Océans en santé. Communautés en santé

SeaChoice rejects "good alternative" ranking of farmed salmon

October 3, 2017

Last week, the U.S.-based Seafood Watch (SFW) program released an upgraded ranking of B.C. open-net farmed salmon to a “Good Alternative” or “Yellow”. SeaChoice swiftly rejected the ranking.

The upgrade was due to scoring-shift in their Disease criterion. SFW cites there is “insufficient evidence” that disease and sea lice transmission from farmed salmon to wild salmon is having population-level impacts. SeaChoice disagrees with this conclusion. In fact, recent science indicates serious concerns remain in this respect.

Latest peer-reviewed research shows elevated sea lice due to ineffective management continues to be an issue. Studies have suggested the indirect morality impact on Fraser River sockeye by sea louse Caligus to be significant. A recent Strategic Salmon Health Initiative paper confirmed that heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) occurs in B.C. and appears correlated with piscine reovirus (PRV). PRV has been found in B.C. wild salmon, and further study is required to establish the role salmon farming plays as a potential PRV/HSMI conduit to wild salmon.

To add to this, some of the most fundamental and basic data needed for determining population dynamics and potential impacts is simply not available for B.C.’s wild salmon. A recent study found wild salmon monitoring by Fisheries and Oceans Canada is woefully insufficient and the conservation health of around half of B.C. wild salmon populations are unknown.

The assessment failed to provide any conclusive evidence of no impacts to wild salmon from disease or pathogens originating from salmon aquaculture. It did however acknowledge uncertainty and science gaps remain. To wit, “Importantly, there is also no evidence that there is no impact”. Given this, SeaChoice believes the SFW assessment failed to take a precautionary approach.

Unfortunately, the industry has already indicated this ranking will hopefully boost their sales and lead to further farm sites. SeaChoice is calling on the Canadian government to respect the Cohen recommendations that salmon farms should be removed from wild salmon migration routes, if the science shows the disease risk to be more than minimal.

SeaChoice advises consumers to continue to avoid B.C. open-net farmed salmon. Canada’s only seafood ranking body, Ocean Wise, does not recommend B.C. farmed salmon. Consumers should opt for more sustainably farmed options such as land-based closed containment farmed salmon, Arctic char and rainbow trout.