“Sustainable Salmon Aquaculture” Standards Published: An Important Step Forward But Still Not Enough To Protect Wild Salmon

Salmon & Trout Association welcomes publication but voices concerns with efficacy of standards proposed

After seven years’ engagement with stakeholders from around the world – including NGOs and the salmon aquaculture (fish farming) industry – the final draft Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue (SAD) has now been published. This, under the leadership of the WWF, forms the basis of a recognised accreditation scheme for farms claiming to follow sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices. The final standard has 7 principle themes of which to measure sustainable salmon aquaculture, including indicators to manage disease and parasites in wild fish, protect the health and genetic integrity of wild populations, as well as to use resources in an environmentally efficient and responsible manner and to develop and manage farms in a socially responsible manner.

While S&TA welcomes promises to provide high levels of transparency between NGOs, Government and the industry, and monitoring on the impacts on wild fish, we remain concerned that there are too many uncertainties to say this standard will deliver sustainable salmon aquaculture. We are pleased to see the standard requires farms to phase out net pen smolt production, although we believe this should be achieved before a farm can be certified.

However, while the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA)welcomes this initiative as an important step forward, it feels that it does not go far enough to address the over-riding problem of the adverse impact of open-cage farming on the indigenous wild salmon and sea trout stocks. In particular, failure to address fundamental aspects of this problem give rise to grave concern.

“The SAD standard fails to address disease transmission between farmed and wild fish,” Janina Gray, S&TA Head of Science, points out. “As the standard is designed to certify individual farms, it struggles to deal with the cumulative problems of the salmon farming industry, such as cumulative sea lice levels. If we really wanted to ensure minimal impact of wild salmon and sea trout we cannot continue to look at farms in isolation, on a piecemeal basis.

“Further, the SAD standard does not measure salmon farm performance with ecological benchmarks,” Janina Gray adds. “It compares salmon farms to other farms and, while the certified farms would clearly be the better performers, this does not, in itself, mean that they are protecting wild fish.”

“The work all the SAD Steering Committee is of tremendous importance, not least in terms of the knowledge acquired and information shared in this international forum,” Paul Knight, S&TA CEO declares. “It confirms our commitment and belief that closed containment is the only verifiable way to effectively reduce or eliminate the negative environmental impacts of salmon farming. We shall continue to work to that end, and we hope that members of the SAD Steering Committee will share this aim.”