A global push is on to certify aquaculture operations. The group that appears to be leading the drive is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Jose Villalon, director of aquaculture for the World Wildlife Fund- U.S. was the keynote speaker Monday at the Aquaculture Association of Canada's annual conference, being held this year in St. John's.
Its theme is sustainability.
The WWF has been conducting a series of sessions with key players around the world aimed at the social and environmental sustainability of aquaculture.
By June 2011, an independent body co-founded by the WWF - the Aquaculture Stewardship Council - will be fully set up to do certifications, Villalon said.
That organization will concentrate on environmental and social criteria, but is also expected to partner with the global food safety organization to provide "one-stop certification," he said.
And because of the process it has undertaken, the council has the potential to be around for decades, unlike some standards that come and go.
"We do think since there is so many aquaculture standards out there that your ordinary producer is not going to raise his hand and say 'Please audit me' and spend another $5,000 for something that no one is asking for," Villalon told the conference.
"(But) the real driver will come from the retail food service sector. They will be demanding of their food chain to be compliant with the standard."
He said there is already urgent demand for the certification process in European markets.
Villalon said aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector in the world - farmed seafood now represents almost half of what's consumed.
By 2040-50, the aquaculture industry will have to increase production 50 per cent from current levels to meet demand, he said.
It should be no surprise to us here today that aquaculture is big and aquaculture is here to stay," Villalon said.
Aquaculture Association of Canada president Cyr Couturier, who is also executive director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, said sustainability and certification will be the hot topic of the conference, which includes growers, scientists and representatives of government from Canada and around the world.
"In the marketplace, retail stores - Loblaws, Sobeys, Dominion - all of those have asked by the end of 2012 they want some market sustainability," he said outside the conference.
"It has to be in some form. We have to get access to some sort of certification scheme."
Aquaculture was worth $150 million to the provincial economy last year, Couturier said.
While mussel producers may have felt some effect from the recession, he said farmed salmon prices are at an all-time high because of a downturn in the Chilean industry.
Sustainability is not the only issue facing the industry.
The provincial government is concerned about issues surrounding biosecurity in the aquaculture industry," Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman said in his opening remarks to the conference.
"Biosecurity measures guard against disease. Just as crops are susceptible to disease, so is fishfarming industry, therefore we are investing in infrastructure to ensure that as much as we possibly can, we guard against biosecurity issues," Jackman said following his remarks, adding he feels the aquaculture industry in this province has kept ahead of the problem.
"From an economic and rural perspective, we must do everything we possibly can to support this industry and ensure it continues well into the future."
Government's attempts to combat this issue include investments in wharves and wastewater treatment systems.