Farmers wishing to keep ASC accreditation will have to ensure feed comes from an approved supplier.

ASC fish farmers given two years to switch to approved feed suppliers

Responsible sourcing is essential to achieving sustainable aquaculture, says certification organisation chief executive Ninnes


Fish farms certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) must switch to ASC compliant feeds by 14 January 2025 to continue meeting ASC standards.

The deadline was announced at the same time as news that feed mills can now apply for certification to ASC’s Feed Standard which covers legal, social, and environmental requirements for both the feed mill’s own operations and for the suppliers of ingredients used in their feed production.

ASC said the Feed Standard tackles one of the biggest drivers of environmental and social impacts of aquaculture – the manufacturing of feed and its raw materials. More than 70% of aquaculture production (excluding algae) is dependent on feed, and it drives major environmental and social impacts of aquaculture.

By requiring responsible sourcing for all major feed ingredients, ASC aims to address issues in both the supply chain and at raw material level.

Unrivalled transparency

The organisation said that requirements on reporting of performance will also improve assurances by creating unrivalled transparency throughout the entire aquafeed supply chain, as well as rewarding environmental sustainability and assisting future research into responsible feed.

To farm seafood responsibly demands that the ‘upstream’ impacts associated with the production of feed ingredients be monitored and reduced.

ASC CEO Chris Ninnes

ASC chief executive Chris Ninnes said sourcing aquaculture feed responsibly is necessary for feeding the world’s increasing population, whilst minimising impacts on land resources. In 2020, total seafood production reached 213 million tonnes and provided billions of people with an important source of animal protein, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAC) SOFIA 2022 report.

“Aquaculture provides 58% of this production by weight and 67% by value and the macro-nutrients this provides is an essential and undervalued component of global food security,” said Ninnes. “Fortunately, farmed seafood provides these food security and nutritional benefits with a much lower carbon footprint than protein from terrestrial farmed livestock.

More fed aquaculture

“Increasingly, more fish and invertebrates are fed during their life cycle (in 2020, 63 million tonnes were fed, compared to non-fed at 24.3 million tonnes) and this represents an increasing interface between aquaculture and agriculture. Much attention, often negative, is focused on the inclusion of fish meal and fish oil in farmed diets, whilst almost ignoring completely the impacts of terrestrial plant materials that constitute up to 85% of the diets of carnivorous fish.

“To farm seafood responsibly demands that the ‘upstream’ impacts associated with the production of feed ingredients be monitored and reduced, with an imperative focus on social responsibility and environmental improvement. This is exactly the role that the new ASC Feed Standard will play by incentivising these improvements.”

He added: “Ensuring the feed used by this vital sector is sourced responsibly through the holistic approach set out in the ASC Feed Standard is essential to achieving sustainable aquaculture. I am especially proud that the ASC Feed Standard upholds key labour requirements across feed ingredient supply chains and seeks to mitigate and reduce risks of deforestation and land conversion.”

Managed fisheries

The ASC Feed Standard uses an improvement model for marine ingredients which requires feed mills to source increasingly from responsibly managed fisheries over time.

For terrestrial plant ingredients such as soy or wheat, feed mills are required to record and report all ingredients that make up over 1% of feed and will need to take steps to ensure they have been responsibly sourced.

ASC certified feed mills will have to record and report their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and work to improve energy efficiency, use of renewables, and water usage.

Fair wages

The Feed Standard also demands fair treatment and wage of employees, respect of indigenous and tribal people’s rights, and ensuring that no child or forced labour exists.

“We look forward to supporting feed mills who want to work towards ASC certification, as well as helping producers prepare to transition to sourcing ASC certified feed over the next 24 months,” ASC standards and science director Michiel Fransen said.

“By incentivising more feed mills to work towards certification to meet the growing demand from ASC certified farms, we ensure that aquafeed and raw ingredients supply are produced responsibly.”