Organic Aquaculture Standards Held Up

By

SeafoodSource staff

Published on
February 14, 2008

Christine Blank, freelance business writer and editor, reporting for SFB from the World Aquaculture Societyâ??s Aquaculture America in Orlando, Fla.

Organic aquaculture standards are still a year or more away, said George Lockwood, chairman of the U.S. Department of Agricultureâ??s National Organic Program Aquaculture Working Group, at this weekâ??s Aquaculture America 2008 in Orlando, Fla..

While the Working Group and the National Organic Standards Board have been developing organic aquaculture standards for years, two issues are holding up final approval, said Lockwood. In addition, the draft rules must go through the approval process of several different government agencies before they receive public comment.

"I would estimate that, within one to two years, we will see the first NOP standards where we will see labels," Lockwood said.

Fishmeal and net pens are the two issues holding up draft standards.

"We had hundreds of pages of public comments [on the first proposal], mostly from environmental groups and some from growers. There was very strong emphasis against the use of fishmeal and oil, and against the use of net pens," said Lockwood.

Environmental groups and others believe that organic aquaculture products should not be raised in open net pens where they could be exposed to contaminants and diseases. For fishmeal, the industry and environmental groups are arguing over whether poultry and other mammal products should be allowed as an ingredient.

Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas, is one large buyer of sustainable seafood that already will not buy fish that are fed fishmeal made with animals other than fish. "Part of Whole Food Marketâ??s stance is the vegetarians who eat fish as their protein," Lockwood said.

Lockwood blamed hang-ups on net pens and fishmeal on the anti-aquaculture lobby and environmental groups, which have effectively spread negative publicity about aquaculture, including salmon farming.

"This is because of four foundations in the United States that have a stated goal of de-marketing farmed salmon," said Lockwood.

Despite the two main sticking points, Lockwood expects the NOSB to come up with agreements on fishmeal and net pens at its meeting in May.

After that, the proposal will go to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Management and Budget and other government agencies. The rule would then be open for public comment.

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