BAP’s COVID-19 Blog: GAA Delivers Inclusive Audit Solutions for BAP Customers
Editor’s note: The Best Aquaculture practices (BAP) third-party certification program is keeping its stakeholders up to date on announcements related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in this blog. Please check back here regularly for information.
November 3, 2020: GAA Delivers Inclusive Audit Solutions for BAP Customers
After successfully implementing accredited remote auditing for farms, hatcheries and feed mills early this year, the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) third-party certification program is rolling out remote auditing for the Seafood Processing Standard, Version 5.0 (SPS 5.0). Processing plants now have a pathway to accredited certification through three audit opportunities: onsite audits (full or partial), full remote audits or enhanced remote audits.
To mitigate the supply chain and facility certification disruptions brought on by COVID-19, GAA cooperated with accreditation bodies (ABs) and collaborated with certification bodies (CBs), starting in April, to develop accredited remote auditing procedures for its seafood supply chain standards. Beyond the innovative remote audit methodology applied for the farm, hatchery and feed mill standards, specific new policies, procedures, requirements, timelines, questionnaires, audit checklist guidance and training materials were also developed specifically for processing plant remote auditing.
Risk Assessments: A facility risk assessment, done by the CB, identifies if an onsite audit is NOT possible due to COVID-19 restrictions. Qualifying facilities will then be offered a remote audit solution, with a further six months extension that could be given to complete the 2020 certification of all facility types, if needed.
Onsite audits: In addition to a full on-site audit, GAA now offers a blended, or partial, solution for on-site auditing in facilities that can accept on-site scrutiny of a BAP auditor. This “blended audit” approach incorporates limited information and communications technology (ICT) usage, combined with onsite visitation by the lead auditor. This may be a good fit for processing facilities that require Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarking.
Full remote audits: As of Oct. 2, 2020, BAP has conducted 324 remote audits (214 farms, 68 hatcheries, 36 feed mills and six processing plant pilot projects), the majority of which were done in Southeast Asia, Latin America and North America. Processing plant pilot projects have ramped up in October with the rollout of the SPS 5.0 remote auditing.
Enhanced remote audits: This audit solution is designed for higher risk facilities that require a more robust remote audit scrutiny across all standards. New facilities to the BAP program (without previous certification experience or owned by entities with such), or sites with a problematic history (that have completed appropriate mitigation measures) will be offered an enhanced remote audit option to mitigate the increased risk.
To provide more context around this announcement, GAA has outlined a few points for its unique BAP customers and partners:
If you represent a BAP farm, feed mill or hatchery, your audit schedule should remain unchanged as remote audit solutions for these facility types were already piloted and implemented earlier in 2020. It is important to quickly organize your audit with the CB and get it done efficiently, in order to get your facility certification finalized within the six-month extension time period.
If you represent a BAP processing plant that needs to be audited, you will need to work with GAA and your assigned CB to identify the appropriate auditing solution from the list above. All processing plants assigned to a CB through August will be audited by Dec. 31, 2020. You may find this FAQ resource helpful as you prepare for a potential remote audit.
If you represent a BAP processing plant that previously participated in the remote audit pilot, your designated BAP contact person will be contacted directly by a BAP team member to discuss your unique customer service needs, including an update on when and how your certificate will be issued.
If you are a BAP endorser or supplier partner in the marketplace, sourcing product from a BAP-certified processing plant, we encourage you to discuss with the producer how their unique audit option offers a credible solution for the certification you require.
If you have further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com.
September 11, 2020: GAA Creates COVID-19 Guidance Document for Seafood Supply Chain
Our team has created a guidance document for facilities across the seafood supply chain in the age of COVID-19. If you have any questions feel free to contact our Corporate Responsibility Manager, Avery Siciliano. Join the conversation about this on Connect to engage with other facilities. The COVID-19 guidance poster below can be used for printing or sharing.
August 26, 2020: GAA Successfully Moves Beyond Piloting of Remote Audits
The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) is pleased to announce that its third-party Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification program has successfully completed the pilot phase for remote auditing of farms, hatcheries and feed mills (including cluster and group remote auditing).
After continuous requests from facilities, suppliers and endorsers to continue delivering the full range of assurances through the BAP program despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, GAA reports that 239 remote audits, including 66 pilots, were successfully conducted between April 3 and August 21.
“The value that remote auditing offers has been clearly understood and appreciated as a proactive solution for our eligible facilities, suppliers and endorsers,” said Wally Stevens, CEO. “We are also thankful for the support that our seven certification bodies have given to this new remote auditing methodology. This solution offers needed mitigation for the severe disruption and widespread travel restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The BAP program has now turned its focus to developing a remote audit solution for the Seafood Processing Standard 5.0, which applies to both wild caught and aquaculture seafood processing facilities. Two pilot projects have been completed so far with a total of 22 scheduled.
July 21, 2020: GAA Creates COVID-19 Guidance Document for Seafood Processing Facilities
The team at Global Aquaculture Alliance and BAP has created a guidance document for facilities in the age of COVID-19. If you have any questions feel free to contact our Corporate Responsibility Manager, Avery Siciliano. Join the conversation about this on Connect to engage with other facilities. The COVID-19 guidance poster below can be used for printing or sharing.
June 9, 2020: GAA Delivers Successful Remote Audit Pilots During COVID-19 Pandemic
After continuous requests from facilities, suppliers and endorsers to continue delivering the full range of assurances in the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) third-party certification program despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) is pleased to report that 66 remote pilot BAP audits were successfully conducted and completed on BAP-certified farms (individual and cluster), hatcheries and feed mills between April 3 and June 9.
These pilot audits were made possible by accelerated strategic planning, guidance and oversight of BAP’s program integrity and operations teams, enthusiastic BAP-certified facilities, collaborative certification bodies (CBs) and supportive retail and foodservice partners.
On April 2, GAA announced, as a response to the pandemic, that in addition to deferring increases to its BAP program fees, the organization had begun work internally and externally to determine a process for remote audits in circumstances that prevent auditors from visiting BAP-certified facilities.
The first set of facilities to participate in the remote audit pilots were salmon farms nearing their due dates for annual re-certification. Each pilot was carefully developed to strictly adhere to comprehensive BAP standards covering the pillars of responsible aquaculture practices — environmental responsibility, food safety, social accountability and animal health and welfare.
With pilots continuing into early summer, GAA encourages its partners and customers to reach out to their assigned CB with any comments and questions regarding remote auditing. BAP program remains flexible and at the ready to accommodate the needs of its certified facilities. GAA is committed to providing credible solutions during this fluid time for its partners despite disruptions across the global seafood supply chain, whether they be producers, importers, suppliers or program endorsers in the marketplace.
April 13, 2020: A Message From Global Aquaculture Alliance CEO Wally Stevens to BAP Producers
The global COVID-19 pandemic has upended life and businesses over the past several weeks. As we all find our way forward, our message to you during this unprecedented time is simple: We’re on your side and remain focused on solutions, despite severe headwinds we face in the field and in the marketplace. You can count on us to work with you through stay-at-home orders and remote meetings to reach a bright new future. Click the video below to view Wally’s full message.
April 2, 2020: BAP Defers Fee Increases to Provide Relief to BAP-Certified Facilities
The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) remains committed to assuring the safety and sustainability of seafood supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic while also providing relief to supporters of its Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) third-party certification program.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, BAP is temporarily deferring its 2020 program fee structure, which went into effect on Feb. 1, 2020 and included fee increases, and reverting to its 2019 program fee structure for this year for BAP-certified processing plants, farms, hatcheries and feed mills. BAP-certified facilities that have paid increased program fees over the past two months will be credited.
GAA and BAP staff are working remotely to sustain normal business operations while addressing the challenges of how to conduct audits as a result of COVID-19. GAA continues to meet weekly with certification bodies (CBs) to evaluate the circumstance of each BAP-certified facility nearing its due date for its annual audit to determine if a certificate extension is required due to international, national or local travel restrictions. GAA and CBs have agreed on a set of guidelines for the movement and conduct of auditors when visiting BAP-certified facilities, with the safety of auditors and facilities workers as a foremost consideration.
In addition to deferring price increases, GAA is working internally as well as consulting with CBs on a process for remote audits in circumstances that prevent auditors from visiting BAP-certified facilities. The first set of facilities being introduced to remote audits will be salmon farms nearing their due dates for their annual audits.
GAA is also working internally to establish updated audit-scheduling, billing and fee payment procedures for BAP-certified facilities that are granted certificate extensions by CBs due to COVID-19. For BAP-certified facilities that receive extensions, pay their BAP audit, pass their audits, and then pay program fees, the validity date of the new annual certificate will start from the expiry date of their most recent annual certificate.
Beyond the necessary adjustments to the BAP auditing and certification process, the BAP market development team is acting as a resource to the global seafood community, connecting producers and repackers with retailers and foodservice operators to find outlets for product, since many restaurants have been forced to scale back or halt operations because of COVID-19.
March 17, 2020: CBs May Grant Audit Extensions on Case-By-Case Basis
The health and safety of our families and associates worldwide is a priority for the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) and its Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) third-party certification program. The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and resulting international, domestic and local travel restrictions have undoubtedly impacted the lives of millions of people and the ability to do business in a timely fashion. Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, GAA is working closely with the certification bodies (CBs) that conduct BAP audits on a weekly basis to carefully evaluate the circumstance of each processing plant, farm, hatchery or feed mill and decide how to best continue the certification process.
Following established accreditation, certification and benchmarking 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 sanitization 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.
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. 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.
Feb. 20, 2020: Extensions Granted to BAP-Certified Facilities in China Impacted by COVID-19
The health and safety of our associates in China and around the world is a priority for the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) and its Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) third-party certification program. The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has undoubtedly impacted the lives of millions of Chinese people and the ability to do business in China.
GAA is encouraged by the news that the outbreak of novel coronavirus appears to be stabilizing in China and the recovery effort is under way. However, the organization is sympathetic to the situation and understands that it will take time for people to get back to work and for business to get up and running again.
As a result, extensions are being granted to BAP-certified processing plants, farms, hatcheries and feed mills in China that are due to be audited for annual re-certification in the near term or are due to submit corrective actions for non-conformances cited during a recent audit. The certification bodies accredited to audit against the BAP standards are granting extensions on a case-by-case basis. BAP-certified facilities with questions about an upcoming audit are encouraged to contact their BAP certification specialist.
GAA understands that the outbreak is a unique situation and is working with its associates in China to ensure that they’re getting the support that they require. Food safety is one of the five pillars of the BAP program. BAP is the only aquaculture certification program that encompasses food safety in its standards throughout the aquaculture production chain — processing plants, farms, hatcheries and feed mills.
A division of the Global Aquaculture Alliance, Best Aquaculture Practices is an international certification program based on achievable, science-based and continuously improved performance standards for the entire aquaculture supply chain — farms, hatcheries, processing plants and feed mills — that assure healthful foods produced through environmentally and socially responsible means. BAP certification is based on independent audits that evaluate compliance with the BAP standards developed by GAA.