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The broad range of certification schemes

There are a number of stakeholders involved in certification and there is a broad range of schemes that covers the range of issues. Some issues are of common interest for stakeholders whereas others are of more specific interest to fewer or single stakeholders. Schemes promoted by stakeholders or stakeholder groups are described hereunder.


Retailers, like most traders, use quality standards to purchase the products they trade. Responding to the requirements of consumers and NGOs, a number of retailers have begun developing standards aimed at ensuring that the products marketed are produced following processes aimed at improving the sustainability of production of specific products. In order to reduce the cost of auditing and certification, and therefore the overall cost of the product so as to ensure continued competitiveness throughout the production chain, in some cases groups of retailers have joined forces and developed standards applicable to all the retailers joining the scheme.

There are several examples of these retailer-promoted schemes although only a limited number are currently also dealing with aquaculture production. Retailer-promoted schemes belong to two main categories depending on whether they target consumers or food chain operators. Examples are given in Annex 2.


The aquaculture industry has an interest in promoting aquaculture products in general; better performing practices can serve as a good example for the industry. It is the more organized groups of producers who can agree on and establish industry-led certification schemes. Annex 3 provides examples of industry-driven certification schemes.


Governments in exporting countries in particular have a clear interest in promoting a sustainable aquaculture industry and in promoting it among buyers in both their national markets and other countries. Often the requirements in importing countries are different from the exporting countries' regulations and therefore it is necessary to have certification schemes for export products. A number of examples are given in Annex 4.

There are other governmental programmes. Similar to Thailand, Viet Nam and Hong Kong S.A.R.,12 other major aquaculture-producing countries (e.g. Indonesia) have also initiated efforts towards the development of practices and standards for the responsible production of shrimp and other aquaculture commodities. However, efforts are generally in early stages although they are on the path to becoming truly developed certification schemes. There are also examples of government-led certification schemes outside the Asia-Pacific region (for example shrimp certification in Brazil).

There are other government thrusts through IGOs and international agreements. These are yet to be linked to true certification schemes and will be examined in more detail hereunder.


Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with interests in conservation, environment, fair trade, etc. are often perceived to develop certification schemes that promote their interest. It is often mentioned that NGO-established schemes are "truly" third party schemes. This depends on the structure of the schemes but it is true that there is often less conflict of interest. Some examples are given in Annex 5.


Many of the voluntary certification issues originate from the organic movement. In some countries consumers still think about organic certification when they hear talk about certification. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), which was established in 1972, is a global grassroots umbrella organization and has 750 member organizations.

Government-promoted organic programmes

In addition to NGO organic programmes (reported in Annex 6), which are privately owned, several governments have also developed standards for the production, processing, labeling and marketing of organic products. Government efforts assume a combination of mandatory and voluntary efforts — i.e. in addition to mandatory regulations developed to protect consumers from fraudulent claims, some governments have also developed labels that can be used on a voluntary basis by producers complying with regulations. Conformity to the regulation is conducted by government-accredited CBs or agents.

Some examples of organic government-led efforts, most of which are also largely applicable to the aquaculture sector, are listed hereunder. The list is far from being inclusive of all government efforts towards organic production, it only serves to exemplify some of them.

European Union

Europe has historically led the organic movement, with countries such as France and the United Kingdom playing a key role in this direction. The first set of EU regulation on organic farming was developed in 1991 (EEC N. 2092/91) and came into force the following year. In 1999, additional rules for production, labeling and inspection of the main animal species were also developed (EC N. 1804/1999). According to these regulations, only products that have been produced and processed following the EU regulation on organics can be marketed in the EU as organic. EU member countries were asked to develop national legislation to allow the implementation of these regulations.13

In 2000, the European Union also introduced the "Organic Farming-EC Control System" label to be used on a voluntary basis by producers whose products are in compliance with the EU organic regulation.


France developed legislation on organic production for the first time in 1981. In 1985, the first state-owned logo for organic products, the Agriculture Biologique (AB) logo, was launched. These early efforts made France a leading country in organic production and it now contains an estimated 40 percent of the European organic land.14

The French Ministry of Agriculture has accredited six bodies for issuing certificates for organic plants and animals. The French Government also established a system of financial support to promote the conversion of farms to organic culture.

United Kingdom

Like other European countries, the United Kingdom also complies with the EEC N. 2092/91 regulation in setting practices used for organic production, processing and marketing. These are stated in the Statutory Instrument 2004 N. 1604, The Organic Products Regulations 2004. The government and its ministers also receive advice on matters related to organic standards from the Advisory Committee on Organic Standards (ACOS), which is a non-executive non-departmental public body.

United States of America

In the United States, Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, requiring the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop standards for the production and management of organic products, which were developed under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). Regulations have now to be implemented. Certification is conducted by USDA-accredited certifying agents and, in the United States, is compulsory only for operations handling more that US$5 000 per year in organic products. Imported products can be exported to the United States as organic only if their compliance to the NOP regulations has been certified by accredited certifiers, of which several are located in countries outside the United States.15


The National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (ACFS) of Thailand is currently developing standards for organic shrimp production, with the target of boosting the competitiveness of Thai shrimp on the global market. The standards are expected to be submitted to the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives in 2007 for approval.16


The fair-trade movement started in the second half of the twentieth century to promote fairer trade by providing producers with fair prices for their products especially in developed countries. The fair-trade movement became very popular with the introduction of fair-trade labeled products. Currently there are no fair-trade schemes for aquaculture products but there are fair-trade elements in some schemes.


Especially in the salmon industry there has been a focus on animal welfare. However there has been some effort to establish animal welfare schemes for shrimp production as well. Most of these products are only available in European supermarkets. Annex 8 describes two animal welfare certification schemes.

12 Special Administrative Region.
16 ThaiNews. 2007. Thai agency expedites drafting of organic marine shrimp production standards.

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