A farmed salmon producer is refuting allegations it misled the public by stating all of its B.C. farms meet the certification standards of a prominent sustainable-aquaculture organization.
Earlier this month, Mowi Canada West announced the last two of its 28 Atlantic salmon farms in B.C. had received certification from the Netherlands-based Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), an independent, market-oriented organization aiming to minimize the environmental and social footprints of commercial aquaculture.
Full certification allows Mowi to market its farmed product with the ASC Certified label.
However Seachoice, a collaboration of the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre and the Living Oceans Society, says because ASC only certifies production farms, Mowi is exploiting a loophole that allows them to claim full certification without accounting for their interim smolt farms.
“Mowi Canada West’s final grow-out farms might be all ASC-certified, but it should be noted that many of those [interim] farms do not comply fully with the standard because of ASC-approved exemptions from criteria such as no maximum sea lice limit for B.C. certified farms,” Seachoice said.
As a result, Seachoice estimates up to 14 months of Mowi’s production cycle may avoid ASC assessments of sea lice loads, or antibiotic and chemical treatments.
“To state that all of its farms off B.C.’s coast are certified is simply misleading,” Seachoice added. “An ASC label does not necessarily guarantee the fish was ‘farmed responsibly’ from egg to harvest.”
All of Mowi West Canada’s farms, including the interim sites, are certified for Best Aquaculture Practice under the Global Aquaculture Alliance, recognized by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Mowi West Canada confirmed its interim farms are not eligible for ASC certification, but hopes the council broadens its criteria in the future.
“ASC standards were developed using a robust and transparent process and are challenging to achieve. ASC certification is a statement of our values and commitment to social and environmental sustainability, something we strive for at all sites, regardless of whether they are eligible for ASC certification,” a spokesperson said.
“Mowi West Canada has certified every site that it is able to under the scope of the ASC Salmon Standard. If this changes and additional types of sites are added to the program’s scope Mowi will add those sites into its certification process.”
In a statement emailed to Black Press Media, an ASC spokesperson said the council is continually updating its certification standards based on the latest science, and will examine how interim farms can fit into its mandate.
“We are aware that the use of “interim grow-out sites” has been adopted in some salmon-producing regions recently, as geographically distinct sites that hold and grow smolts, seeking to improve the ability to manage, amongst other things, sea lice over the salmon’s production cycle. We are investigating the extent of the practice globally, and the implications of incorporating the assessment of interim sites under the ASC Salmon Standard.”
The review will involve stakeholders and interest groups, including Mowi Canada West and Seachoice.