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Charities argue that Scottish farmed salmon should not be classified as organic, calling it "unacceptable greenwashing."
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Charities argue that Scottish farmed salmon should not be classified as organic, calling it “unacceptable greenwashing.”

The organization responsible for certifying organic food in the UK has faced allegations of deceiving customers regarding the labeling of Scottish farmed salmon.

Thirty charities, conservation and community organisations, including WildFish, the Pesticide Action Network and Blue Marine Foundation, say the negative environmental impacts of the industry in Scotland “run completely counter” to the principles of the Soil Association’s promotion of healthy, humane and sustainable food.

A group has written a letter to an association that is revising its standards for organic fish farming. The group is urging the association to revoke its certification of Scottish salmon and trout farms, stating that it is promoting false sustainability in an industry that is actually unsustainable.

In December, Chris Packham, a broadcaster and presenter, urged for a stop to the expansion of salmon farms in Scotland. This came after reports showed a record high in mortality rates for farmed salmon in 2023. As the president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Packham expressed concerns about the negative impact of the industry on fish welfare and the environment of Scotland.

Organic salmon farms certified by the Soil Association must demonstrate measures to reduce their impact on the aquatic ecosystem and maintain lower population densities compared to other standards, such as the RSPCA standard.

According to Rachel Mulrenan, the director of WildFish in Scotland, the labeling of Scottish salmon as “organic” is incorrect. The fish are farmed in the same manner as all other Scottish farmed salmon, in open-net cages where waste, including feces and leftover food, is released into the nearby lochs and sounds.

According to her, salmon farms that were certified as organic were allowed to use extremely harmful chemicals that could harm the surrounding wildlife. She also alleged that they utilized wild fish for feed and parasite control, but the potential environmental effects were not known.

Intensive farming of salmon can lead to the proliferation of parasites, such as sea lice and other diseases, which can pose a threat to wild salmon populations if escaped fish interbreed with wild counterparts.

The WildFish organization released a report called “Responsibly Farmed?” in the previous year. The report stated that a salmon farm certified by the Soil Association had used several rounds of the chemical pesticide deltamethrin, which is known to be harmful to marine creatures.

The organizations stated that the revised guidelines for fish farms, as suggested by the Soil Association during its feedback process, still allow for harmful substances like deltamethrin and do not adequately address worries about the industry’s high death rates, which suggest it is not a sustainable practice.

Over 160 chefs and restaurants, along with 50 community groups, charities, and NGOs, have partnered with WildFish’s Off the Table initiative to eliminate farmed salmon from their menus.

Claire Mercer Nairne, owner of The Meikleour Arms restaurant in Perthshire, explains that while many restaurants believe they are making a environmentally-friendly choice by serving farmed salmon with organic certification, it is actually not beneficial for the environment.

A representative from the Soil Association stated that farms displaying the organic logo are required to adhere to rigorous regulations in order to reduce their environmental impact and promote animal well-being. They must also demonstrate that they address any issues that may arise.

“We acknowledge that there is still more progress to be made in the development of fish farming, which is why we are collaborating with the industry to push for advancements.”

The representative stated that the organization approved 20 fish farms in the United Kingdom. They also mentioned that their regulations were having a larger effect, as they were being implemented by the non-organic industry.

According to a spokesperson, the Soil Association expressed worry about the effects of chemical treatments, like deltamethrin, on parasites. The use of this treatment as a medicine is closely regulated. Farms must prove that it is only used as a last resort to ensure the well-being of fish and has minimal impact on the environment.

Tavish Scott, the chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “Scotland’s salmon farmers consistently meet the highest international standards and third-party assurance – including organic certification – will continue to play an important part in ensuring Scottish salmon remains the best in the world. We won’t let that global success be put at risk from a handful of urban-based activist groups.”

Source: theguardian.com