Recent years have seen markets becoming increasingly stringent towards the quality of food products. Initially, quality criteria addressed mainly food safety issues. However, in response to the concerns expressed by many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders, product quality increasingly began to include criteria related to environmental and socio-economic sustainability. This trend can be clearly identified by looking at market trends for sustainable products. According to the market watcher Mintel, the amount of ethical and sustainable food and drink products, including fair-trade and organic items, almost doubled in 2006.1 The trend towards better quality experienced by the overall food sector can also be observed in fisheries and aquaculture products. Sustainability and corporate social and environmental responsibility were key topics discussed at the 2007 Seafood Summit and are likely to play a greater role in the sector.2
There is a notable difference between agriculture and fisheries commodities, especially as fisheries products are often much more diverse than those of agriculture in terms of both commodities and production systems. Requirements for quality criteria and the need to cope with this diversity have led, over the past few years, to an overwhelming proliferation of certification schemes. Also the additional potential for further expansion in the number of programmes if other stakeholders involved with the certification of agricultural products3 were to increase attention in the aquaculture sector has led several Asian countries to express concerns about the potential impact that these certification schemes may have on the supply chain of especially on small-scale producers.
At the 29th Session of APFIC in Kuala Lumpur, August 2006, member countries recommended that APFIC's work should focus on Certification in Fisheries and Aquaculture as one of the emerging issues for the fisheries sector in the region.
This document is part of APFIC's response to its members' request and is aimed at reviewing the voluntary standards and certification programmes applicable to the aquaculture sector in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular looking at the challenges and opportunities of the most important schemes with the objective of advising stakeholders on strategies to maximize the sustainability of the aquaculture sector for all parties involved and especially for small-scale producers.
In an attempt to assess the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to quality assurance, the criteria for selection of schemes have been kept as inclusive as possible. However, a smaller number of schemes particularly relevant to the aquaculture sector in the Asia-Pacific region were also selected to allow a more detailed qualitative assessment.
1 Intrafish Media 2007, http://www.intrafish.no/global/news/article125897.ece
2 Fiorillo, J. 2007. Can you compete? Intrafish Media http://www.intrafish.no/global/news/article126976.ece
3 Please also see: FAO RAP publication 2007/13: A Practical Manual for Producers and Exporters from Asia; – Regulations, Standards and Certification for Agricultural Exports.