S&TA blasts farmed salmon certification scheme
A new report from the Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) on the RSPCA/Freedom Food certification of Scottish farmed salmon reveals serious concerns over the failure of Freedom Food to take proper account of the wider environmental impact of the accredited farms.
According to S&TA, The Freedom Food logo is used extensively on supermarket packaging for farmed salmon and on salmon farming companies’ websites as an indication predominantly of good animal welfare practice, but also of good environmental stewardship. Freedom Food certification of farmed Atlantic salmon is overseen by an RSPCA/Freedom Food farmed salmon working group of 19 members, 15 of which are either fish farmers or from companies with a direct commercial interest in fish-farming.
It is estimated that Freedom Food charges between GBP 800,000 (USD 1.3 million; EUR 956,782) and GBP 1 million (USD 1.6 million, EUR 1.2 million) annually for farmed salmon certification (made up of a license fee and ‘per kg’ charge), but as there is no published list of certified farms, this figure can only be an estimate.
“There can be no doubt that the Freedom Food certification for farmed salmon has set the bar very low in terms of the impact of salmon farming outside the farms themselves. The standards that claim to take account of the wider environmental impact on wild fish and the impacts on wild fish from parasites and disease spread from fish farms are simply not rigorous enough. In particular, the standards on the control of sea-lice numbers are no more stringent than the industry’s own Code of Good Practice, which is widely recognized by eminent scientists (including those of Marine Scotland Science) as not necessarily adequate to protect migrating juvenile salmon and sea trout from deadly infestation by huge numbers of juvenile sea lice emanating from the farms,” said Guy Linley-Adams, S&TA aquaculture campaign solicitor and report author.
“It appears that all too often Freedom Food certification provides a convenient ‘fig leaf’ for salmon farming companies to deflect legitimate criticism of their wider environmental performance and the damage being caused to wild fish. By certifying farms that fail to meet basic environmental standards, the credibility of the RSPCA is at stake and it runs the risk of being charged with hoodwinking supermarkets and their customers. It should drop all environmental standards from Freedom Food certification, concentrating solely on animal welfare issues relating to the farmed fish. We urge the big supermarkets to examine the environmental claims associated with Freedom Food certification. Otherwise they in turn will be open to the charge that they are misleading consumers,” said Hughie Campbell-Adamson, S&TA Scotland chairman.