Organic Net-Pen Aquaculture? 'No Way' Say Conservationists
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.