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Disease-Related Impacts of Salmon Aquaculture Top Agenda at Dialogue Meeting

Criteria to address key impacts also discussed

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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: Significant progress has been made in the Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue with the presentation and discussion of the Technical Working Group reports on diseases and parasites at a meeting on March 12-13, 2009. Top experts in the field were asked to assess the environmental impact of diseases and parasites and pull together current knowledge on preventing and mitigating these effects on farms and on the environment.

“We invite all stakeholders to provide comments on the reports, which will be used to further develop measurable standards that minimize or eliminate the key negative environmental and social impacts associated with salmon aquaculture,” said Steering Committee member Rodrigo Infante of SalmonChile. 

Public comments will be solicited once the reports are final and posted on the website.

More than 50 producers, nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders participated in the meeting, where they also provided input on the list of criteria related to the development of salmon aquaculture standards. All feedback received will be used by the multi-stakeholder Steering Committee to create draft standards that will be posted for public comment early next year.

“There is a lot of interest in sustainable seafood and it is great to see such a broad range of participants sharing ideas and the uptake of these ideas into the Dialogue process,” said Marius Dalen of the Bellona Foundation.

To learn more about each impact related to salmon farming, the Steering Committee for the World Wildlife Fund-initiated Dialogue created technical working groups (TWGs) that drafted a series of “State of Information Reports.” Each report assesses existing research related to an impact, identifies gaps or areas of disagreement in the research and suggests a process for addressing the gaps.

To view the full reports, go to http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/PageNavigator/SalmonSOIForm. Reports have been completed for chemical inputs, nutrient loading/carrying capacity, feed, escapes and benthic impacts/siting.

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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 12 aquaculture species: salmon, shrimp, trout, tilapia, pangasius, abalone, clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, cobia and Seriola.
  • The outcome from each Dialogue will be a set of measurable, performance-based standards that will minimize the key environmental and social impacts related to aquaculture. The standards will be created through an open, transparent and consensus-oriented process.
  • The Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue is driven by a Steering Committee that includes representatives from Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, Fundación Terram, Marine Harvest, Norwegian Seafood Federation, Pew Environment Group, SalmonChile, Skretting, and WWF.
  • The meeting in Boston was the 13th meeting of the Dialogue since the group was created in 2004.
  • To learn more about the Dialogues, go to www.worldwildlife.org/aquadialogues

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.