Fish and shellfish (particularly oily fish) is an essential part of the diet, but with wild fish stocks declining, much of the fish we eat is now farmed. In the same way that we apply organic principles to farming on land, it is important that the organic principles of health, ecology, fairness and care are applied to fish and shellfish farming. The Soil Association was one of the first organisations to become actively involved in the development of organic aquaculture standards and now has organic standards for salmon, trout, char, shrimp, carp and bivalve shellfish. Salmon are geneally raised in ocean pens, while trout and carp are housed in ponds or lakes. Shellfish are found in coastal waters across the UK.
Because each species has different needs – salmon is an ocean going predator for example, while carp lives in freshwater and eats plants and worms in the main – the specifics of our standards differ for each species. There are some general principles that apply across the board though:
- they are produced using the most sustainable feeds available - salmon and trout feeds are made from the recycled processing wastes of fish which have already been caught for human consumption
- the fish are kept at low stocking densities which minimises stress and maximises welfare and natural disease resistance only natural pigments are used in the feeds
- the fat content of feeds is limited. This produces more natural growth rates and produce a firm and delicious fillet
- toxic antifoulants (used to keep net pens clean) are not permitted on organic fish farms
- the use of veterinary treatments is heavily restricted and long withdrawal periods (the time between the animal being treated and harvested) are required should treatments be essential to maintain high welfare standards.