WWF International

Sustainability standards for Asian catfish farming reach final stage


Source: WWF International

Global sustainability standards governing Asian catfish farming – also known as pangasius, tra or basa farming -- are in the final stage of development, and will assure that this fast growing industry addresses environmental and social impacts such as water pollution, and poor fish health management, and feeding practices.

This month, the public comment period began for the Pangasius Aquaculture Dialogue (PAD) draft standards, marking the final step before the standards are finalized.

They will address the key environmental and social impacts associated with pangasius farming, an industry whose production has doubled to 1.1 million tons in a few years.

Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production system in the world. The industry has grown at a steady 8-10 percent during the past 30 years, and this is expected to continue. When finalized, the standards will be given to a new organization, to be co-founded by WWF, that will be responsible for working with independent, third party entities to certify farms that are in compliance with the standards.

Feedback received during the 60-day public comment period will be used by the PAD’s participants to finalize the standards in the first quarter of 2010. The process began in 2007 and includes more than 400 producers, conservationists, government officials, academics and others interested in pangasius farming.

“We welcome feedback because we know that tapping into the experiences and expertise of a broad and diverse group of people will make the standards more robust,” said Dr. Flavio Corsin of WWF, who coordinates the PAD. “I am confident that, because of the open and transparent process we use, the final standards will help transform the pangasius farming industry.”

Significant changes have been made to the PAD standards as a result of the input received from 140 people during the first public comment period, discussions at the PAD meeting held in Vietnam in August, and meetings with small-scale pangasius farmers in Vietnam and Bangladesh.

The process used by the PAD and the seven other Aquaculture Dialogues is the only one for aquaculture standard-setting that is in compliance with the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling Alliance’s guidelines for creating environmental and social standards.

Other changes made to the pangasius standards based on input received include prohibiting the conversion of natural resources for pangasius farming, banning all antibiotics listed by the World Health Organization as critical antibiotics for human health, and assessing the quality of receiving waters (not just what water comes into and goes out of the farm).

Most of the standards will be metrics-based, which is the only way to effectively know whether the industry’s impact on the environment is reduced. The standards also will be performance-based, thereby encouraging innovation at the farm level.

The PAD standards will be given to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) to manage when that entity is in operation. WWF announced in January that it is going to help create the ASC, which will be responsible for working with independent, third party entities to certify farms that are in compliance with the standards being created by participants of the Aquaculture Dialogues.

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