BC organic associations rule farmed salmon raised in open net cages ineligible for certification

For Immediate Release
March 1, 2005

VICTORIA, BC – The Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia (COABC) have passed a unanimous motion, which in effect halts a three-year review of organic standards for farmed salmon grown in open net cages.

“CAAR applauds the COABC for taking action to protect both the environment and consumer trust in the organic brand which, for their constituents, are inseparable,” said Theresa Rothenbush Aquaculture Specialist for Raincoast Conservation Society (RCS). “Closed-containment is the only option for the future of this industry.”

The COABC motion outlines “a minimum acceptable basis on which to move forward with a standard for aquaculture” and that while these targets are not currently reachable “technology and practices may evolve to make this feasible at some point in the future”.

COABC conditions for organic certification of farmed salmon conclude that:

  • It is not acceptable for feed to come from South America and local certified sustainable fish-based feed is not currently available.
  • It is unacceptable for waste to be released into the environment without responsibility for managing that waste and only a zero escape risk is tolerable which cannot be met by open net cage technology.
  • Contaminant levels must be equal/lesser than wild fish of the same species.
  • Expression of basic behaviour isn’t possible in an open net cage.
  • Siting criteria must be stricter including a minimum distance from spawning streams and migration routes.

This decision in effect stops certification of open net cage salmon farms by the COABC – B.C.’s sole organization legislated through the Agri-food Choice and Quality Act to manage the standard for BC Certified Organic. However, salmon farmers can still apply for certification using European standards, which the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) considers environmentally inadequate for B.C.’s sensitive salmon ecosystems.

Chefs in Canada and the United States have stopped the sale of certified organic farmed salmon after being educated about the ecological dangers of farming in open net cages.

“Organic certification of open net salmon farming is purely a marketing tool,” said Dom Repta, Markets Campaigner, Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS). “It is my experience that when chefs and retailers are educated in the details of existing European standards for organic farmed salmon they see them as inadequate and a threat to consumer trust. Pasting an organic label on open net cage farmed salmon won’t change the risk to consumers and wild ecosystems”

RCS and FOCS are members of CAAR – a coalition of conservation and First Nations organizations working to find solutions to destructive salmon farming practices.


For more information please contact:

Theresa Rothenbush – Raincoast Conservation Society (250) 360-6930

Dom Repta – Friends of Clayoquot Sound, (604) 699-0065

Download Media Release


  • A group of salmon farming companies formed the Pacific Organic Seafood Association and together submitted standards to the COABC for consideration in 2003.
  • The COABC met with industry to discuss their standards which led to a larger meeting in Vancouver paid for by the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries to discuss the issue in Fall 2003.
  • The COABC heard presentations from scientists, ENGOs and First Nations concerned with the certification of open net cage farming in early 2004 organized by the COABC and the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform.
  • On February 8, 2005 the COABC unanimously passed the motion requiring that a list of concerns (outlined above) be met by the proponents before the COABC moves forward with further development of an organic standard for salmon farming.
  • Organic farmed salmon is certified in other countries including Chile and Scotland under European organic labels. Standards are considered environmentally inadequate by the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform due to their allowance of open net cages and inherent risk of escaped fish, disease, and waste impacts on wild species.

For quotes from the industry, COABC, and government please contact:

Government: Rob Ferrier, Finfish Aquaculture Analyst, Aquaculture Development Branch, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, (250) 356-2238

COABC: Patrick Mallet, President, Certified Organic Associations of BC (250) 353-7394 Industry: Neil McLeod, President, Creative Salmon 250-725-2884