Certifying sustainable salmon with ASC
ASC certification means greater profits for Norwegian salmon farming company Gratanglaks
With our growing global population and increasing pressure on ecosystems to support our food needs, fish farming – aquaculture – is an increasingly popular solution. According to the Global Salmon Initiative, about half of all the seafood we eat comes from aquaculture. Today, fisheries can make their operations as sustainable as possible with certification to Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standards – and improve their reputation and profit at the same time.
Kiwa was recently accredited as a certification body for the ASC. During the accreditation process, Norwegian salmon farming company Gratanglaks worked with Kiwa on its ASC Salmon Standard certification.
“Gratanglaks works with several voluntary certifications to meet requirements for safety, sustainability and transparency,” said Freddy Haugen, quality coordinator at Gratanglaks. “Through the certifications, we can document and improve our salmon production.”
Quality coordinator Freddy Haugen (Photo: Gratanglaks)
One of the standards they use is GlobalG.A.P. Aquaculture, but they wanted to add a new standard that would enhance the company’s reputation. In early 2021, they started looking into ASC standards and began the process of certifying their breeding facility on the island of Kjøtta.
“There are several standards in aquaculture, and new ones may appear in the future, but ASC is so well established it’s probably here to stay,” Haugen explained. “The standard helps give status to the company, and it also affects the price we can charge for the fish.”
Once Haugen decided to pursue ASC certification, the search was on for a partner. “I sent requests to several certification bodies,” he said. “Kiwa was the only one with an auditor who could start immediately and was suitable in terms of price. They also offered GlobalG.A.P. certification, so we only had one certification body to deal with and could carry out simultaneous audits of both standards. That made it an easy choice for us.”
Four decades of salmon farming
Salmon aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food production systems – every year 70% of our salmon comes from farms like Gratanglaks. The company has been producing the fish in Norway, where the industry took off, since 1984. Gratanglaks is locally owned, with headquarters in Gratangen and operations mainly in Astafjorden and Vågsfjorden. The company produces about 7,000 tonnes of salmon a year.
As one of the company’s 45 employees, Haugen has worked at Gratanglaks for almost four years. He has extensive experience with quality work and operations from the airline industry and the shipping industry. The benefits of ASC certification were clear to him from the start. “Having ASC increases the overall quality at all stages of the production chain,” Haugen said. “It creates a greater awareness of routines for the environment, hygiene, reduction of infection, harvesting and packaging.”
Gratanglaks believes the food we eat should be healthy, safe to consume and traceable from roe to consumer. ASC certification was an ideal fit for the company’s vision: “With strength, quality and sustainability at all levels for the future here in the north.”
Taking sustainability to the next level with ASC certification
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is the world’s leading certification scheme for aquaculture, assessing fish farms to the industry’s strictest standards. There are 11 standards that cover 49 species in 17 groups, including bivalves (clams, mussels, oyster, scallop), freshwater trout, and salmon. If a product is certified it bears the ASC logo, which shows consumers that the product is environmentally and socially responsible.
There are currently 2,059 ASC-certified farm sites around the world, including 610 in Europe. Following their successful assessment, Gratanglaks has two certified sites, in Kjøtta and Skøyen. The company plans to certify three more sites in 2023: Myrlandshaug, Skjærvika and Skarbergvika.
Haugen noted the stricter requirements certification has put on the company. “It’s a long-term process: a certificate lasts for three years, with an interim audit during the period. We’re doing extensive work to fulfil the requirements for documentation at all locations in relation to topics like HSE, fish welfare, environmental impact and transparency. We also need to take and analyse samples for the presence of several thousand small animals.”
ASC certification guarantees that the salmon have been through a number of checkpoints throughout the entire production chain. The aim is to show consumers, buyers and processors that the products are high-quality and sustainable – something the industry is under increasing pressure to prove.
Partnering with Kiwa through ASC accreditation
The process of certifying Gratanglaks’ first two sites happened in parallel with the process of accrediting Kiwa as an ASC certifying body. This meant that during Kiwa’s audit of Gratanglaks, external auditors from Assurance International Services (ASI) were carrying out a digital audit of Kiwa’s work.
“It was actually a fun session,” Haugen said. “As this was an audit by Kiwa AS on this standard, and the first ASC certificate for us, we probably went a little deeper than needed. But Kiwa's auditor was structured, actively followed up and got everything in place.”
With two sites successfully certified, it was a positive outcome for Gratanglaks. Haugen commented that the certification process surpassed expectations. “The interaction with the auditor was excellent. Our experience with other certification bodies has been that there are often overgrown systems with many people involved, changes of auditors and long response times. I must praise Kiwa for their quick and thorough follow-up and the extremely flexible and proactive cooperation.”
It was also a success for Kiwa, which is now accredited by Assurance International Services (ASI) for certification according to the ASC standards for farming salmon (ASC Salmon Standard) and freshwater trout (ASC Freshwater Trout).
Kiwa’s Audit Manager Morten Berntsen, who was in charge of the certification, praised Gratanglaks for its professional implementation and good organization throughout the process. “As the certification body, it is our role to guide our customers on the standard without providing advice. In this way, we ensure that the audit is carried out as efficiently as possible.”
Certify your aquaculture operations with Kiwa
Could your aquaculture company benefit from showing consumers, buyers and processors that your products are sustainably and responsibly farmed? Explore our services and contact us to discuss your ASC certification requirements.
Read the original article (in Norwegian).