Organic aquaculture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Organic aquaculture is a holistic method for farming marine species in line with organic principles.[1] The ideals of this practice established sustainable marine environments with consideration for naturally occurring ecosystems, use of pesticides, and the treatment of aquatic life.[2] Managing aquaculture organically has become more popular since consumers are concerned about the harmful impacts of aquaculture on themselves and the environment.[3]

The availability of certified organic aquaculture products have become more widely available since the mid-1990s.[4] This seafood growing method has become popular in Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland,[5] but consumers can be confused or skeptical about the label due to conflicting and misleading standards around the world.[6]

A certified organic product seal on aquaculture products will mean an accredited certifying body has verified that the production methods meet or exceed a country's standard for organic aquaculture production.[2] Organic regulations designed around soil-based systems don't transfer well into aquaculture [7] and tend to conflict with large-scale, intensive (economically viable) practices/goals. There are a number of problems facing organic aquaculture: difficulty of sourcing and certifying organic juveniles (hatchery or sustainable wild stock); 35-40% higher feed cost; more labour-intensive; time and cost of the certification process; a higher risk of diseases, and uncertain benefits.[8] But, there is a definite consumer demand for organic seafood, and organic aquaculture may become a significant management option with continued research.


A number of countries have created their own national standards and certifying bodies for organic aquaculture. While there is not simply one international organic aquaculture standardization process, one of the largest certification organizations is the Global Trust,[9] which delivers assessments and certifications to match the highest quality organic aquaculture standards. The information regarding these standards is available through a personal inquiry.[10]

Many organic aquaculture certifications address a variety of issues including antibiotic and chemical treatments of fish, unrestrained disposal of fish feces into the ocean, fish feeding materials, the habitat of where and how the fish are raised, and proper handling practices including slaughter.[11] Most Organic Aquaculture certifications follow rather strict requirements and standards.[3] These rules may vary between different countries or certification bodies.[3][12] This leads to confusion when products are imported from other countries, which can result in a backlash from consumers (for example, the Pure Salmon Campaign ).

Defining acceptable practices is also complicated by the variety of species - freshwater, saltwater, shellfish, finfish, mollusks and aquatic plants. The difficulty of screening pollutants out of an aquatic medium, controlling the food supplies and of keeping track of individual fish may mean that fish and shellfish stocks should not be classified as 'livestock' at all under regulations.[7] This point further exemplifies the need for widespread aquaculture certification standard.

Challenges and Controversy[edit]

There is some controversy over licensing restrictions, as some seafood companies propose that wild caught fish should be classified as organic.[13] While wild fish may be free of pesticides and unsustainable rearing practices, the fishing industry may not necessarily be environmentally sustainable.[13]

The variation in standards, as well as the unknown level of actual compliance and the closeness of investigations when certifying are major problems in consistent organic certification.[14][15] In 2010, new rules were proposed in the European Union to consistently define the organic aquaculture industry.[12][16] Canada's General Standards Board’s (CGSB) proposed updates to their standards were strongly opposed in 2010 because they allowed antibiotic and chemical treatments of fish, up to 30 percent non-organic feed, deadly and uncontrolled impacts on wild species and unrestrained disposal of fish feces into the ocean. These standards would have certified net pen systems as organic.[17] At the other end of the scale, the extremely strict national legislation in Denmark has made it difficult for the existing organic trout industry to develop.[18]

Potential Alternatives To Non-Organic Feed and Waste Removal[edit]

One major issue in organic aquaculture production is finding practical and sustainable alternatives to non-organic veterinary treatments, feeds, spat and waste disposal. Potential veterinary alternatives include homeopathic treatments and production-cycle limited allopathic or chemical treatments [8] Current requirements usually stipulate a reduction in unsustainable fishmeal, in favor of organic vegetable and fish by-product replacements. A recent study into organic fish feeds for salmon found that while organic feed provide some benefit to the environmental impact of the fishes' life cycles, the loss of fish meals and oils have a significant negative impact.[19] Another study discovered that certain percentages of dietary protein could be safely replaced.[20]

Not only do the fish have to be organically reared, organic fish feeds need to be developed. Research into ways of decreasing the amount on non-sustainable fishmeal in feed is currently focusing on replacement by organic vegetable proteins. Some organic fish feeds becoming available, and/or the option of integrated multi-species systems (e.g. growing plants using aquaponics, as well as larvae or other fish). For example, locating a shellfish bed next to a finfish farm to dispose of the waste and provide the shellfish with controlled nutrients.[13]

Certifying bodies that cover organic aquaculture[edit]

Certification body Countries of operation No. of certified aquaculture farms Accredited for grower groups No. of certified groups Aquaculture commodities within the scheme Production (tonnes)
Agrior Israel 2 + 1 fish feed mill no NA Tilapia, carp, red drum, sea bass, sea bream, Ulva and Ulea seaweed 400
AgriQuality Ltd. New Zealand, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Malaysia yes Example
Bioland e.V. Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland no Example
Debio Norway 3 no NA salmon, trout, cod trout 0.5 salmon 120 cod 600
Instituto Biodinamico Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay yes
Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale Italy, Lebanon, Turkey yes
National Association Sustainable Agriculture Australia Australia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands yes
Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand Thailand 1 (not under the IFOAM-accredited scheme) Example 0 nile tilapia and butter fish 8 000 litres (fish sauce)

Table from IFOAM: Annex 6. Organic schemes

United States Organic Aquaculture Certification[edit]

In 2005, with the growing need for a certification process specifically designed for marine-based farming methods, the National Organic Standards Board and the National Organics Program created a working group called the Aquatic Animal Task Force in order to seek recommendations for the new certification process. The task force was meant to be broken into two divisions: wild fisheries and aquaculture, but the wild fisheries group never materialized.[22]

In 2006, the Aquaculture Working Group delivered a report with suggestions for the production and handling of aquatic animals and plants. However, with the complexity and diversity of the marine systems, the group requested more time to explore bivalve mollusks (oysters, clams, mussels and scallops) in depth. The National Organic Standards Board approved the aquaculture standards in 2007 and reconsidered the aquatic animal feed and facilities until they synthesized the public commentary in 2008. In 2010, the NOSB approved the recommendations for the bivalve mollusks section.[22]

Currently, the legal status of using the organic label for aquatic species, and the future of developing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification standards for organic aquaculture products and aquatic species, are under review.[23] It is anticipated that the first version of the rule for organic aquaculture will be announced in April or May 2016 with need for approval by the Office of Management and Budget. It is expected to see the final rule in play by late summer or fall of 2016 with organic aquaculture products likely available in store in 2017.[24] The certification is said to include the following: shellfish, marine and recirculating system methods of aquaculture, as well as the controversial net-pen method[permanent dead link].[24]

The US currently allows the imports of organically-certified seafood from Europe, Canada and other countries around the world.[25]


Organic aquaculture was responsible for an estimated US$46.1 billion internationally (2007). There were 0.4 million hectares of certified organic aquaculture in 2008 compared to 32.2 million hectares dedicated to Organic farming. The 2007 production was still only 0.1% of total aquaculture production [8]

The market for organic aquaculture shows strong growth in Europe, especially France, Germany and the UK - for example, the market in France grew 220% from 2007 to 2008.[12] There is a preference for organic food, where available.[8] Organic seafood is now sold in discount supermarket chains throughout the EU.[12] The top five producing countries are UK, Ireland, Hungary, Greece and France.[12] 123 of the 225 global certified organic aquaculture farms operate in Europe and were responsible for 50,000 tonnes in 2008 (nearly half global production).[12]

Organic seafood products are a niche market and users currently expect to pay premiums of 30-40%.[8] Organic salmon is the top species and retails at 50%.[12] Market demand is driving Danish rainbow trout farmers to switch to organic farming.[18]

Known data on organic aquaculture by country[edit]


Country Organically managed area [ha][5]
Bangladesh 2'000
China 415'000
Ecuador 6'382
Indonesia1 1'317
Thailand 33
Total 424'732

1Indonesian Shrimp farms are locally certified as organic but a recent study found them to be highly environmentally damaging.[26]


  • Denmark: Rainbow Trout. Organic production ~400 tonnes (1% of total trout production) [18]
  • UK:

Cod and carp[27] Trout[27] Salmon[27]

  • Rainbow Trout (Denmark) [18]
  • Salmon (80% of organic aquaculture production in 2000 [8])

and shrimp (Europe)[8]

  • Carp (low volume production, poorly marketed - Europe)[8]

North America[edit]

  • Shellfish: oyster, clam, mussel, scallop, geoduck seed (USA) [13]

Organic production of crops and livestock in the United States is regulated by the Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP). While it does cover aquaponics, it did not properly cover aquaculture until the recent 2008 amendment, hampering the progress of organic aquaculture in the states.


New Zealand[edit]

The first certified organic aquaculture farm in New Zealand was a salmon farm which was the largest producer outside of Europe contributing to the European market.[28] New Zealand green-lipped mussel Greenshell mussels - certified by Sealord (12), DOM ORGANICS Greenshell mussels, certified organic by Bio-Gro New Zealand Ltd. (BGNZ)

Salmon (14) 12 tonnes/year - Ormond Aquaculture Ltd certified (CERTNZ) organic freshwater aquaculture farm

Koura (freshwater crayfish) Still being developed - Ormond Aquaculture Ltd certified (CERTNZ) organic freshwater aquaculture farm

Future Research and Development[edit]

Various methods and complementary processes are being investigated as alternatives for organic aquaculture, most notably Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture(IMTA) and aquaponics [29] (a land-based outgrowth of aquaculture in many places). Organic methods of farming various species are also topics of interest, particularly shrimps,[26] salmon[19] and Atlantic Cod[30]

Projects such as ORAQUA are implementing scientific recommendations that support economic growth of Europe's organic aquaculture industry.[31] The goals of this organization are as follows:

  1. Reassess the relevance, measurability and applicability of Regulation EC 710/2009 for organic aquaculture against the basic organic principles;
  2. Generate robust science-based recommendations for potential updates of the EC regulation as regards aquaculture of fish species, molluscs, crustaceans and seaweed, based on comprehensive reviewing, research and assessment, in addition to integrating feedback from key stakeholders;
  3. Produce executive dossiers on the main technical background behind the recommendations that will emerge from this project;
  4. To underpin consumer demand for organic aquaculture products and development of organic aquaculture industry by integrating aspects of consumer perceptions, unique competitive qualities as well as production systems, business and market economics and regulatory framework;
  5. To propose a model for continuous assessment and advice on the improvement of regulations of organic aquaculture in the future, taking account of new scientific insights and changing competitive market environments.[31]


  1. ^ "IFOAM Aquaculture | IFOAM". Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  2. ^ a b "Safeguarding the Environment: Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance". Archived from the original on 2016-03-23. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  3. ^ a b c Bergleiter, Stefan; Berner, Nina; Censkowsky, Udo; Julià-Camprodon, Gemma (2009), "Organic Aquaculture 2009 : Production and Markets", in Naturland e.V.; Organic Services GmbH (eds.), Archived copy, Gräfelfing/Munich, archived from the original on 2011-07-16, retrieved 2010-09-13CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b Bergleiter, Stefan; Willer; et al. (2008), "Organic Aquaculture", The World of Organic Agriculture, Frick; ITC, Geneva: IFOAM, Bonn and FiBL
  5. ^ Aarset, Bernt; Beckmann, Suzanna; Bigne, Enrique; Beveridge, Malcolm; Bjorndal, Trond; Bunting, Jane; McDonagh, Pierre; Mariojouls, Catherine; Muir, James; Prothero, Andrea; Reisch, Lucia; Smith, Andrew; Tveteras, Ragnar; Young, James (2004). "The European consumers' understanding and perceptions of the "organic" food regime: The case of aquaculture". British Food Journal. 103 (2): 93–105. doi:10.1108/00070700410516784.
  6. ^ a b Mansfield, Becky (June 2006), "Organic views of nature: The debate over organic certification for aquatic animals" (PDF), Sociologia Ruralis, 44 (2): 216–232, CiteSeerX, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9523.2004.00271.x, archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-13, retrieved 2010-09-13
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Ribeiro, Laura; Soares, Florbela; Cunha, Maria Emília; Pousão-Ferreira, Pedro (20–21 January 2010), "Organic Aquaculture: a strategy for valorisation of semi-intensive aquaculture?" (PDF), Archived copy (PDF), International Workshop on Sustainable Extensive and Semi-intensive Aquaculture Production in Southern Europe, Tavira, Portugal: Stiftung Ökologie & Landbau (SÖL), archived from the original (PDF) on 22 November 2011, retrieved 13 September 2010CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Aquaculture". Retrieved 2016-04-23.
  9. ^ "Contact Us". Retrieved 2016-04-23.
  10. ^ "Safeguarding the Environment: Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance". Archived from the original on 2016-03-23. Retrieved 2016-04-23.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g "New organic aquaculture rules a route to a more sustainable and profitable future for aquaculture". European Commission Fisheries. 30 June 2010.
  12. ^ a b c d Downey, R, Developing Organic Standards for Molluscan Shellfish
  13. ^ "Organic Aquaculture: What's in a Label?", The Fish Site, 2008, archived from the original on December 2008
  14. ^ Martin, Andrew (28 November 2006). "Free or Farmed, When Is a Fish Really Organic?". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Real, Natalia (11 September 2010), "Organic aquaculture laws go into effect", Fish Info & Services Co.Ltd (FIS), archived from the original on 2010-07-09
  16. ^ Real, Natalia (11 September 2010), "Proposed organic aquaculture standards opposed", Fish Info & Services Co.Ltd (FIS), archived from the original on 2010-01-09
  17. ^ a b c d Organic Aquaculture (PDF), The International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems (ICROFS), archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-26
  18. ^ a b Pelletier, N; Tyedmers, P (2007), "Feeding farmed salmon: Is organic better?", Aquaculture, 272 (2): 399–416, doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2007.06.024
  19. ^ Lunger, Angela N.; Craig, S. R.; McLean, E. (June 2006), "Replacement of fish meal in cobia (Rachycentron canadum) diets using an organically certified protein", Aquaculture, 257 (1–4): 393–399, doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2005.11.010, archived from the original on 2013-02-02
  20. ^ Victor, Gonzálvez (2007), "Organic Farming in Spain 2007", FiBL Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ a b "COMMENTS and PROPOSED REVISIONS by the Aquaculture Working Group Pertaining to the Recommendations of the USDA National Organic Standards Board for Organic Aquaculture Standards" (PDF). USDA. USDA. October 2010. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  22. ^ "Organic Aquaculture | Alternative Farming Systems Information Center". U.S. National Agricultural Library. Retrieved 2016-04-23.
  23. ^ a b "USDA organic aquaculture label could hit grocery shelves in 2017, government says". Undercurrent News. Retrieved 2016-04-23.
  24. ^ "USDA to propose standards for organic seafood raised in U.S." PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2016-04-23.
  25. ^ a b Rönnbäck, Patrik (December 2003), "Critical analysis of certified organic shrimp aquaculture in Sidoarjo, Indonesia." (PDF), Swedish Society for Nature Conservation(SSNC), archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-24
  26. ^ a b c The Soil Association (May 2009), "UK Organic Aquaculture Market Report 2009", The Fish Site, archived from the original on 2010-07-09
  27. ^ "Feed World News: Organic salmon". Feed International. 15 (4): 10–12. 1994.
  28. ^ Diver, Steve (2006). |archive-url= missing title (help) (PDF). Aquaponics—Integration of Hydroponics with Aquaculture. ATTRA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-08-21.
  29. ^ Birt, Benjamin; Rodwell, Lynda D.; Richards, Jonathan P. (2009), "Investigation into the sustainability of organic aquaculture of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua)", SSPP, 5 (2), archived from the original on 2011-08-09
  30. ^ a b "OrAqua". Nofima. Retrieved 2016-04-23.

Further reading[edit]