Nova Scotia

Farmed Atlantic Salmon make Seafood Watch's 'avoid' list

Cooke Aquaculture said the report isn't all bad and it actually highlights some positive changes in the fish farming industry.

Report measures sustainability of fish farms and fishing industry

Farmed Atlantic salmon make Seafood Watch's 'avoid' list

8 years ago
Duration 1:46
Featured VideoReport measures sustainability of fish farms and fishing industry

Environmentalists and an aquaculture company disagree about the findings of a new report from the United States that advises consumers to avoid some farm-raised Atlantic Salmon. 

"It's not surprising, it's clear that we need to have improvements in Canada. If we want to even be nearly equivalent to some of the better practices that are happening in Norway and Scotland," said Susanna Fuller, a Marine Conservation Coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre.  

The report from Seafood Watch states that consumers should avoid buying Atlantic Canadian salmon that are raised in enclosed ocean pens.  

The Seafood Watch program is a research initiative organized by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

It monitors the sustainability of both the fish farming and fishing industry. 

Report not all bad for fish farms

Cooke Aquaculture, a company that raises salmon in ocean pens in both Atlantic Canada and Maine, doesn't see the ratings it received as negative.

"We're actually celebrating the report. It's extremely good news for the salmon farming industry," said Nell Halse, vice president of communications for Cooke Aquaculture.  

Halse said while their Atlantic Canadian Salmon are still in the "avoid" category, the company's farmed salmon in Maine is now considered a good alternative for consumers.

"This is a huge step for us, they've recognized that ocean farmed raised salmon is a sustainable option," she said.     

Halse said the company's salmon farming operation in Maine is run almost exactly the same as the farms in Atlantic Canada. 

"We believe that some of the data that they've used to make the assessment for Atlantic Canada is older data and that has affected the rating."  

She said Cooke Aquaculture will provide Seafood Watch with more up to date data on its operations in Atlantic Canada and that should lead to a better rating. 

Environmentalists want tighter regulations

Fuller said there's a lot to be learned from the Seafood Watch report and hopes governments take note. 

She said Atlantic Canadian fish farms use far too many chemicals and antibiotics on their fish and there's a risk that farmed fish will escape and pass diseases to wild salmon. 

"The lesson I would take if I were, I guess, the Atlantic Canadian governments, I would be having a meeting fairly quickly to figure out  how do we work together to make sure we have extremely strong regulations." 

More than 1,000 businesses across North America use Seafood Watch's science to inform their purchasing decisions, the organization says.

The Seafood Watch report breaks down its seafood rankings into three categories: best choice, good alternative and avoid. 

The "best choice" according to Seafood Watch, should be at the top of everyone's grocery list, it considers fish in this category to be well managed.

It states that "best choice" fish that are caught or farmed cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife.

By contrast, the "avoid" designation means it recommends consumers shouldn't buy a product because it's caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.