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A New Year’s Resolution You CAN Keep!

January is a time for new beginnings. Many people make New Year’s resolutions to eat better, exercise more, learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby, do something that’s good for the Earth…the possibilities are endless. Fortunately, this last one is getting easier to keep!

Earlier this month, a Norwegian Atlantic salmon farm was the first to achieve Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification; this means that salmon from this farm are produced in a way that is both environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.

A salmon farm in Norway © Jo Benn / WWF-Canon

A salmon farm in Norway © Jo Benn / WWF-Canon

Salmon is one of the most popular fish species on North American, European and Japanese menus, and to meet this demand, global salmon production has tripled since 1980. The largest increase has been in farmed salmon, not wild capture, with about 60 per cent (1.26 million metric tons) of the world’s salmon now coming from fish farms (Source: ASC). But at the same time, some salmon farming operations – and indeed farming of other species of fish – can have negative impacts on the surrounding environment. These range from excess chemicals and nutrients polluting the water that surrounds farms, to diseases and parasites transferred between farmed and wild fish. There are also big concerns around escaped farmed species interbreeding with local wild stocks. And, of course, feeding the expanding number of farmed salmon also puts a lot of pressure on the wild stocks that make their fishmeal and fish oil for feed.

Recognizing the need to improve aquaculture standards for salmon farming, the Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue was convened in 2004; participants in the roundtables included farmers, retailers, scientists, ENGOs (including WWF), and other key stakeholders. Fast forward to 2012, when a standard for the industry and auditing guidelines were agreed on and handed over to the ASC. After certifiers were trained in 2013, the first farms were audited, resulting in the first certification announced last week. Eight more salmon farms are currently in ASC’s certification pipeline, including one from Australia.

With this latest certification, salmon joins pangasius and tilapia on ASC’s certified list; it is also an important step towards the realization of the Global Salmon Initiative’s goal to certify 100% of their members’ operations by 2020.

So, if your New Year’s resolution was to lessen your ecological footprint and be kinder to our planet, choosing ASC-certified fish for your dinner plate is a step in the right direction!