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Laura Braden, PhD

This past Monday, Global Aquaculture Alliance announced the BAP-certification of eleven salmon farm sites operated by Marine Harvest Canada off the coast of Vancouver Island – the first set of sites to earn the prestigious certification under the new group farm program.

Marine Harvest Canada Certification Manager Katherine Dolmage told Fish Farming Expert that the company has been working with BAP for over a year to set up this pilot: “Over this time, we have implemented a quality management system which outlines the requirements of the group program - including audit timelines, staff responsibility, and processes for removing non-compliant sites from the group.”

This new group farm approach allows for a reduced number of site audits and all the sites receive one BAP certificate. The ability to qualify for group and to have a subset of farms audited requires an applicant to implement strict and consistent internal controls across all of its operations, including a procedure by which to remove non-compliant sites. The commitment required to ensure compliance under the group farm program acts as a driver for continuous improvement.

“We are now conducting formal internal audits at all of our farm sites against the BAP salmon standard, identifying root cause, and requiring corrective action to close these NCs before the farm can be entered into the group for certification,” Dolmage explained.

BAP is an international certification program based on achievable, science-based and continuously improved global performance standards for the entire aquaculture supply chain — farms, hatcheries, processing plants and feed mills — that assure healthful foods produced through environmentally and socially responsible means.

For salmon farming companies, attaining certification is a gold standard that is recognized world-wide. Since 2004, the number of BAP-certified sites went from 15 to 881. BAP-certified farms, hatcheries, processing plants and feed mills have traceability documentation that assures retail, foodservice and wholesale buyers that the operations apply responsible aquaculture practices that minimize environmental impacts, respect workers’ rights and produce wholesome products.

For Marine Harvest, it is business as usual on the farms. “The group process hasn’t changed day-to-day activities on site much; we are able to use this format because practices on all sites are consistently meeting the BAP criteria. If, in the future, we find issues at a site that would not allow for certification to go forward, we will notify BAP and SAI, our certification body, and remove the site from the group. The site will remain uncertified until all issues can be addressed, at which point it will be reentered into the group to be certified. Part of the group process is the option for the auditor to conduct surprise audits at group sites - we need to be confident that any site in the group could be audited at any time.”

“It’s a huge honour to be selected to undertake this pilot, as it shows that BAP has recognized the level of performance and commitment to the standards at all Marine Harvest farm sites.”

“A key element to ensuring the integrity and auditability of new programs such as this is the ability to ‘pilot’ test them in the field,” said BAP VP Lisa Goche. “BAP is grateful to Marine Harvest Canada, which graciously volunteered to participate in a group pilot against the BAP salmon farm standards. Its cooperation has really helped us to fine tune and improve the program.”

Marine Harvest is currently hard at work conducting the internal audits at the next group of 11 sites, which will be audited in December.