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Audit snag thwarts BC salmon farm


October 1, 2014
By Tom Walker

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There’s just one salmon farm in Canada going through the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) sustainability certification process at present – and it has encountered an unexpected snag.

 Marine Harvest Canada (MHC) public affairs director Clare Backman told ANA that the snag lies in the interpretation of a rule regarding the monitoring and minimalizing of ocean-floor impact and waste-material buildup beneath the site applying for sustainability certification. The ASC sustainability certification program provides assurance to the public regarding appropriate environmental impact of individual farm sites.

 Backman said it’s a matter of timing: the company wants to see the certification for the company’s Marsh Bay site near Port Hardy on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island in place – if possible – before the fish are harvested. This is so the company can sell the fish as ASC-certified.

 Apparently in Norway, Chile and Scotland, ASC auditors allow results from previous site tests to be used. It’s expected that with the same or similar fish densities and numbers, the site will continue to have the same impact as recorded in the past.

 According to Backman, in Canada the auditors doing the ASC assessment want to use benthic impact sampling carried out at the time of the upcoming harvest. And it’s only after those samples have been fully studied for compliance with the standard (a process that can take upwards of six weeks), that ASC would either award or refuse the certification. But then that’s too late for this harvest.

 Backman noted that Marine Harvest has complete records and data on the benthic impact under the Marsh Bay site from previous harvests, with the quantities and densities of the fish stocks and contends that this data could be used to forward-interpolate the amount of buildup on the ocean bed.

 This more flexible approach to the ASC benthic-impact assessment requirement has been used successfully elsewhere Backman noted.

 If the new build-up is too much and the site fails to meet the standard during the upcoming harvest, certification would be removed.