Major greenwash wave could hit net-cage salmon farms

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Major greenwash wave could hit net-cage salmon farms

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has been working behind closed doors with members of the salmon farming industry to develop a standard that would allow net-cage salmon farms to be certified as “organic.” A draft of this standard has just been released for public review and comment, overseen by the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB), until August 30, 2010.

The proposed standards cover seaweed, shellfish, closed containment AND net-cages. As written, organic certification would be granted to net-cages with little to no changes to current practices. A completely unacceptable move, we are urging residents of Canada and consumers in the United States to submit a comment to this process.

Atlantic salmon grown in net-cages on the BC coast, treated with the chemical SLICE and antibiotics, that can spread sea lice and disease to juvenile wild salmon, smother the ocean floor with fish feces and waste feed, and consume more wild fish in their feed than the farmed fish produced, is simply not a product that meets the expectations and principles of organic.

Such a weak standard threatens the integrity of the organic label, negates others’ efforts to produce truly organic products, and exposes the Canadian government’s irresponsible management and promotion of net-cage aquaculture. The adoption of this standard and the greenwashing of net-cage farmed salmon would also undermine the entire closed containment movement. Slapping an “organic salmon” label on net-cage farmed salmon undermines the work of innovators who are investing in and developing alternative technology to provide a truly sustainable farmed salmon to consumers.

So Canadians, let the government know you are opposed to this standard. Americans, tell the Canadian government that you will not support farmed salmon raised in open-net-cages and that a bogus organics label won’t change your mind. The US remains the largest market for Canadian farmed salmon and until US organic aquaculture standards are passed into regulation, Canadian “organic” salmon could be sold on American shelves and menus.

To get ideas for submission comments, go to our assessment of the standard. To view the standard, go to the Canadian General Standards Board website or go straight to the standards document.

Keep us in the loop! As we move forward on this issue, it would be great to keep track of how many folks are weighing in. BCC CAAR on your email submission to

Have a question about the organics standard? Post it to our Facebook discussions page.

Proposed aquaculture regulations would fail to make the net-cage salmon farming industry more sustainable or accountable>

The Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) has drafted new federal regulations for the management of aquaculture in BC in preparation for the change in jurisdiction. The proposed regulations are now available for public review and comment until September 8, 2010.

The draft regulations would not improve the way open net-cage salmon aquaculture is being practiced in British Columbia in any appreciable way. CAAR initially hoped that the federal government would take its responsibility to protect Canada’s wild fish stocks and the ecosystems that support them seriously, but it is our opinion that they have failed to do so. In fact, the proposed regulations, with a newly streamlined licensing process, allow for renewed expansion of the net-cage industry.

Concerns with the Proposed Regulations

  1. Most of the regulation would be done through conditions that the Minister of Fisheries & Oceans may attach to individual licenses. This leaves us in the dark as to what will be required of a facility until we actually see the license.
  2. There is no requirement for DFO to prioritize their primary mandate to protect fish and fish habitat as the foundation for the management of sustainable aquaculture.
  3. The proposed regulations do not require any improvement in environmental protection from the impacts of open net-cages.
  4. No license fee structure is included at this time therefore any increase in environmental monitoring will be borne by the taxpayer.
  5. Reporting requirements for public disclosure and transparency around farm activities are not clearly or adequately addressed.
  6. There are no details given about how non-compliance will be assessed under the new regulations.
  7. Under the proposed regulatory regime, an Environmental Assessment pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) is no longer required for farm expansion. As farms grow larger both in number or size, there will be no mechanism in place to assess the cumulative environmental implications or opportunity for public input on new operations or license conditions.

CAAR is in the process of reviewing the draft and will develop an in-depth analysis of the proposed regulations, as well as recommendations for improvement.

Government secrecy over sea lice and disease data continues

Last March we told you how CAAR member group T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation along with Ecojustice won a Freedom of Information (FOI) case initiated in 2004 to gain access to sea lice and disease data for specific BC salmon farms. Because this decision took six years, only data from the original request was handed over (2002/03) so a second FOI request was filed to obtain the remaining information up until 2010. Shockingly, this second request for the same information was denied – the full picture of sea lice and disease on salmon farms remains obscured.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (BCMAL) who holds these data initially argued that sea lice and disease information was protected based on the assertion that publicizing these data could harm the proprietary commercial interests of salmon farms. However, the information and privacy commissioner ruled that BCMAL could no longer conceal records of sea lice infestations and disease outbreaks.

In response to the second request for more recent data, BCMAL modified the rules and used a different section of the privacy act to block the information request. The new section cited is one that allows secrecy if the information may harm the financial or economic interests of the government of BC or the ability of the government to manage the economy. However this rationale is inconsistent with the issue at hand which is not one of business interests but a critical environmental issue.

The data have been requested so that scientists can conduct a thorough analysis of what’s going on in the farms in correlation with what’s happening with wild salmon declines and the marine environment surrounding the farms. This information gap arises because the provincial government in general doesn’t have regulations to force the fish farming companies to send their ongoing monitoring data to the government and make it publicly accessible.

In a radio interview on C-FAX 1070, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation executive director David Lane said:

“I simply don’t know of any other industry that gets off the hook from giving important information to the government. If you were a pulp mill or a municipal sewage operation the environmental information about your export has to go to government. That’s just the way you do business if you’re having an environmental impact.”

A complaint has been lodged with the Information and Privacy Commissioner asking for a specific ruling that the decision that was made on the original request should apply to the identical information requested for the remaining data.

David Lane continues:

“If every single applicant for information had to go through a huge six-year process, again every time they ask for some more information on something that is already ruled, that would not just be ridiculous, but an abuse of the whole process of the access to information laws.”

T. Buck Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice are expecting that the Commission will see that this needs an expedited response and it is hoped that there will be a new ruling soon. CAAR will keep you informed of the progress.

Read the media release.