Aquaculture North America

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First ASC certified salmon farm in North America

April 9, 2015
By Muriel Hendrix

Marine Harvest Canada’s Marsh Bay site meets high standard

In January of this year, Marine Harvest Canada’s Marsh Bay site, near Port Hardy, British Columbia, became the first North American salmon farm to attain Aquaculture Stewardship

Council (ASC) certification.  The company expects the first ASC salmon to be in the North American market by February.  

“ASC is a new standard for salmon and sets the bar very high” said Clare Backman, Public Affairs Director for the company, in an interview with Aquaculture North America. “Meeting the requirements was challenging and required gathering an extreme amount of information.”

Some data, such as for fish health, water quality, antibiotic use, sea lice infections and treatments, was already regularly being gathered from the site.  But additional information not normally collected, such as wild salmon population dynamics and interactions with the farm and data from the surrounding environment, was required.  And in some cases changes in the site operations were needed to comply. 

The long road to developing the certification started in 2004 when the company committed to be an active member in the initial aquaculture dialogues and continued with the process until 2012 when the standard was brought forward. “From the beginning”, Backman states, “the ASC was developed as a standard that set the bar high enough that the NGOs would back it.”

Initially the company selected two sites, Marsh Bay and Shelter Bay, that appeared a good fit for the certification and data collection commenced.

Both sites were audited for ASC in April 2014 and non-conformances were addressed during the following 6 months. During this period, Shelter Bay had six sea lions drown in between the predator and grower nets and though there were no escape of fish the company voluntarily withdrew the site from the certification process.

Globally, Marine Harvest is committed to having all salmon farms certified by 2020 and to date has10 salmon farms in Norway that are also certified. Though Marine Harvest Canada sites, Marsh Bay and Shelter Bay, were the first two North American sites to be audited for ASC, other salmon farming companies in British Columbia, Cermaq and Greig Seafood, are committed to the ASC process. 

“It is quite an accomplishment to understand exactly what is required by the standard.  There are many points to consider and extensive amounts of data to be collected.” But certification is worth it, Backman explains. “The market is interested in having access to certified product. For example in 2011-2012 Loblaws (a major food retailer in Canada) decided to only sell ASC certified product and as a result has been buying fish from Norway. Now they will be able to obtain ASC fish from Canada”.

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