Aquaculture certification bodies to grant audit extensions in face of pandemic
By Nestor Arellano
The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) and its Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) third-party certification program are working closely with certification bodies (CBs) to carefully evaluate the circumstance of each processing plant, farm, hatchery or feed mill and decide how to best continue the certification process in the face of disruptions caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19)pandemic.
The GAA is an international, nonprofit trade association dedicated to advancing environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture.
Following established accreditation, certification and bench marking guidelines, the BAP team and CBs have agreed on a set of rules to follow during this extraordinary situation, including guidelines for the movement and conduct of auditors when visiting BAP-certified facilities. These guidelines include:
- Confirming the good health of auditors before they leave home to conduct the audit.
- Traveling responsibly to protect themselves and everyone around them along the way.
- Maintaining distancing, protective gear and sanitation regularly while conducting the audit.
The BAP meets with CBs weekly to focus on re-certifying facilities that are nearing their due dates for their annual audits to discuss any travel restrictions that may, on a case-by-case basis, require a certificate extension. The reasons for a certificate extension may include:
- Domestic travel restrictions within a country, such as what occurred in China and Italy.
- International border controls that prevent or quarantine visiting or returning auditors.
- Local restrictions or policies that may prevent an auditor from visiting the BAP-certified facility.
It is important to remember that, while BAP administers the certification process, the CBs make the certification decision and issue the BAP certificates, therefore this coordination is required to grant extensions on a case-by-case basis, according to guidelines released by GAA.
There are seven CBs accredited to conduct BAP audits, and BAP is in contact weekly with each of the CBs, who are, in turn, contacting each of their facilities individually to confirm the audits. If an extension needs to be granted, that facility’s certificate will remain valid through the end of the extension and continue to meet all requirements of the third-party program to which it is benchmarked, including Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) or Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP).
Previously, extensions only applied to facilities in China.
“Despite the pandemic, the work of the BAP certification team, program integrity team and market development team continues uninterrupted, as GAA employees are equipped to work remotely,” the aquaculture alliance said. “We know this is not possible for all industry functions, and GAA’s thoughts and concerns go to those who work at aquaculture facilities and to those who work in the marketplace who do not have the ability to work remotely. GAA values the support of its partners throughout the seafood value chain and will continue to work closely with CBs, producers, and retail and foodservice endorsers to ensure that audits are conducted in a timely fashion.”
Facilities with questions about audits can contact their BAP certification specialist or firstname.lastname@example.org.