Salmon producer Scottish Sea Farms has been awarded its first certification from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. The ASC accreditation is for SSF’s Summer Isles farms, but the company aims to have five of its facilities in Scotland certified by the end of 2022.
The ASCV standard for farmed salmon is underpinned by seven core principles spanning regulatory compliance, fish health, responsible use of feed and medicines, environmental interactions, employee conditions and community engagement.
For a farm to gain certification, it must be independently audited and assessed as meeting each requirement – a feat that fewer than 5% of salmon farms in Scotland have achieved to date – and reassessed annually to maintain the ASC endorsement.
Scottish Sea Farms’ Aquaculture Technical Lead for ASC certification, Anna Price, said: “ASC certified farms are considered the global elite in terms of performance. Gaining our first certification is the culmination of two years’ hard work, involving several different departments and functions.
“It wasn’t that we weren’t already farming to high standards; in every instance we were. However, there was still a considerable amount of work involved in evidencing and reworking our processes and procedures.”
The three Summer Isles farms have a track record of exemplary fish health and welfare, SSF said, with average survival of 94.2% across the last three crops, an average harvest weight of 6kg, and 91.7% of all fish harvested graded “superior”.
Farm Manager Sarah Last said: “The last three crops have been record-breaking for us in terms of high fish survival and low lice levels, thanks to vigilant husbandry of both salmon and cleaner fish, so there hasn’t been an overhaul of our farming approach as such.
“Where ASC certification has been invaluable, however, is in highlighting ways in which we could hone some of our day-to-day activities even further; small changes which, when combined, could make a big difference.”
Senior Aquaculture Technical Manager Matthew James of LRQA Group, who carried out the audit, commented: ‘We were impressed both by the high level of compliance achieved at a first audit, and the knowledge and enthusiasm throughout their farming team.”
The certification for the Summer Isles farms is likely to be the first of several for the salmon farming sector in Scotland, following a revision of the ASC’s standards. ASC certification has been available to salmon farms around the globe for some time but previously, very few Scottish farms have been able to attain this because the way they produce young salmon (smolts) was not covered by the ASC standards, and could therefore not be assessed.
However, a recent update to the standards now covers this method of production, meaning Scottish salmon farms can now apply to demonstrate they are farming responsibly.
The ASC said in a statement: “This is a thorough process, not something that can be achieved overnight, but we are already seeing a number of farms achieving certification and more undergoing the certification process.”