An Analysis of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council Standards for shrimp aquaculture

The third edition of the Consumers’ Guide to Shrimp Certification with an Analysis of the ASC Shrimp Standard is being reviewed by people around the world:

Consumers Guide to Shrimp Certification–V4A-Review

This is an advanced draft for review. Excerpts from the Guide:


[From page 9]

INTRODUCTION

Grassroots NGOs in the global south know that shrimp certification does very little or nothing to improve local conditions. Over the course of the last twenty years, CO Alliance members have worked among thousands of people in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Latin America and Thailand. We know that local rights, opportunities and livelihoods in the community have worsened because of the shrimp farming. However, some international NGOs, including Oxfam Novib, IUCN-NL and WWF, continue to believe that certification might be used to reduce the devastating environmental, social and economic impacts of tropical shrimp aquaculture. Consumers in the global north are bombarded with labels that claim to sell “Ethical,” “Organic,” “Sustainable,” “Fair,” and “Responsibly farmed” tropical shrimp.

What do these terms mean? What is a “good choice”? What does “responsibly farmed” mean? And to whom are the label-makers and shrimp retailers responsible?

For one, they are responsible to you. To consumers. To people in the US, the EU and Japan—countries that import many thousand tonnes of tropical shrimp every year. You decide, everyday, whether tropical shrimp aquaculture will continue to destroy coastal ecosystems. Unfortunately, your purchasing decisions are influenced by the lies, half-truths and propaganda of the shrimp industry.

To that end, the Consumers’ Guide to Shrimp Certification was re-edited to address you.

“Ethical shrimp” does not exist, neither does “Responsible shrimp” or “Fair shrimp” or “Sustainable shrimp” or “Eco-friendly shrimp.” But responsible consumers do exist, as do ethical consumers and conscientious consumers. This document hopes to persuade you to become one.

  • Tropical shrimp cannot be farmed sustainably in sufficient quantities to satisfy current market demands. Consumers need to stop eating farmed tropical shrimp.
  • Open-throughput farming methods are destructive; almost all the shrimp produced in the world today are grown on open-throughput farms and they cannot be called “sustainable.” Certifiers of farmed shrimp (not wild-caught shrimp) avoid using the word “sustainable” and, instead, employ vague euphemisms like “ethical” and “responsibly farmed” and so forth.
  • Shrimp are carnivores: as many as two pounds (often more) of fish such as anchovies and sardine are boiled and pureed to make the “fish-feed” used to grow one pound of shrimp. Farming tiger shrimp for food is as silly as farming tigers for food; farming a carnivorous species worsens food security.
  • The feed industry alone is as destructive as the rest of the shrimp production chain.
  • The world does not need to eat shrimp to satisfy its protein requirements. Also, the people who grow these shrimp cannot afford to eat it… The fish that they can afford to eat is being used by the shrimp industry—to feed shrimp!
  • The ASC’s claim that its shrimp standard promotes social responsibility must be doubted. Independent verifications of certified farms can (and will) be conducted to test this claim.
  • While the ASC and its supporters all acknowledge that consumption levels of shrimp are a major cause for concern, they refuse to ask you to stop eating or reduce consumption of farmed tropical shrimp. It doesn’t matter who is certifying farmed tropical shrimp—they are all trying to elbow their way into a $10-billion (and growing) industry.

[From pages 36-37]

Tricks of the trade no. 1: Reduce the “scope” of certification

The ASC shrimp standard prohibits child-labour. But women and children in developing countries collect P. monodon—tiger shrimp—juveniles in the wild and sell them to shrimp farmers. They earn a dollar for an entire day’s work if they’re lucky:http://www.worldfishing.net/news101/industry-news/abuse-and-injustice-in-bangladeshs-shrimp-industry

This is one of the reasons tiger shrimp from Bangladesh is as cheap as it is. Children and illegal migrant labour are recruited by shrimp processing factories in Thailand:http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-a-world-hungry-for-cheap-shrimp-migrants-labor-overtime-in-thai-sheds/2012/09/19/3435a90e-01a4-11e2-b257-e1c2b3548a4a_story.html

How do certifiers respond to queries about child-labour? Simple: The scope of the certified farm is limited to the farm boundaries! The children are not working on the farm—and anything outside the farm boundaries is not addressed by the standard. It is your duty as a consumer to check the standard and then purchase the product…

The analogy is: A restaurant is certified “Rat-Free™” but the Rat-Free™ Standard only requires the health-inspector to check the kitchen. He doesn’t check the larder, or the toilet, or the wine-cellar or the delivery room or the dining room or the…

The ASC could easily have refused to certify shrimp that is sourced from child-labour. It was as simple as including a clause that if at any time the farm was found to have sourced hatchlings caught by children, its certification would be revoked. Local NGOs would have willingly offered to keep tabs on shrimp farmers who flouted this clause… The ASC did nothing.

They have allowed the practice to continue for six years from the time of publication of the standards! After six years have passed, farmers will still be allowed to source wild-caught broodstock for purposes of “genetic enhancement.”

The same trick was used to avoid the problems of unsustainable feed sourcing and GM ingredients in feed and inhuman working condition and waste-management in shrimp-processing plants. People did point out these loopholes during the two comments-periods. The following input was offered in 2010:

Comment: […] The 
standards 
apply 
only 
to 
farms 
where 
shrimp 
are 
raised. 
The 
standards 
do 
not 
apply 
to 
fishing 
operations, 
shrimp 
preparation 
and 
processing 
or 
transport. 

If 
certification 
is 
stamped 
on 
the 
packages 
of 
shrimp 
from 
these 
farms 
indicating 
they 
comply 
with 
the 
ILO 
Core 
Labor 
 Standards 
(CLS), 
but 
the 
shrimp 
were 
processed 
or 
transported 
by 
employers 
that 
deny 
Freedom 
of 
Association, 
use 
child 
labor 
or 
forced 
labor, 
or 
discriminate 
against 
workers, 
then 
the 
stamp 
on 
the 
package 
gives 
a 
false 
guarantee 
that 
the 
product 
came 
through 
a 
supply 
chain 
 respecting 
CLS, 
when 
in 
fact 
the 
opposite 
would 
be 
the 
case. 
In 
other 
words, 
establishing 
standards 
for 
one 
small 
part 
of 
the 
supply 
chain 
while 
ignoring 
all 
other 
parts 
is 
misleading 
to consumers 
of 
the 
product.

[GSC/ShAD replied: We 
agree. 
However,
 this 
is 
initially 
outside 
the 
scope 
of 
the 
ShAD,
 but 
we 
would 
like 
to 
ensure 
that 
the
 ASC 
finds 
ways 
to
 address
 this 
immediately.
 We 
recognize 
it 
as
 a
 very 
important 
issue.

Source: http://assets.worldwildlife.org/publications/27/files/original/Shrimp_Aquaculture_Dialogue_Responses_to_1st_Public_Comment_ShrimpC.pdf?1344364858

The excerpt is taken from page 4 of the document. They said that they would address it “immediately” in 2010. Four years have passed… They’ve done nothing.  In other words “If it’s not covered by the scope of certification, it’s not our problem right now. We are aware of the problem and really concerned, but… our shrimp is “responsibly produced”!”

 Case-study – Certified Rat-Free™ Restaurants

An irate consumer calls up the agency that certifies Rat-Free™ restaurants. The PR Man answers:

“Yes sir, we know that you found rat-droppings in the larder and under the tables and we’re awfully sorry that a rat nipped you in the toilet, but we’re focusing on the kitchen at the moment. And, the kitchen is clean. It is compliant with FAO guidelines, ”

“But there are huge piles of rat-poop all over the place… I saw it. ”

“Not in the kitchen! We know about those other droppings. We’re setting up a different company to put GPS collars on all rats which will tell us immediately if they enter the kitchen. We’re also developing the Rat-Poop Testomatic™.”

“GPS collars on rats? Are you insane?”

“We have to track their movements, sir. We can’t exterminate rats unless we can prove they were actually in the kitchen. That would be inhuman.”

“I don’t care. I’m not coming back. And I want a refund.”

“That’s your choice sir. But if you don’t visit again, what incentive does the restaurant have to clean up the rest of the place? Don’t let those rat-hugging non-profits influence you… Did you know that other certifiers don’t check the fridge. We check the fridge, you know… if it’s in the kitchen. No refunds.”

“But I want to eat in a rat-free restaurant.”

“And we have so many Rat-Free™ restaurants from which to chose! Your choices are contributing towards making all restaurants Rat-Free™. You sir, are a discerning patron of fine dining! You keep eating, sir. And leave the rats to us!”

 If, for even a moment, you thought that including this fictional conversation was flippant or out-of-place, see these responses from companies to a film that documents the gross human rights abuse and environmental destruction caused by the feed industry in Peru.

The film: http://www.theecologist.org/trial_investigations/1220194/how_our_growing_appetite_for_salmon_is_devastating_coastal_communities_in_peru.html

And the company response: http://www.theecologist.org/investigations/food_and_farming/269542/ecologist_film_unit_feed_for_greed.html

Murky Waters report: http://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/sites/default/files/dokument-media/murky_waters.pdf

And  response: http://www.naturland.de/fileadmin/MDB/documents/Aqua/Naturland_Reply_to_the_Swedish_Society_for_Nature_2011.pdf

Both reports mentioned above are good examples of how a certifier dodges environmental impacts by reducing the scope of certification; the responses received are not surprising considering that in both instances they were attempting to defend the indefensible.


Read the Guide: Consumers Guide to Shrimp Certification–V4A-Review

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