WASHINGTON - March 26 -- The National Organic
Standards Board (NOSB) Livestock Committee is recommending that fish raised
in open net-cages and those using wild caught fish in their diet be
excluded from forthcoming (USDA) organic aquaculture standards. Three major
groups are commending United States Department of Agriculture the Committee
for upholding the principles of organic production and are urging the NOSB
to follow the Committee's lead when they meet in Washington, D.C. tomorrow
through Thursday, March 29 to discuss the Committee's organic aquaculture
"We're extremely pleased with the Committee's recommendations because
no matter how stringent and well intentioned organic standards for
aquaculture are, open net-cages just don't fit under the organic umbrella,"
said Dom Repta, from the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform. "The
evidence in British Columbia shows that open net-cage technology does not
prevent the discharge of untreated waste or the escape of farmed fish and
allows continued impacts on marine predators such as seals and sea lions,
the transfer of sea lice to wild salmon and the contamination of aboriginal
In prepared comments, the groups have offered support for organic
certification of non-carnivorous fish farmed in closed systems, but stress
that farming carnivorous fish in open net-cage systems violates core
organic principles. The groups cite scientific evidence from around the
world that shows open net-cage fish farms cannot meet the standards for
ecological protection to which current organic practitioners must adhere.
In addition, carnivorous species that use more wild fish for feed than
farmed fish produced increase the pressure on already diminishing global
wild fish populations.
"The USDA must now take a strong stance on organic aquaculture
certification to ensure that the entire 'organic' label is not diluted,"
said Andrea Kavanagh, director of the Pure Salmon Campaign. "To make sure
consumers are getting what they pay for when they buy 'organic' seafood,
we're asking the U.S. to permanently close the door on organic
certification for open net- cage fish farming and the farming of
carnivorous fish like salmon."
While the NOSB has been developing organic aquaculture regulations,
consumers are increasingly seeing seafood products labeled as "organic" in
U.S. supermarkets. These products are being imported from countries that
allow certain practices, such as the use of open net-cages and the
administration of chemicals to control parasites and diseases, to be
"Under U.S. law there is no such thing as organic seafood right now,"
stated Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director for the Center for Food Safety.
"Any products labeled as such mislead consumers. The USDA has the authority
to stop this threat to the integrity of the organic label and should act to
enforce the law."
Rick Moonen, chef and co-owner of RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay Resort &
Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, is part of the chorus of support commending
the Committee's recommendation to exclude open net-cages from organic
aquaculture standards. Tomorrow, Moonen will present a letter to the NOSB
on behalf of 19 U.S. chefs that reads:
"As professionals that depend on quality, healthy and sustainable
ingredients, we are avid supporters of 'organic' systems. If the U.S.
chooses to water down its organic standards to accommodate carnivorous
farmed fish species from open net cage systems, however, it seriously risks
losing our confidence in the USDA organic brand as a whole."
Rather than modifying organic standards to fit the needs of salmon
farming, the Pure Salmon Campaign and the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture
Reform are working to improve the sustainability of the industry as a whole
by fostering a transition from open net-cages to closed containment
systems. Closed containment technology would eliminate many of the
environmental problems associated with open net-cage fish farms such as
escapes, spread of sea lice and interactions with marine predators that
organic aquaculture standards for open net-cages cannot adequately address.
The Pure Salmon Campaign (http://www.puresalmon.org) is a global
project of the National Environmental Trust that partners with
organizations in the United States, Canada, Europe and Chile all working to
improve the way farmed salmon is produced.
The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform
(http://www.FarmedAndDangerous.org) is a coalition of nine conservation
groups, First Nations and scientists throughout British Columbia who have
been working collaboratively for over 10 years to protect wild salmon and
The Center for Food Safety (http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org) is a
non- profit, membership organization that works to protect human health and
the environment by curbing the proliferation of harmful food production
technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable
The NOSB's Livestock Committee meeting agenda (March 27-29) is
available at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nosb/meetings/03_07agenda.html.
The NOSB's Livestock Committee recommendations on "Aquaculture
Standards" can be found at:
Public comments in response to the NOSB Livestock Committee
Recommendations can be viewed at: http://www.regulations.gov and searching
for: All documents; Keyword: AMS-TM-07-0032.
Previous comments (October 2006) to the NOSB Livestock Committee on the
Aquaculture Working Group draft standards can be viewed at:
The chef letter to the NOSB can be viewed at:
Dave Bard, Pure Salmon Campaign, (202) 486-4426
Joseph Mendelson, Center for Food Safety, (202) 547-9359,
Cell (703) 244-1724
Shauna MacKinnon, Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform,
Dom Repta, Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform,