Dialogues with Shrimp Farmers
World Wildlife Fund • Jose Villalon • Jason Clay
In 1999, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) formed a consortium with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Bank and the Network of Aquaculture Centers in Asia-Pacific to look at the environmental impacts of shrimp farming. The consortium recommended that WWF engage shrimp farmers and industry stakeholders in a dialogue that would lead to the reduction of the major environmental and social impacts from shrimp farming.
In 2006—after the completion of more than 140 meetings with more than 8,000 people and the publication of 40 case studies by 120 researchers—the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries adopted the consortium’s “International Principles for Responsible Shrimp Farming”. Those principles are now being used to develop measurable standards for shrimp farming.
Shrimp Farming Dialogues
Through open, consensus-forming dialogues with aquaculture stakeholders around the world, WWF is developing credible, transparent, voluntary standards for minimizing or eliminating the environmental and social impacts from fish and shrimp farms. The dialogues with shrimp farmers will begin appearing on WWF’s webpage very soon! To see what WWF has posted so far, try these pages:
On September 13, 2007, I interviewed Jason Clay Vice President of Markets at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Jose Villalon , a 26-year veteran of the aquaculture industry and the new director of WWF’s aquaculture program. Villalon’s primary role is to develop the aquaculture dialogues with stakeholder groups (farmers, processors, importers and retailers) and from those dialogues develop standards for sustainable aquaculture production.
Shrimp News: Jose, what is your official title?
Jose Villalon: Director of Aquaculture, working under the Markets program at the World Wildlife Fund. Jason Clay is the Vice President of Markets, so I’ll be working directly under him to develop the aquaculture dialogues and standards.
Shrimp News: Jason, your title, Vice President of Markets, always brings a smile to my face because it’s just not the kind of title that you would expect from an environmental organization. Tell me about that title.
Jason Clay: The aquaculture standards will apply to fish and shrimp farmers. My job is to bring the “marketing” chain—processors, exporters, importers, distributors, restaurants and retailers—into the program. We want them to participate in the development of the standards and we want their support in implementing the standards. They have much to gain from adhering to high seafood standards.
Shrimp News: How far along are you with the shrimp standards and when can the shrimp industry expect to get a peek at them?
Jason Clay: Starting with standards that Dr. Claude Boyd, a water quality expert at Auburn University (Alabama, USA), and I put together, the stakeholder group in Madagascar has already developed draft standards for shrimp farming. We are also developing a relationship around sustainability with the largest shrimp producer in Madagascar, called UNIMA. We’re working with them on shrimp farming and shrimp fishing.
In Belize, we’re planning on hosting a meeting on the standards and might expand that meeting to include shrimp farmers from elsewhere in Latin America, so that we could have an open discussion on regional standards. Standards for Latin America will be similar to those being developed in Madagascar and Belize.
Jose Villalon: Eric Bernard, our program manager for shrimp standards development, is going to Belize in October to discuss the possibility of opening the meeting, which will focus on Mexico and Central America, to the shrimp farming industry in Latin America. It will be a great opportunity for farmers to find out about the dialogue process, the draft standards and what we’ve accomplished so far.
During the first quarter of 2008, we’re going to introduce our dialogues to shrimp farmers in Asia with a meeting in Vietnam. Over the next six months, the shrimp work is going to move forward very aggressively.
Jason Clay: We’re very interested in learning how to work with groups of small shrimp farms, which is more of an issue in Asia than in Latin America or Madagascar. We’ve also raised some money to look at how processing plants might help support a sustainable industry and improve performance across the board.
We’re not developing standards for the processing plants, but we want to work with the distribution chain during the implementation of the standards. Processing plants often get involved with the distribution of seedstock and feed and they buy shrimp from many farms, so we want their help in supporting the standards.
Jose Villalon: The small producer in Asia has a problem with the cost of certification. How do you include them? We’re hoping the processing plants will help us integrate groups of small-scale farmers into the program. The processing plants could help the small-scale farmers understand and implement the standards. They could use their infrastructure to monitor the standards for a group of small farmers, and everyone involved would probably make more money.
Shrimp News: Can you give me some kind of time line when the draft standards for shrimp will be available?
Jason Clay: I think by the end of 2008, we’ll have vetted draft standards for specific places, like Central America, Belize, Madagascar, and probably Thailand. And we will be working on how to turn them into global standards. Within six months, we’ll have a pretty good idea of how the program is going to unfold.
Jose Villalon: The open, multi-stakeholder, consensus-building dialog process requires a lot of time, but by the end of 2008, we should be field-testing some of the standards and taking public comment.
We’re trying to get as much involvement as possible from farmers, processors, importers and distributors. It’s a great opportunity for shrimp farmers to help mold the standards that will regulate the industry. We will have draft standards for shrimp out there for testing before the end of 2008. Shrimp is one of our priority species right now.
As you know, I spent the last 12 years in Mexico as a shrimp farming consultant. I sounded out farmer interest in the standards before coming up here to Washington, DC, and I was really impressed with their response. Everyone was interested in getting on board for the dialogue process with shrimp.
Jason Clay: Jose will be managing the aquaculture dialogues. My role in all of this is to bring the retailers, brands and buyers into the process so that they will encourage the people they buy from to support the standards.
Information: Jose Villalon, World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th Street, NW, Washington DC 20037-1193 (phone 202-778-9625, email email@example.com, webpage http://www.wwf.org).
Sources: 1. Jason Clay and Jose Villalon, telephone interview by Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International. September 13, 2007. 2. World Wildlife Fund Webpage. Aquaculture Dialogues Overview. September 16, 2007. 3. Jill Schwartz, Senior Communications Officer, Aquaculture, World Wildlife Fund (phone 202-822-3458, email firstname.lastname@example.org). Emails, press releases and attachments in August and September 2007.