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Impacts of Salmon Aquaculture Top Agenda at Dialogue Meeting in Barcelona

Goals to Address Each Impact are Presented

BARCELONA: The Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue met in Barcelona, Spain this week to discuss new reports about escapes, siting and benthic impacts related to salmon farming. Draft principles, or high-level goals that address the impacts of salmon farming, also were presented.

The principles and information in the reports will be used to create criteria, indicators and, ultimately, measurable performance-based standards that minimize or eliminate the key impacts of salmon aquaculture.  
"We made good progress at the meeting towards creating a set of principles that are the foundation for standards that will encourage environmentally, socially and economically responsible salmon farming," said WWF-US Aquaculture Program Director Jose Villalon, one of 40 meeting participants and a member of the Dialogue Steering Committee.  "We continue to see positive results from the transparent, consensus-building process we use at each Dialogue meeting."

The standards will address the seven key impacts associated with salmon farming. The Dialogue Steering Committee created technical working groups last year to write "State of Information Reports" about those impacts. The full set of reports, to be completed this year, will assess existing research related to each impact, identify gaps or areas of disagreement in the research and suggest a process for addressing the gaps.

One of the main impacts is fish escaping from farms. The Steering Committee agreed at this week's meeting that the vision for the industry should be zero escapes. The report about escapes highlights that more precise knowledge is needed on why, when and from where salmon escape, as well as how they spread and perform in the wild. The development of new technology and farming techniques is a high priority to reduce escapes and their negative impacts on the environment.
The information in the benthic impacts and siting report is critical, as the impact of salmon farming on benthic communities is one of the main factors used to regulate salmon farming around the world -- even though this might not be the most important ecological impact of salmon farming.  It is well known that heavily polluted sites perform less well than relatively clean sites where the ecosystem at the bottom is functioning.

One of the key research gaps noted in the report is that scientific uncertainties exist regarding ecological responses to benthic pollution. Improved understanding is required to determine what site production levels can be achieved without unacceptable disturbances of ecosystem health. The report specifically notes that research in Chile has not kept pace with the growth of farming in the region.

Research about disease/parasites and salmon aquaculture's impact on society will be reviewed by the Dialogue later this year. Reports about the other impacts - chemical inputs, nutrient loading/carrying capacity and feed - were discussed at previous Dialogue meetings. To download and provide input on the research reports, go to http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/PageNavigator/SalmonSOIForm
"We hope to work with stakeholders to determine a way forward to resolve the issues raised in these reports, as well as other important issues," said Steering Committee member and SalmonChile Chief Executive Officer Rodrigo Infante. "Both the environment and salmon industry can benefit from reducing these impacts."

Notes to editor: 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 11 aquaculture products: salmon, tilapia, pangasius and five types of molluscs, as well as shrimp, trout and seaweed (the last three to begin later this year). " 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, Fundación Terram, Marine Harvest, Pew Environment Group, Norwegian Seafood Federation, SalmonChile, Salmon of the Americas, Skretting and WWF. Dialogue participants include Salmon producers, retailers, scientists, environmental groups and others. " The meeting in Barcelona was the 11th meeting of the Dialogue since the group was created in 2004.

 " To learn more about the Dialogues, view the reports and read the draft principles, go to www.worldwildlife.org/aquadialogues

For more than 45 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The largest multinational conservation organization in the world, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level, from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature. Go to worldwildlife.org to learn more.