ASC Certification : Aquaculture Stewardship Council

Aquaculture, which includes fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic organisms, plays an important role in food security, job creation and poverty reduction worldwide. However, without responsible management, it can negatively impact the environment and local communities. To ensure a sustainable aquaculture practice, standards and labels, such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification, have been put in place. This international label promotes responsible aquaculture by recognizing producers who adopt good practices.

What is ASC Certification: Aquaculture Stewardship Council ?

The ASC certification is a reference label for aquatic products, such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other aquaculture organizations. Its goal is to promote ethical and sustainable aquaculture, ensuring respect for the environment, local communities, as well as quality and safe food production.

This food certification is based on high and relevant standards covering many aspects, such as water quality, biodiversity protection, fair treatment of workers, and their remuneration. These standards are the result of collaboration between industry professionals, scientists, NGOs, academics, producers, distributors and other experts. The drafting procedure includes a public consultation to ensure transparency and allow citizen participation.

To be ASC certified, an aquaculture operation is subject to the assessment of an independent body that monitors compliance with the established criteria. If successful, it obtains the right to affix the ASC logo on its products, a sign for consumers of a commitment to virtuous practices.

Opting for ASC products encourages responsible aquaculture, contributing to the preservation of marine resources and aquatic ecosystems for future generations.

Which organizations offer ASC certification ?

ASC certification is supported by an international program that includes different types of organizations, each playing a key role in the certification process. These organizations can be categorized into three main groups:

Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)

Founded in 2010 by the WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) and the IDH (Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative), the ASC is an independent, non-profit organization that creates and manages ASC certification standards for various aquaculture species. It works with aquaculture stakeholders, including producers, distributors, NGOs, scientists and experts, as well as the general public, to develop strict and adapted standards based on the best available practices. The CSA also promotes and communicates the certification program and monitors its impact.

Certification Bodies (CBs)

Independent and accredited, CBs are responsible for conducting audits of aquaculture farms wishing to obtain or renew their ASC certification. They must follow the guidelines and procedures set by the CSA and meet the criteria of the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL), a consortium that sets the standards for sustainable certification systems. CBs are required to publish audit reports and certificates on the CSA site, thus ensuring transparency and traceability in the certification process.

The accreditation bodies (OA)

The AO is responsible for verifying the competency and compliance of the AO standards. They award or withdraw CB accreditation based on their performance and adherence to CSA requirements. To ensure independence and reliability, OAs must be accredited by ISEAL. Currently, two OBs are authorised to accredit CBs for ASC certification: ASI (Assurance Services International) and DAkkS (Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle).

What are the specific ASC certification requirements for my industry ?

The ASC certification is adapted to a variety of aquaculture species, each subject to requirements determined by their biological characteristics, production methods and environmental impacts. It currently has 15 standards dedicated to the following species: abalone, bivalves, sea bream, freshwater trout, pangasius, salmon, sea bass, sea bream, ombrine, seriole, cobia, shrimp, tilapia, tropical marine fish and algae.

These standards include principles and criteria focused on the environmental and social aspects of aquaculture, namely :

Environmental aspects

  • Protection of biodiversity and aquatic ecosystems  
  • Responsible Water and Effluent Management  
  • Prevention of Invasive Species Introduction and Escape  
  • Reduced Antibiotic and Chemical Use  
  • Disease and Pest Control  
  • Origin and Quality of Aquaculture Feed  
  • Maintaining sustainable production and conversion thresholds

Social aspects

  • Respect for human rights and international labour standards  
  • Ensuring health and safety at work  
  • Equitable remuneration and promotion of social dialogue  
  • Engagement and consultation with local communities  
  • Support for local development and food security

To explore the specific requirements of the ASC certification in relation to your sector, you have the opportunity to consult the appropriate ASC standards for your species on the ASC website. In addition, you can benefit from the support of Yvea, partner of the ASC, offering tailor-made solutions according to your needs and your budget.

With Yvea, prepare effectively for the certification audit, improve your practices and highlight your commitment to your customers.

What are the steps to obtain an ASC certification ?

To obtain an Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification, several key steps must be followed, from the initial preparation of the aquaculture farm to the acquisition of the ASC certificate and logo. The main steps are detailed below :

1. Familiarize yourself with CSA documents

  • Review the ASC standard adapted to the type of species grown and the specific requirements for the certification unit (RUoC), available on the official ASC website.  
  • Analyze the criteria and performance indicators that the farm must meet according to the principles of the ASC standard.  
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of the farm against the requirements of the ASC standard.

2. Compare Certification Bodies (CBs)

  • Contact several CSA accredited CBs to gather additional information and obtain quotes. It is advisable to compare several proposals.
  • Select an OC based on criteria such as cost, availability, skills and reputation.
  • Établir un contrat avec l'OC sélectionnée, qui en informera ensuite l'ASC et l'organisme d'accréditation ASI de la date de l'audit, au minimum 42 jours avant cet événement.

3. Preparing for the audit

  • Gather and order all documents and evidence of ASC compliance.  
  • Ensure that farm staff are well trained and aware of the requirements of the ASC standards.  
  • Optimize on-farm procedures to minimize potential deviations from ASC standards.  
  • Communicate with local stakeholders regarding the upcoming audit and encourage them to participate.

4. Pass the audit

  • Welcome the auditor to the site, offering him all the information and facilities necessary for his inspection.  
  • Actively collaborates with the auditor in the review of facilities, observation of activities, interviews with staff and stakeholders, and during the verification of documents and evidence.  
  • Review and comment on the preliminary audit report provided by the CB, if necessary.

5. Obtain the certification decision

  • After the audit, wait for the Certification Body (CB) to publish the final audit report and certificate on the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) website. This step includes consideration of stakeholder feedback.
  • In the event of a favourable decision, do not forget to congratulate your team for its dedication and excellent performance.
  • If the decision is unfavourable, it is necessary to identify the reasons for this refusal. Then develop a corrective action plan to prepare the farm for a successful future audit.

6. Use the ASC logo

  • Once the certificate is available online, ask the CB for permission to use the ASC logo on farm products.  
  • It is imperative to comply with the logo usage guidelines provided on the CSA website.  
  • Ensure traceability of ASC certified products at every stage of the supply chain.

How much does an ASC certification cost ?

The price of obtaining ASC certification varies according to several criteria, including the size and type of aquaculture operation, the species cultivated, the location, the complexity of the certification steps and the choice of certifying body. There is no standard rate for ASC certification, but a cost estimate can be made taking into account the following aspects:

Certification body (CB) fees

The CB fee represents a significant portion of the total cost of ASC certification. They include audit, certification and annual fees for the use of the ASC logo. The audit costs cover the auditor’s working time on the farm, as well as travel and accommodation expenses. The certification fee is for the issuance of the ASC certificate, and the annual fee is for the use of the ASC logo on certified products. These fees vary from SO to SO and depend on the duration and frequency of audits, related to the size and type of operation, and the level of risk assessed.

A comparison of the quotes offered by different CSA accredited CBs is recommended to select the most appropriate offer.

CSA Fees

In addition to the CB fee, additional costs are required for operational support and development of the CSA program. They include registration fees, transaction fees and promotion fees. A one-time payment of 100 euros is required upon registration for ASC certification. Transaction fees are calculated as a percentage of the sale price of certified products, levied monthly. This rate is 0.5% for fresh and frozen products, and 0.25% for processed products. Finally, an annual fee of 250 euros is required to access the CSA’s communication and marketing services.

Internal costs

Internal costs relate to expenses related to adapting operations to ASC standards, including training, documentation and process improvement. These costs are affected by the initial level of farm compliance and the investments required to obtain or maintain certification, which can, however, be minimized with the support of specialized partners offering customized services to optimize the costs and benefits of ASC certification.

Although the cost of ASC certification fluctuates according to specific cases, it is generally estimated between 5,000 and 15,000 euros annually for a medium-sized operation. It is important to note that ASC certification offers multiple benefits, such as opening to new markets, product differentiation, customer loyalty, risk reduction, performance improvement and a commitment to sustainability.

How long does it take to get an ASC certification ?

Obtaining certification from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) varies depending on many factors, including the preparation of the aquaculture farm, the availability of certification bodies (CBs), the complexity of the audit, as well as the resolution of any discrepancies. While there is no standard time frame, some estimates can be made based on these criteria:

The preparation of the farm

Preparing your farm for the audit includes several essential steps: familiarizing yourself with CSA requirements, choosing and signing a contract with an SO, gathering the necessary documents and evidence, training your staff, improving management practices, and keep local stakeholders informed. Depending on the initial condition of the farm and the improvements required, this phase can extend from a few weeks to several months. It is recommended to partner with experts, such as Yvea, to speed up and facilitate this process.

The availability of the CB

CBs are more or less available depending on market demand, the production season, the location of the farm and their ability to deploy qualified auditors. The time between signing the contract and conducting the audit can vary significantly. It is therefore wise to contact CBs as soon as possible and plan the audit well in advance, considering periods of high demand and logistical constraints.

The complexity of the audit

The time required for an audit depends on several factors, including the size of the farm, the type and species produced, the number of requirements to be assessed, the quality of documentation and evidence, and the cooperation of staff and stakeholders. Audits may vary from one to several days and are followed by the publication of the report within 10 working days, then the final certificate within 30 working days, unless deviations are to be corrected.

Resolving differences

Discrepancies detected during the audit must be corrected. Minor deviations, with limited impact, must be resolved within 12 months, while major deviations, more serious, must be resolved within 3 months. Failure to meet these deadlines may result in refusal or suspension of certification. The resolution time varies according to the nature and number of deviations, as well as the corrective measures to be implemented.

Ultimately, the time required to obtain ASC certification depends on the individual situation of each aquaculture farm. Although it is difficult to specify an exact time frame, a general estimate is between 3 and 12 months for a medium-sized farm. It is important to remember that the CSA requires annual monitoring audits to maintain certification, valid for three years.

Is there a renewal required for ASC certification ?

The ASC certification remains valid for a period of three years, provided that the annual monitoring audits are successfully completed. It is necessary to renew it before it expires, following the initial certification procedures.

The key steps for ASC certification renewal are :

1. Prepare for the renewal

  • Check the expiry of your ASC certification and contact the certifying body (CB) at least 6 months before this date to arrange the renewal audit.  
  • Learn about updates or changes to ASC documents, such as the ASC standard, Certification Unit (RUoC) requirements, and Chain of Custody (CoC) add-on.  
  • Gather and update documents and evidence necessary to demonstrate compliance with CSA standards.  
  • Continue to maintain and improve management practices to meet CSA criteria and performance indicators.  
  • Inform and invite local stakeholders to participate in the renewal process.

2. Skip the new audit

  • Greet the CB auditor, provide him with all the information and facilities required for the on-site audit.
  • Work with the auditor during inspections, observations of activities, interviews with employees and stakeholders, and verification of documents and evidence.
  • Review the draft audit report provided by the CB and provide comments if necessary.

3. Obtain the renewal decision

  • Wait for the publication of the final audit report and the new certificate on the CSA website, after taking into account stakeholder feedback.
  • If the decision is favourable, celebrate the performance and dedication of the farm staff.
  • In the event of a negative decision, understand the reasons for the refusal and develop a corrective action plan for a reassessment.

What is the difference between ASC and ASC COC certification ?

The ASC certification certifies that aquaculture farms follow the environmental and social criteria established by the ASC. However, the ASC COC certification ensures that the products of these farms are clearly identified, separated and traceable throughout the supply chain, right up to the end consumer. Let’s explore the key differences between these two certifications:

Target audience

The ASC certification is aimed at aquaculture producers wishing to prove their commitment to responsible aquaculture. The ASC COC certification is intended for companies working with ASC certified products, including processors, distributors, retailers and restaurateurs.

Reference documents

ASC certification is based on ASC standards, which specify the criteria for each aquatic species and for the certification unit. On the other hand, the ASC COC certification is based on the MSC COC standard, shared with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), supplemented by the ASC COC module which incorporates aquaculture-specific requirements, such as food safety and antibiotic detection.


ASC certification opens the door to a growing global market for sustainable aquatic products, provides a competitive advantage, improves performance and reduces risk. The ASC COC certification assures companies to confirm the ASC certified origin of products and to benefit from the recognition and confidence related to the ASC label.

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Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


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