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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 .

Organic Aquaculture iconOrganic Aquaculture


Draft Discussion Standards - January, 2004

NOTE: This draft has been superseded by a new version, available only in MS Word: [View/download .doc version - 330k]

In the interest of generating discussion regarding organic aquaculture and possible organic aquaculture standards, the Standards Review Committee of the COABC has decided to post the following standards. Please consider that:
  1. the standards posted are intended to be used as a discussion document, and should not be interpreted as a final draft
  2. the standards were drawn together based on excerpts from proposed standards from the Pacific Organic Seafood Association (Sections 1-10), Yellow Island Aquaculture Limited (Section 11), Aquaculture Development Branch (with input from land-based salmonid producers) (Section 12), Shellfish Farmers for Organic Status Association (Section 13 in its entirety), and various international standards
  3. these discussion standards are intentionally "high-bar", in order to encourage constructive input from industry and other interests regarding their suitability rather than placing the onus on the COABC to identify and remediate specific weaknesses
  4. the COABC is seeking informed comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the standards, as well as discussion of broader questions surrounding organic aquaculture
  5. any comments should be posted on the aquaculture forum rather than sent to COABC members (they do not wish to be lobbied by any groups, regardless of their political persuasion, preferring instead that commentary be exchanged via the public forum).



These standards have been drawn up based on a vision for organic aquaculture. The production, processing and marketing of stock and value-added products must comply with Provincial and Federal statutes regulating the industry as well the mandate of the Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia (COABC).

These standards are considered interim because the aquaculture industry recognises that organic aquaculture is a new concept and is still in the early stages of development. Organic aquaculture systems and the standards that define them will undergo further evolution and refinement, particularly in the areas of feeds, enclosures, and the closing of nutrient cycles.


This standard covers the production of specific species of aquatic organisms, at all stages of growth, in a variety of production systems. The standard describes the management practices for farming of these organisms that must be met and maintained in order for the product to be labelled as BC Certified Organic. Sections 2-9 are general guidelines for all organic aquaculture operations and must be applied in conjunction with appropriate culture-specific organic production standards. Section 10 provides additional standards for finfish aquaculture. Section 11 details standards specific to the production of organic net-pen salmon. Section 12 applies to the land-based production of salmonids. Section 13 details specific standards for oyster and clam production.


In addition to the established IFOAM principles for organic production, the following principles and objectives also apply to organic aquaculture:
  1. The development of a valuable and sustainable aquatic ecosystem
  2. The healthy use and proper care of water and water resources
  3. The maintenance or enhancement of water quality
  4. The safety, maintenance or enhancement of wild aquatic flora and fauna

Environmental Objectives

The overall objective for the production shall be consideration for the environment and the thriving and health of the organisms. The production shall be adjusted so that the organisms live to the greatest possible extent in an environment that provides for their fundamental physiological and ethological needs and which replicates as closely as possible the environment in which the species would normally live.

The production shall be managed in such a way that the environmental integrity of the surrounding water and land areas is preserved through:

  1. Having the minimum possible effect on local biological processes, including micro-organisms, plants and animals.
  2. Preventing escape and predation, where applicable.
  3. Maintaining healthy water conditions with respect to the needs of the animals and plants.
  4. If marine foodstuffs are used (i.e. finfish production), they must come from a sustainable stock that is not normally used as food for human consumption and/or from by-products and wastes generated from the processing of species used for human consumption.
  5. Managing the production so that infectious organisms, parasites, and input factors do not affect wild organisms in the surrounding environment.
  6. Providing for polyculture in the production where possible.

Organic Food Production Objectives

  1. The production of aquaculture products of prime quality, free from artificial ingredients and with minimal contamination from the environment.
  2. Production methods that use organic ingredients and minimise the use of external resources.
  3. The prohibition of synthetic input factors such as antibiotics, pesticides, and other chemical additives.

Animal Welfare Objectives

  1. Promotion of health and welfare of the organisms by minimising stress, reducing the incidence of disease, and nurturing the vitality of the organisms through meeting their physiological and behavioural needs.
  2. Stocking rates that mimic those found in the wild as much as possible.
  3. Health management to a high standard.

Social Objectives

  1. The encouragement of the use of local resources and services.
  2. A safe, healthy and sustainable working environment for employees.
  3. Acceptance and support of the neighbouring community.
  4. Local production for local consumption.
  5. The promotion of organic aquaculture to meet consumer needs and to improve existing practises in the aquaculture industry where possible.


General Principles

Conversion to organic production involves the development of an environmentally adjusted production system with special consideration for the thriving and health of the cultivated organisms. The conversion period is the time from the beginning of organic management to the point when certification of the production occurs. The length of conversion must reflect consideration of the biology of the organism, geographical location, local conditions, and available technology, etc.


The whole management of the operation should be converted to certified organic production. To gain experience with this type of production, however, it may be appropriate to convert the production gradually. There should be a clear plan for the conversion. This plan shall be updated as necessary and should cover all aspects of these standards.

Consideration for the surrounding environment is crucial for positioning and management of the certified organic production system.

In accordance with the objectives for certified organic aquaculture, it is important that the production is located at an appropriate distance from pollution sources and conventional production units or that water quality be closely monitored.

3.1 Documentation


3.1.1 There shall be a production description stating how the requirements in the standards are complied with for the production unit. The production description shall be updated as required.

3.1.2 The certified organic production unit shall be clearly defined and demarcated so that confusion cannot arise with respect to conventional feed, input factors, etc. It shall be possible to inspect how the unit complies with the documentation requirements laid down in the standards.

3.1.3 A production manager shall keep an operating record and shall always be able to present a documented systematic overview of the cultivation activity. The record shall be available during inspections.

3.1.4 The following information shall be recorded every month, as applicable, for every production unit:

3.2 Environment/Water Quality


The cumulative impacts of all farms in the vicinity should be taken into consideration, rather than treating the farm as an isolated unit.


3.2.1 Producers must maintain healthy water conditions to support the physiological and ethological needs of the organisms so they are not negatively affected.

3.2.2 Depending on the type of production, the unit must either be positioned at an appropriate distance from sources of pollution or have in place a water quality monitoring program approved by the certifying body.

3.2.3 Producers must maintain production systems, whether self-contained or located in open water, in a manner that does not significantly diminish the biodiversity of the environs.

3.2.4 The producer shall be able to present documentation on the above, for example, through an in-house monitoring program.

3.2.5 Materials, equipment, paints, etc., used in the production shall meet the requirements of the COABC Materials Lists.

3.2.6 Growth on production equipment shall be removed using mechanical or biological methods.


3.2.7 Construction materials and production equipment may not contain paints, basic materials, or impregnating materials with toxic chemical agents that may detrimentally affect the environment or the health of the organisms in question. This includes copper anti-fouling agents and net-dips.

3.2.8 Debris generated from removal of fouling organisms must not negatively impact the marine environment.

3.3 Conversion Period


3.3.1 Two inspections are required; one at the start of a growing cycle and one near the completion of a growing cycle, before an enterprise may receive a certificate. For this initial growing cycle, the enterprise is considered "in transition" and may not market any product from that growing cycle as organic.

3.3.2 Product from growing cycles that have begun before the beginning of the transition cycle may not be sold as organic. If satisfactory records of compliance with organic standards are available for the growing cycles prior to the commencement of the transition cycle, these stocks may be considered in transition for potential certification at the completion of the second inspection.

3.3.3 Once the transition growing cycle has been completed on a single unit, subsequent growing cycles (in the same, or different units at the same facility) may be developed as certified organic, provided all standards are adhered to and records are kept for inspection.

3.3.4 The operation must comply with basic organic standards throughout the conversion period. Calculation of the conversion period may not start before the date of the last non-complying input or practice.

3.3.5 Brought-in organisms of conventional origin may be allowed, provided these are not genetically engineered. Required conversion periods for brought-in organisms shall be defined by the certifying agency.

3.4 Parallel Production


Where the entire production unit is not converted at the same time, the following applies:

3.4.1 Conventional and organic production units shall be physically separated. The units shall not affect each other through input factors or the use of cleaning agents or equivalent.

3.4.2 In an aquatic environment, the distance between open organically certified and conventional installations shall be dependent upon dilutional sampling to ensure that no cross-contamination occurs and shall be subject to the approval of the certifying agency.

3.4.3 For land-based installations, there shall be physical barriers between organically certified and conventional units.

3.4.4 Areas for storing feed and input factors for the different production methods shall be kept well separated.

3.4.5 Feed and input factors for organically certified production shall be clearly marked.

3.4.6 Converted units cannot switch between organic and conventional management.

3.4.7 Adequate documentation shall be available for both production systems.


General Principles

Management techniques must be governed by the physiological and ethological needs of the organisms in question. The organisms should be allowed to meet their basic behavioural needs. Management techniques, especially when applied to influence production levels and speed of growth, must maintain and protect the good health and welfare of the organisms.


Production will maintain the aquatic environment and surrounding aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems by using a combination of production practices which:

  1. Encourage and enhance biological cycles
  2. Use feeds that include ingredients which meet COABC standards
  3. Use a wide range of methods for disease control
  4. Prohibit synthetic inputs and chemotherapeutic agents
  5. Provide for polyculture where possible


4.1 Detailed standards for water quality, temperature, stocking density, permitted and prohibited practices with respect to stock source, hatchery, egg-handling, fry rearing and grow out appropriate to the species under production must be adhered to. These shall be defined, as necessary, under culture-specific standards.


4.2 Excessive and/or improper use of fresh water is prohibited

4.3 Lethal means of vertebrate predator deterrence are prohibited.


General Principles

The breeding work shall focus on health, environmental adjustment and good growth.

The production shall be arranged so that permanent injury to organisms is avoided. During development, environmental factors shall be controlled so that malformations are avoided.


Producers are encouraged to design breeding programs aimed at developing stock resistant to local disease pathogens.

  1. Breeds should be chosen that are adapted to local conditions.
  2. Breeding goals should aim at obtaining high food quality and efficient conversion of inputs to animal growth.
  3. Conventional aquatic organisms may be brought in providing they meet the requirements laid out in the standards.


5.1 The requirements and conditions pertaining to stock source, hatchery and egg/spat handling must meet the physiological and ethological needs of the organisms.

5.2 Where available, brought-in aquatic organisms shall come from organic sources.

5.3 The certifying agency shall define the minimum length of time brought-in aquatic organisms must be managed organically before certification is permitted.


5.4 Transgenic and genetically modified organisms are prohibited.

5.5 Artificially triploid and monosex stocks are prohibited.


General Principles

Management practices should be directed at achieving a high level of disease resistance and prevention of infection. If disease occurs, suitable measures shall be adopted immediately.

The well being of the organisms is paramount in the choice of treatment for disease or injury.

Stock densities will be maintained to meet the physiological and ethological needs of organisms.


Production shall focus on prophylactic health work and shall be adjusted to the organisms' needs. There should be hygienic routines and routine examinations should be carried out to detect latent diseases and production disturbances. The cause and outbreaks of disease or infection should be identified, and management practices implemented to prevent the causative events and future outbreaks.

When treatment is necessary, the use of natural methods and medicines should be first choice. Disease treatment should be carried out so that it minimises harmful effects on the environment and the animals' health.

Living aquatic organisms should be handled as little and as carefully as possible.


6.2.1 In any production system where use of antibiotics may be necessary, stock treated with antibiotics shall be withdrawn from the certified organic production stream and may only be marketed as conventional product.

6.3 Health and Welfare Record Keeping


6.3.1 For those production systems where active health management is the norm, current, accurate disease management record shall be kept. The records shall include:


General Principles

Organic aquaculture production must provide a good quality diet balanced according to the nutritional needs and natural dietary preferences of the organisms. Feed should only be offered in a way that allows natural feeding behaviour, with minimum loss of feed to the environment. Feed management should maintain the biological diversity of the area.


7.1 All feed ingredients used in certified organic aquaculture production must be derived from wild feed resources or other materials approved by the certifying body or from certified organic ingredients.


General Principles

The quality of the transportation medium shall be appropriate according to the species. Transportation distance, duration and frequency should be minimised.


Transport of living aquatic animals should be minimised and be done in the most considerate manner. Living animals should be monitored regularly and maintained in a healthy state during transportation.


8.1 Transportation shall not cause avoidable excessive stress or injury to the animals. Transportation equipment and/or construction materials shall not have toxic effects.

8.2 The certifying agency shall set appropriate transportation requirements for the organisms regarding:

8.3 Chemically synthesized tranquillisers or stimulants shall not be given to the animals prior to or during transport.

8.4 There shall be a minimum of one person specifically responsible for the well being of the animals during transport. It shall immediately be reported to the certifying agency if the transportation causes physical injury to the organism due to stress.


General Principles

Harvest processes shall minimise stress and suffering of the organisms. The handling and harvest of animals must be humane and directed at maximising the quality of the product without synthetic additives.


Harvest management and techniques shall be governed by careful consideration of the physiology and ethology of the organisms in question, and accepted ethical standards


9.1 Where applicable, the organism shall be in a state of unconsciousness before bleeding out.

9.2 Where applicable, equipment for stunning shall be in good working order and shall quickly remove sensate ability and/or kill the organism.

All equipment must be kept clean. If surface disinfectants are used, equipment and containers must be flushed thoroughly prior to reuse.

Equipment must be regularly inspected and monitored for proper functioning.

Equipment relying on gas or electricity shall be constantly monitored.

9.3 Specific slaughterhouse requirements shall be based on local species and cultural customs. Consideration shall be given to:

9.4 All methods and materials used in processing must be approved by the certifying body.



10.1 Information about the following conditions shall be recorded every calendar month for the organically certified unit:



10.2.1 The production shall focus on preventing escape, in respect of both technical equipment and internal control.

10.2.2 A production manager for finfish shall have contingency plans for all units used as to how any escapes can be limited and how recapture can be made more efficient. Any escape shall immediately be reported to the certifying agency and to relevant agencies according to existing government regulations.

The contingency plan shall also cover governing principles for moving cages and for handling fish during sorting/loading/unloading.

10.2.3 The certifying agency can impose special conditions on the production manager to prevent escapes. For example, individual marking of cultured organisms or technical requirements for equipment design. The producer must endeavour to employ technologies that minimize escape risk, such as wide perimeter walk-ways and heavily weighted nets for net-cage salmon production.


10.3.7 Release of fish from any unit into the aquatic environment is prohibited.



10.3.1 Appropriate measurements shall be performed and recorded in every production unit at intervals specified by the certifying body for:

The water flow rate shall be sufficient so that harmful effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia (NH3) are avoided.

In land-based installations, the oxygen content shall be measured in the outlet water.

10.3.2 The unit shall be positioned in an area with good water movement so that sediment build-up underneath the unit meets, at a minimum, the provincial standard.

10.3.3 Depending on the type of production, the certifying agency may demand collection of sediment in and around the unit.

10.3.4 Feed wastage or faeces which are collected shall be used as fertiliser in organic agriculture or in other appropriate applications.

10.3.5 Installations for cultivating finfish shall have a container or other device for satisfactory storage of dead aquatic animals. The capacity shall be dimensioned for the operation's production and cleaning routines. Dead or sick fish waste that comes from the cultivation shall be considered to be infectious and shall be treated so that it cannot present a risk of spread of infection. This means that dead or dying fish shall be picked from the production unit at least twice weekly. Dead fish shall be handled according to approved treatment methods.


10.3.6 Aquatic dumping of dead/dying fish or fish parts/residues is prohibited.



The basic material (such as roe and brood stock) taken into the production unit shall come from breeding that is subject to health inspections.

Eggs must be obtained from domestic brood stock of indigenous species raised in organic conditions or from indigenous wild stock from a pollution-free environment.


10.4.1 Brood stock shall be domestically reared and acclimatized to the specific site.

10.4.2 The origin of the breeding fish shall be recorded.


10.4.3 During brood stock handling the following are permitted:


10.4.4 During brood stock handling, the following are prohibited:



10.5.1 Treatment Organisms that show signs of disease shall be given suitable treatment immediately. Animals receiving antibiotic treatment at any time during grow out must be withdrawn from the certified organic production stream and raised in parallel culture. Appropriate records must be kept to permit clear differentiation of the non-organic stock at all times. Conventional veterinary drugs and chemicals may only be used if no other justifiable alternative is available, and/or if the use of such chemicals is required according to national laws and standards. Emergency harvest shall be considered as an alternative to drug treatment. Vaccinations are permitted if diseases which cannot be controlled by other management techniques are known to exist in the region. Vaccinations are also permitted if mandatory under applicable legislation. When using disinfectants in the breeding installation, care shall be taken and active measures adopted to minimise emissions to the surrounding environment. In case of irregular behaviour by the organisms, the water quality shall be analysed and adjusted as necessary according to the needs of the organisms.

Prohibited Routine prophylactic treatment with drugs or chemical agents, except vaccinations where appropriate, is prohibited. Vaccines produced by or containing GMOs are prohibited. Drugs and additives in feed and water to artificially promote growth/production are not permitted. Treatment may not be withheld, when circumstances deem it necessary, even if this means forgoing organic status of the stock.

10.5.2 Mutilation

Prohibited Aquatic animals shall not be subject to any kind of mutilation. The certification body may allow established stock identification methods where appropriate.

10.5.3 Stock Density When adjusting the stock density, consideration must be given to the following:

  1. The fish must have a low aggression level and low frequency of fin biting,
  2. That the fish can form schools,
  3. The initial upper limit for stock density is the highest recorded density in the natural feeding population of the specific species. This density can be varied in intensive culture applications provided that suitable assessments of physiological and behavioral stress are undertaken and that density levels are approved by the certifying body.
  4. The oxygen content in the water must satisfy the physiological requirements of the cultured organisms. Size distribution of fish must not compromise animal welfare or lead to hierarchical behaviour.

10.5.4 Photoperiod Manipulation

Allowed The certifying agency may allow artificially prolonged light periods, appropriate to the species and geographical location. An artificial day length may not exceed the lesser of 16 hours or the year's longest natural day length for the species' range.



Environmental concerns and efficient feed utilisation should be an overarching principle when choosing feed and feeding. By-products from fish caught for human consumption should be preferentially used. Any aquatic feedstuffs harvested expressly for the production of fish meal and oil must originate from fisheries independently certified as sustainable and that target stocks not normally used for human consumption. Preference should be given to locally available by-products.

10.6.1 Raw Materials

Required Aquaculture feeds shall contain 100% certified organic components or wild feed resources. If such components are not available, then up to 5% of the feed (dry weight) can be of conventional origin. Foodstuffs from wild fish can be used in organically certified production on the following conditions:

A minimum of 50% of feed ingredients of aquatic origin must be derived from the by-products of wild caught fish for human consumption. The balance of feed ingredients of aquatic origin not derived from such by-products must be derived from wild marine resources collected by a fishery independently certified as sustainable and that target stocks not normally used for human consumption. Any non-aquatic animal meal protein source must be of certified organic origin. Only organically certified poultry meal and by-products are permitted. Feed rations must be designed so that plant and/or animal sources supply most of the nutritional needs of the organisms.

Allowed Other permitted ingredients: If a certified organic feed ingredient is available, but cannot be used in a justifiable way with regard to resources (in cases of unforeseen severe natural events) and/or is not of satisfactory quality, a dispensation can be given by the certification body for use of an equivalent ingredient of conventional origin for a time-limited period.

Prohibited Feed products containing or derived from GMOs. Aquatic animal products derived from the same taxonomic family as that being cultured. No beef, sheep, swine or other animal by-products are permitted even if organically certified. Marine resources derived from dedicated fish meal/oil fisheries not independently certified as sustainable.

10.6.2 Supplements


Nutrients should be obtained from a natural source or a naturally equivalent source. When minerals and vitamins are found both in concentrated/ synthetic form and natural form, additives in a natural form shall be used when this is possible.

Required In order to meet the nutritional needs of the stock, mineral, vitamin, and carotenoid supplementation may be included in the diet in accordance with the general standards for livestock feeds.

Prohibited The following feed additives are not permitted:

10.6.3 Preservatives

Allowed The following feed preservatives may be used:

10.6.4 Record Keeping

Required The production manager shall keep a monthly record of the feed type, feed producer and quantity fed.



10.7.1 Live fish transportation shall be minimised.

10.7.2 Culture-specific requirements for physiological parameters during transportation shall be adhered to.



Fasting periods should not exceed three calendar days.


10.8.1 Fish must not be starved in connection with harvest for more than four calendar days.

10.8.2 Fish shall be fully stunned via head trauma before they are bled.

10.8.3 All fish that are stunned shall be bled immediately. Immediate chilling in slush ice is required.

10.8.4 Fish must be transported to an appropriately licensed facility and gutted or processed within 24 hours of harvest.

10.8.5 Harvesting and subsequent handling of organically certified and conventional fish shall be clearly separated in time and/or space so that the fish cannot be mixed.


10.8.6 Capture methods for finfish can be a tight collection bag, vacuum pump, seine, or fish trap.

10.8.7 Permitted substances and practices during harvesting:


10.8.8 Chemical and CO2 anaesthesia is prohibited.

10.8.9 Slaughter by suffocation is prohibited.


The following standards must be adhered to, as well as the preceding standards in their entirety, for the production of certified organic salmon in net-pens.



11.1.1 Appropriate distances from pollution sources is defined as a minimum of 1 km distance from the source with current flows equal to or greater than 0.25 m/sec. In the absence of documented current flow, the minimum distance shall be 5 km. Pollution sources are defined as any point of introduction of non-natural substances into the aquatic environment. The minimum source considered potentially significant is single dwelling untreated domestic sewage out-fall.

11.1.2 Distance from conventional production units shall be the lesser of 100 m or the distance at which ammonia and DOC decrease to background levels and the microorganism population shows no discernable effect.

11.1.3 A suitable site requires high current flows (>0.5 m/sec) and cold water temperatures (<20oC). The water will be pollution-free and the salinity level should be stable and consistent with natural conditions.



11.2.1 Eggs must be obtained from domestic brood stock of indigenous species raised in organic conditions or from indigenous wild stock from a pollution-free environment.

Pollution-free refers to the following:

  1. ground water tested and found suitable for domestic consumption.
  2. non-chlorinated surface water suitable for domestic consumption free from extensive siltation.
  3. salt water which meets Provincial and Federal Government standards for siting of aquaculture operations

11.2.2 Preferably eggs shall be obtained from stocks that are acclimatized to the specific environmental conditions in which they will be raised.

11.2.3 Smolts must be obtained from a hatchery that raises stock in an organic environment.

11.2.4 The hatchery water source must be ground water or surface water tested and free from pollution. The water supply and temperature must be adequate to maintain stock health. Hatchery rearing density of salmonids must not exceed 25 kg/m3.


11.2.5 Where stock from certified organic hatcheries are not available, then the certifying body may allow the use of stock from non-organic hatcheries providing at least 90% of the biomass gain occurs under organic management.


11.2.6 Indigenous species must be used. The use of alien species is not permitted.



Egg handling should provide optimal water flow and water quality.


11.3.1 The following are permitted adjuncts to egg handling:

  1. salt water
  2. heating of the water
  3. surface disinfection (non-absorbable)
  4. UV or ozone treatment of water



11.4.1 Fry rearing conditions shall be consistent with the natural environment of the species and minimize stress in rearing. Rearing practices must be environmentally responsible with respect to disposal of wastewater.

11.4.2 Fry rearing requires availability of sufficient quantities of suitable quality pollution-free water. Both natural flow-through and recirculation systems are permitted.

11.4.3 Fry which are considered unsuitable for grow-out or are diseased must be disposed of in a humane manner. If the fry are to be disposed of, anesthetics in lethal concentrations should be used. Euthanized fry must be disposed of in an environmentally appropriate manner.


11.4.4 The following are permitted adjuncts to fry rearing

  1. addition of oxygen
  2. photo-period control
  3. killed vaccines - bacterins
  4. surface disinfectants and non-absorbable anti-parasitics, e.g. iodine
  5. saltwater
  6. anesthesia with clove oil


11.4.5 The following are prohibited adjuncts to fry rearing

  1. antibiotics
  2. hormones
  3. anesthetics other than C02 or clove oil
  4. water additives


Grow out sites should hold fish in conditions compatible with natural growth and low stress rearing.

Open net cage systems offer an environment which is more consistent with the natural rearing conditions of Pacific salmon. Closed-containment systems create greater potential for structural and mechanical failure with attendant stock loss and stress. Higher densities inconsistent with the natural behavior of the species are typically used in closed containment systems. The high-energy requirements, fossil fuel transport and consumption, and atmospheric and noise pollution are inconsistent with sound environmental stewardship. Until these challenges are overcome, organic standards discourage the use of closed containment systems. If indigenous stocks, careful predator control and escape prevention procedures are followed, open cage systems are currently the environmentally preferable alternative.


11.5.1 Rearing density will be consistent with requirements of the species to minimize and prevent stress.

11.5.2 Behavioral assessments of wild Pacific salmon have shown that the maximum density of feeding fish in their natural environment is less than 5 KG per cubic meter. The maximum density acceptable for organic grow out will not exceed 5kg per cubic meter. If the animals are in freshwater, or are not feeding, higher densities may be permissible.

Closed-containment systems that maintain high laminar flow rates or supplementary oxygen may be permitted higher densities. Where these densities are exceeded, careful measurement of physiological stress in the animals must be taken at appropriate intervals during grow out. The certifying body must approve any increases in stock density.


11.5.3 The following are permitted adjuncts to grow out

  1. inert wax anti-foulants on nets
  2. oxygen addition to the water


11.5.4 Non-approved anti-parasitic agents are prohibited.



The following additives are required to maintain stock health. They can comprise no more than 5% of the total dietary ration.


11.6.1 Vitamins - A naturally sourced commercial vitamin pack comprising vitamins required as part of the diet to maintain optimum stock condition.

11.6.2 Minerals - Trace minerals as required for optimum stock health.

11.6.3 Pigments - Astaxanthin/canthaxanthin are naturally occurring substances that are responsible for important immune functions and health as well as colouration. They are required portions of the diet in appropriate concentrations. These pigments must be sourced from non-GMO Hematococcus or Phaffia. If these products are unavailable, producers may apply to COABC for permission to use synthetic products temporarily.



11.7.1 Live fish must be provided with adequate oxygen during transport. A transport density of 1 kg of fish per 8 liters of water shall not be exceeded. Water exchange with water of the same temperature shall be carried out as appropriate to maintain water quality.


11.7 Transportation of live fish for longer than 6 hours is prohibited.



11.8.1 Prior to processing, fish must be maintained at 1-3ºC by continuous icing down.

11.8.2 All processing is required to take place in an appropriately licensed and inspected facility.

11.8.3 All equipment must be kept clean and when surface disinfectants are used, equipment must be flushed thoroughly with fresh water prior to contact with the fish.

11.8.4 Value-added processing must use materials and procedures approved by COABC standards.


11.8.5 The following are permitted additives during processing:

  1. salt
  2. sugar
  3. spices
  4. natural wood smoke (untreated wood)


11.8.6 The following are prohibited in processing

  1. liquid smoke
  2. artificial smoke
  3. wood smoke from treated wood
  4. artificial colouring
  5. artificial flavouring
  6. other non-natural ingredients
  7. preservatives
  8. irradiation



The following protocol is recommended for handling and disposal of mortalities ("morts"). Protocol may be adjusted as appropriate, taking into consideration site-specific conditions. The overarching goal shall be to handle and dispose of morts in a way that minimizes risk to the culture organisms and the surrounding environment.

  1. Divers will recover morts at least twice weekly.
  2. Morts are to be recovered in net bags.
  3. Morts are to be transferred to containers of sufficient size and construction.
  4. Divers or other farm staff must inspect morts for evidence of predation or visible disease.
  5. If fresh morts (or moribund fish) are recovered, staff must perform abbreviated necropsy.
  6. Record numbers for each pen and any observations of divers or crew.
  7. Do not fill containers more than two thirds full.
  8. Use tight fitting lids on all containers.
  9. Transfer containers to pier for pickup.
  10. Move to mort disposal site for interment.
  11. Inter according to subsurface composting instructions.
  12. Leave containers upside down to drain.
  13. Dispose of all morts immediately.
  14. Do not leave morts exposed.


The following additional standards must be adhered to, as well as sections 1-10 in their entirety and applicable standards of section 11, for the certified organic production of salmonids in land-based facilities.



Water should come from a spring water supply, well, lake, river or marine area with minimal risk of pollution and, where possible, should be recirculated. Outgoing water returning to a water body shall not be of significantly lower quality than incoming water. Back-up aeration systems and alarms are recommended.


12.1.1 Water sources shall be verified to have minimal or no contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides and biocontaminants as well as hormone disrupting chemicals. This shall be ensured through twice-yearly testing.

12.1.2 The following minimum water quality and welfare parameters must be adhered to. The values are the minimum or maximum permissible and should be considered within the context of the whole operating system.

  1. Dissolved oxygen - minimum of 6 mg/l or 70 percent air-saturated value, 90% of the time or, for through flow systems, minimum 60% oxygen saturation at the outflow - generally obtainable at a maximum density of 100 kg/l/sec)
  2. Biological oxygen demand - maximum of 4 mg/l
  3. Ammoniacal nitrogen - maximum of 0.6 mg/l
  4. Phosphate - maximum of l00 g/l (soluble reactive phosphate)
  5. pH - between 5.2 and 9
  6. Flow rates (for flow-through systems) - minimum of 1 l/kg fish (fully oxygenated running water)
  7. Water temperature - between 4 and 18o C (beyond these limits caution is required, oxygen back-up may be used during higher water temperatures)

12.1.3 The water quality of source water bodies must not become significantly deteriorated due to the farming operation (standard value < 10% of the parameters measured). This is determined by monitoring and evaluation of macro-zoobenthos or measurements of single parameters (ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, phosphate), at least quarterly, at the outlet versus the inlet. This shall be secured by sedimentation ponds and/or filtering plants dimensioned adequately for through-flow systems or by integrated production aimed at closing nutrient cycles. Settled particulate organic matter shall be removed and brought to adequate re-usage (e.g. as fertilizer in agriculture).

12.1.4 The outflow of nutrients from the farm shall be kept as low as possible. Therefore, it is recommended to determine the feed conversion ratio (FCR) and to compare it with values given in literature. Higher feed conversion values carry potential for increased nutrient discharge and may be indicative of an inadequate feeding regime (with respect to quantity, feeding schedule, etc). At least once yearly the level of nutrient load (BOD5-value or KMnO4 consumption) of discharge water shall be measured during regular operative intensity.

12.1.5 If a stream is the water source then a minimum of 25% of the average low water level shall remain in the source stream bed. If there are dams constructed by the producer then they must be passable for migrating fish.

12.1.6 In pond farms the natural vegetation shall be allowed to develop undisturbed on at least 5% of the production area (as a refuge for native animal species).

12.1.7 Invasion by wild fish and escape of stock must be prevented by adequate controls at the inlet and outlet of the farm such as triple screening and substrate exfiltration.


12.1.8 The certification body may allow derogations from the levels outlined in 12.1.1 and 12.1.2 for individual farms according to the specific characteristics of the site.



12.2.1 Ponds must possess a natural bottom, such that natural habitat conditions are simulated and purification processes can occur. Ponds may not be exposed to unimpeded sunlight. At least part of the water zone of each pond must have shade (artificial if necessary). Other containment systems must similarly be provided with partial shade.



A maximum stock density of 20 kg/m3 (two percent) in running water or 10 kg/m3 in freshwater net pens is allowed. In no case shall the animals display any injuries resulting from high stocking density.



12.4.1 Temperature and light are the only permissible spawning stimulants

12.4.2 The stripping of roe from fish must be conducted as gently as possible, and with anesthesia.



Stock that has been produced according to organic standards throughout the life cycle should be encouraged. The industry makes a distinction between "Phase I" and "Phase II" fingerlings. Although no precise definition between phases has been developed, Phase I fingerlings typically weigh 0.5-5.0 g and Phase II 6.0-100.0 g of the final weight.


12.5.1 Phase I and Phase II fingerlings raised organically.

12.5.2 Phase I fingerlings from conventional sources.


12.5.3 Non-organically raised fingerlings weighing more than 10% of the anticipated market weight.



Fasting periods should not exceed three calendar days.


12.6.1 Prior to harvesting, the maximum fasting period shall depend on the size of the fish, but must not exceed four calendar days, weather conditions permitting (this period includes both travel time and the time the fish remain at the processing plant prior to slaughter, if relevant).


The following additional standards must be adhered to, as well as sections 1-9 in their entirety, for the certified organic production of oysters and clams.



13.1.1 Waters that shellfish are grown in must meet or exceed applicable federal standards as set by Environment Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

13.1.2 Water quality shall be monitored according to a schedule determined by the certifying body and the results shall be documented continuously.



If available, only certified organic larvae should be used.


13.2.1 The collection of wild larvae and spat from federally designated shellfish reserves (e.g. Pendrell Sound and Pipestem Inlet) is allowed.

13.2.2 The use of larvae or spat from conventional sources is allowed providing the grower can provide documentation that organic larvae are not available.


13.2.3 If larvae or spat originate from conventional sources than the product may be marketed as organic only if it has achieved 90% of its biomass gain under organic management.



13.3.1 Materials may be used to disinfect the clutch providing they correspond to the COABC Allowable Materials List (e.g. Hydrogen peroxide).


13.3.4 The use of epinephrine to expedite setting of larvae is prohibited.



13.4.1 All equipment temporarily placed in a shellfish reserve should be adequately identified, of orderly appearance, and securely anchored.

13.4.2 Such equipment must be removed from the reserves between December 1st and June 1st.

13.4.3 Producers must to keep the reserves and surrounding areas clean through volunteer initiatives.

13.4.4 Setting equipment must be used only during normal working hours where practical.

13.4.5 Intertidal cultch must be adequately spaced and/or elevated to ensure that habitat is not smothered or otherwise damaged.

13.4.6 Intertidal shell storage piles must be less than 2 m in height, appropriately marked, and maintained with concern for appearance.

13.4.7 On conclusion of operations, all materials and equipment must be removed.

13.5. CULTCH (setting substrate)


13.5.1 The following materials are allowed as setting substrate:


13.5.2 PVC French tubes currently in use may be used as setting substrate, but not replaced.


13.5.3 The following materials are prohibited as setting substrate:



Non-lethal means of pest control are preferred. The following practices are encouraged:


13.6.1 Only COABC authorized pest control products shall be employed.

13.6.2 Species at risk must be specifically protected.


13.6.3 The following materials and methods are allowed in pest control:

  1. Mechanical controls
    - physical barriers (e.g. clam netting, vertical predator fences, traps, and natural bait as attractant to traps
  2. Biological controls
    - manual removal
    - release of natural predators (e.g. sea urchins to eat bissel thread of mussels and control seaweed growth)
    - creation of environments fostering natural predators
    - brine dips
    - freshwater dips


13.6.4 Destruction of fish or fish habitat.

13.6.5 Killing, capturing, injuring or otherwise disturbing migratory birds and their nests.

13.6.6 The following materials and methods are prohibited in pest control:



Operators should encourage nearby resource users (marine and upland) to be responsible in their handling and discharge of sewage and other waste, as well as follow general practices of recycling, reducing, reusing, and recovering waste. Suppliers and manufacturers of shellfish production and packaging materials should also be encouraged to develop recycling and disposal plans for the products they use. Only products which can be recycled or have a long life span should be purchased.


13.7.1 All wastes produced by an operation must be collected and disposed of properly. Shells and non-edible wastes must be disposed of in such a manner as to not attract vermin or insects or otherwise increase risks of food contamination.



Shellfish quality should be regularly monitored on all sites and management adjusted as necessary following appropriate husbandry practices. Research and development of appropriate carrying capacity models should be supported. Producers should consider the merits of polyculture in their operations.


13.8.1 Density levels must reflect due considerations of the optimal health and welfare of the cultured organisms.

13.8.2 Density levels must not exceed the sustainable yield of the ecosystem in which the operation is located. This must take into account the production of other shellfish tenures in the area



Producers should make all effort to minimize impacts to the marine environment and other marine resource users and upland owners. Well maintained sound devices should be employed on all equipment, and the effects of noise and lights outside the tenure area minimized at night.


13.9.1 All shellfish intended for sale must be harvested from a certified organic lease located in an area deemed open for harvesting by the appropriate regulatory bodies.

13.9.2 Producers shall only harvest oysters and clams for sale as organic product within the boundaries of their production site.

13.9.3 Harvest activities and their impacts must be confined to the tenure area.


13.9.4 No waste products, including synthetic materials, generated during harvesting may be discharged into the marine environment.

13.9.5 Harvest operations must not cause damage to sensitive fish or wildlife habitat.


Producers should strive to maintain a tidy and uniformly laid out site, in consideration of other marine resource user and upland owners


13.10.1 Floating buildings and structures should be constructed and maintained such that they minimize visual impacts and comply with all relevant zoning laws.

13.10.2 With the exception of navigational aids, subdued colors must be used for floating structures.

13.10.3 Where reasonably possible, floatation devices must be of uniform shape and color.

13.10.4 Equipment not in use must be stored in an orderly manner and within the site boundaries.

13.10.5 Reasonable public concerns must be responded to in a constructive manner.



Operators should recognize the needs of other marine resource users and work to minimize user conflicts. Cooperative relationships should be developed with upland owners.


13.11.1 Farm sites must be well-marked and posted to provide public information and direction.

13.11.2 Written approval must be obtained from any upland owner if access to the farm site passes through private property.

13.11.3 Any tenure modifications or constructions (e.g. rocks walls, protective fencing, etc.) must be approved.

13.11.4 Producers must provide clearly marked public access through or around shellfish tenures.



Producers should make all reasonable efforts to minimize noise, light and odor pollution arising from their activities that might disturb other marine users or upland owners.


13.12.1 Whenever reasonably possible, all activities should be restricted to the hours of 0800 to 1700.

13.12.2 Vessels and other equipment must be properly maintained so as to minimize noise. Sound suppression devices such as mufflers, barriers, and baffles must be used as appropriate.

13.12.3 In areas with upland residents, employees must make all reasonable effort to reduce verbal communication to a minimum necessary level at night.

13.12.4 Bright lights must not be shone seaward in such a way as to interfere with navigation.

13.12.5 All directional lights must be pointed away from the upland and shielded from all but the essential directions. Where spot lights are necessary, they must be positioned so as to maximize penetration and minimize reflection.

13.12.6 All equipment must be stored at sea when conducting deepwater operations such as tray culture.

13.12.7 Operators must minimize impact on other users when storing or drying equipment on the foreshore.

13.12.8 All vessels, equipment, and vehicles must be kept clean and well-maintained at all times.



13.13.1 Employees must receive proper training in the operation and maintenance of the marine vessels and equipment used.

13.13.2 Vessel speed must be regulated to minimize wake impacts on other marine users and the foreshore area.

13.13.3 Producers must have a spill response plan and a spill kit on site capable of handling the largest possible spills that could occur on the site.


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