After eight years of spirited debate and delicate diplomacy, a consortium of environmental organizations, commercial fishing executives, scientists and government officials has developed the first comprehensive global standards for salmon farming.
The 91-page document specifies 100 fish-farming standards, from the use of feed and antibiotics to pesticides and fish-cage construction, and is expected to be implemented later this year by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, a nonprofit monitoring group based in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The new set of standards could raise the bar for farm-raised salmon sold at retail outlets in the future, because it would enable certified aquaculture farms to display a retail label — on packaging or at store counters – designating salmon “A.S.C. Certified.”
“We’re all quite glad to have reached agreement,” said Katherine Bostick, the senior aquaculture program officer for the World Wildlife fund, which was a co-founder of the council and also helped found the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies sustainably caught wild fish.
The development of the standard was accomplished by a nine-member steering committee participating in what it called a dialogue of 500 participants from government, academia, industry and nongovernmental organizations. Through the years, there were 16 meetings in cities around the globe, and during the complex process, many drafts of standards were submitted, revised and resubmitted
Among the steering committee members were the Wildlife Fund, the Pew Environment Group, the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, the Norwegian Seafood Federation, SalmonChile Corporation, Fundacion Terram (a nonprofit Chilean group supporting sustainability) and Skretting, a fish-feed company.
During the discussions, some industry participants complained that environmentalists were unduly influencing the standards, while some environmentalists said that disproportionate weight had been given to the concerns of the salmon-farming industry.
“Nobody got everything they wanted, and everyone made compromises,” Ms. Bostick said. “We’re aware that the standards are not perfect, but these standards will be more effective than any existing standard in creating change on the water.”
Retailers could use the certification label as a sales tool for marketing to consumers concerned about health and sustainability, Ms. Bostick said. The bluish green logo carries the message “Farmed Responsibly – A.S.C. certified,” with a large white check mark.
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council oversees and accredits what it calls the “salmon-auditing process” to approve salmon producers; verification is accomplished by various independent certification bodies worldwide. By passing the audit, producers are approved to use the council’s logo (above).
The new standards “will challenge the industry to improve in many areas, and they are one of many tools that must be used to insure the health of the environment, industry and society,” said Hernán Frigolett, the steering committee representative from Fundación Terram.
Petter Arnesen, the committee member from Marine Harvest — a company that claims it is the world’s largest producer of farmed salmon — said that “as an industry, we are often challenged on lack of transparency and data from farms,” adding that “these standards require an unprecedented amount of transparency.”
More than two-thirds of farmed salmon is Atlantic salmon, but the same new standards apply to farmed Coho and King Salmon. The production of farmed salmon increased 10-fold from 1982 to 2007, and rose 50 percent in volume during the last decade, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
More than 70 percent of retail salmon comes from fish farms, and more than half of all farmed salmon originates in Norway and Chile; Scotland and Canada are also significant producers. About half of the world’s farmed salmon is produced by a half-dozen large agribusiness corporations.
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council is already overseeing approved standards for the farming of tilapia, pangasius, abalone, mussels, clams, scallops and oysters after a series of other aquaculture dialogues. Retailers are already using the certification logo in selling some of these fish. Standards for fresh-water trout are about to be issued. Also soon to be approved are standards for shrimp, seriola and cobia (large marine fin fish).
The strictures in the new salmon standard specify approved uses of antibiotics and anti-parasite chemicals to keep fish disease-free. The standards also specify that a portion of fish meal and fish oil that is fed to farmed salmon must be sustainable (carnivorous farmed salmon consume two to four times their weight in feeder fish, depleting worldwide stocks of mackerel and other species).
The new standards also specify water-quality standards, since salmon farms have long been criticized for polluting coastal areas with fish nutrients and excrement. In addition, the new standards require better training of workers and the use of more secure sea cages – called net pens — to prevent the escape of farmed salmon, which can then breed with, and reduce the ocean-survival capability of wild salmon.
Author: Glenn Collins
Source: The New York Times