One Fish At A Time: The Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s Strive For Responsible Harvesting

Photos courtesy of Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
Photos courtesy of Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)

Many conversations surrounding seafood today boil down to sustainable practices or responsible practices, as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) likes to refer to it. Where does the seafood come from? Who caught it? Was it ethical? Lavender Magazine spoke to Athena Davis, the U.S. Marketing Manager for ASC, about responsible seafood consumption and involvement with the U.S.A. chapter of the company.

Who/What is ASC?

Aquaculture, or aquafarming, refers to the collecting or producing aquatic species such as fish, mollusks, and aquatic plants for consumption or sale.

“The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is a global nonprofit organization setting the world’s strictest standards for responsible seafood farming, also known as aquaculture,” Davis shared. “ASC has been creating and enforcing these standards since 2010 – ensuring verification at the farm level, supply chain integrity from farm to store, public transparency, and protection of the environment, workers, and farming communities worldwide.”

According to Davis, Aquaculture constitutes more than half of seafood consumption, but to ensure the seafood you purchase is safe and ethically sourced, check for ASC’s sea green branding. To receive that special sea green sticker, each seafood farm undergoes review and receives a grade on a pass/fail system that determines the safety of the aquaculture habitat. Each seafood farm needs to achieve a certain level of environmentally and socially friendly and responsible to attain certification.

Why Is Sustainable Seafood Important Today?

“At ASC, we like to use the term responsible seafood as we feel it encompasses not only environmental sustainability and raising of seafood, but also care for employees, communities and the entire seafood supply chain – until it reaches your plate,” Davis mentioned.

Aquaculture is the future of affordable protein, Davis suggested. However, we have to pull our weight to perpetuate a healthy stream of aquaculture. Davis said to keep up with the expanding world; the food industry needs to implement and educate the public on widespread aquaculture practices to foster safe, sustainable methods. Especially since seafood begs fewer carbon footprints than other meat sources, we need to know how to source the resource.

“Many global communities also depend on aquaculture not only as a food source but for their livelihoods,” she said. “The key is that it must be done responsibly. In order to create positive outcomes across the food chain, we must continue raising the global standard for seafood farming.”

Not only is ASC yearning to help the ecosystem, but it also wants to control the evergrowing food chain.

When browsing the seafood section in the grocery store, make sure to spot ASC’s green label. That sea green label promises healthy, environmentally friendly, and responsibly sourced seafood.

Davis is working on a new campaign to spread awareness and information about ASC’s new certification label, detailing how and where aquaculture spawns.

“This is a critical time when consumers are becoming ever more curious about the seafood they eat. We see more questions being asked about seafood’s origin, health and nutrition, environmental sustainability, and the differences between wild and farmed seafood, to name a few,” Davis said.

Some of her responsibilities include educating the public on responsible seafood sourcing, cementing stable partnerships, and fostering preexisting affiliations while delivering responsibly sourced seafood to seafood admirers.

In 2022, ASC partnered with Fortune Fish and Coastal Seafoods at various food festivals within the Twin Cities.

Examples of Responsibly Farmed Seafood

You know when you learn a new word, and for the next few days, you see and hear the word everywhere? Davis suggests the same is true of the ASC label. She says that once shoppers know what ASC’s sea green label means, they’ll notice it everywhere. ASC labels apply to a range of seafood, including fresh fish, frozen fish, and canned fish. “Riverence trout, Freshé gourmet salmon meals, Aqquua grouper, Del Pacifico shrimp, PrimeWaters, and Mowi salmon” are among the labeled species and brands.

ASC labels exist in smaller local markets such as Coastal Seafoods and larger grocers such as Target.

Where Do We Start?

Davis says beginning a responsible seafood diet is easy! All you need to do is pay attention to that sea green label in the seafood section of the grocery store or a blue label that indicates the Marine Stewardship Council MSC. Look for another product if you don’t see the sea green or blue label.

Davis shared that BBQ salmon sliders, Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Creole Remoulade Slaw, and Caribbean Shrimp Skillet are all fabulous dishes to begin your responsible seafood journey.

If you are looking for sustainably-farmed seafood for your next meal, Coastal Seafoods in Minneapolis and Saint Paul are fabulous resources for ingredients and information related to responsible seafood consumption.

“I’ve lived on both coasts and am a seafood fanatic. I’ve rarely found a store with a more knowledgeable and experienced staff or passion for what they do. I would also recommend shopping for seafood at your local co-ops as well. When in doubt, ask your fishmonger!” Davis exclaimed.

With a population that grows by the minute and a world that seems to keep getting warmer and warmer, responsible aquaculture farming can maintain and feed large populations without severely disrupting the climate. So keep an eye out for that sea green label to foster a sustainable and ethical trade to better the Earth.

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