Muhammad Junaid Wattoo

EU adopted Technical Screening Criteria for sustainable aquaculture

| FDB Blog

The Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) have worked together to develop a simplified set (robust baseline) of environmental and social sustainability standards. The aim is to improve the reception of the aquaculture sector in Europe, ensure it is better recognized at a political level and encourage investment.

Technical Screening Criteria and 35 indicators are developed for marine and freshwater finfish aquaculture. These Technical Screening Criteria should secure no significant harm regarding environmental and social objectives. Further it has been identified that finfish aquaculture can make a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation, to the circular economy, to the protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems and to social objectives. Based on that, sustainable farmed finfish aquaculture should play a significant role in the transition towards a sustainable food system in the EU.

Technical Screening Criteria for Aquaculture

The criteria have been developed under Regulation (EC) No 1893/2006, the statistical classification of economic activities. The criteria have 7 objectives, with their indicators and rationales

The Technical Screening Criteria cover farming of all EU finfish aquaculture on land, in lakes and in the sea.

Objective 1: Climate change mitigation

Criteria 1.1: Carbon footprint at farm-level

For aquaculture CO2 emission is often dominated by feed used.

Indicator 1.1.1:

The aquaculture operator calculates (and discloses) the quantity of energy consumed (MJ per ton of farmgate production).

Rational: Indicators for CO2 footprint for feed and for energy use and transition to renewable energy on farm are included. Indicator 1.1.1 can be used as a baseline and can be compared with other food productions systems. Efficiency in energy use is included in objective 4 regarding circular economy.

Indicator 1.1.2:

The aquaculture operator calculates (and discloses) the annual quantity of GHG emissions produced.

Rational: In kg CO2-eq per ton of farm- gate production; including emissions from feed and on-farm energy consumption and added (liquid) oxygen if relevant. Recognized methods and standards should be used such as the GHG protocols.

Indicator 1.1.3:

The aquaculture operator reduces the use of fossil fuel-based energy sources by improving energy efficiency or/and by increasing the proportion of renewable energy sources where applicable.

Indicator 1.1.4:

The aquaculture operator uses feed with a low GHG footprint, where possible ( i.e., when it does not compromise other relevant sustainable production metrics such as feed efficiency, Fish Health & Welfare and social and economic risks).

Objective 2: Climate change adaptation

Criteria 2.1: Adaptation to climate change (managing threats)

Indicator 2.2.1:

The aquaculture operator conducts periodic mapping of climate change related risks to the farm (e.g., drought/flood risk, disease presence) and implements mitigating actions accordingly.

Rational: Important to identifying physical and transitional risks (and opportunities) and mitigation actions. Make a list of climate related hazards/negative effects on aquaculture and possible solutions. Solutions could be selective breeding, new species, land-based solutions (RAS), polyculture, prevention of new diseases, water saving systems, flood prevention, other innovations and innovative solutions, escape prevention.

Criteria 2.2: Adaptation to climate change (exploiting opportunities) It is important to identify climate adaptation opportunities.

Indicator 2.2.1:

The aquaculture operator conducts periodic mapping of climate change related opportunities to the farm (e.g., extension of growth season, consumer awareness to climate-friendly food) and implements actions to benefit from the opportunity.

Rational: It is important to identify climate adaptation opportunities. Screening which climate change related positive effects occur. For example: extended growing season, new species, new habitats, reduced costs linked with energy efficiency, increasing awareness of consumers for low carbon footprint diets, labels etc. References: Taxonomy art. 11, preamble 25, EU Guideline Aquaculture.


Objective 3: The sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources

Criteria 3.1: Water resource protection

Indicator 3.1.1:

The aquaculture operator demonstrates that water abstraction has no significant negative impact on 1) the vital flow of the used surface water, and/or, 2) the groundwater levels nor salinity levels of groundwater.

Rational: Most aquaculture facilities can be considered as non-consumptive water users but should endeavour to reduce biological and chemical changes in the receiving water body. Further, aquaculture facilities should avoid negative impacts of over-abstraction of water e.g., water deficit in streams and lakes, water level in groundwater etc. Marine aquaculture systems are inherently efficient, but production facilities should operate within the assimilative capacity of the environment where they operate.

Indicator 3.1.2:

The aquaculture operator calculates, at a minimum the following data: Total Nitrogen discharge, Total Phosphorus discharge and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) kg per produced ton fish and in total. For marine sites located in areas where the water body is classified as good very good by the water framework directive, only BOD calculation is required (e.g., ASC standard).

Rational: The total effluent and the efficiency of N, P and BOD per unit (kg) of fish produced should be calculated using mass balance. Calculations can be aligned with land-based farming by a comprehensive monitoring program.

Criteria 3.2: Efficient use of freshwater

Indicator 3.2.1:

The aquaculture operator calculates the freshwater use (m3/ ton fish produced), categorized by source (surface waters, third party waters and groundwater).

Rational: Most aquaculture facilities can be considered as non-consumptive water users but should endeavour to reduce biological and chemical changes in the recipient environment. Marine water resources aren’t included in the criteria because they are usually not subjected to a limited resource.  In addition, extensive pond farming should be exempted from this indicator.

Objective 4: The transition to a circular economy.

Criteria 4.1: Optimising the use of by-products in feed.

Indicator 4.1.1:

The aquaculture operator uses feed in which the inclusion of by-products is optimised, e.g., a yearly report from the feed manufactures concerning the use of by-product in feed.

Rational: The purpose of this criteria is to encourage the aquaculture operators to optimize the use of byproducts in feed, which is an important goal for the industry if it does not compromise fish health and welfare, quality, and growth performance, and only if other raw ingredients are not more sustainable in terms of climate impact, land use, environment etc. “Novel” feed raw materials, for example zooplankton, insects, microorganisms, and fermented vegetables, should also be assessed from economic, social, and environmental perspectives, as a way to either replace existing feed raw materials or to extend the existing basket of feed raw materials.

Since feed composition and the use of ingredients depends on several factors such as fish species and size, availability of the ingredients, social and environmental-impact, climate-impact, fish welfare and growth performance etc., it is not realistic and not sustainable to set fixed thresholds. The proposed indicator focuses on the transition to a more circular economy.


Criteria 4.2: Efficient energy use

Indicator 4.2.1:

The aquaculture operator implements an energy efficiency plan (design and management).

Rational: Energy efficiency is an indicator of resource use. Energy consumption can be reduced by improved design and management of a plant. Indicator 1.1.1 set up an indicator for energy use per amount of production, therefore it is not repeated as an indicator here.

Criteria 4.3: Reduce, reuse & recycle waste, and optimise by-product use (circular design)

 Indicator 4.3.1:

The aquaculture operator reports by-product and waste used as raw material in other value chains.

Rational: Circular Design is intelligent “circular” design of farms and equipment, to allow improved efficiency in production and energy use, improved animal welfare, facilitate the use of resources and recyclability of by-product and minimize waste. Aquaculture production systems need to be designed and managed with a focus on circular design.

Indicator 4.3 2:

The aquaculture operator implements initiatives leading to re-use and/or recyclability of waste products where possible.

Rational: There are multiple ways of optimising by-product use, recycling, and reducing waste in aquaculture. The possibilities are dependent on the methods of farming and the farmed species. Dead Fish can be used in biogas or used for recycling as an ingredient; fish-manure or fish-sludge can be used as fertilizers or compost in agriculture or as a source of energy as biogas; trimmings from slaughtering process can be upcycled to fish meal and fish oil used for other aquaculture species, as pet food or even as human supplements.

Indicator 4.3.3:

The aquaculture operator reports on responsible use of plastic (the ‘3R Principle’: reduce, reuse, and recycle).

Rational: Optimise design and management for retention and storage of nutrients (feed, fish sludge/fish manure, dead fish). Optimise the use and management of plastic: promote recyclability and reusability of packaging, reuse nets, etc. Demonstrate proper use of waste management infrastructure, and thereby increase preparation for waste reuse and recycling.


Criteria 4.4: Solid waste management plan

Indicator 4.4.1:

The aquaculture operator implements a waste management plan which includes the following, as a minimum: a) the identification of waste products and possible sources of pollution, b) proper waste storage and separation which ensures a responsible handling of hazardous material, and   c) a waste reduction plan.

Rational: Having a waste management plan will allow the activity to identify sources of pollution and minimise its environmental impact while at the same time, promote re-usability, recyclability, and circularity of waste products. Solid waste management is also suggested by STECF.

Objective 5: Pollution prevention and control

Criteria 5.1: Organic enrichment, water quality and chemical discharge

Indicator 5.1.1:

The aquaculture operator conducts an Environmental Screening and if there is a significant impact an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to guide location and activities of farms so that considered environmental impacts are minimised (following EU regulation).

Rational: Managing organic waste and chemical discharge to freshwater and marine environments (through uneaten feed and/or faeces and/or medicines and/or copper as anti-fouling paints and/or other chemicals used for disinfection etc.) should be managed to ensure no cumulative impact.

In this objective the focus is on Environmental Screening/EIA, benthic impact, and proper use of medicines and chemicals. Air pollution is not applicable to the aquaculture sector.

Indicator 5.1.2:

The aquaculture operator monitors benthic conditions following EU and/or national regulations.

Rational: The impact of finfish aquaculture regarding pollution due to excess nutrient and hazardous substances can be assessed by an EIA.

Indicator 5.1.3.

The aquaculture operator uses only licensed medicines prescribed by veterinarians (or approved health personnel where applicable).

Rational: Further a criterion concerning the use of only approved medicine and chemicals, should ensure no use of non-approved substances. 

Indicator 5.1.4:

The aquaculture operator uses only approved chemicals (e.g., for anti-fouling or cleaning/ disinfection purposes).

Objective 6: The protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems

Criteria 6.1: Biodiversity, protected area and protected species.

Indicator: 6.1.1:

A habitat screening/assessment has been carried out which shows that there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of the concerned species and ecosystems (e.g.: Natura 2000, RAMSAR, National protected area and species, IUCN listed species, etc.).

Rational: Ensuring that an aquaculture activity does not cause any harm to the biodiversity or protected species or habitats.

Indicator: 6.1.2:

The aquaculture operator, where possible, identifies means to provide habitats to enhance biodiversity at the site level (such as the greening of land area or maintaining non-commercial stocked ponds for migrating birds).

Rational: The habitat rules are already implemented in the EU-countries securing that aquaculture does not harm biodiversity and ecosystems.  Due to the EU regulation (Bird- and Habitat directives) the authorities must carry out a habitat screening/assessment for all activities, and a finfish farm can only get permission if the activity does not adversely affect any protected area, and species.

Criteria 6.1.3:

The aquaculture operator does not introduce new Invasive Alien Species unless assessed to be low risk for the receiving environment.

Rational: Although a proper habitat Screening/assessment has to be carried out, a criterion regarding Invasive alien species is included. EU definition for Invasive alien species ‘invasive alien species’ means an alien species whose introduction or spread has been found to threaten or adversely impact upon biodiversity and related ecosystem services. In addition, a criterion has been included regarding positive contribution to biodiversity and ecosystems.

Criteria 6.2: Escape prevention

Indicator 6.2.1:

The aquaculture operator implements escape prevention measures, based on an escape risk assessment, including stock accounting.

Rational: Minimising escape incidents of farmed stock is important to avoid the potential genetic stock alterations and interbreeding with wild Indicator 6.2.2: The aquaculture operator establishes a training program for all employees handling fish on escape prevention and mitigation with wild populations and/or potential environmental impact.

Indicator 6.2.2:

The aquaculture operator establishes a training program for all employees handling fish on escape prevention and mitigation.

Rational: For native species the genetic makeup of their offspring may be less suited to surviving and thriving in the wild.

Indicator 6.2.3:

The aquaculture operator uses farming equipment that is 1) fit for purpose and certified using technical national standards where available, 2) inspected regularly, maintained, and repaired according to the documented procedure and/or when necessary.

Indicator 6.2.4:

The aquaculture operator records all escaped and unaccounted loss for all sites under their control.

Indicator 6.2.5

The aquaculture operators have a Recapture plan for escaped fish.

Rational: Escapes can further impact wild populations by competing with them for food, habitat, and spawning partners. Escapes can cause impact both for non-native and native farmed fish. To lower the impact or risk if escapees happened, a recapture plan is considered.



Criteria 6.3: Predator control 

Indicator 6.3.1:

The aquaculture operator implements an effective predator control plan including prevention measures.

Rational: To secure a minimum interaction with wildlife, a criterion regarding predator control is included.

Indicator 6.3.2:

The aquaculture operator records all predator mortality events (mortalities, species, etc.).

Rational: Wildlife interaction in all forms of deliberate capture or killing, injury or harassment of predators on purpose should generally be avoided (Such as seals, dolphins, sharks, seabirds, etc.), unless direct human safety is at risk and/or farmed animal welfare is compromised.

Indicator 6.3.3:

The aquaculture operator trains all relevant staff for handling predators on site.

Indicator 6.3.4:

The aquaculture operator shall not intentionally kill threatened or protected species unless direct human safety is at risk and/or farmed animal welfare is severely compromised.

Rational: The proposed indicators should secure minimum interaction with wildlife.

Criteria 6.4 Feed raw material production

Indicator 6.4.1:

The aquaculture operator uses feed in which marine raw materials are sourced from sustainable sources.

Rational: Marine raw materials in feed must be from sustainably fisheries according to the GSSI benchmark and equivalent (e.g., MSC, Marine Trust, Fisheries Improvement Program).

Indicator 6.4.2:

The aquaculture operator uses feed in which only deforestation-free soy should be used.

Objective 7 Social Sustainability

Criteria 7.1: Compliance with workers’ Legal Rights

Indicator 7.1.1:

Disclosure of specific company policy and procedure for implementing worker’s legal rights.

Rational: Compliance and understanding with ILO 8 conventions, SDG and European Pillars of Social Rights is central, and therefore disclosure of a specific company policy and procedure is recommended. The policy must include rights awareness, freedom of Association, right to Organize and collective Bargaining, no forced labor, child labor, equal remuneration, gender equality, discrimination etc.  Even labour legislation in the EU countries and other initiatives should be a guarantee for compliance with the above, a specific company policy and procedure is central.

Criteria 7.2: Worker’s health and safety

Indicator 7.2.1:

Health and safety plan and procedure. 

Rational: A safe working place for the employees is essential. Therefore, it is important to focus on health and safety for employees. E.g., the use of Personal Protection, Occupational injury, insurance, workplace assessment and training. A health and safety plan, and an implemented procedure, renewed at least annually, could demonstrate compliance.

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