By: Dr Mustapha ABA, Aquaculture Researcher Morocco.
The global supply of fish for human consumption is becoming increasingly important through global aquaculture production, which has grown significantly and will expand significantly over the next decade to meet the growing demand for seafood. The sector is expected to contribute more effectively to food security, poverty alleviation, income generation and economic development, with minimal impact on the environment but without harm to consumers, hence the need for aquaculture certification.
Aquaculture plays an important role in global efforts to eliminate hunger and malnutrition by providing fish and other aquaculture products rich in protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Aquaculture can also contribute significantly to poverty reduction, income generation, the creation of opportunities for employment development and better use of natural resources. With good management, the aquaculture industry appears poised to meet the demand for aquatic food (fish, crustaceans, molluscs and algae) over the next few decades, due to population growth combined with stagnating fisheries production from fisheries.
The main challenge is to create an « enabling environment » to support the expansion of aquaculture needed to realize this potential. This enabling environment is multi-faceted and requires strong political will and support. However, in most African countries, the growing recognition by governments and the need to implement and develop strategies for aquaculture sector development offer great opportunities for the industry to develop the aquaculture sector. In addition, the level of stagnation in the fisheries sector at the global level, stimulates the need to strengthen the capacity of African aquaculture organizations for quality production for consumers both locally (national) and globally for export, which requires aquaculture certification for producers.
Concerns that some forms of aquaculture are environmentally unsustainable, or socially unjust, aquaculture products that are not safe for consumers, all of these factors were behind efforts in recent years to respond to public perceptions and market demands. Food safety standards were high and international trade regulations were high and have become more stringent. However, policies and regulations for environmental sustainability have been created in several countries, forcing aquaculturists to comply with these measures, with much more stringent mitigation and environmental protection measures. In some countries, these changes have been initiated by the aquaculture sector itself to ensure sustainability and to protect activities from poorly managed aquaculture operations.
Because of the need to address these environmental and consumer concerns, it is only possible to ensure such cases, in addition to ensuring better market access, through certification of aquaculture production systems, practices, processes and products. Certification is the means to ensure that buyers, retailers and consumers are confident that aquaculture products are for consumption and come from aquaculture farms that adopt responsible management practices, for the necessary harmonisation of fish quality and safety standards in aquaculture.
In several aquaculture producing countries, they are introducing environmental certification of aquaculture products, either individually or in a coordinated manner, in order to credibly demonstrate that their production practices are non-polluting, disease-free and ecologically sound. And it is hoped that African countries will attempt to introduce procedures for certification to ensure that African aquaculture products are safe and wholesome for use by African consumers.
Aquaculture Certification Programs
By engaging in one or more certification schemes, the aquaculturist or aquaculture enterprise can ensure that its products have been produced according to the best possible production and management practices, with emphasis on the efficient use of aquatic resources, effluent management, social and environmental responsibility, animal welfare and health, food safety, among other aspects.
Although it may seem somewhat complex at first glance, certifications are important incentives and tools to increase the efficiency of resource use in a company, to make products and the company itself compatible with regulatory agencies, to expand markets and add value to aquaculture products.
For consumers, certifications serve as a guarantee that the products they buy are safe and free of fraud, and consumers in turn are obliged to pay increasing attention and importance to the quality and traceability of the aquaculture products they buy and consume. In this way, they will demand that producers put in place controls and management practices that ensure the level of quality of fish they need.
With globalisation, and the continued development of aquaculture on a global scale, products from this sector will become increasingly competitive, and there will no longer be competition at the local level, but at the global level. Competent, transparent and consumer-friendly aquaculture companies, their products will be well received in Africa. African aquaculture companies that have the same attitude will also have their place in Africa and abroad, hence the usefulness and necessity of aquaculture certification in Africa to help promote the image of African aquaculture products to national consumers and even international importers in several countries.