The Aquatic Life Institute (ALI) has launched a publicly available benchmark tool to assess the aquatic animal welfare standards of global aquaculture certification systems.
Until recently, individual animal welfare considerations were excluded from global aquaculture certifications. The new Aquaculture Certification Benchmark Tool, according to ALI, analyzes current welfare requirements and highlights areas of opportunity for improved welfare in each farming standard.
“This standard will prove to be a valuable tool for any food business in their seafood purchasing decision-making process. It will help them make more informed choices about certified products entering their supply chain. and will enable the public to be better informed about practices associated with seafood production. The tool will also help certification schemes that are lagging behind in aquatic animal welfare, by highlighting improvements that will keep them relevant,” said Aquatic Animal Alliance Director Catalina Lopez.
ALI assessed six of the most important certifications in the aquaculture industry, including Global Animal Partnership (GAP), RSPCA-Assured, Naturland, Friend of the Sea, Global GAP and Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP). These certifications focus on aspects such as environmental impact or food safety, and are used by the aquaculture industry to verify that these practices are applied on farms.
According to ALI, consumer attitudes that are more concerned about animal welfare and environmental sustainability are resulting in more cases of poor welfare conditions being uncovered on farms around the world, including certified farms. The band said it has developed its Aquaculture Certification Reference Tool to combat misleading claims about the treatment or conditions under which farmed animals are born, raised and harvested.
The tool analyzes each agricultural standard for current requirements and opportunities for improvement for each agricultural standard, ALI said. Current areas of assessment include environmental enrichment, space requirements and stocking density, stunning and slaughter, feeding practices and water quality. The tool will be updated annually, with future editions including additional certification programs and measuring additional areas of concern.
ALI said it has engaged the certification bodies included in its tool for more than two years to ensure the standard language is updated to include animal welfare. Overall, the report recognized that the Global Animal Partnership’s Atlantic Salmon Welfare Standard is the most comprehensive welfare standard currently in existence. The standard states that certified facilities must include enrichments at all life stages, must adhere to strict stocking density limits, monitor water quality daily, comply with adequate stunning and slaughter requirements and must not use insects in farmed fish feed. Insects in animal feed may be of concern due to unknown animal welfare consequences and negative environmental impacts throughout the production cycle, ALI said.