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Impacts of Global Salmon Aquaculture Products Top Agenda at Meeting in Chile

Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue to Meet in December

WASHINGTON, DC: Salmon producers, retailers, scientists, environmental groups and others from throughout the world will meet in Chile in December to review new reports about two of the main impacts of salmon aquaculture production: chemical inputs and nutrient loading/carrying capacity. Information in the reports will then be used to guide discussions about developing jointly acceptable global standards for salmon aquaculture. A discussion about the socioeconomic costs and benefits of salmon aquaculture globally and in Chile also will be on the agenda.

The meeting of the Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue Dec. 11-13 in Santiago will be the 10th meeting of the dialogue since the group was created in 2004.

"It is only by having a close dialogue with the society around us and accepting change and continuous improvement, that we can secure the future of salmon farming," said Petter Arnesen, group technical director of Marine Harvest and dialogue Steering Committee member.

The goal of the dialogue is to develop measurable, performance-based standards that minimize or eliminate the key environmental and social impacts of salmon farming. In addition to chemical inputs and nutrient loading/carrying capacity, the other key impacts identified by the dialogue participants are feed, disease, escapes, social and benthic inputs/siting.

"More than 60 percent of the salmon consumed globally is produced at salmon farms, many of which are in Chile, and the demand for farmed salmon is increasing dramatically" said Jose Villalon, director of aquaculture at World Wildlife Fund, which is coordinating the dialogue. "It is absolutely essential, therefore, to explore options for ensuring that salmon is farmed in an environmentally and socially responsible manner."

To learn more about each impact, the dialogue Steering Committee created technical working groups that drafted a series of "State of Information Reports." Each document will assess existing research related to an impact, identify gaps or areas of disagreement in the research, and suggest a process for addressing the gaps. The reports will be used as a basis for stakeholder discussion and, ultimately, as a framework for creating principles, criteria, indicators and standards for salmon aquaculture. The first report was published in 2005 and relates to salmon feed and the environment.

The second report, to be presented at the meeting in Santiago, addresses the current status of intentional chemical inputs, regulation and research in the salmon aquaculture industry in Chile, Norway, Scotland and Canada. Chemical inputs assessed include antibiotics, metals, anti-parasitic compounds, disinfectants and anesthetics. The report examines the extent to which these chemicals can be toxic and pollute the water. The authors of the report are Les Burridge, St. Andrews Biological Station; Felipe Cabello, New York Medical College; Jaime Pizarro, Universidad de Santiago de Chile; and Judith Weis, Rutgers University.

The third report, also to be presented for feedback at the December meeting, focuses on nutrient loadings by commercial salmon aquaculture in the major farming regions of the world and impacts on the pelagic marine and freshwater Chilean lake ecosystems. The authors of the report are Dr. Alejandro Buschmann, Universidad de los Lagos; Dr. Barry A. Costa-Pierce, University of Rhode Island; Dr. Stephen Cross, University of Victoria, Canada; Dr. Jose Luis Iriarte, Universidad Austral de Chile; Dr. Yngvar Olsen, University of Science and Technology, Norway; and Dr. Gregor Reid, University of New Brunswick, Canada.

"The salmon dialogue plays an important role in developing science-based information about the impacts of salmon farming," said Giuliana Furci, salmon farming program coordinator for FundaciĆ³n Terram and a member of the Steering Committee. "These reports will provide a clear view of the global and regional impacts associated with salmon aquaculture and will identify the knowledge gaps that need to be addressed in the short term."

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Notes to editor:

Main impacts of salmon aquaculture, agreed on by dialogue participants:

  • Benthic impacts and siting: Chemicals and excess nutrients from food and feces associated with salmon farms can disturb the flora and fauna on the ocean bottom (benthos).
  • Chemical inputs: Excessive use of chemicals - such as antibiotics, anti-foulants and pesticides - or the use of banned chemicals can have unintended consequences for marine organisms and human health.
  • Disease/parasites: Viruses and parasites can transfer between farmed and wild fish, as well as among farms.
  • Escapes: Escaped farmed salmon can compete with wild fish and interbreed with local wild stocks of the same population, altering the overall pool of genetic diversity.
  • Feed: A growing salmon farming business must control and reduce its dependency upon fishmeal and fish oil - a primary ingredient in salmon feed - so as not to put additional pressure on the world's fisheries. Fish caught to make fishmeal and oil currently represent one-third of the global fish harvest.
  • Nutrient loading and carrying capacity: Excess food and fish waste in the water have the potential to increase the levels of nutrients in the water. This can cause the growth of algae, which consumes oxygen that is meant for other plant and animal life.
  • Social issues: Salmon farming often employs a large number of workers on farms and in processing plants, potentially placing labor practices and worker rights under public scrutiny. Additionally, conflicts can arise among users of the shared coastal environment.

Background about the Aquaculture Dialogues:

  • WWF is the catalyst for a series of species-specific roundtables, called the Aquaculture Dialogues, that consist of multiple stakeholders developing standards for certifying 10 aquaculture products: salmon, shrimp, tilapia, pangasius, trout (to begin in 2008) and five types of molluscs.
  • All of the standards will be built on a consensus about the key impacts; identify and support the adoption or adaptation of better management practices that significantly reduce or eliminate those impacts; determine globally acceptable performance levels; and contribute to global shifts in performance within an industry
  • The Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue is driven by a Steering Committee that includes representatives from Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, Fundacion Tearram, Marine Harvest, National Environmental Trust, Norwegian Seafood Federation, SalmonChile, Salmon of the Americas, Skretting and WWF
  • To learn more about the dialogues, go to www.worldwildlife.org/aquadialogues