Vietnamese shrimp exporter Quoc Viet in the southern province of Ca Mau has become the first company in Asia to receive an Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification.

Twenty-two hectares of the company's shrimp ponds have met ASC's environmental and social standards.

One of Vietnam's biggest shrimp exporters, the company has made major efforts in recent years to meet ASC's standards.

Founded in 1996, the company aims to produce 20,000 tonnes of shrimp this year and up to 25,000 tonnes next year to supply customers in the US, Japan, EU, Australia, Canada and the Republic of Korea.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Vietnam, in cooperation with the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), has been working with Quoc Viet and other companies to help them achieve ASC certification.

The participating companies also source shrimp from local small-scale farms that are seeking ASC certification in the future. Three more farms covering 150 hectares are expected to receive ASC certification by the end of this year.

WWF will continue to support four additional companies and four small-scale farmer groups to achieve ASC certification.

Vietnam is the third biggest exporter worldwide of farmed shrimp, with around 90 per cent of its total volume exported globally.

"With ASC certification, the farms can gain access to the international market and, in particular, European countries that demand responsibly produced and certified products," said Esther Luiten, ASC's commercial marketing manager.

Thirteen shrimp farms from Vietnam and Ecuador have taken part in the ASC Shrimp Standard programme.

Through ASC certification, shrimp farms aim to reduce adverse impact on the environment and local communities by preserving wetlands and mangroves; address the transfer of viruses, and reduce disease; bring clean water and ensure the sustainable use of water; ensure the responsible use of feed; and address biodiversity issues.

WWF helps small-scale farmers and producers meet ASC standards through its aquaculture improvement projects, by helping them improve their operations and capacity.

After farms meet the ASC standards, WWF links them to companies in the market that value ASC certification.

The Dutch-based Sustainable Trade Initiative established the Farmers in Transition (FIT) fund, a co-funding programme aimed at upscaling the production of responsibly farmed shrimp, tilapia and pangasius.

The programme partners - retail, food service and supply chain companies - have helped producers improve farming practices and have actively engaged governments, industry and other stakeholders in the producers' respective countries.-VNA