Sponsor content from GLOBALG.A.P.

Aquaculture Confidential: Is certification worth the cost?

Navigating the alphabet soup of sustainability standards and eco-labels is hard. These tips can help.

Sponsor content from GLOBALG.A.P.
Written by
& NHST Global Publications
August 20, 2018

Increasing demand for sustainable seafood has led to the emergence of several certification programs that provide producers with a path to consumers who are increasingly conscious about the quality and origin of what they eat.

For aquaculturists, navigating the alphabet soup of sustainability certifications and eco-labels can be daunting. With dozens of different standards, it’s difficult to determine which would provide the greatest benefit and, at the end of the day, whether certification is worth the cost to begin with.

Before you crunch the numbers, it’s important to understand the incentives of a sustainable aquaculture certification.

Food for thought

5a96e9b06f2b237c24de064b23375ae8 A growing number of retailers have a strong preference for eco-certified products. Photo: Shutterstock

Many producers leverage the certification to penetrate new markets, including those populated by retailers whose purchasing decisions are driven by sustainable seafood commitments or a strong preference for certified products.

In addition, eco-certifications and consumer-facing labels provide a mechanism by which retailers and consumers can identify seafood that is sustainably sourced from a producer committed to quality.

These benefits are amplified in markets and regions that are subject to heightened ecological scrutiny.

Tips for determining which sustainable aquaculture certification is right for you

Evaluate the audit criteria, standards, implementation plan and cost of each certification and decide which appears to be the most appropriate for your farm; factor in recognition with programs like the Global Food Safety Initiative and the Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative. Additional tips include:

  • Does the certification include access to a consumer-facing eco-label? If this is important for you, it’s worth asking.
  • Talk to suppliers, retailer buyers and other members of the supply chain to see if they have a particular certification preference.
  • Ask certification holders for a list of farms that are already certified; request a similar overview of other partners (e.g., suppliers and retailers).
  • Conduct a cost-benefit analysis; determine whether you’ll be equipped to achieve certification.
  • Request an application and inquire about the possibility of a pre-audit.
  • Address issues that arise during the application and/or pre-audit process prior to the pursuit of the certification.
  • Question the owners of the certification system of choice about the extent of their commitment to collaborate with other standards to reduce duplication. Not every market accepts each certificate; combinations might be needed to maximize market acceptance.

Looking forward

As we look to the future, it’s important to point out that global aquaculture production is projected to grow nearly 40% by 2030, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 report issued last month, the FAO also noted that farmed species in global fishery production is on track to exceed that of wild species for the first time in 2020 and may account for more than 54% by the end of the same decade.

As production increases to meet demand, concerns about the environmental implications of this trend will rise as well.

While the aquaculture sector contends with questions about sustainable growth, certification schemes that align producers with socially and environmentally conscious buyers in exchange for compliance with rigorous production standards are well-placed to play a prominent role in shaping the evolving landscape.


When terms like trust, transparency and integrity are overused, they lose their meaning. This is unfortunate for organizations such as ours since these values are at the core of everything we do. With that in mind, we want to be upfront about why we commissioned this content.

We do, of course, want to promote the GLOBALG.A.P. Aquaculture Standard.But, more importantly, we feel that sharing basic, general guidance about eco-certification with farms represents a small but important step toward fulfilling our community’s collective mission.

With that in mind, whether you’re considering our standard or another one entirely, we’d like to invite all producers, irrespective of size or location, to get in touch if you’re struggling to navigate the certification system. You can contact us by clicking HERE.

This article was produced by the content marketing team at NHST Global Publications, an affiliate of IntraFish Media, on behalf of an advertiser, GLOBALG.A.P..