New Canadian ‘Organic’ Aquaculture Standard Fails to Meet True Organic Principles

May 9, 2012

VANCOUVER, BC – East and West Coast conservation organisations today expressed united concern over the undermining of the Canadian ‘organic’ label by a new organic standard that would allow net-pen aquaculture products to be certified.

By including open-net pen finfish in to the organic aquaculture standard, the standard fails miserably at one of its claimed principles, to ‘Protect the environment, minimize benthic degradation and erosion and water quality degradation, decrease pollution, optimize biological productivity and promote a sound state of health’.

“The finfish standards would allow conventional open net pen farmed salmon to be certified organic despite the large body of scientific evidence linking this farming practice to detrimental impacts on wild salmon and on the marine environment,” stated Matt Abbott from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.   “Organic producers and customers should be concerned as this weak aquaculture standard threatens the integrity of all organic labels,” concluded Abbott.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Living Oceans Society and three other voting members including organic associations,  formally voted ‘No’ to the new Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard as members of the standard committee. However the standard still passed the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB)’s requirement of 50% plus one vote.

The restrictive voting membership of the committee was heavily government and industry based, including a number of the largest salmon aquaculture companies and their associations. “The bias of the membership base, definitely aided this standard being passed,” said Kelly Roebuck from Living Oceans Society, a member group of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR).  “In fact the standard sponsor, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has been a major driver for obtaining an organic standard for open net pen farmed salmon” stated Roebuck.

The Canadian so-called ‘Organic’ Aquaculture Standard allows:

    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 a drain on already strained global fish stocks.

“With growing consumer interest in sustainable, local and organic food – this organic labelling will undermine public confidence in all organic and sustainable labels,” stated Rob Johnson of the Ecology Action Centre. “With this standard for open net pen fish, we’re seeing greenwashing being taken to an entirely new level,” concluded Johnson.

Innovative technology such as closed containment systems can greatly reduce or eliminate environmental risks such as escapes, diseases and parasites, waste discharge and pesticide use, yet  these aquaculture production systems that are more compatible with organic principles have not been prioritized within the standard.

The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR), Conservation Council of New Brunswick and Ecology Action Centre today launched the website to provide more information on the concerns associated with the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard and how shoppers can make a difference by supporting aquaculture producers who are farming more sustainably.

For more information, please contact:

Kelly Roebuck, Living Oceans Society (CAAR member group)
604.696.5044/Cell: 778.232.0329

Matthew Abbott, Conservation Council of New Brunswick
506-529-8838/Cell: 506-321-0429

Rob Johnson, Ecology Action Centre
Cell: 902-222-4933

About the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR)

CAAR was formed in 2001 to ensure salmon farming in British Columbia is safe for wild salmon, marine ecosystems, coastal communities and human health. Today the coalition has over 10,000 supporters across four continents and is comprised of the following conservation groups:

    · David Suzuki Foundation
    · Georgia Strait Alliance
    · Living Oceans Society
    · T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation

About Conservation Council of New Brunswick (CCNB)

CCNB is a membership-based organization that has been at the forefront of environmental action in New Brunswick since 1969. CCNB believes the future of all life depends on bringing human activity in balance with ecological limits. CCNB is a citizens’ action group that creates awareness of environmental problems and advocates solutions through research, education and interventions.

About Ecology Action Centre (EAC)

Since 1971, the EAC has been working to build a healthier, more sustainable Nova Scotia. The Ecology Action Centre works closely with social and natural scientists and makes strong use of science in communicating its message to the public. The Centre’s earliest projects included recycling, composting, and energy conservation, and these are now widely recognized environmental issues. Our current areas of focus include Built Environment, Marine Issues, Coastal Issues, Wilderness, Food, Transportation and Energy Issues.