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New Organic Standard Released for Canadian Farmed Seafood

11 May 2012

CANADA - With the release of the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard on 10 May, Canadian consumers will now have the opportunity to choose certified organic farmed seafood including finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants.

Aquaculture, the farming of aquatic plants and animals, is the fastest growing food production system in the world, producing about 50 per cent of the seafood consumed today. Because aquatic farming relies on plant and animal husbandry, it is possible to apply organic growing and rearing principles to this system of food production. Like its organic terrestrial counterpart, the organic aquatic sector uses specific farming protocols which minimise the input of synthetic substances and maximize local environmental quality, reports the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance.

Specifically, the organic aquaculture standard prohibits the use of antibiotics, herbicides and genetically modified organisms, and severely restricts the use parasiticides, allowed only under veterinary supervision as a last course of treatment. The standard sets measurable requirements for practices that minimize the impact of waste. These include defining stocking rates, cleaning procedures and the cleaning and feed materials that must be used.

The new standard was developed with the Canadian General Standards Board and a stakeholder committee of industry members, consumer advocates, regulators and environmental organizations. The draft standard went through two extensive public reviews and countless changes before being published on the 10 May.

“The industry works hard to maintain its high standards,” said Ruth Salmon, Executive Director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA), “and organic certification will provide an opportunity for some of our farmers to apply organic standards to their methods of production."

To qualify for organic certification, Canadian aquaculture products must have been grown on farms operating in accordance with organic aquatic farming methods established by the new standards. Farms are inspected by third-party certifying bodies to ensure that the standard has been followed. The new national standard does not currently fall under the scope of Canada’s Organic Products Regulations or Canada’s trade equivalencies for organic products with the United States or European Union.

“Until now, organic claims could show up on aquaculture products from outside the country and consumers wouldn’t know whether the claims were trustworthy or what standards they met,” said Matthew Holmes, Executive Director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. “Now we have a made-in-Canada standard that clearly and verifiably defines the environmental and husbandry requirements, and meets consumers’ expectations for a high-water mark for this quickly-growing Canadian sector.”

Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association, commented: “This is a strong standard that will meet the consumers’ confidence in organic designations, while providing an opportunity to some of our farmers interested in achieving this certification.”

“Any certification process which encourages high standards and continuing improvement of our business is a positive step,“ said Ms Walling. “It’s great to see ocean farming included in the organic menu – it’s important to some consumers and is a demand some of our farmers would like to meet.”

While most of BC’s salmon farmers won’t pursue organic certification, all of the BCSFA’s members are constantly working to improve their operations within the most highly regulated food production industry in the province. While the new Canadian Organic Aquaculture standard may be an option for some, other certifications and sustainability programs are being adopted in British Columbia as well.

TheFishSite News Desk



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