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International pressure grows against WWF’s shoddy shrimp certification standards
Date: May 4, 2011
Recently, at an event at the European Seafood Exposition in Brussels WWF’s new certification standards for tilapia, pangasius, abalone and bivalves were ceremonially given to the newly-formed Aquaculture Stewardship Council — another WWF-led body.
Calling the standards “a crude attempt [...] that perpetuated unsustainable production systems”, they dismissed WWF’s claim that the standards were developed in consultation with local communities and indigenous peoples who are affected by aquaculture farms.
They alleged that WWF’s plans to certify the export-oriented, industrial production of such species as shrimp, pangasius and salmon were developed specifically to promote the interests of the aquaculture industry.
They also pointed out that the standards were being diluted under pressure from the industry to ensure that 20% of existing shrimp producers could be certified immediately after the standards were released.
The “Aquaculture Dialogues” run by WWF were in part funded by the seafood industry, and the individual employed by WWF to run the process was previously employed as a regional vice-president for a controversial aquaculture multinational, that has been widely accused of labour violations and environmental destruction.
“WWF is wrong to claim their standards include inputs from local “stakeholders” when the main body of those stakeholders- the local resource users, who are directly affected by the industry- did not have any voice in determining these ‘standards’,” says Natasha Ahmad of Asia Solidarity Against Industrial Aquaculture (ASIA).
Riza Damanik of KIARA — a network of Indonesian fisherfolk groups — agrees. “We saw the WWF Aquaculture Dialogue in Jakarta and protested at the venue,” he said. “99% of those in attendance were from the shrimp industry and the government. WWF’s claim that communities were involved is a joke — they organized their so-called dialogue with affected local communities in a posh city venue.”
“These WWF/ ShAD standards are just one more ‘pie-in-the-sky’ attempt to justify and expand the profits of an unsustainable and destructive industry, resulting in further loss of mangrove forests and displacement of local communities,” says Alfredo Quarto, of Mangrove Action Project.
”WWF continues to ignore the risk that their shrimp certification scheme may result in actually increasing demand for shrimp, thus increasing the expansion of the bad practices that certification was supposedly trying to address through these standards,” says Gudrun Hubendick of the Stockholm Shrimp Action Group in Sweden.
The Open Letter is signed “The Conscientious Objectors” and the signatories work on an astonishingly diverse spectrum of issues — human rights, consumer rights, indigenous peoples rights, land and water use, agriculture, environmental law and conservation, labour rights, marine and coastal ecology, soil science, social science and fisheries.
The Conscientious Objectors claim that export-oriented, industrial aquaculture has had a devastating impact on all these sectors.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE GENERAL STEERING COMMITTEE OF THE WWF SHRIMP AQUACULTURE DIALOGUE
Dear ShAD/GSC members,
4th May, 2011
After careful and considered reflection on the draft standards and the whole WWF-ShAD (Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue) process, we the undersigned Conscientious Objectors — NGOs working with local communities in the shrimp producer-nations and consumers in the shrimp-importing nations — have unanimously decided that we cannot support the ShAD General Steering Committee (ShAD/GSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s (ASC) intentions or actions towards establishing standards for shrimp aquaculture certification. Many others who have added their names and organizational affiliations to our list have also joined us in our protest.
We must therefore continue our course to speak out publicly and campaign against the intent and the process that WWF-ShAD has endeavoured to undertake. The historical record and scientific evidence both indicate that certification will do much harm to both Local Resource Users and the coastal marine environment. The following reasons stand out among many others as indicators that we COs must continue to strongly oppose the ShAD process and the intended ASC and organize a wider resistance against ShAD and other shrimp certification schemes in both Europe and the USA:
1. There has never been involvement nor representation in WWF-ShAD’s so- called dialogue process for the majority of stakeholders or, more aptly, the Local Resource Users who are adversely affected by the shrimp industry in producer nations. ShAD’s “stakeholders” are overwhelmingly those invested in the growth of the shrimp-export industry.
2. With each revision to the draft, the standards and their evaluation criteria have been progressively and deliberately diluted by the GSC to ensure that at least 20% of the existing shrimp industry can be certified immediately after the Standards are released. The process clearly demonstrates the bias of the ShAD/GSC.
3. The ShAD/GSC has resolutely refrained from undertaking or commissioning serious research to collect meaningful and verifiable inputs and feedback from Local Resource Users in the manner prescribed by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).
4. The GSC process for selecting its board members has not been fair from the beginning and is not representative of a transparent and democratic process. As such, the standards overwhelmingly represent industry interests — for example: the whole of Africa is “represented” on the ShAD/GSC by shrimp industry nominees from Madagascar.
5. Continued lack of proper legislation and enforcement in producer- nations makes adherence to any certification standard unfeasible.
6. ShAD puts too much trust in the industry to monitor and regulate itself. The certification programme depends upon an untried and untested auditing system. Other critical aspects of the process too require a “leap of faith” — that previously disastrous practices will miraculously reverse their effects once the ShAD standards are released.
7. The ShAD standards continue to perpetuate unsustainable and destructive open-throughput systems of aquaculture — with a legacy of 400,000 hectares (and counting) of abandoned ponds in producer-nations.
1The standards also promote bad practices relating to so-called “mitigation of the effects of mangrove loss”.
8. The process conveniently ignores wide-spread community displacement, human rights violations and environmental damage to many thousands of hectares of land by the shrimp industry prior to 1999. Under the present standards, ponds in these regions could be certified. Trends indicate that they will. The ASC becomes, therefore, a confessional for the shrimp industry and will grant indulgences in the form of certification.
9. Export-oriented tropical shrimp production does not contribute towards food security. Food security should not be measured by the weight of export-production or the profit-curve of the industry, but instead by the availability of healthy and sustainable means of local food production for local consumption.
10. There remains the great risk that WWF-ShAD certification, by placing a green stamp on tropical shrimp, will actually expand the demand for farmed tropical shrimp — both certified and uncertified — thus promoting the continued (and possibly more rapid) expansion of unsustainable practices.
11. Feed issues are still not satisfactorily resolved and there is still no effective plan to meet increasing feed demands. The projected reliance on GM soy and palm oil is of great concern.
12. The COs had requested a breakdown of development time spent by ShAD in developing their social, environment and technical standards. We have not received this, yet.
13. ShAD/GSC and their offspring in the ASC have still not taken any direct and effective actions to influence consumers in the importing nations to reduce shrimp consumption — extremely pertinent to the intent and purposes to any attempt at designing a certification program for shrimp.
We reiterate our demands that shrimp farming should not be located within the inter-tidal zone; it should not be allowed to affect productive agricultural lands, or displace members of local communities.
The final draft standards represent an extremely crude attempt at setting up “standards”. The process demonstrates a lack of careful thought and consideration of ground realities and concern for Local Resource Users — people who will suffer the consequences of WWF-ShAD’s actions.
The GSC’s position that the standards will be released regardless of their merit and consequences leaves little scope for further dialogue.
As such, we the undersigned Conscientious Objectors reject the WWF-ShAD process and its shrimp aquaculture standards.
We reaffirm our support, as always, For the mangroves and mangrove communities, The Conscientious Objectors