Press Release: IRISH ORGANIC FARMERS AND GROWERS ASSOCIATION SEEK INVESTIATION INTO ‘ORGANIC FARMED SALMON’
21 February 2014
Serious concerns about the certification of farmed salmon as ‘organic’ were raised by the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association at their recent AGM. Members voted unanimously to establish a working group to immediately investigate.
IOFGA has almost 1200 members who are certified as organic farmers, growers, processors and retailers in Ireland. The vast majority of Irish ‘Organic’ salmon is however produced by Marine Harvest, a Norwegian owned company, in industrial scale farms on the west and south west coast.
IOFGA are not alone in raising concerns. Last December Slow Food International stated that “Slow Food does not consider open net pen fish farms an environmentally sound practice.” They continued by saying: “Open net pen aquaculture is not a solution to the problem of overfishing: it damages natural ecosystems on a local and a global level, including wild stocks, habitats and water quality. Feeding carnivorous salmon in farms means other wild species must also be harvested, resulting in a larger carbon footprint – since the fish feed must be fished, processed and transported.”
In addition, organic salmon farms use vast quantities of synthetic pesticides and antibiotics, which are released directly into the sea. Alarmingly the Government refuses to release data on these chemical emissions. On top of this, salmon farms emit fish waste and uneaten food, polluting the sea yet further and contributing to harmful algal blooms. Fish diseases and parasites are passed to wild salmon and sea trout stocks, and escapes inbreed with wild salmon, weakening them genetically. Then comes potential mortalities of endangered marine mammals and sea birds.
Such practices are inconsistent with current organic standards for land based agriculture, and not what consumers have come to expect from an ‘organic’ label. For organic principles call for the protection of the environment from degradation, erosion and pollution. So allowing an industry that is associated with all the above makes a mockery of organic labelling, and misleads the conscientious consumers who chooses ‘organic’ salmon believing they are protecting the environment.
This issue is however not new. It has been a concern for those upholding the ‘organic’ label for many years.
“When the Soil Association (UK) chose to certify farmed salmon using standards that still allowed the problems of open-cages to persist, it’s Chairman, Lawrence Woodward, resigned stating ‘Salmon farming in cages has nothing to at all to do with organic principles. It is very regrettable that the soil association has gone down this line of trying to certify something that is so distant from the principles.” BBC, Concern Over Organic Salmon Farms, 2006.
Alec O’Donovan, Secretary of Save Bantry Bay said “We welcome the decision by IOFGA to review the ‘organic’ label for salmon farming. It is time we stop misleading consumers into believing this is a product that is better for the planet when it is actually contributing to the degradation of our inshore environments, water quality and wildlife”.
‘Organic salmon farmers argue that they’re more humane as they stock at lower densities. But, they’re still taking a fish that would normally swim thousands of kilometres across the oceans and sticking it in a cage. Organic chicken farming does not allow hens in small cages even though they actually walk only very short distances.” Added Breda O’Sullivan, Committee Member, Save Bantry Bay.
Secretary, Save Bantry Bay, Alec O’Donovan, 087 7949227 (mobile) or 027 50508
Chair, Save Bantry Bay, Kieran O’Shea, 086 1280303 (mobile) or 027 60121
For more information on ‘Organic Salmon Farming’ see https://bantryblog.wordpress.com/organic/