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Please note: COABC's Aquaculture is currently not within the scope of the Canada Organic Standards, but members of the aquaculture industry, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada are developing organic aquaculture standards. If you have comments (pro or con) with regards to the development of Organic Aquaculture Standards, please submit these to the forum .

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Organic Aquaculture iconOrganic Aquaculture Perspectives - Part 2


More Perspectives

REGULATING SALMON AQUACULTURE IN BC - A Report Card by the Georgia Strait Alliance. 2004

This report card highlights the failure of the BC government to regulate the salmon farming industry. It evaluates the government's progress in implementing the recommendations that the provincial Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) handed down in 1997.

Many people, including the Minister of Agriculture, Food & Fisheries, have claimed over the intervening years that the government has successfully implemented the majority of the EAO recommendations. According to the government's own analysis, it has fully implemented 39 of the 49 recommendations. However, if you look more closely at the finer details spelled out in the EAO's report, you'll find instead, that the province has fully implemented only 10 of the 49 recommendations. As a result of this poor progress, we have given the BC government an overall failing grade (F) for its progress in addressing the environmental and social issues that were identified by its own Environmental Assessment Office.

Complete Document


Organic aquaculture articlesDISTRIBUTOR TOUTS 'CLEAN' FARMED SALMON ALREADY ON MARKET - Laura Cutland, IntraFish. January 13, 2004

Seattle (WA), USA: Seizing the fallout from the farmed salmon contaminant study published last week, one seafood importer says that he can source farmed salmon with more than 300 times less dioxins and 1,000 times lower PCB concentrations than were found in the wild salmon sampled in the Science study.

Richard Martin, founder of Boston-based Martin International Corp., told IntraFish that test results from an independent lab in Durham, North Carolina show that the organic Atlantic salmon he sources from four or five private growers in the Shetland Islands show significantly less amounts of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs when compared to fish tested in Science study.

Although he only submitted two fish for testing from the Shetland farms, Martin - who provided the test results to IntraFish - said that his product shows that farmed fish that are largely free of chemicals can be produced.

For dioxins, the product tested at .0005 parts per billion. For PCBs, it tested at .0031 ppb. Compared directly with the study samples, the Shetland fish had 340 times lower concentration of dioxin and 1,532 times lower concentration of PCBs than wild salmon. When compared with the farmed salmon samples, the product fared even more favorably, he noted.

Sold under the Black Pearl/Natural Choice brand on the U.S. market, the product is made with U.K. Soil Association-certified organic feed manufactured by Ewos, he said, which uses 100 percent recycled fishery products processed for human consumption. In addition, the Black Pearl farmed salmon is produced without the use pesticides, anti-fouling agents, anti-fungal agents or antibiotics, the importer added.

His company, which also distributes wild salmon, hired Triangle Labs to perform mass spectrometry and gas chromatography tests on the fish, which cost $700 to $800 per sample. Martin said he plans to continue sampling his farmed fish - which he sells alongside a European distributor - every quarter to see if the results hold up over time.

In the meantime, Martin said business has picked up ever since the salmon colorant lawsuit and the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform's "Farmed and Dangerous" advertisement ran in The New York Times. "What really changed things for us was that New York Times ad," he said. "The price was holding them off. When the ad hit, it changed everyone's minds . . . we started to get more consistent business."

Martin typically sells about 15 tons per week of the Black Pearl/Natural Choice brand and another 15 tons weekly of the Black Pearl/Icelandic Brand to customers like Whole Foods and Dorothy Lane Market grocery chains. The product retails for about $8.99 per pound.

The issue of contaminants in farmed salmon gained a worldwide spotlight last week when a study published in the journal Science reported that researchers had found higher levels of PCBs, dioxins and other toxins in farmed fish than in wild salmon.

The authors said that farmed fish had a little over 30 ppb of PCBs while wild salmon tested at less than 5 ppb. For dioxins, farmed fish tested at more than ten times the concentrations of those in wild fish.

The researchers concluded that farmed fish may pose a health risk and recommended consuming no more than one meal per month of farmed salmon based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's cancer risk assessment model.

A number of scientists have since criticized the study for discounting the health benefits of fish and have noted that the contaminant levels found by the authors fall far below safety standards established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The salmon farming industry, meanwhile, has pledged to reduce the amount of contaminants in fish feed and noted that progress has been made.

© IntraFish Media 2004. IntraFish Media is the leading provider of global seafood news through and

Organic aquaculture standards reviewedORGANIC AQUACULTURE STANDARDS REVIEWED - The Organic Standard © Grolink AB Issue 29/September 2003
© 2003, The Organic Standard. Reprinted with permission. The Organic Standard owned and published by Grolink AB is an international monthly journal that enable individuals and organisations to be kept up-to-date with developments concerning worldwide standards and certification issues in the organic sector. This includes certifying bodies, organic consultants, government bodies, international organisations, exporting/importing businesses, supermarkets and trade associations, i.e. all those who need to be well informed about the issues on a global scale.

In August the IFOAM Aquaculture Group responded to the 2004 First Revision Round of the IFOAM Basic Standards (IBS) for Aquaculture by providing a set of comments and recommendations to the IFOAM Standards Committee.

This was the first task carried out by the newly formed Aquaculture Group, a body with over forty members. Although the Aquaculture Group did not attempt to reach a consensus on questions posed by the Standards Committee, the Group nonetheless agreed on many of the issues raised. Several of those issues are presented below.

Questions raised by the Standards Committee are in bold print.

What is aquaculture? Is the proposed definition complete and correct?

The proposed definition, "the managed production of aquatic plants and/ or animals in an enclosed outdoor environment" was too restrictive for the majority of the Aquaculture Group, especially because it clearly excludes indoor, recirculating systems. These systems are highly efficient for water conservation and environmental protection.

They recycle and reuse aquaculture waste water by moving it through a series of filters (screens and biological filters that house beneficial nitrifying bacteria), which remove wastes so that the water may be used again. Generally only 5-10% of the water is replaced per day and this is due mostly to loss from evaporation and the removal of settleable solids.

Recirculating systems are often integrated with terrestrial farming operations that use the nutrient, and especially nitrogen-rich, water as an input to crop production.

Integrated recirculating aquaculture/ hydroponic systems are efficient food production systems that recycle nutrients and require few additional inputs. Nutrient-rich water from aquaculture tanks is circulated through beds of vegetables, fruits, grasses or flowers. The media used to support plants also support useful nitrifying bacteria that oxidise ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate. Ammonia is the major nitrogenous waste product excreted by fish and can become toxic in recirculating systems if not converted to the less toxic nitrate.

Plants take up nutrients and roots serve to clarify water that is then recycled back to the aquaculture tanks. Although some conventional recirculating aquaculture systems are energy intensive, not all are. In fact, some systems integrated with hydroponic plants use very little energy and rely on plants and gravity to utilise wastes and move water through the systems.

Indoor recirculating systems are essential for the early stages of fish or shellfish rearing, and are especially necessary for farmers in regions with temperate, short growing seasons or arid climates. One Aquaculture Group member, Martin Joensen, commented that the Faroe Islands experience extreme weather conditions and that "a 100% outdoor requirement would probably make organic aquaculture in the Faroe Islands impossible". For remote areas, non-coastal regions, or urban environments, indoor aquaculture also significantly reduces food miles - the distance and energy required to transport food between producer and consumer.

The current definition of aquaculture in the 2002 IFOAM Basic Standards states that "aquaculture includes the farming of many different species using diverse forms of production in fresh, brackish and saltwater. These standards cover carnivorous, omnivorous and herbivorous organisms of all types and at all stages of growth, grown in any form of enclosure such as earthen ponds, tanks and cages (open and closed systems)." It does not exclude any species or system.

Should wild-harvested fish be excluded from the standards?

Standards for wild-harvested, i.e. capture fisheries, will, no doubt, continue to be debated for some time. Every IFOAM Aquaculture Group member that provided comments to this question agreed that:

  • Capture fisheries products should not be labelled as organic.
  • It is premature to develop standards for capture fisheries.
  • Capture fisheries standards should not be included in either the aquaculture or wild-harvest sections of the IBS.

These comments are due primarily to management issues and specifically because of a lack of control of the organisms, especially highly migratory species. Although many capture fisheries managers conduct extensive population monitoring, there is no control over what the aquatic animals consume, and particularly to what contaminants the animals are exposed.

Several Group members recommended that sustainable standards, not organic standards, be developed for capture fisheries.

There were exceptions: every member of the Aquaculture Group agreed that sedentary organisms such as certain shellfish and aquatic plants could be labelled as organic and 90% of the Group recommended that standards for these organisms be included in either the IBS aquaculture or wild harvest chapters. These organisms benefit the environment by utilising natural nutrients. They are proactively managed and monitored through the site selection of the operation (in order to provide optimal environmental conditions for the organisms), for predator and contamination control and through decisions about the density of animals per unit volume of grow-out waters and placement of organisms in the water column.

What is the basis to allow wild caught fish as a ration?

As part of a nutritionally-balanced diet piscivorous (fish-eating) fish require fishmeal and oil. Organic piscivorous fish will also require these inputs. Of the Aquaculture Group members that provided comments, 77% said that wild-caught fish should be allowed as a feed ration for organically farmed aquatic animals.

Researchers are actively trying to develop diets that require less fishmeal and oil. Some are quick to say that plant-based diets are the golden answer to organic certification.

However, this is not yet the case as some of these diets have resulted in the growth and health of piscivorous the fish being seriously compromised.

In addition, these diets can increase the susceptibility of the fish to infections from some common pathogens.

Because organic standards include the welfare of the animal, these diets do not yet appear as the best solution for organic piscivorous fish. At this stage fishmeal and oil will still be required as part of a piscivorous fish diet.

Not all fish require fishmeal and oil in their diets. But this is not readily evident in conventional aquaculture as even low-food-chain species such as carp are now raised with processed fishmeal and oil-based feeds.

For example, tambaqui, an Amazonian fish that traditionally feeds only on fruits, nuts and seeds that fall in the water during seasonal flooding, are now raised in conventional aquaculture systems with fishmeal and fish oil-based diets. Nearly 80% of the Aquaculture Group comments recommended that only piscivorous species be fed with a ration that includes fishmeal and oil in their diets.

It should be noted that there are many low-food-chain species cultured widely throughout the globe and these species can entirely bypass all the complex issues (such as sustainability of the resource, contaminants, antioxidants, energy used in harvesting and processing, importation of distant fisheries resources and nutrient disequilibria) associated with fishmeal and fish oil. These issues will be covered more in depth in a future article.

Deborah Brister Research Fellow and Sustainable Aquaculture Program Manager
Institute for Social, Economic and Ecological Sustainability (ISEES)
University of Minnesota

The IFOAM Basic Standards for Aquaculture currently have draft status. Opportunities to provide comments on the second round of revisions will be announced. For additional information regarding the IFOAM Aquaculture Group please contact Deborah Brister by e-mail: or Tel: +1 612-624-7723.

Applying Organic Principles to Aquaculture SystemsApplying Organic Principles to Aquaculture Systems
Understanding Proposed Organic Certification Standards for Farmed Salmon

A guiding document produced by the Aquaculture Development Branch, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, to assist the Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia Standards Review Committee in setting certified organic aquaculture production standards.

Market Trends in Aquaculture - Nathan Pelletier, June, 2003

In the past two decades the salmon aquaculture industry in British Columbia has developed rapidly. Within this brief time frame farmed salmon has become the province's largest agricultural export product. Not surprisingly, the industry has gone through some growing pains. Continued dialogue between salmon farmers, government regulatory bodies and non-governmental organizations has been essential in developing management practices that ensure the continued viability of the industry and the coastal communities and ecosystems in which the farms operate.

Read the full article

a British perspective . . .
TAKING AQUACULTURE SERIOUSLY - Organic Farming. Winter, 2002
© Soil Association 2002 (reproduced with permission)

As UK organic fish farming celebrates its fourth birthday, Jimmie Hepburn considers the challenges facing the sector.

Although organic salmon and trout are widely available in the UK, existing Soil Association standards only have interim status as certain key organic principles are nut fully met. But pressure is increasing to transform these embryonic standards to full status.

Current situation

Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector. In a few years, farmed haddock, cod, turbot, halibut, and sole will rub fins with salmon, trout and sea bass on the fish counters. But marine fish farming has been heavily criticised for its environmental impacts, including pollution from fish waste and uneaten food, escapees, chemicals to control disease and parasites, and ecological impacts of sourcing raw materials from the sea to produce fish.

While organic fish farming has a reasonable track record the challenges will be to fulfil all organic principles, and to compete with the expanding non-organic fish sector. Major progress is needed to ensure the long-term survival and development or organic marine fin fish culture. There is no quick fix but I do have some suggestions.

A blueprint for survival

We need to take organic aquaculture seriously and be fully committed to finding solutions. Organic aquaculture will offer many exciting opportunities, provided there is a willingness to promote its produce. Such enthusiasm has been lacking in the UK, but I am glad to hear that the Soil Association is putting forward a development programme for organic aquaculture. I hope that sufficient support can be mustered for such an important project.

Aquaculture is a new organic sector and, arguably, the most challenging, with no organic fish farming tradition in this country. Fish farmers need to be more open to organic principles, while those involved in promoting and regulating organic food need to understand the fundamental differences and characteristics of farming in water. Much progress has been made but for organic aquaculture to obtain full status we need ingenuity, courage and innovation.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to organic salmon and trout production is the development of fish feeds which fully comply with organic principles. Currently, organic fish feed is still operating a 'throughput' system, where the nutrients come from a wide area, are fed to the fish, and what is not consumed is lost with the waste to the surrounding environment.

Feed manufactures are looking at alternatives to fish meal and fish oil, such a vegetable materials and oils. But do we want to feed organic salmon on a highly processed food? The key challenge for farming carnivorous fish organically is how to tighten nutrient cycles. One obvious option which has not received nearly enough attention is to grow fish feed. After all, organic mixed farms do it all the time! Fish farming is too dependent on a wild resource. Growing our food could be done: an enterprising company near Newcastle grows rag worms for anglers and, increasingly, as a specialist food in aquaculture.

A major drawback with farming in water is lack of control, such as the spread and management of disease or contamination from pollution. There is a need to consider rearing marine stock in sealed systems, where nutrient cycling can be achieved and contamination is minimal. Another approach could be to designate whole areas as organic mixed farms, such as fish, shellfish and seaweed.

In the UK, organic aquaculture could serve as a shining beacon for sustainable aquaculture. Not only do we need a comprehensive research and development programme, but also government commitment and the formation of new partnerships so that technical development can flourish.

Moreover, we must expand the organic standards to include shellfish, crustacean, carp and the production of aquaculture feeds. The Soil Association has made some progress in this area, such as with shrimp, but we do need to go much further.

The organic marine farms of the future are likely to be fairly large, which is acceptable so long as they can fulfil the latest organic standard. However, we need to support and encourage smaller scale operations, such as trout farming, shellfish culture and integrated agri-aqua cultures systems. There is tremendous scope for 'back yard fish farming' approaches, which is one area I am trying to promote in my own work.

Ultimately, the success of any new initiative in organic farming is dependent on marketing. Marketing is a means of talking us to where we want to go. But it is not just about glossy brochures or adverts: it is about raising awareness, education and many forms of publicity.

The future I believe organic aquaculture will become a significant sector, offering a real alternative to intensive fish farming. At a recent seminar I attended in Thailand on behalf of the Soil Association, I was greatly encouraged by enthusiasm for organic aquaculture around the world.

The Soil Association already certifies more organic aquaculture produce than any other certifier but that is almost entirely salmon. Unless we make a real effort to develop the second generation of organic aquaculture standards, not only will aquaculture lose out, but so will the UK organic movement.

Jimmie Hepburn set up Aquavision in 1999 to promote more sustainable approaches to aquaculture through its consultancy and project work. Contact him on (0)1453 887500.

Pertinent Federal (Canadian) & Provincial (BC) Regulations
Organic Dairy Farming in Canada

Farm Equipment
Marketing Your Product
Organic Prices (fruit and vegetables)
Small Scale Food Processing
Pest Management
(Canada, USA) and Water (BC, Alberta) Testing Labs & Services





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