Canadian conservation organisations have expressed united concern over the undermining of the Canadian ‘organic’ label by a new organic standard that would allow net-pen aquaculture products to be certified.
By including open-net pen finfish in to the organic aquaculture standard, the standard fails miserably at one of its claimed principles, to ‘Protect the environment, minimize benthic degradation and erosion and water quality degradation, decrease pollution, optimize biological productivity and promote a sound state of health’.
“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,” stated Matt Abbott from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “Organic producers and customers should be concerned as this weak aquaculture standard threatens the integrity of all organic labels,” concluded Abbott.
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Living Oceans Society and three other voting members including organic associations, formally voted ‘No’ to the new Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard as members of the standard committee. However the standard still passed the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB)’s requirement of 50% plus one vote.
Conservationist groups such as Save Our Salmon have proposed recirculating aquaculture systems as a better, more sustainable option than open-net fish farming.
The voting membership of the committee was heavily government and industry based, including salmon aquaculture companies and their associations. “The bias of the membership base, definitely aided this standard being passed,” said Kelly Roebuck from Living Oceans Society. “In fact the standard sponsor, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has been a major driver for obtaining an organic standard for open net pen farmed salmon” stated Roebuck.
“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,” concluded Johnson.
Innovative technology such as closed containment systems can greatly reduce or eliminate environmental risks such as escapes, diseases and parasites, waste discharge and pesticide use, yet these aquaculture production systems that are more compatible with organic principles have not been prioritized within the standard.
The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR), Conservation Council of New Brunswick and Ecology Action Centre today launched the website organicsalmon.org to provide more information on the concerns associated with the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard and how shoppers can make a difference by supporting aquaculture producers who are farming more sustainably.
OTTAWA - With the release of the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard on May 10, Canadian consumers now have the opportunity to choose certified organic farmed seafood including finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants.
Aquaculture, the farming of aquatic plants and animals, is the fastest growing food production system in the world, producing about 50 percent of the seafood consumed today. Because aquatic farming relies on plant and animal husbandry, it is possible to apply organic growing and rearing principles to this system of food production. Like its organic terrestrial counterpart, the organic aquatic sector uses specific farming protocols which minimize the input of synthetic substances and maximize local environmental quality.
Canadian farm-raised fish like the above-pictured Arctic Charr can now be certified as organic. These Charr were grown at the Millbrook First Nation's recirculating aquaculture facility in Nova Scotia.
Specifically, the organic aquaculture standard prohibits the use of antibiotics, herbicides and genetically modified organisms, and severely restricts the use parasiticides, allowed only under veterinary supervision as a last course of treatment. The standard sets measurable requirements for practices that minimize the impact of waste. These include defining stocking rates, cleaning procedures and the cleaning and feed materials that must be used.
The new standard was developed with the Canadian General Standards Board and a stakeholder committee of industry members, consumer advocates, regulators and environmental organizations. The draft standard went through two extensive public reviews and countless changes before being published this week.
Just a few of the aquaculture projects that Octaform has worked on across the world.
To qualify for organic certification, Canadian aquaculture products must have been grown on farms operating in accordance with organic aquatic farming methods established by the new standards. Farms are inspected by third-party certifying bodies to ensure that the standard has been followed. The new national standard does not currently fall under the scope of Canada's Organic Products Regulations or Canada's trade equivalencies for organic products with the United States or European Union."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."
"Until now, organic claims could show up on aquaculture products from outside the country and consumers wouldn't know whether the claims were trustworthy or what standards they met," said Matthew Holmes, Executive Director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. "Now we have a made-in-Canada standard that clearly and verifiably defines the environmental and husbandry requirements, and meets consumers' expectations for a high-water mark for this quickly-growing Canadian sector."