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Program Integrity

In terms of improving global aquaculture, the Global Aquaculture Alliance has steadfastly raised international awareness in terms of the importance of aquaculture as a source of food and employment, advocated for the industry regionally and globally. At the same time, GAA created the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) standards and BAP third-party certification, which is administered by exceptionally experienced men and women dedicated to aquaculture’s sustainable growth.

The following are a series of frequently asked questions explaining the integrity of the BAP program. Click here for a PDF of the FAQs.

To work with BAP, are high levels of education and qualification required?

Only certification bodies (CBs) that are already accredited under ISO/IEC Guide 17065 by an accreditation body that is a member of the International Accreditation Forum and MLA signatory to another internationally recognized scheme may apply for initial BAP recognition. See Prospective CB information.

Primary functions of the BAP program include the training and accreditation of qualified individuals as BAP auditors. BAP auditor-training courses have been held in Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Scotland, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

All complaints, appeals and disputes brought to the attention of BAP by retailers, consumers, facilities or other parties are addressed by either BAP or referred to the certification body involved.

Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification standards span the entire farmed seafood production chain: hatcheries, farms, feed mills and processing plants. The standards encompass social responsibility, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, food safety, quality and traceability.

How does BAP ensure Program Integrity?

In a wide variety of ways. For example, certification bodies (CBs), auditors and facilities are monitored for compliance and audit performance through audit reviews and trend analysis. All three are subject to announced and unannounced onsite audits as well as desktop audit reviews. Facilities are also monitored for appearance on regulatory detention. All are subject to sanctions and suspension for non-compliance.

Who oversees and reviews BAP standards?

Expert technical committees develop the standards. Each standard is overseen and regularly reviewed and revised, with due consideration to emerging trends in the seafood industry, by an independent and diverse set of stakeholders called the Standards Oversight Committee (SOC). Feedback from stakeholders across the globe including independent technical experts, seafood facilities, certification bodies, auditors, retailers and food service companies help refine and clarify the standards, associated guidelines and certification procedures. Non-conformity trends are tracked to guide revisions.

What external benchmarks and monitors apply?

BAP has participated in several voluntary, formal benchmarking procedures through third-party entities. This includes the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) for the processing plant standard, and the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), which explores compliance regarding environmental standards at farms. To respond to market needs and maintain effectiveness, BAP solicits feedback from seafood industry organizations and businesses in both the production and distribution sectors. BAP program integrity staff regularly monitor industry trends, accreditation requirements, and news to ensure the relevance of BAP standards and governance.

How does BAP ensure auditor and CB competency?

Independent third-party CBs and their auditors go through a rigorous vetting process by the BAP Program Integrity department to ensure credibility and expertise specific to the scope of the BAP standards. Auditors must be approved by BAP and meet minimum standards of experience and education related to specific types of aquaculture facilities. Auditors also must successfully complete specialized training and participate in observation audits to ensure proper audit techniques and interpretation of the BAP standards. Requalification is required a minimum of every three years. CBs must be accredited to ISO/IEC 17065 (International Organization for Standardization) by an approved accreditation body. The accreditation body has to be a member of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF). CBs need sufficient numbers of properly trained auditors and adequate organizational structure to manage the program and ensure accreditation requirements are met within specified time frames.

What is required of aquaculture facilities?

Hatcheries, farms, feed mills and processing plants must comply with all elements of the BAP standards. All nonconformities must be properly closed, addressing root cause and future prevention, prior to certification. Certified facilities found to be out of compliance — through regulatory detention, failure to take corrective actions after an audit, or credible third-party allegations — face re-audits and unannounced risk-based audits. These additional audits also occur when the number or nature of non-conformities exceeds established thresholds. A facility can be suspended for egregious violations, failure to respond to sanctions and corrective actions, repeating non-conformities or appearance on regulatory detention. An enhanced audit schedule may also be instituted. Facilities must pay the expenses associated with additional audits.

How are complaints and appeals handled?

With support from the BAP Program Integrity department, the Standards Coordinator duly investigates and files all complaints, allegations, concerns and appeals associated with the BAP standards. When complaints are related to the CB, auditors or both, the certification bodies involved are also required to investigate — and take corrective actions, if necessary — in parallel with the BAP investigation. If a complaint is valid, the Program Integrity department imposes sanctions. If complaints addressing the content of the standards are found to be valid, the standards may be changed at the discretion of the SOC. In the interim, the BAP Standards Coordinator and Program Integrity department may issue guidance or interpretation consistent with the SOC interpretation.

How does BAP ensure the integrity of its star system?

A star system indicates the integration levels of BAP certification along the aquaculture production chain. To use the BAP-provided artwork on packaging, facilities must sign a Certification Mark Agreement and display the BAP label and star denotations in the following manner:

BAP-4starsProduct produced by a BAP-certified processing plant, BAP-certified farm(s) only, BAP-certified hatchery only and BAP-certified feed mill only

BAP-3starsProduct produced by a BAP-certified processing plant, BAP-certified farm(s) only and BAP-certified hatchery and/or feed mill only

BAP-2starsProduct produced by a BAP-certified processing plant and BAP-certified farm(s) only

OneStar   Product produced by a BAP-certified processing plant

Click here for more information on the star system and multi-star integrity.

Are there BAP marketing resources available?

Yes, visit GAA’s marketing toolkit to access BAP marketing resources.