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Organic Salmon Farming -the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association's Perspective

Should salmon, farmed in the wild, and tracked from egg to plate be eligible for organic certification when they are fed diets containing fish meal and grown in low density net pens? We say, why not?

November 24, 2008

Organic Salmon Farming -the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association's Perspective

Should salmon, farmed in the wild, and tracked from egg to plate be eligible for organic certification when they are fed diets containing fish meal and grown in low density net pens? We say, why not? Fishmeal is fed to organically certified land animals and net pens are no more than aquatic fences designed to contain the livstock. Organic standards should provide a level playing field for all organic growers, regardless of where they operate. 

As consumers take a hard look at the food they eat and how it is produced, organic products are growing in popularity. According to Specialty Food Magazine, the US organic market has doubled in value in the past six years and is poised for further growth as consumer demand continuesto rise, and as more product offerings come on the market.
One of those products is farmed salmon. Here in BC, the Pacific Organic Seafood Association (POSA) spearheaded the drive for organic production standards for farmed finfish and shellfish. The discussion around organic fish farming started in 1995 and POSA was formally registered as a society in 2002. Since then, POSA has worked with a number of organic standard setting bodies to draft standards based on those of the International Federaion of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and the US National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

In the US, a federal advisory board has approved criteria which provide guidelines for farmed fish to be labeled 'organic'. The standards approved by the National Organic Standards Board would allow organic fish farmers to use wild fish as part of thir feed mix provided it did not exceed 25 percent of the total. They also stated that the fish used in fish feed must not com from forage species, such as menhaden.   In Canada, POSA, IFOAM and others believe some salmon farmers can meet the standards set for organic certification, just as some, not all, terrestrial farmers can achieve organic certification.
-Truly organic production includes the general principles of organic aquaculture and also sets animal welfare and social objecties. To view the standards endorsed by 14 global organic standard-setting organizations, including POSA, click here.

Organic certification procedures are well established for terrestrial - or land - farms. It is important to remember: land farms are open to the environment - wild animals, animal and airborne pests and diseases - in exactly the same way as aquatic farms. The risk of disease and parasite transfer is real in both cases. Whether this risk can be managed in manner conducive to organic certification on ocean farms should be judged in accordance wih the impact of land-based farms on terrestrial wildlife.  Here's what we - people who live in coastal BC communities, who raise salmon for a living and who have made a commitment to environmental sustainability - have to say: By all means let's protect the integrity of the 'organic' label by ensuring that standards are set to ensure farmed salmon is raised in a healthy, safe and environmentally sound manner. Organic certification procedures are well established for terrestrial - or land - farms and include principles to ensure:
- Wholesome food products of prime quality 
- Production methods minimize use of external resources. 
- Environmental protection 
- Social sustainability 

We're confident all 14 members of the Pacific Organic Seafood Association, can meet those criteria. And we are positive that all BC farm fresh salmon is a sustainable and year-round, healthy food choice. Bon appetit!

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