US standards for organic aquaculture proposed

The US National Organic Aquaculture Working Group (NOAWG) has submitted a White Paper proposing standards for organic aquaculture to the National Organic Program of the United States Department of Agriculture
June 29, 2005

On Monday, June 27, the National Organic Aquaculture Working Group (NOAWG) submitted a White Paper [PDF] to the National Organic Program of the United States Department of Agriculture. 


The White Paper proposes standards for organic aquaculture and it is intended to be an important reference and contribution to ongoing work by the National Organic Program of USDA and the National Organic Standards Board, and their newly appointed Aquatic Animal Task Force.


The Working Group expects the White Paper and its proposals to receive considerable comment and perfection before any organic aquaculture standards are adopted by the USDA in their Final Rule.


Many months of intense activity and dialog have been involved in developing the White Paper. Extensive consideration has been given to the 2000 and 2001 reports of an earlier Aquaculture Working Group as well as a large number of international standards for organic aquaculture being employed, or proposed, around the world.


Importation into the United States of aquaculture products that are certified organic has begun under a variety of foreign standards. This permitted practice of inconsistent organic certification programs and labeling creates confusion among buyers in the absence of U.S. national standards.  National organic standards are needed to establish a benchmark or gold standard for all to meet and thus eliminate short-cut tactics and marginal practices that can result in consumer distrust with organic certified aquatic foods.


The Working Group says that with changing demographics shifting to an aging, more health conscientious citizenry, recent recommendations of two servings of fish per week in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and increasing interest in eco-labeled seafood, including organic, by consumers, the need for USDA national organic standards has never been more urgent. 


National Organic Aquaculture Working

NOAWG was created in December 2003 and includes 86 aquaculture professionals who represent federal agencies, private companies, aquaculture producers, universities, and other interested entities. Most participants are from the United States but there are also representatives from Canada, Europe and Latin America. Membership has been open to individuals with an interest in organic standards for aquaculture products and who can contribute to the process of developing national standards for organic aquaculture.


The primary goals of NOAWG are to support and facilitate a nationally coordinated, systematic approach to develop national organic standards for organic aquaculture, identify supporting research needs, create collaborations and partnerships across interested stakeholder sectors, and pursue sustainable work to accomplish planned objectives.


For more information, contact: George Lockwood, or Richard Nelson, co-chairs.


Download the White Paper [PDF]


Members of the Aquaculture Working Group of this task force are listed on the NOP website under Task Forces