASC label, a guarantee that your purchase has met strict environmental criteria. ► Visit the ASC website 
  •  / ©: ASC
    The ASC’s mission is to transform aquaculture toward environmental and social sustainability using efficient market mechanisms that create value across the supply chain. asc-aqua.org

Priority Countries

  • Production of salmon
    Norway, Chile, UK

    Production of shrimp

    China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia

    Markets
    USA, Japan, EU

Trends

  • Demand drivers
    Consumption, population, income

    Future focus for success

    Focus on producers working in the places WWF cares about most.

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