Fish products from capture fisheries and aquaculture are a widely traded international commodity. About 38 percent of global fish output by live weight enters international marketing channels for export. It is estimated that nearly half of all fish products are now produced by aquaculture and are becoming increasingly important in the fish products trade. The Asia-Pacific Region produces more than 80 percent of all aquacultural production and is therefore also a key region in the trade of these products.
The aquacultural sector shares many common features with agricultural and livestock production (unlike the capture fisheries sector) and consequently faces similar challenges as other agricultural products in terms of quality control and access to export markets. Increasingly stringent demands by retailers and consumers relating to the safety of aquacultural products that may arise from production practices is pushing the sector to look towards mechanisms for assuring consumers and buyers. Environmental and social issues in some aquaculture production systems, unconnected to food safety, have also created sufficient public concern to lead to some buyers requesting greater assurance of responsible production. This has led to a recent rapid rise in demand for certification of some aquacultural products, a trend which is considered to be steadily rising. With most countries in Asia giving increased attention to food safety, there is a growing proliferation of product certification systems, "good aquacultural practice" guidelines, codes of conduct, and other mechanisms or schemes intended to provide a basis for safe and sustainable seafood production. Such proliferation may be counterproductive as it may lead to buyer or consumer confusion and public misunderstanding as to what is actually being assured by the various certification schemes. A lack of harmonization or benchmarking amongst standards and schemes also prevents adequate comparison between different schemes, which raises the potential problem of lack of recognition in certified products.
Certification of aquacultural products is still at a relatively early stage. At the time of publication of this manual, responding to a request made by the Committee on Fisheries– Sub-Committee on Aquaculture (COFI/AQ), FAO and the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) have initiated a process for the development of a guideline for aquaculture certification to enable certification schemes to demonstrate a reasonable degree of consistency and ensure that aquaculture certification can be undertaken in a credible manner. These guidelines are also intended to ensure that all aquacultural producers from developed and developing countries and small- and large-scale operations are able to benefit equally from the opportunities offered by aquaculture certification and are not unduly disadvantageous to small-scale producers.
More information on these guidelines
For many producers, the market for certified agricultural products is very complex and the advantages and requirements associated with the numerous certification programmes are not always clear. In addition, producers do not always know the difference between the compulsory or voluntary nature of standards applied to export products. Therefore, this manual has been designed in order to clarify voluntary certification.
After having read its content, the reader should be able to understand the main voluntary private certification schemes, the importance of these schemes, the difference between these programmes as well as their advantages and constraints. The manual also provides information sources on the main import regulations in the United States of America, the European Union, Japan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
For copies write to:
FAO Regional Office for
Asia and the Pacific