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:
This is an advanced draft for review. Excerpts from the Guide:
[From page 9]
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.
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.
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