Canadian farmed fish can now be certified as organic with the release of made-in-Canada standards.
The inaugural Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard, to be released Thursday, prohibits the use of antibiotics, herbicides and genetically modified organisms, and severely restricts the use of parasiticides. The standard also sets measurable requirements for practices that minimize the impact of waste, including defining stocking rates, cleaning procedures and cleaning and feed materials that must be used.
The final standards, prepared by a special committee of the federal government’s Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) and approved by the Standards Council of Canada, look different from a draft proposal released in 2010. The early draft was widely criticized by consumer advocates and environmentalists for proposing to permit the use of antibiotics and parasiticides at levels already being met by the conventional aquaculture industry.
Some opponents also argued that the concepts of organic and net-pen aquaculture are incompatible.
But the final version, while banning the use of antibiotics, still has critics, with one leading conservation group that voted against the final version as a member of the CGSB committee saying it “has as many holes as a net pen.”
In addition to this assessment by the Living Oceans Society, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, which also voted against the standard alongside the Vancouver-based group, said the “weak” standard threatens the integrity of all organic labels because they include open-net pen finfish, despite scientific studies linking this farming practice to detrimental impacts on wild salmon and on the marine environment.
Justin Henry, chairman of the CGSB’s organic aquaculture committee, acknowledged not everyone will be happy with the final product. But he said it’s tougher than the early draft and the final version received support from a majority of committee members.