Salmon Standards are Here

July 16, 2012

Fish consumption is on the rise, and fish farming practices need to get better. Farmed salmon standards are finally in place.

After years of debate, a group of environmental organizations, scientists, commercial fishing executives, and government officials has created the first global standards for salmon farming. The standards encompass 100 fish-farming practices from the use of feed and pesticides, employee training, cage construction and much more. The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), a nonprofit monitoring group based in the Netherlands, expects the standards to be put in place by the end of the year.

The new standards signify a quality upgrade for farm-raised salmon sold at retailers (retailers will also better understand what they are getting – a greater transparency is involved in the certification); and certified aquaculture farms will be able to display the ASC certification on labeling. The ASC oversees and accredits what it calls the “salmon-auditing process” to approve salmon producers; verification is accomplished by various independent certification bodies worldwide. By passing the audit, producers are approved to use the council’s logo.

The New York Times points out that more than two-thirds of farmed salmon is Atlantic salmon; the new standards also apply to farmed Coho and King Salmon. The production of farmed salmon increased 10-fold from 1982 to 2007, and rose 50 percent in volume during the last decade, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

A staggering 70 percent of salmon in the supermarket comes from fish farms, and more than half of all farmed salmon originates in Norway and Chile. It’s also interesting to note, according to the New York Times that about half of the world’s farmed salmon is produced by a half-dozen large agribusiness corporations.

The certification label is a great sales tool for marketing sustainability and health to customers. The ASC logo carries the message, “Farmed Responsibly – A.S.C. certified,” with a large white check mark.

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council already oversees standards for the farming of tilapia, pangasius, abalone, mussels, clams, scallops and oysters after a series of other aquaculture dialogues. Retailers are currently using the certification logo in selling some of these fish. More are on the way.

The Lempert Report commends the groups involved and hopes that the standards of all farmed seafood will continue to improve.