Ten years ago the first fish farm to earn ASC certification was Regal Springs’ Lake Toba tilapia farm in Sumatra.
In the decade since, more than 1700 aquaculture farms around the world have met the ASC standard to become ASC certified – which represents nearly 2.5 million tonnes of seafood and seaweed harvested annually.
Today, Regal Springs’ Lake Toba tilapia farm is still ASC certified, along with more of their sites in Honduras and Mexico.
‘At Regal Springs we are very proud to have been a pioneer here. We naturally extended the certification we started in Indonesia to Honduras and Mexico,’ said Petra Weigl, Regal Springs’ managing director for Europe.
‘ASC certification brings us a host of benefits — well-organised data, which we share transparently through ASC audits and reporting; improved traceability, from feed to harvest, with the coming ASC Feed Standard that will drive even more improvements in feed sourcing at our farms; and continued improvements in social responsibility internally and with external parties,’ added Rudolf Hoeffelman, Regal Springs managing director for Indonesia.
‘Overall, ASC certification helps us communicate our sustainability and best practices to our stakeholders and customers in an organised and clear way.’
The tilapia farm’s certification came two years after ASC’s initial founding. At the time, only two types of farms could be ASC certified – tilapia and pangasius. As of 2022, there are now ASC standards for 11 species groups, meaning that farms harvesting these species can aim for ASC certification.
Regal Springs’ tilapia farm is located on Lake Toba, the world’s largest volcanic lake, which covers more than 1100 square kilometres and plunges to depths of nearly 500 meters. Deep, clean water is key to healthy local communities, healthy biodiversity and healthy tilapia, and Regal Springs pay careful attention to protecting the gorgeous freshwater ecosystem of Lake Toba.
‘We use floating cages that have very little impact on the natural lake environment,’ Petra Weigl said.
‘We continuously monitor the water quality to ensure it remains oxygen-rich and undisturbed by the farm’s activities. Among other factors that high water quality directly influences the quality of Regal Springs tilapia, making it strong and healthy, and ensuring that we can totally forgo the use of additives.’
Regal Springs adheres to a zero waste or ‘whole fish’ policy. Only about one-third of a whole tilapia is used for the fillets or loin cuts generally found at the grocery store. The remainder of the fish – skin, scales, bones, liver and more – is put to use in other industries. Lake Toba tilapia contribute to dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fertilisers – and even fashion, in the form of tilapia skin leather. Regal Springs also repurposes its tilapia fish oil into biofuel that powers some of their trucks and other equipment.
One of the largest employers in the Lake Toba region, Regal Springs employs approximately 500 people, with social welfare commitments include providing a health insurance plan and hot meals for workers, as well as company health clinics and free healthcare for employees, their families and nearby villages.
The company also employs teachers, provides literacy and English-language education, and leads reforestation efforts, among other community engagement projects.