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Point of View: Aquaculture Dialogues foster credibility

Property of SeaFood Business magazine
By Jose Villalon
February 01, 2008

Many of the existing aquaculture standards and certification schemes originated from 
associations that represent producers and retailers or from government agencies. Attempting to make sense of all the eco-labels, one can't help but appreciate all the efforts to proactively encourage the seafood industry to become a more responsible aquaculture participant.

Credibility is more than just a superficial perception or expression of devotion; it is what carries forward positive momentum and stands the test of time. Without sincere and meaningful respect for these words, time will eventually erode the strength of any standard. The words 
translate into relatively high costs and investments of time and energy in the development of credible standards.

Standards often originate in the private sector and then move on to the government or an independent organization. This has occurred in the boating, forestry, electrical, automotive and agriculture industries, among others. Something similar is occurring in the aquaculture industry, and we are all players and witnesses to this logical transformation.

As the world's largest multi-national conservation organization, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) sees the big picture and often stands back to realign its position in order to ensure the correct approach. WWF has played a leadership role in creating voluntary industry standards for several industries, including the Marine Stewardship Council.

The current Aquaculture Dialogues are consistent with WWF's heritage in standard development. Dialogue coordinators use a true multi-stakeholder approach by bringing together producers, retailers, buyers, non-governmental organizations, academics, government officials and others to identify and agree on specific impacts and how to address those impacts with science-based metrics oriented at performance.

Dialogue participants will focus on the six to eight key impacts that create 80 percent of the environmental and social challenges related to aquaculture, with a goal of minimizing or eliminating each impact.

The standards resulting from the Aquaculture Dialogues will be born from this diverse stakeholder group. But, more importantly, these standards will cause real change in the environments where they are implemented, which is the purpose of any industrial environmental standard.

There are responsible and conscientious aquaculture businesses today and many are already proactively involved in the Dialogues. But others are waiting until the scenario clears and trends are expressed, or they offer resistance without a solid credible foundation.

Aquaculture is here to stay. Few will deny this. The standards created through the Aquaculture Dialogues will represent the future of the commodity seafood supply.


Jose Villalon is director of WWF's U.S. aquaculture program in Washington, D.C. He has a master's degree in fisheries science and is a 26-year veteran of the aquaculture production and export industry.


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