The Aquaculture Stewardship Council has published a new Salmon Standard, with an increased focus on managing sea lice.
The new standard, which will take effect as from 1 February 2023, requires farms to not only monitor the sea lice species L. salmonis, but to also include the less-researched species Caligus, where applicable. This especially relates to British Columbia, Canada.
To improve consistency of data collection and analysis, the new version also establishes a clear sea lice sampling protocol for farms detailing frequency and sample size among other factors.
While the previous standard set a global limit for maximum sea lice load on farms, the ASC’s Technical Working Group concluded that the issue of sea lice threshold is specific to species, population, and geographic regions, and thus needs a regional approach. Sensitive periods and thresholds are now set according to jurisdictional regulations in each region.
In situations where there are no limits nor a sensitive period established, ASC will require the use of the most rigorous sea lice limit in effect at that point in time and a sensitive period that reflects evidence of the time during which juvenile salmonids are present.
Farm operators will also be required to inform conformity assessment bodies (CABs), which carry out assessments for the ASC standards, when sea lice levels are exceeded, within one working day. If the farm fails to bring sea lice levels below the threshold within 21 days, the ASC certification will be cancelled, prohibiting farms from selling their fish as ASC-certified.
Chris Ninnes, ASC CEO, said: “ASC recognises the need to continuously improve our standards and finetune the requirements to make sure they deliver the intended positive impact.
“This new version is not the endpoint, either. In fact, going forward, ASC will regularly review established sea lice limits across different regions and update its thresholds where necessary.”
The ASC sets global standards for aquaculture. In Scotland, only a small number of salmon farms are ASC-certified, but the numbers have been growing and more are expected to seek the ASC stamp of approval over the next few years.