In the decade since, more than 1,700 aquaculture farms around the world have achieved ASC certification. This currently represents nearly 2.5 million tonnes of seafood and seaweed harvested per year.
To this day, Regal Springs’ Lake Toba tilapia farm is still ASC certified, along with other tilapia farms in Honduras and Mexico.
“We at Regal Springs are very proud to have been a pioneer here,” Petra Weigl, Regal Springs’ managing director for Europe, said in a press release. “And we naturally extended the certification that we started in Indonesia to Honduras and Mexico.”
“ASC certification brings us a host of benefits: well-organized data, which we share transparently through ASC audits and reports; improved traceability from feed to harvest with the upcoming ASC Feed Standard which will drive even more improvements in the supply of animal feed to our farms; and continuous improvements in social responsibility internally and with external parties,” added Rudolf Hoeffelman, Managing Director of Regal Springs Indonesia. “Overall, ASC certification helps us communicate our sustainability and best practices to our stakeholders and customers in an organized and clear way.”
The certification of the tilapia farm came two years after the initial establishment of ASC. At the time, only two types of farms could be certified ASC: tilapia and pangasius. As of 2022, there are now ASC standards for 11 species groups – including abalone; bivalves (clams, mussels, oysters, scallops); flat fish; freshwater trout; pangasius; Salmon; bass, sea bream and lean; seriola and cobia; shrimp; tilapia; and tropical marine fish. There is also a common ASC-MSC standard for all kinds of algae.
Chris Ninnes, CEO of ASC, said: “Every journey begins with a single step. Today, August 15, marked an important milestone in our journey of transforming the aquaculture industry. When the first Indonesian farm was certified in 2012, it had a ripple effect on all stakeholders, from farmer-producers to markets around the world. We are pleased to see this shift towards responsible aquaculture and it reinforces our commitment to massively scale up our impact over the next 10 years.
As Regal Springs Tilapia Farms are located in Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world, ensuring a clean and healthy ecosystem is essential for their fish production. The lake covers over 1,100 square kilometers and plunges to depths of almost 500 meters. Deep, clean water is essential for healthy local communities, healthy biodiversity, and healthy tilapia, and Regal Springs pays particular attention to protecting the freshwater ecosystem.
“We use floating cages which have very little impact on the natural environment of the lake,” Weigl said. “And we constantly monitor the water quality to make sure it stays oxygen-rich and undisturbed by farm activities. Among other factors, the high water quality directly influences the quality of Regal Springs tilapia, making it strong and healthy, and ensuring that we can completely dispense with the use of additives.
Regal Springs adheres to a zero waste or “whole fish” policy. Only about a third of a whole tilapia is used for fillets or loin cuts that are commonly found at the grocery store. The rest of the fish – skin, scales, bones, liver and more – is used in other industries. Lake Toba tilapia contributes to food supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fertilizers and even fashion (in the form of tilapia skin leather). Regal Springs also turns its tilapia fish oil into biofuel that powers some of their trucks and other equipment.
One of the largest employers in the Lake Toba area, Regal Springs employs approximately 500 people there. ASC certification requires that they not only meet rigorous environmental criteria, but also a strong standard of social responsibility, which covers fair wages and working hours, health and safety requirements, training of trade unions, collaboration with local communities, etc.
Regal Springs’ social welfare commitments include providing health insurance and hot meals to workers, as well as corporate health clinics and free health care for employees, their families and neighboring villages.
They also employ teachers, provide literacy and English education classes, and lead reforestation efforts, among other community engagement projects.