Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Ethical aquatic foods from Asia (Environmental impacts and total food chain)

Project acronym: SEAT

Title of project: Sustainable trade in ethical aquaculture

Research area: Environmental impacts and total food chain

Contract No: 222889

EU Contribution: €5 820 000

Start date: August 2009

Duration: 52 months

Status: on-going

In terms of value, aquatic products account for the largest share of trade within the global food sector. The main source of aquatic product imports into the EU is Asia; EU policy supporting trade between Asia and Europe concentrates on food safety issues and quality measures, while market forces drive the development of standards and labels that identify social and environmental parameters.

Within this changing framework, the SEAT project is exploring the sustainability of importing aquaculture products from Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Vietnam, investigating whole value chains for tilapia, catfish, shrimp and prawns. These represent the main aquaculture products reaching EU markets, and for which sustainability is essential in the face of rapid market growth.

The first objective of the SEAT project was to gain an in-depth understanding of selected food chains from a holistic systems perspective, through an interdisciplinary approach.

The second objective is to develop improved and transparent sustainability measures for the same food production systems.

The third objective is to improve the sustainability “values” of these commodities through research with SMES involved in production and marketing in four Asian countries.

A summary description of the project objectives:

  • Develop improved and transparent sustainability measures for target aquatic food systems through creation of an Ethical Aquaculture Food Index (EAFI)
  • Gain and disseminate in-depth knowledge of emergent Asian aquatic food production /market chains using interdisciplinary approach
  • Enhance the sustainability and ethical "values" of four major aquatic food commodities, including environmental services, economic efficiency, social justice, food quality and safety and animal welfare
  • Enhance linkages between Asia and Europe in terms of farmed aquatic food, scientific, business and policy

This extensive investigation is expected to have a significant impact on all parts of the chain, from aquatics food producers in Asia to the final consumers in Europe. Both producers and consumers will benefit from development of the ‘Ethical Aquatic Food Index’, a qualitative measure of overall sustainability. It will support consumers’ purchasing decisions, ensuring that the aquatic products they are of high quality and free of contaminants. At the other end of the chain, it will improve health and safety in production systems as well as processing plants, ensuring workers receive adequate rewards and sustainable livelihoods. By increasing workers’ wages, it has the potential to raise standards of living, encouraging increased consumer spending and providing opportunities for European exports to feed demand from an expanding middle class in Asia.

The development of existing and new certification schemes for aquaculture will increase opportunities for harmonisation, leading to systems that are easier to understand, legislate and control. Web development and integrated portals providing better advice and data for targeted end-users will improve transparency of – and access to – trade-related information. Explanations and guidance provided to regulatory agencies and exporters in participating Asian countries will help them understand the complex and diverse array of rules resulting from the many fisheries-specific Regulations within the EU’s new  ‘hygiene package’.

Three Regulations (852/2004, 853/2004 and 854/2004) give responsibility for ensuring compliance with food hygiene standards to all food operators involved in the production, manufacture, processing, distribution or retail of the food. The project will make recommendations to the European Commission regarding the recognition and application of the EAFI for aquaculture products from Asia intended for export to the EU.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Dave LITTLE;

Organisation: Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, UK,