Aquatic Life Institute (ALI) today launched a benchmark tool to evaluate six of the most well-known global aquaculture certification programs and their effectiveness with regard to aquatic animal welfare standards.
These certifiers included Global Animal Partnership (GAP), RSPCA-secured, Naturland, Friend of the Sea, Global GAP and Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP).
The report recognizes the recently released Global Animal Partnership Atlantic Salmon Welfare Standard “as the most comprehensive welfare standard to date”. This standard includes the latest science-based interventions to improve the welfare of farmed salmon.
To meet the standard, the facilities must include enrichment at all life stages, adhere to strict stocking density limits, monitor water quality daily, and meet adequate stunning and slaughter requirements. It also includes a new ban on insects in farmed fish feed, despite the fact that fish such as salmon naturally eat insects during their juvenile, freshwater phase.
According to ALI, insect farming is “a potentially important sector of concern because of the unknown impacts on animal welfare and the negative environmental impacts throughout the production cycle”.
“We are concerned about insect farming for many reasons, one of which is that the link between agricultural intensification and new zoonoses is well established in the literature. All factory farms have a constant battle with disease control. The hyper-dense environment of thousands (or in this case billions) of animals in close proximity is a perfect breeding ground for pathogens The story of new zoonoses increasing the costs of factory farming is well known: densely populated livestock develop infections, cloak treatments are applied that externalize the real costs of treatment, as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) the efficacy of the treatment decreases each time it is used.As time goes on, the external costs are paid in stock loss because the antimicrobials fail to produce results.From AHPND in shrimp, to sea lice in salmon, to pig nematodes, almost every agricultural sector is regulated recognized by new zoonoses with AMR,” Catalina Lopez, director of the AMR quatic Animal Alliance, explained to The visiting site†
“There are also precautionary considerations regarding the welfare of the farmed insects as there is not much scientific evidence regarding welfare considerations in these operations. Also, the environmental impact is unknown for this intensive type of production, as escapes and interaction with animals in the wild is unavoidable and the effects of those interactions are unknown,” she adds.
“The inevitability of industry-limiting diseases, as well as the massive suffering diseases caused in agricultural facilities, means we are extremely cautious about recommending new intensive farming activities where commercially viable plant-based alternatives exist,” Lopez concluded.
The rationale behind the tool
The new tool was developed by ALI to try to bring fish welfare to the fore in aquaculture certification standards.
“Certifications are widely used by the aquaculture industry to verify farm practices. Unfortunately, until recently, most certification labels did not include meaningful animal welfare interventions, focusing only on aspects such as environmental impact or food safety, excluding individual animal welfare considerations. However, consumers are increasingly demanding transparency from the aquaculture industry as many cases of poor animal welfare conditions have been detected on farms around the world, including farms certified by well-known schemes… Therefore, the implementation of meaningful and responsible animal welfare interventions is imperative necessary and will bring benefits to animals, the environment and public health,” ALI said in a press release.
As a result, the organization says it has been working on certification schemes for more than two years to ensure animal welfare is paramount.
The assessment areas include environmental enrichment, space requirements and stocking density, stunning and slaughter, feeding practices and water quality.
“This benchmark will prove to be a valuable tool for any company in the food sector during their seafood purchasing decision-making process. It will help them make more informed choices about certified products entering their supply chain, and better inform the public about practices related to seafood production. The tool will also help certification schemes that are lagging behind in aquatic animal welfare by shedding light on improvements that will enable them to remain relevant,” Lopez said in a press release.
ALI plans to update the benchmark annually, and subsequent editions will compare more certification schemes and measure additional points of interest.