‘Organic’ label for farmed fish fails to meet fundamental organic principles

For Immediate Release
May 27, 2011

VANCOUVER, BC – Over 50 organizations, businesses and fishermen from across Canada and the U.S. today submitted a joint letter to the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) opposing proposed draft Organic Standards for Finfish Aquaculture. The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR), together with the other signatories, is calling on the CGSB to overhaul the weak draft and develop organic aquaculture standards that are in line with basic organic principles.

The proposed Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standards would cover the certification of seaweed and shellfish as well as finfish, but the most troublesome sections of the standards relate to the production of fish raised in open net pens. As written, the finfish standards would grant open net pen farmed salmon organic certification despite the large body of scientific evidence linking this farming practice to wild salmon declines and other impacts on the marine environment. They would also allow fish farmers to grow their crop using pesticides and non-organic, possibly unsustainable feed sources.

“Consumers, organic farmers, conservation organizations, fishermen and scientists all agree that these proposed standards fail to meet our expectation of what’s behind the organic label,” says Kelly Roebuck of Living Oceans Society, a member group of CAAR. “The Canadian government has to do better than this or their actions will threaten the integrity of all Canada’s organic agriculture products.”

The proposed organic aquaculture standards would allow:

  • The use of synthetic pesticides;
  • The continued, uncontrollable spread of disease and parasites to wild fish;
  • Uncontrolled disposal of fish feces into the ocean;
  • Escapes of farmed fish that compete or interbreed with wild fish;
  • Entanglement and drowning deaths of marine mammals;
  • The unrestricted use of feed from non-organic, potentially unsustainable sources, as opposed to the 100 per cent organic feed requirement currently in place for all other organic livestock;
  • The unlimited use of wild fish in feed. Since operations use substantially more wild fish in feed than farmed salmon produced, this allows farmed fish to be certified “organic” despite contributing to a net loss of marine protein and drain on already strained global fish stocks.

A Canadian organic aquaculture standard should reflect practices that address the well-researched impacts of open net pen aquaculture. “Such weak aquaculture standards undermine producers who are innovating in order to deliver more responsible products like closed containment salmon,” says Roebuck.

In order to protect consumers from weak foreign certifications, Canada and the U.S. currently have an equivalency agreement for organic standards. Weak Canadian aquaculture standards may put downward pressure on U.S. standards as they go through the final approval process with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The CGSB is accepting public comment on the draft Organic Aquaculture Standards until May 31st 2011. Comments can be made at: www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/ongc-cgsb/programme-program/norms-standards/notification/public-eng.html

Read the joint letter and view the signatories at: www.farmedanddangerous.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/organics_letter_final.pdf

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For more information, please contact:

Kelly Roebuck, Sustainable Seafood Campaign Manager, Living Oceans Society, a member group of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, 604-696-5044