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ASC Eco-Certified Farmed Salmon Isn't Really a "Good Alternative" Seafood

July 19, 2017
Open-net salmon farm

SeaChoice responded with disagreement to the new recommendation by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program to consider farmed salmon certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) as a “Good Alternative”.

The Seafood Watch benchmarking suggests that salmon farmed on ASC-certified Canadian farms merits the “Good Alternative” ranking—except that Canadian farms certified by ASC don’t actually meet the criteria benchmarked by Seafood Watch.

The benchmarking exercise looked exclusively at the Salmon Standard as written and did not review its practical application. In Canada and elsewhere in the world, ASC has approved Variance Requests that substantially alter the Salmon Standard in practice.

SeaChoice calls on the ASC to take immediate action to repeal its variance request processes, in order to legitimately benchmark to a Seafood Watch “Good Alternative” recommendation.

Variances are a ‘get out of jail, free card’ for BC salmon farms

As of June 2017, ASC has approved 121 variances to do with the salmon standard. A number of these override the standard’s environmental health criteria.

In B.C. ASC approved sea lice variances defer to DFO’s Pacific Aquaculture Regulation’s (PAR) 3 motile L. salmonis per fish instead of the salmon standard’s threshold of 0.1 female lice per fish during sensitive wild fish migration periods. The variance has been applied to benefit all B.C. salmon farms. This has led to the anomalous situation in which farms with adult L. salmonis levels as high as 19 motile lice per fish are being certified – more than 60 times the salmon standard threshold.

Our analysis of industry-reported sea lice counts for the 10 ASC-certified salmon farms operating during the 2016 sensitive juvenile wild salmon migration period, show none of the farms would be able to meet the ASC salmon standard on-farm lice level limit of 0.1 female lice per farmed fish. Sea lice counts ranged from 0.2 to 6.6 female lice per farmed fish. Simply put, the sea lice variance enables B.C. salmon farms that would not otherwise meet the salmon standard to be certified.

Living Oceans’ work, alongside our SeaChoice allies, is to hold eco-certifications to a truly sustainable bar and to not weaken requirements to accommodate norm industry practices. 

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