Seafood Sustainability Standards: The 3 Main Certifications

Nick Mirev
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    It is true that there are plenty of fish in the sea. But, that’s thanks to sustainable fishing practices. This topic is becoming an important part of the conversation not only in the seafood industry but also on the eco front. 

    Seafood sustainability standards help keep ecosystems intact and benefit fishing businesses in the long run. In order to increase customer awareness of the impact of these practices, there are world-renowned programs that certify compelling businesses. 

    Check out the main programs and why it is beneficial for your seafood company to obtain one. At the end of this blog post, we will share some useful information on what restaurant owners and businesses should be looking for when buying products for their seafood dishes.

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    What Are the Most Important Seafood Certifications?

    There are numerous advisory lists and programs related to responsible fishery practices. A lot of them are created by governmental agencies of different countries as well as by NGOs. 

    Three seafood programs stand out above the rest:

    • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). This certifies wild fishery practices and businesses. You will recognize it by the blue tick and fish logo on seafood products. MSC fisheries standards are essentially a guarantee that the company uses the best sustainable fishing practices. 
    • Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). The ASC certification is among the leading schemes for farmed fish and seafood. You will find the green tick and fish logo on the products certified by the ASC standards. It is a fully independent and voluntary program. It helps consumers and businesses choose socially responsible and nature-friendly seafood products.
    • Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP). BAP is part of the Global Seafood Alliance (GSA), a global NGO that aims to advance responsible seafood practices. The BAP is the only program that certifies every step of the seafood production chain. Hatcheries, seafood distribution businesses, and bulk fish processing factories are potential receivers of the certification.

    Other well-known certifications are the GoodFish Project (Australia), SeaChoice (Canada), Ocean Wise (Canada), and Friend of the Sea.

    Key takeaway: Restaurant owners and consumers should strive to buy seafood products that are ASC or MSC certified. This helps promote environmentally friendly and sustainable fishing practices.

    Why Do You Need Seafood Certifications?

    The main reason is to increase the trust of consumers towards your products. People are becoming more careful about what they buy. Having an MSC or ASC logo displayed on your products can be the difference between you and a competitor. 

    If you have just started your own seafood business, applying for a certificate can help you establish your processes properly from the very beginning. However, there are multiple other ways companies in the seafood industry can benefit from reputable certifications. 

    For example, if you follow sustainable fishing practices, this means you’re aiming for better business results in the long run. The impact fishery has on ecosystems is evident. But, implementing better practices and equipment can minimize it. That’s where sustainable fishing practices play an important role. They will help you with reducing bycatch, the proper running of fish farms, and catching the optimal amount of fish.

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    What Is an ASC Certification?

    The Aquaculture Stewardship Council, commonly referred to as the ASC, is the leading program for farmed seafood. The NGO’s standards assess whether aquaculture businesses use nature-friendly and responsible practices in their fishing process. 

    The ASC uses a third-party certification method. This means that the council does not certify businesses directly.

    Instead, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council sets the standards and an independent assessment body does all the audits. The Accreditation Service International (ASI) accredits these autonomous bodies. This way, there is no conflict of interest and the highest level of expertise is achieved.

    Who Can Get an ASC Certification?

    The ASC program is for aquaculture farms, suppliers, factories, and other food service companies, including those in the restaurant industry. Wild fishing companies can’t get an ASC certification. They can apply for the MSC program instead.

    What Are the Benefits of the ASC Certification?

    The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) founded the Aquaculture Stewardship Council in 2010. This puts it at the top in terms of trust. Having their logo on your products will benefit your sales numbers and market share.

    What Is an MSC Certification?

    MSC stands for Marine Stewardship Council. It is a program that shows a fishery meets best practices for sustainable wild fishing. Seafood from certified fisheries is eligible to have the blue MSC logo. This assures consumers and businesses their practices are sustainable.

    The MSC standards are created and updated regularly with the help of the scientific community. This ensures that they are up to date with the latest challenges the world is facing in environmental preservation. 

    Just like the ASC, it was founded by the WWF. MSC also has a third-party certification process. Certifiers from conformity assessment bodies make sure that candidates follow all standards. 

    What Is a BAP Certification?

    Best Aquaculture Practices is a certification program that focuses on four areas. These are social, natural, animal health, and food safety. It examines all stages of the seafood production chain, similar to the food supply chain.

    BAP is part of the NGO Global Seafood Alliance (GSA). Best Aquaculture Practices is a less-known program compared to MSC and ASC. Nevertheless, it is still a reputable one.

    A specific feature of the BAP certification is that it’s not only for fishing companies but for related businesses as well. Feed mills, processing factories, aquatic farms, and others can get a BAP certification. 

    Why a Seafood Restaurant Should Consider Seafood Sustainability Certifications?

    If you are a business owner in the food service industry, consider supplying seafood products from ASC and MSC-certified companies. This way you can be certain their fish stock is caught using the best practices and in a nature-friendly way. The latest technology in restaurants allow managers to find if a company is certified with just a few clicks.

    When choosing a wholesale seafood supplier, ask them for any credentials they can provide. An accredited seafood distribution business will likely possess either an ASC or MSC certificate.

    These programs are not mandatory in terms of regulations. Nevertheless, by using certified suppliers, you increase the value of your service and guarantee the quality of your products. Furthermore, the MSC and ASC also allow seafood restaurants and other food service businesses to show their logos on menus. That is if a certified company supplies the seafood products. This is an additional direct benefit for you as a restaurant manager. Nowadays, guests want the full experience. And what good is a quality seafood plating or a large variety of suitable seafood pairing options if the products are not up to par?

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    Frequently Asked Questions about Seafood Sustainability Standards

    In the food industry, there are multiple regulations and rules in different countries. However, fishing practices are still fairly lightly regulated. Check out the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding seafood eco standards.

    What Are the Most Reputable Seafood Sustainability Standards?

    The ASC certification is considered the most renowned farmed seafood program and the MSC certification is well-known for wild seafood products. GoodFish Project, SeaChoice, Ocean Wise, and Friend of the Sea are other trustworthy programs.

    Why Should One Buy Only Certified Seafood Products?

    When you plan on eating seafood, only buy certified products. It is better for the sea and ocean ecosystems. Granted, buying and stocking your business with certified seafood products is not a mandatory regulation. Nevertheless, make sure to buy from responsible fishery companies. This betters the green transformation and ensures that ecosystems are kept intact and bycatch is minimized.

    How Does One Recognize Certified Seafood Companies?

    You can recognize certified seafood companies by searching for a sustainability fishing program logo. Naturally, seafood businesses that are members of a certain program have the incentive to use these logos on their product’s packaging. Next time you buy groceries for cooking seafood at home, better look at the packaging.

    One more important thing to consider. There are businesses that use logos of reputable programs or aim to design their packaging in a way that can be misleading. In that case, restaurant owners or restaurant management personnel, and consumers should report misuse.

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