Friday, December 12, 2008

Taking the Case for Farmed Atlantic Salmon to Monterey Bay

Over the past several months, Salmon of the Americas has attempted to engage Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program in a dialogue about our industry and our practices. In particular, the industry as a whole believes that Monterey's Bay's evaluation of our operations are both are both out of date and unfair.

In the case of the latter, we're referring specifically to the fact that "wild-caught" salmon from Alaska -- which should more accurately be described as ranched -- is rated "green" by Monterey Bay, despite the fact that the Alaskan industry engages in many of the very same sustainable practices that take place in both Chile and British Columbia.

In short, we believe our industry has a compelling case, one that Mary Ellen Walling from the BC Salmon Farmers Association made directly to Monterey Bay's Geoff Shester in the following email that she asked me to share:
Hi Geoff, first of all, I wanted to thank you for taking the time over the past few months to discuss your organization's approach to the evaluation of the sustainability of farmed salmon in both Chile and British Columbia.

As I said earlier we're frustrated that Monterey Bay published an evaluation of our operations in the guide to sustainable sushi that relied on limited research material more than four years old -- the last complete report on farmed salmon published on the Monterey Bay Web site is dated April 27, 2004.

One of our frustrations is that Monterey Bay continues to classify Alaska Salmon as wild, when ranched is a far more accurate term. In addition, while the Monterey Bay Web site lists several objections to farmed salmon, there is no mention that many of the practices that led Monterey Bay to place farmed Atlantic salmon on the red list are also regularly practiced in Alaska. Can you please explain this disconnect?

In particular we note:

Salmon escapes are listed as a concern. Modern farm practices, staff training and equipment improvements have ensured that escapes have been drastically reduced. As well, Monterey Bay does not recognize the 1.5 billion salmon that the Alaskan industry releases annually into the Northern Pacific and their effect on other wild fish populations.

The report lists waste as a concern. We’ve done a lot of work in BC and elsewhere to ensure that farms are well sited, and that we have developed feeding strategies and fallowing techniques to reduce impacts, yet this is not recognized. We are concerned about the continued linkage of effects from fish waste and human waste as this is, from our perspective, scientifically inaccurate. Fish waste does not contain the contaminants carried by the human equivalent and has little, if any, measurable effect on local ocean life.

In addition, we'd also like to express concern about the conclusion that it takes three pounds of wild fish to grow one pound of farmed salmon. In the BC farms as an example, this ratio has been lowered to near one-to-one thanks to the use of plant based proteins and other process improvements. In addition, our operations only use fishmeal and fish oil from operations that we have rated as sustainable.

We would be happy to provide detailed scientific and veterinary data backing up this information and wish to ensure that this information is included in the upcoming review of the standards by Monterey Bay. I would like to discuss how we might provide this information to you and the timeline and process for the review in order that we might work with you to ensure an accurate assessment of our farm practices. I also encourage you to get in touch to discuss any of the questions regarding Sea Choices. I am more than happy to speak with you about sustainable farming practices and look forward to future discussions.
That note was sent to Shester on December 4. We've yet to receive a response. If and when we do, we'll share it with you.

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