On April 2017 I attended the second Seriola and Cobia training session provided by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) in Tokyo, Japan as part of the capacity building process for assessing Seriola and Cobia farms worldwide. In those weeks, I joined the first international team that assessed the first Seriola farm against the ASC Seriola and Cobia standard in Japan. It was a complex process that is described below.
Seriola, also known as amberjack, yellowtail, kampachi, hamachi and/or hiramasa, is a large, carnivorous finfish known for its firm texture and rich flavour. It can weigh up to 90 pounds.
Most Seriola is farmed, mainly in Japan (where the industry started about 60 years ago) and Australia. The Seriola aquaculture industry is set for significant growth.
Sport fishermen catch most cobia in the wild. But the cobia aquaculture industry has started to grow over the past few years, particularly in, Puerto Rico, Panama and Belize.
Seriola and Cobia are usually produced in cages, some close to land and some in the open ocean. Cobia is usually sold fresh and served in the form of grilled or poached fillets. Seriola is increasingly served raw in sushi.
As with most types of aquaculture species, the farming of cobia and Seriola can have a negative impact on the environment and society. To address these impacts, WWF created the Seriola and Cobia Aquaculture Dialogue (SCAD). The SCAD started in 2009 in Seattle, Washington. Others were held in September 2009 in Mexico and February 2013 in Japan. After this process, WWF passed the outcomes to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and the first version of the ASC Seriola and Cobia Standard v1.0 October 2016 was created after a process that included a public consultation. A final series of pilots was carried out early 2016 on farms in Australia, Brazil, Japan and Panama. Feedback received was used to further improve the draft standard and the accompanying draft audit manual.
The ASC Seriola and Cobia Standard aims to address the key negative environmental and social impact of Seriola and Cobia farming, including preservation of biodiversity, conservation of water and responsible sourcing of feed ingredients.
To obtain the ASC certification represents a challenge for the Seriola industry but also a step further of keeping biodiversity, improvement of worker and working conditions and the responsible management of the resource.
There are many farms on their way to obtain the certification and the process includes a public announcement that allows stakeholders to provide comments about the particular operation. The production of Seriola is complex, it is a specie with a closed cycle and fingerling comes from hatcheries and in certain areas wild caught is possible, there are many publication about the production process and it is not my aim to review it. My aim is to share my personal experience during this Seriola farm assessment against the ASC sustainable standard.
This assessment allowed us to visit and evaluate four sites in different locations in the South of Japan in two prefectures. Oceanic local conditions are perfect for Spawning, fatting and growing this specie. It has been a great experience to be part of this project.
The Seriola assessment reviews the implementation of the 7 principles that the standard request to farm operation to demonstrate that they have a responsible management and that they care about the biodiversity and environment. Two of the seven principles look after workers and working conditions as well as communities’ interaction.
Any Seriola farm that passes this ASC assessment is complying with the highest standards regarding sustainable and social responsible management. I could see that there is a high grade of compliance in the Japanese Seriola industry when it comes to occupational safety in cages, of the divers and in the boats.