ASC claims SeaChoice criticism of new salmon standards “pre-emptively undermines” future progress

Published on
August 6, 2019

SeaChoice’s latest criticism of changes to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s Salmon Standard “pre-emptively undermines” the future progress the changes are intended to make, according to a release from the ASC. 

The SeaChoice criticism was targeted at the ASC’s amendments to the salmon standards, mainly the parasiticide treatment index (PTI). In a media release, SeaChoice claimed the changes allow for dramatic increases in chemical treatments on salmon farms, and that they represent a lowering of standards. 

“Periodic reviews of the Salmon Standard are supposed to be conducted to ensure that it is relevant, effective, and reflective of industry best practice,” Karen Wristen, executive director of the Living Oceans Society, said in the SeaChoice release. “However, with these amendments, what we are seeing is that the ASC is actually lowering their requirements to accommodate industry norms and increase in the number of certified farms, rather than maintaining a vigorous ‘best practice’ designed to protect the environment.”

SeaChoice also claimed that the new standards could lead to farms using more chemical treatments for controlling sea lice. 

“Ironically for Western Canada farms, the ‘Global Level’ metric will likely allow for an overall increase in the number of chemical treatments for sea louse control, while operators were easily able to meet the requirements under the previous standard,” said John Werring, a David Suzuki Foundation senior science and policy adviser. “This is troubling because despite everything these farms are doing to control this parasite, the number of necessary treatments is increasing year-over-year and, with these amendments, farms will still be able to maintain their certification under this new global standard.”

ASC countered the claims, and asserted that farms are not being allowed to relax their standards. According to the organization, the review of the salmon standard has created entirely new, and more relevant, methodology for evaluating the PTI. 

Before, the salmon standard initially had “very little information” on how, and how often, different farms treated their salmon, a spokesperson for ASC told SeafoodSource. 

“Since then the ASC program has collected a great deal of performance information from certified farms,” the spokesperson wrote. “This data, as well as that from governments around the world and from the Global Salmon Initiative, has been analyzed by ASC for several years, and we found large variations in current farm performance between countries. The analysis also found that farms are increasingly using targeted treatments only at the infected pens within a farm, limiting the risk of resistance developing. Using this analysis we have been able to fine tune these requirements so they are more evidence based.”

The ASC also rejected SeaChoice’s claim that this new standard will allow farms to get “conditional certification.” 

“There is no such thing as conditional certification in the ASC program and nothing in this update has changed that fact,” the spokesperson wrote. “No farm can be ASC certified unless it meets all of the robust requirements of the standard, and these requirements reflect best practice in each region.”

Even when a farm meets best practice, it must continually improve each year to meet the global level set by the latest amendment to the standard. 

The amendment, the ASC said, is intended to create a more accurate standard that aligns with industry practices. 

“SeaChoice’s attempts to compare the treatment levels allowed before and after this update are misleading, because it is simply not possible to compare the outdated PTI methodology with that of the revised Standard’s new Weighted Number of Medicinal Treatments,” the ASC wrote. “SeaChoice’s criticism of the latest changes to the ASC Salmon Standard includes misleading inaccuracies and seeks to pre-emptively undermine the progress that will be made in addressing sea lice with the new approach.”

Photo Courtesy of Marius Dobilas/Shutterstock

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