Final Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue standards won’t solve threat to wild salmon

CAAR sees advances but urges closed containment

February 7, 2012VANCOUVER—Although the final draft Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue (SAD) standard pushes improved performance in the net cage industry, it does not adequately protect wild salmon and the environment, according to the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR). After seven years of hard work by numerous stakeholders, including the international salmon aquaculture industry, CAAR has concluded that closed containment salmon farming is the only verifiable way to effectively reduce or eliminate the key negative environmental impacts of salmon farming. “The final draft SAD standard is stronger than any of the other certification systems currently being touted by the industry,” said Jay Ritchlin, Director of Marine Conservation at CAAR member group the David Suzuki Foundation, and a Steering Committee member of the SAD. “Unfortunately, there are too many uncertainties to say it is strong enough to protect wild salmon or marine ecosystems and, for the CAAR groups, that is our bottom line.” CAAR is particularly concerned that the standard falls short in a number of significant areas including elimination of disease transmission between farmed and wild fish. It does not adequately address the impacts of existing exotic species. While there are some important limits on the use and discharge of antibiotics and toxic sea lice chemicals, the standard does not eliminate them. The standard is intended to certify individual farms, and thus struggles to deal with the cumulative impacts of the industry and its potential expansion. One significant concern is that the SAD standard does not compare salmon farm performance to ecological benchmarks. It compares salmon farms to other salmon farms and while SAD certified farms would clearly be better performers than farms not meeting the standard, the standard does not rank their performance compared to the needs of the environment, or to other forms of seafood, farmed or wild. CAAR member groups agree that while the SAD standards cannot ensure truly environmentally responsible practices, they are measurably stronger and based on a far more credible process than other standards such as those being promoted by the GAA (Global Aquaculture Alliance) Best Aquaculture Practices and Global Trust. The SAD also addresses key social and labour issues in a globally significant way. “We recognize and appreciate the incredible effort made by all SAD Steering Committee members, from industry and environmental groups, as well as the invaluable input and participation by individuals and stakeholders around the world,” said Ritchlin. “The information gained and the lessons learned will never lose their value. That information, however, has served to confirm CAAR’s position that closed containment systems are currently the only verifiable way to protect wild salmon and the environment.” Despite concerns about this standard, CAAR will remain on the SAD Steering Committee to influence the standard’s implementation, to follow through on what has been a strong process and to evaluate the evidence collected from farms that apply to use the standard.