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Thai Union testing new program to address limitations of third-party sustainability certifications

The proposed approach involves a closer working relationship with local governments in order to allow for scale within a region.

The new Partnership Assurance Model, a collaboration between multiple organizations and companies including seafood giant Thai Union, is being launched to make sustainability assessments suitable for small-scale farmers.

“The concept is that we take a regional approach rather than the traditional certification method, which focuses on going site by site for aquaculture certifications,” Global Director of Corporate Affairs & Sustainability for Thai Union, Darian McBain, told IntraFish.

According to the official document released by the collaborators, third-party aquaculture certification schemes addressed only 6 percent of the global supply in 2015.

The new assurance model approach involves a closer working relationship with local governments in order to allow for scale within a region. At present, the work being done involves assessing the market incentives of the farmers, as well as the market regulations in place, in order to allow for social sustainability.

Areas that are being considered for initial testing are India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.

“We want to scale up those sustainable products, particularly grown in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and get them to the US market,” McBain said.

Addressing the majority of the world’s fishers and farmers that are still not certified sustainable has been a talking point for leading certification bodies such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for marine catch and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) for aquaculture.

The model, which emphasizes a “multi-stakeholder” approach and a localization of standards, is also being tested by giant shrimp famer Minh Phu, who is aiming to transfom 20,000 small-scale shrimp farms in Vietnam.

Discussions between collaborators have been in the works since 2018, and McBain hopes on-the-ground implementation can begin by next year.

“Barriers to the wider use of third-party certification schemes include limited local acceptance, the requirement for a high degree of organization, focus on farm-level sustainability, cost, and complexity,” the official document reported.

Other partners include Monterey Bay Aquarium, Resonance, Seagreen Research, Tucker Consulting Services, IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative (ASIC), and SGS, a leading verification and certification company.

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