Promoting sustainable aquaculture

WWF is working towards a sustainable aquaculture industry, where no part of the production line threatens the natural environment or local communities.
A major focus of our work has been developing sustainable market standards and a certification scheme for aquaculture.

In 2004 we initiated a series of roundtables to create standards for responsible aquaculture of key species: tilapia, abalone, clams, mussels, scallops, oysters, pangasius, freshwater trout, salmon, shrimp, seriola and cobia.

These so-called Aquaculture Dialogues brought together farmers, retailers, NGOs, scientists and other aquaculture industry stakeholders worldwide.

The standards aim to minimize the key environmental and social impacts associated with aquaculture. As these standards are finalized they are being given to a new organization, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) which WWF helped to co-found in 2009.

Like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for wild-caught fish, the ASC is responsible for working with independent, third-party entities to certify farms that are in compliance with the standards.
Villa Leppefisk, a salmon farm in Norway on the path to sustainability. / ©: WWF / Jo BENN
Villa Leppefisk, a salmon farm in Norway on the path to sustainability.

What's the problem?

Aquaculture is an important economic activity in many countries, and can offer a number of benefits to society.

But the industry has been associated with a number of serious environmental and social issues. Find out more... 
A long history of work
Our work on aquaculture began in 1994, when we supported a research project comparing the impacts of shrimp aquaculture and shrimp trawling.

Following further work that highlighted the need for major changes in aquaculture production systems, in 1999 we helped form the Shrimp Aquaculture and the Environment Consortium - a partnership between WWF, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, the Network of Aquaculture Centers of Asia Pacific, and later the UN Environmental Program.

In 2006, the consortium's International Principles for Responsible Shrimp Farming were adopted by the FAO's Committee on Fisheries.

Support for MPAs

At present, aquaculture is rarely compatible with protected areas - so aquaculture firms are mostly opposed to the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

And when governments are keen to see economic growth in coastal areas, they often listen to the aquaculture industry rather than environmentalists and other stakeholders.

WWF is working with aquaculture companies to break the current deadlock between Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and fish farms.

One breakthrough came when Nutreco - the world's largest salmon-farming company - issued a public corporate statement supporting the establishment of MPAs.

The statement helped WWF-Norway to get legislation passed by the Norwegian parliament that allows for the establishment of MPAs. Subsequently, in 2003 the Norwegian government protected 13 fjords from the impacts of salmon aquaculture.

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