The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced that it is working with the leading producers of farmed seafood including catfish, tilapia, basa, abalone, oysters, clams, scallops and mussels to improve the industry's environmental performance. Separate discussions are underway -- called "aquaculture dialogues" - for tilapia, catfish and molluscs. All are focused on developing credible and measurable standards that could be used in investment and buyer screens or a certification program to reduce or eliminate the key impacts of the aquaculture industry.
"This effort comes at a critical time. Aquaculture now accounts for nearly half of the seafood we eat and the industry is booming," said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. "As the industry has grown, so has its impact on the environment. We are strongly encouraged by the eagerness of some of the biggest names in aquaculture to join us in improving their industry."
The dialogues build on the previous multi-stakeholder standards, setting work of WWF as part of the Consortium on Shrimp Farming and the Environment with the FAO, World Bank and Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia Pacific. The Consortium developed principles and criteria for sustainable shrimp farming that were broadly supported by producers, NGOs, governments, and other stakeholders around the globe. Draft standards based on these principles and criteria are currently being field tested in Madagascar, Belize and Vietnam. WWF also plans to initiate aquaculture dialogues on trout and seaweed.
The threats from aquaculture include pollution of coastal waters with nutrient-rich effluent, over use of wild-caught fish for aquaculture feeds, transformation of ecologically sensitive areas, and disease and parasite transfer from cultured to wild fish. The dialogues focus on identifying and analyzing the major impacts of each aquaculture production system and developing acceptable, quantitative performance levels that will show measurable improvement.
"The producers involved in the recently formed Tilapia Aquaculture Dialogue are some of the most efficient in the world, and now together with other stakeholders we are promoting the adoption of the better practices we have developed over the years," said Alfonso Delfini, E. with Aquamar, S.A., one of 10 tilapia producers involved and a member of the dialogue's steering committee. The committee also includes Mike Picchietti of Regal Springs; William Marshall of Rain Forest Aquaculture; Dr. Michael Tlusty of New England Aquarium; and Dr. Aaron McNevin of World Wildlife Fund.
"The Aquaculture Dialogues are the only standard development processes out there that have a balanced mix of environmentalists, industry leaders, researchers, buyers, allied businesses, governments, investors, and development agencies working collectively to develop these performance-based standards," said Dr. Aaron McNevin, aquaculture specialist at World Wildlife Fund.
As wild stocks of fish and other seafood populations have declined, aquaculture has grown to be a multi-billion dollar industry. Increasingly, retailers are looking for aquaculture products that meet broadly accepted standards for sustainability."We appreciate World Wildlife Fund's inclusive approach to develop solid, measurable, industry-wide aquaculture standards. This process paired with their expertise and knowledge of the key issues makes for a great combination when it comes to being informed on issues and getting all perspectives," said Margaret Wittenberg, vice president of communications and quality standards at Whole Foods Market, Inc. "The real benefit for a conscious retailer is the credibility that WWF and this initiative will bring to the marketplace."