We’ve talked a lot about the aquaculture, from the need for sustainable aquaculture to feed the world’s growing appetite for seafood to how you, as a consumer, can identify responsibly farmed fish at the market.
Part of the challenge, of course, is that all fish farming isn’t created equal. On the good-news front, yesterday the Pew Charitable Trusts announced the development of a new Global Aquaculture Performance Index (GAPI). Developed by a team of experts at Canada’s University of Victoria, collaborating with Pew Environmental Group’s Aquaculture Standards Project, GAPI offers measures to quantify the environmental impact of finfish farming, such as the use of antibiotics, the sustainability of the fish feed, and discharge of water pollutants.
The index focuses on finfish because large-scale farming of salmon, cod and the like has the greatest effect on the environment. “Large-scale farming of salmon, for example, even under even the best current practices creates large-scale problems,” says Dr. John Volpe of the University of Victoria.
GAPI can be used to evaluate the environmental sustainability of aquaculture anywhere in the world. It can be used to assess individual operations, the overall performance of different species, or national aquaculture industries. Volpe notes that GAPI can be particularly useful in Asia, which has the fastest-growing aquaculture industry but a lagging environmental record. But even the most responsible operations have room for improvement, he adds.
Ultimately, GAPI can help improve the worldwide standards for aquaculture, says Chris Mann, senior officer and director of the Pew Environment Group’s Aquaculture Standards Project. Governments can use it to shape regulations for aquaculture, while fish farmers can use it to create environmentally responsible operations. It’s possible that one day farmed fish will carry a GAPI score on labels (the higher the score, the better the environmental performance), which consumers can use to identify the most sustainable options.