Ocean-based fish farming can never be organic, claims report

THE US-based Center for Food Safety (CFS) has issued a report claiming that ocean-based fish farming can never be certified as organic.

Reported in E-news Forest Park, the scientific report: Like Water and Oil: Ocean-Based Fish Farming and Organic Don’t Mix, has been released prior to the USDA regulations governing aquaculture.

The CFS warns that if ‘organic’ aquaculture was permitted in the sea, the integrity of the whole US organic industry would be severely undermined.

The findings of the comprehensive report were endorsed by 53 organic farmers, fishers, organic consumers, animal welfare and environmental advocacy organisations.

Dr Lisa J Bunn, Organic Policy Director of CFS and the co-author of the report, said: ‘It’s mind-boggling to think that USDA would seriously consider allowing fish farms at sea to be organic’.

‘It’s absolutely impossible to control or monitor the wide range of substances, including toxic pollutants, that flow into and out of sea-based farms.’

The CFS also highlighted the number of fish escapes over the last 20 years, which amounts to around 24 million globally, stressing that escaped fish can carry pathogens and diseases, restructure food webs and could lead to the extinction of wild fish in certain species in particular areas.

As one of the fundamental principles of the organic movement is to promote stable, balanced ecosystems, ocean-based fish farming cannot be labelled organic, states the report.

This disruption of marine ecosystems violates one of the basic tenets of organic, which is to promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.

Responding to the report’s findings, the CFS argues that:

Open-ocean fish farms can never be organic

Inputs and outputs to the system cannot be monitored or controlled and neither can a farmed fish’s exposure to toxic synthetic chemicals, which are prohibited under Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and present in the marine environment.

Farming migratory fish can never be organic

This statement holds true regardless of the type of system in which they are reared. That is because their confinement in fish farms would curtail their biological need to swim far distances, creating undue stress. Some migratory species are also anadromous, such as salmon, migrating between freshwater and the ocean during various life stages, a behavior not possible while in containment. The organic standards dictate that organic production systems must not the natural behaviors of farmed animals.

Farmed fish fed wild fish, meal or oil can never be organic

That is because OFPA requires that all certified organic species are fed an organic diet. Feeding farmed fish wild-caught fish and related by-products—fish meal and fish oil—would increase pressure on already over-exploited and recovering fisheries that form the basis of the marine food web. It would also decrease the food supply of a wide range of native, aquatic species, including seabirds and sea mammals, contravening the USDA organic biological diversity conservation requirements.

Dr Bunin added that ‘We believe that the strong findings contained in this Report warrant USDA’s withdrawal of plans to allow organic ocean-based fish farming’.

‘To do less would be irresponsible organic policy-making, and it would do a disservice to the entire organic industry.’