Friend of the Sea (FOS) is a non-profit organisation, founded in 2006 by Dr Paolo Bray who is also the European Director of the Dolphin-Safe Project. FOS has developed criteria for sustainable seafood production with which aquaculture businesses and wild fisheries may apply to be assessed and then, if they meet the standards required, receive the FOS certification. Once certified they can use the FOS logo which allows the consumer to see that the producer has met the strict sustainable guidelines set by FOS which are audited by internationally accredited certification bodies.

Bray, who also acts as the FOS director explains, ‘Audits are run on-site by independent accredited international certification bodies, such as SGS and Bureau Veritas, according to the Friend of the Sea criteria. This procedure is a guarantee of impartiality and independence and is in line with the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN) guidelines.’

There are a lot of questions surrounding aquaculture practices within the context of sustainability and all aquaculture is often all piled together as being environmentally damaging, but FOS is broadening that perspective. ‘It is an increasingly shared view that aquaculture can be a much more efficient and lower impact way of producing seafood,’ says Bray, ‘while one cannot generalise, and this opinion does not refer to quality or price, it is clear that fishing in the ocean is mostly fuel inefficient.’

The negative impacts of aquaculture in terms of fish escaping into the ocean, feed management and the use of antibiotics, have been strongly reduced over the last ten years, if for no other reason, they are smart business decisions. Bray continues,  ‘In most cases these improvements make business sense: feed costs have increased; escapes represent a real cost for companies, not only a potential environmental impact; a disease prevention policy is more cost effective and lowers need of use of antibiotics.’

Bray continues, ‘Friend of the Sea has gone further and it assesses fish meal fisheries according to its sustainability standards. Certified fishfeed currently originate from trimmings, but will soon include fishfeed from certified fisheries, such as menhaden in USA, mackerel and sardines in Morocco and Anchovies in Peru. Aquaculture farms will have to use Friend of the Sea certified fishfeed starting the middle of year 2009.’

In 2008, FOS saw a strong increase in interest in their organisation from the fishing and aquaculture industries and FOS is currently auditing every week on every continent – it’s good news for all – especially the ocean.