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Process of Creating Global Sustainability Standards for Bivalve Aquaculture Enters Final Stage

WASHINGTON, DC: The final step in the process of creating global standards for bivalve aquaculture began today, when the Bivalve Aquaculture Dialogue kicked off the last public comment period for its draft standards.

The standards will address the potential negative environmental and social issues associated with the farming of filter-feeding bivalves (clams, oysters, mussels and scallops), such as the introduction of exotic pests and pathogens.

Feedback received during the 60-day public comment period will be used by the Dialogue’s 14 -person steering committee to finalize the standards during the first quarter of this year. The committee also will rely on input received from the 400-plus people who have attended the Dialogue’s meetings since the process began in 2007, the feedback provided by 70 people during the first public comment period, as well as issues raised during outreach meetings held recently with bivalve farmers and others in China and Australia.

“We have heard from a lot of people already and have used their input to make the document stronger,” said Colin Brannen of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who coordinates the Dialogue. “In this last stage, we want as many people as possible to weigh in so that the final standards are as practical and effective as possible.”

To reflect feedback received, significant changes have been made since the first version of the document was posted for public comment in October. Changes include making the standards more accessible to small-scale farmers and mandating more stringent restrictions on chemical use.

“It was important to strengthen the standards related to chemical use because the vast majority of people who provided feedback said that the original standards were incompatible with an eco-label for sustainable bivalve aquaculture” said steering committee member Tom Pickerell of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain.

Most of the bivalve standards will be metrics-based, which is the best way to determine whether the industry’s impact on the environment is reduced. The standards also will be performance-based, thereby encouraging innovation at the farm level.

To read the most current version of the standards and provide feedback, go to www.worldwildlife.org/bivalvedialogue. The public comment period will end April 1, 2010.

When finalized, the standards will be given to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) to manage. The ASC, which is expected to be in operation in 2011, will be responsible for working with independent, third party entities to certify farms that are in compliance with the standards being created by participants of the eight Aquaculture Dialogues. Standards also are being created for salmon, shrimp, freshwater trout, Seriola, cobia, pangasius, and abalone. Standards for tilapia were finalized in December.

All of the Dialogue standards will be amended periodically to reflect changes in science and technology, as well as to encourage continuous improvement. The revisions will be coordinated by the ASC, with input from Dialogue participants.

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