Finfish and shellfish farms can receive organic certification if organic standards are implemented. (Photo: CAIA)
Organic Aquaculture Standard deemed 'dangerous' by green groups
Friday, May 11, 2012, 22:40 (GMT + 9)
The Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard was released this week for seafood, including finfish and shellfish. Conservation organisations have responded with concern and scepticism because the standard includes open-net pen finfish farming.
The standard prohibits the use of antibiotics, herbicides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and severely limits the use of parasiticides by allowing them only under veterinary supervision and as a last resort. To minimize the impact of waste, the standard sets measurable requirements such as defining stocking rates, cleaning procedures and the cleaning and feed materials to be used.
It was developed with the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) and a stakeholder committee of industry members, consumer advocates, regulators and environmental groups. The draft went through two extensive public reviews and various changes before being published.
"The industry works hard to maintain its high standards," said Ruth Salmon, executive director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA), "and organic certification will provide an opportunity for some of our farmers to apply organic standards to their methods of production."
|Farmed salmon. (Photo: CAIA)
To qualify for organic certification, Canadian aquaculture products must come from farms that operate while complying with organic aquatic farming methods set by the new standards. Farms are inspected by third-party certifying bodies.
The organic aquaculture standard requires the operator of a fish farm to monitor and detail the operation’s environmental impact to minimize negative effects on the migratory and reproductive patterns of local wild fish populations and any other fauna and flora. The operator must list the measures used to minimize negative impacts; also, siting requirements are addressed as part of existing federal and provincial regulations and fish farm locations are selected for their low environmental impact.
Matt Abbott from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick sees a problem with this.
“The finfish standards would allow conventional open net pen farmed salmon to be certified organic despite the large body of scientific evidence linking this farming practice to detrimental impacts on wild salmon and on the marine environment,” he stated. “Organic producers and customers should be concerned as this weak aquaculture standard threatens the integrity of all organic labels.”
|Farmed Scallop. (Photo: CAIA)
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Living Oceans Society and three other voting members including organic associations formally voted ‘No’ to the new standard as members of the committee. Green groups say the restrictive voting membership of the committee was heavily government and industry-based, including a number of the largest salmon aquaculture companies and their associations.
“With growing consumer interest in sustainable, local and organic food – this organic labelling will undermine public confidence in all organic and sustainable labels,” stated Rob Johnson of the Ecology Action Centre. “With this standard for open net pen fish, we’re seeing greenwashing being taken to an entirely new level.”
The new national standard does not fall under the scope of Canada's Organic Products Regulations or the country’s trade equivalencies for organic products with the US or the European Union (EU).
By Natalia Real