« February 2008 Table of Contents
Point of View: Aquaculture Dialogues foster credibility
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
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.