Microalgae harvesting tanks. (Photo: NOAA/FIS)
New guidelines for organic cultivation of fish and seaweed
Tuesday, April 05, 2011, 00:30 (GMT + 9)
Representatives of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will meet in Canada next month to assess the inclusion of animals and seaweed produced using aquaculture techniques in the Guidelines for Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods.
The meeting will be held between 9 and 13 May in the framework of the Thirty-Ninth Session of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards: Codex Committee on Food Labelling.
The FAO says the operation and management of aquaculture animals and seaweed, whether or not in confined systems, "must respect the principles of organic production" and that "the biodiversity of the aquatic environment and the quality of the surrounding water be maintained."
They also propose that aquaculture operators should apply an organic management plan to guide the operation and lower the impact on the environment, as well as monitoring it to ensure that the goal is met annually.
The FAO also states that "aquaculture facilities should be located in areas where contamination risks are minimized and where the sources of pollution can be controlled or mitigated."
With regards to water used in aquaculture, they specify that it should be of a quality suitable for the production of foods that are safe for human consumption.
"The certification body or authority must confirm at the outset that the location of the farm will not be inappropriate due to potential sources of contamination by prohibited substances or polluting the environment."
"They should also set the minimum distances separating organic production units from nonorganic ones based on factors such as upstream or downstream locations and the flow of water or tides," states the FAO.
In relation to the origin, the FAO and the WHO prefer that they use organic production species bred at a local level.
Likewise, containment systems, including cages - pens or corral nets - should be designed, constructed, placed and operated to minimize the risk of leaks and other negative environmental impacts.
Under the new guidelines, "closed recirculation systems are prohibited except when used for breeding, raising or for the production of species which are used for organic feed."
Moreover, "the raising conditions should reflect the natural situation as closely as possible using appropriate strains for the type of production. They should also avoid artificial polyploidy, cloning, artificial hybridization and the use of strains of the same sex."
Moreover, the maximum stocking density should be lower than that used in conventional production.
Another of the guidelines relating to nutrition states: "The feed must meet the nutritional requirements of animals during the different stages of development. The plant material used in the feed must always meet the requirements of these guidelines. Carnivorous fish should not be fed a diet based entirely on plants, in order to ensure compliance with their physiological needs and to ensure that consumers are not deprived of essential fatty acids."
In addition, the animal-based feed water must be made of fishmeal and fish oil or fish-based ingredients derived from:
- Waste from organically farmed aquatic animals;
- Waste from fish caught for human consumption in sustainable fisheries;
- Fish from sustainable fisheries.
As for cultivated and wildly collected seaweed along the shore, the FAO says that "the criteria for the location and conversion of animal aquaculture units should be applied as appropriate for the units of seaweed farming."
They also propose that cultivation be done in a sustainable manner at all stages, "from the collection of juvenile seaweed to the harvest stage." And that "fertilization be restricted to cultivation in tanks."
By Analia Murias
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA/NMFS