An Aquaculture Improvement Project (AIP) is a multi-stakeholder effort to address environmental challenges in aquaculture production. These projects utilize the power of the private sector to incentivize positive changes toward sustainability and seek to make these changes endure through policy change. To be successful, AIPs should operate at scales greater than farm level to drive necessary change; they should be focused on the adoption and implementation of policies that enshrine sustainable aquaculture and improved performance at farm and zonal scales. As with FIPs, the FishSource methodology and scores provide tools to guide AIP development and eventually measure AIP progress.
While far less developed formally than their FIP cousins, AIPs share many of the same attributes:
- Participation: an aquaculture improvement project should draw upon market forces. Participants must include supply chain actors, including producers, suppliers, importers, retailers and food service. It is highly desirable for AIPs to include producer organizations as participants, or to have establishment of a producer organization as an early AIP goal if none exists. All participants should commit publicly to supporting the AIP including financial support.
- Needs Assessment: the AIP should develop a needs assessment to identify the environmental challenges and scope of the project. While all FIPs refer to the Marine Stewardship Council standard to guide fishery assessment, no similar standard exists for aquaculture yet. SFP therefore recommends that the assessment cover all principle areas of the SFP Framework for Sustainably Managed Aquaculture and FishSource Aquaculture Scoring Methodology. The assessment must be made publicly available.
- Workplan: the AIP must develop a workplan with timebound objectives for addressing key issues identified in the needs assessment. The workplan must be made publicly available.
- Progress Reporting: the AIP must publicly report progress on activities and outcomes against the workplan at least every six months. Regular public reporting helps give AIPs credibility throughout the seafood supply chain and shows buyers evidence of genuine progress.
Farm Certification and AIPs
SFP recognizes the value of farm-based certifications in improving practices on select farms, addressing some aquaculture risks, and providing buyers a measurable target for corporate social responsibility programs and reporting. Overall, the more farms using best practices, the better. At the same time, farm level improvements and standards do not address structural issues in industry planning and management or the cumulative risks and impacts of aquaculture seen in many major producing countries. As noted above, AIPs should operate at larger scales to drive necessary improvements. In this context, farm-based certification has value if it is a stepping-stone to zonal management and/or organizing producers. Leading certification standards have a vital role to play in expanding industry’s approach to and focus on sustainable aquaculture, and in developing standards around sustainable aquaculture.