Naturland responds to new EU organic aquaculture regulation

New EU organic standard is only the lowest common denominator - Naturland
July 14, 2009

Naturland responds to new EU organic aquaculture regulation

After lengthy discussions, the EU Commission has approved the detailed Implementation rules of organic aquaculture in the new EU organic regulation. Thus, a legal regulation of organic fish and seafood exists throughout Europe for the first time. One of the largest organic associations, Germany-based Naturland, developed a standard for organic aquaculture 12 years ago and played an important role in the process in Brussels. Naturland welcomes these measures of the EU to encourage organic fish production. However, they said the new standard is only the lowest common denominator: "Important points were defined too weakly", emphasized Hans Hohenester, organic farmer and chair of the board of directors of Naturland.

While the current version of the aquaculture regulation adopted the suggestions of Naturland and other European associations in numerous issues, in further points it is a compromise with the position of the conventional industry, Naturland said. In particular, it said most of the stocking densities are set too high. For trout the densities are twice as high as the Naturland standard, while for shrimp the densities are almost three times as high. Furthermore, the regulations allow critical chemicals, such as for the impregnation of net cages and for preservation in processing. Many requirements of the EU organic regulations, for example regarding the transport of live animals, are too vague.

"The Naturland standards make high demands on the operations with good reason and make strict requirements", Dr. Stefan Bergleiter, director of the aquaculture department of Naturland said. "Only through this can the organic character of production be ascertained and thus a meaningful certification made possible."

Since the mid-90s, Naturland has carried out pioneering work and developed standards for different species and production systems in aquaculture. Operations in 18 countries in Europe, Latin America and South East Asia produce fish, shrimp and mussels according to Naturland standards. The organic association requires certified organic feed and species-appropriate low stocking densities, forbids the use of chemicals and sets guidelines for the protection of nature and animals. In addition, the operations must uphold social standards.