Date: October 16/08 | Author: Tiffany
Members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in the US have been hearing about the environmental impacts of open net-cage salmon farms ever since they began considering standards for aquaculture.
Collectively, scientists, conservation groups, and consumers have submitted hundreds of comments that raise the alarm that allowing net-cage farms into the organic program will lead to the certification of operations responsible for marine mammal deaths, escapes, and the lethal infestation of wild fish with parasites and diseases. Open net-cages simply lack the control mechanisms needed to prevent these impacts – closed, contained systems are necessary.
On September 28th the NOSB released proposed organic aquaculture standards for net pens and feed including wild fish. It is clear that NOSB members have been listening to concerns about environmental impacts. Their feed proposal includes a sunset clause, which ratchets down the use of wild fish to zero over 12 years. The net cage proposal requires producers to justify the location of net pens and detail how the location will minimize environmental impacts. The standards also require net pens to be sited in a manner that avoids migratory routes of native species.
While these standards aim to protect wild fish from the known impacts of open net-cages it will be difficult, if not impossible to maintain their intended integrity in practice.
Even though ‘avoid’ sounds very concise we cannot count on all certifiers and producers to interpret ‘avoid’ the same way. Research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B in 2007 shows that sea lice from a single salmon farm can raise the infection pressure up to 75 km away. Despite this research, the BC Ministry of Agriculture still uses criteria from 2000 that allows new salmon farms to be sited 1 km from the mouth of a salmon-bearing stream. This is considered adequate to ‘avoid’ juvenile wild salmon beginning their migration.
With the presence of 9,663 migrating salmon stocks on Canada’s Pacific coast siting a salmon farm that entirely ‘avoids’ wild salmon migratory routes should be impossible, but that depends on one’s definition of ‘avoid.'
Let the NOSB Know that You Support Strong Standards
The NOSB is listening to concerns about the impacts of open net-cage salmon farming, but they are also under pressure from the industry to allow these practices into the organic program. Please take a few minutes to submit your comments (using the easy online form) to the National Organic Standards Board on-line before the November 3rd deadline.