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Provenance - Is it the missing link to improving standards in aquaculture?

July 24, 2014
Bnut Danai

Below are some of my reflections regarding traceability and sustainability standards within Aquaculture and how a focus on geographically specific standards may benefit both consumers and smallholder producers. Originally from Thailand, I am currently completing my degree in Aquaculture at Stirling University in Scotland and would be very keen on receiving feedback and input from the FCRN community on my research project described below.   

Below are some of my reflections regarding traceability and sustainability standards within Aquaculture and how a focus on geographically specific standards may benefit both consumers and smallholder producers. Originally from Thailand, I am currently completing my degree in Aquaculture at Stirling University in Scotland and would be very keen on receiving feedback and input from the FCRN community on my research project described below.   

Several organisations now offer farm-level certification of aquaculture operations as part of a general trend towards greater traceability from ‘farm-to-fork’ and to enhance environmental and social responsibility. There have been criticisms of such schemes but a major challenge is that such standards do not address the cumulative impacts and negative interactions that occur between farms such as transfer of disease, >read more<. Zonation, a term used to describe how farms in the same geographical area observe standard management practices and seek to optimise environmental and social outcomes, has been advocated as a better way of addressing such impacts. However, it is also important to understand how zonation can be used to build consistent values into local products as provenance.

The concept of “provenance” is attracting attention from both consumers and producers in various parts of the world and for a whole range of products, particularly food. The source of the product has become more than a requirement on a label and has been used to actively market food products, and publicise their sustainability credentials by telling the story behind their production. Scottish salmon, for example is often labelled as Orkney, Shetland or Hebridean. Zonation has now taken on a new direction, developing from the implementation of area management agreements several years ago, to improving disease control and environmental management.

UK shellfish are increasingly benefiting from the same approach but it is also necessary for zonation to be linked in this case to a need for ensuring that hygienic regulations are observed. The differences in taste and other eating qualities are now being used to associate shellfish with different locations such as Loch Fyne in Scotland, to those in Eastern USA and mainland Europe.

Collective action to standardise and enhance practices in Vietnam has led to organic certification for shrimp produced in mangroves in the Mekong Delta. Such “provenance”, in addition to ensuring intrinsic food safety and quality, can increase the value of a product that is otherwise an undifferentiated commodity and more vulnerable to the whims of global trade. The evidence for the benefits in the marketplace of such certification seem clear but in my research I am also trying to understand if there are negatives to this approach and how such schemes develop over time to meet changing needs. A zonation approach to certification may advantage smallholder producers, a group that have difficulties meeting the needs of current schemes and, as a result, are at risk being excluded from valuable export markets. Neighbouring producers, by working together, can share auditing and other costs. Ensuring transparent and standard management to agreed standards can also improve relations with other users of the resource and the community as a whole. The collective development of a shared ‘brand’, might also improve local ownership and broader benefits as gastronomic tourism develops.

Overall, as food chains become more complex and certification becomes a norm in the governance of trade, provenance and the benefits it delivers may be a tasty carrot to producers rather than a stick with which they are beaten.

I would like to ask you for some of your valuable time to help me complete my research project which is about how zonation can improve sustainability of aquaculture, Zonation has been advocated as a better way of addressing the cumulative impacts associated with aquaculture such as disease and pollution but my starting point is that it may also be used to acknowledge the benefits of ‘the local’- i.e. specific characteristics linked to the geography of production (provenance).

Various forms of zonation have been used for improving management of environments, both natural and man-made. Often defined by administrative boundaries, zones may be subject to particular rules controlling development include prohibitions, restrictions, or permit requirements. For aquaculture zones may feasibly be determined by local communities themselves or external regulators. In any case zonation implies some level of co-management with its consequent costs and benefits.

My aim is to develop understanding of seafood in which the geography of production (provenance) could support smallholder producers through customers and restaurants perspective.

The link below will take you to a short web-based questionnaire that I would be very grateful if you could find some time to answer as many of the questions as you can. I firstly ask for some limited personal information about you, followed by provenance orientated questions.

IF YOU ARE A CONSUMER, Please follow this link; https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YPKBKN6

IF YOU ARE RETAILER OR RESTAURANTS, Please follow this link. 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YHKCZK5

If you have any difficulties with this questionnaire or for further information please contact: nub00002@students.stir.ac.uk

1 e.g. the Global Aquaculture Alliance-BAP standards, GlobalGap and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)

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