The USDA announced it will propose USDA organic standards for aquaculture, to be released this year. The standards will be available for seafood including salmon, tilapia, catfish, shrimp, mussels, oysters, and clams.
Linda ODierno of the National Aquaculture Association told Phys.org despite the many challenges ahead, the industry’s hopeful this will help consumers feel more confident about U.S. organic seafood products—especially since they already tend to be pricier than imported counterparts.
“It could be good for industry and good for consumers,” she said.
That being said, the success of the USDA organic standards is uncertain: Those in the farmed fish industry are concerned the fish feed requirements will be so strict as to not be financially viable, while consumer and environmental groups wonder if the standards will be strict enough.
According to The Fish Site:
The organic label remains elusive in today’s world of aquaculture, but never has there been a time when its application has been so necessary. Just as the organic movement in livestock was borne from a public response to the damaging and unethical aspects of intensification, now the same concerns have come to bare upon the aquaculture industry.
It won’t be easy to appease the masses, but according to the USDA, potential criteria may include:
- Careful selection of sites for aquaculture farms.
- Protection of adjacent ecosystems.
- Active avoidance of conflicts with other users of the aquatic resources (e.g. fishermen).
- Prohibition of chemicals (e.g. anti-fouling agents in net pens).
- Natural remedies and treatments in the case of disease.
- Feedstuff from organic agriculture.
- Fishmeal and -oil in feed derived from by-products of fish processed for human consumption (no dedicated “feed fishery”).
- Prohibition of GMOs, neither in feedstuff, nor in the stock itself.
- Processing according to organic standards.
Currently, Wegman’s is already selling imported organic seafood from Norway, but other grocery stores like Whole Foods are waiting for USDA organic standards to come out.
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Image of farmed fish via Shuttershock