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When you’re in the seafood business and  farming salmon, the topic of sustainability comes up constantly. Naturally, as a farm that raises its salmon in its natural, ocean environment, we at Skuna Bay are as passionate about being responsible in our waters as anyone could be. After all, we need to have healthy and pristine waters in order to have a sustainable future. So our Craftsman Farmers’ jobs in many ways are as much to be conservationists as they are to be animal farmers.

All that being said, while of course we think we operate at the height of sustainability, anyone can say anything at any time, but there’s limited credibility in boasting about one’s own operation. This is why it has been so important to hold a credible, valid, third party audited certification from a well-recognized certification program. And this past week there were some developments on this topic at the Sustainable Seafood Summit in Seattle. At that event, our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program announced a change to their criteria, that moving forward, salmon farmers who adopt the ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) certification would automatically qualify for a “yellow (good alternative)” ranking under the Seafood Watch program. This is commendable and good news for responsible producers. Finally, it is being recognized that rearing salmon in its natural, ocean environment is a positive thing for the world and that our efficient, low carbon food method could truly be a major contributor to sustainable food solutions globally.

 

At the same time, this announcement is somewhat ironic for us at Skuna Bay. Why? Because regardless of certification, not much changes with regard to our commitment to responsible operations. For example, we will continue to operate with extremely low densities in our pens with 99% water and 1% fish. We will continue to reduce our use of wild fish in our feed, currently at a 1:1 “fish in fish out” ratio. Not recognized by ASC certification but certainly important is our use of the Thermafresh, completely corrugated and recyclable box. Also not recognized but equally important is our carbon neutral shipping to all of our customers through our Terra Pass partnership. Nor is it recognized by ASC, but still a priority, is our commitment to avoiding using air freight to get our fish to customers. At the same time, our long time commitment to BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) certification where we are a “4 Star” BAP certified producer” demonstrated long ago that a credible third party auditor recognized our farmers for their excellence in rearing salmon in its natural, ocean environment.

Skuna Bay Salmon will secure ASC certification. We think that’s important because our chef customers think it’s important.

Yet it won’t change much in what we do because most of the BAP system would also meet the ASC criteria as well. The main thing is that there are some different measurements and protocols required that will take some time to transition towards but because we have already made many changes in what we do, we think attaining the ASC standard (in addition to the important BAP standard) is well within our reach. For example, we already practice area management, single year class sea entry and most other important requirements. We have made a commitment to not use antibiotics considered by the WHO (World Health Organization) to be critical to human health. We have already begun using a hydrogen peroxide bath in treating sea lice and have built our own boat complete with a closed system to achieve this. So not much will change on our end other than the documentation process.

We expect to be into this all very soon and this, it would seem, would automatically classify Skuna Bay Salmon as “yellow rated” under Seafood Watch. Yet nothing will have changed with our operation. And at the same time, the Oceanwise program here in Canada, operating under the exact same criteria as Seafood Watch doesn’t have a yellow rating. This would mean that, despite qualifying in the US under ASC, BAP and Seafood Watch, in Canada we would not be recognized for all the good things our farmers are doing which we think needs to be addressed at the same time. 

Nevertheless, at Skuna Bay we will continue our pursuit of the latest third party certifications including ASC, BAP and others and we will continue our responsible rearing practices and sustainable protocols all in the name of continual improvement in salmon farming. But nothing will change with respect to our mission: feeding the world and at the same time helping to reduce pressure on wild fish stocks.