Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Aquaculture Eco-Certifications. Legit or industry greenwash?

June 30, 2021

certification logos

Eco-certifications can be found on all types of farmed seafood from Atlantic salmon, shrimp, basa and tilapia. But can we really trust their promises of ‘responsible practices’? One tell-tale sign is who is included – or excluded – in the schemes’ behind-the-scenes systems that make an eco-certification legitimate or a potential greenwash.

Eco-certifications are less likely to be considered ‘greenwash’ if they have buy-in and support from civil society stakeholders such as environmental NGOs, Indigenous peoples and other local communities. But obtaining such support means schemes need to be inclusive and transparent – or risk being seen as ‘the fox guarding the henhouse’.

Living Oceans and SeaChoice reviewed how inclusive and transparent the three most prominent aquaculture eco-certifications, Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) and GLOBALG.A.P., are to civil society stakeholders. Our latest report, Accountability in Seafood Sustainability, found all three certifications engage with civil society stakeholders in some form or another, though, some more so than others.  

It is an unfortunate truth that, globally, aquaculture operations often lack transparency and consultation – both from the industry and governments. Concerningly, our report found some auditing practices of the voluntary eco-certifications are no better. For example, consumers and civil society stakeholders won’t find any published audit reports to demonstrate a farm’s compliance with the BAP or GLOBALG.A.P. standards. In addition, both lack a requirement to consult with local stakeholders during farm audits. Even more concerning is the fact that the governance body, that oversees their standard criteria, for GLOBALG.A.P. is exclusively industry members.

While the ASC was found to be the most inclusive and transparent eco-certification; this doesn’t guarantee meaningful stakeholder engagement or a robust and scientifically rigorous standard. Something Living Oceans knows all too well given our experience actively watchdogging the ASC certification in B.C. salmon farms and around the world.

So, should you buy that eco-certified farmed salmon? The transition of open-net pen salmon farms from B.C. waters to land-based closed containment needs to happen to protect our wild salmon. For this reason alone, Living Oceans recommends avoiding open-net pen farmed salmon period – eco-certified or not.