- Soil Association
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- Aquaculture and Northern Ireland organic standards consultation
- Consultation on Soil Association standards for UK organic aquaculture
Consultation on Soil Association standards for UK organic aquaculture
The Soil Association consulted on new standards proposals for UK organic aquaculture.
We consulted on changes to:
- align our aquaculture standards with leading organic standard-setters in Europe
- adopt developments in the EU organic regulations into our standards in Great Britain
- enforce recent recommendations made by the UK government’s Animal Welfare Committee
The proposed standards focus on the production of Atlantic salmon.
The consultation was open for 60 days and closed on 29th January 2024. Responses will be used to inform our proposals to the Soil Association Standards Board. We will publish a summary of responses soon.
The next stage (in 2024) will look at other species and respond to expected developments in legislation around aquaculture from Scottish Government.
For detailed information, please download our summary of proposed changes.
Why we set standards for organic aquaculture
Fish, shellfish and seaweed are a vital source of food for millions of people around the globe. They are also used in non-food products like cosmetics and packaging.
The farming of fish, shellfish and seaweed is called aquaculture. It's responsible for almost half of the global supply. But the current system is unsustainable because of overfishing, intensive fish farming and climate change. We want to make aquaculture is a solution to this problem.
Organic aquaculture is guided by the organic principles of health, ecology, fairness and care.
Its goal is to work with ecological systems to provide a good life for all farmed animals and produce healthy food that pays farmers fairly. Organic aquaculture standards are strict requirements to make this happen.
You can find out more about the proposed changes below. For detailed information, please download our current standards for aquaculture.
Why are we reviewing Soil Association aquaculture standards?
In the UK, we farm a wide variety of species, from trout and salmon to oysters, mussels and seaweed. Farmed Atlantic salmon is the UK’s largest aquaculture sector. Organic is a small but growing part of this. To maximise impact, we've focused the review on Atlantic salmon.
We want to find out:
- how easy of difficult it is for licensees to comply with the new requirements
- what changes would need to be made
- the needs of businesses that certify to Soil Association’s higher standards
- what the general public think
What are we consulting on?
We propose improved requirements to protect Wrasse and Lumpfish to reduce parasites and avoid reliance on chemical treatments. These are species of fish kept with Atlantic salmon. These standards cover the species allowed on organic farms, their sourcing, management of their health and welfare as well as humane slaughter. New recommendations from Defra’s Animal Welfare Committee are written into the standards and will be enforced.
The 2023 update to the Animal Welfare Committee’s recommendations includes the requirement for CCTV in fish slaughter facilities. CCTV recordings need to be saved and made available for at least 90 days. We propose to require licensees to comply with this recommendation.
We propose to protect wild salmon and sea trout by adopting preventative management practices before and during defined sensitive periods during the spring migration of wild salmon. Organic producers will need to show that sea lice levels on organic aquaculture farms are kept below locally agreed thresholds.
Organic sites will need to notify Soil Association Certification within 72 hours if mortality levels on-farm or during transport exceed the Code of Good Practice.
Aquaculture sites in the process of converting to organic production will only be allowed to stock organic aquaculture animals. This will make sure organic animals in the food supply chain have been managed to organic standards for life.
Adoption of positive developments in the EU organic regulation
This includes further restrictions on the use of artificial lighting and a cap on the total number of parasite treatments over an animal's life. These proposals also include banning the use of threatened or endangered species, unless as part of official conservation efforts. We also propose to adopt new rules for marine and freshwater species.
We are proposing to increase the requirements for licensees to provide us with data to guide the development of the Soil Association Aquaculture standards. More data will give us the evidence needed to drive standards higher.
Annual reporting requirement for whole fish used in aquaculture feed
We are proposing to add this reporting requirement for feedmills to document any use of whole fish in aquaculture feed. Organic feed should prioritise the use of organic feed ingredients and by-products from sustainable systems. Whole fish are only permitted when it is essential to maintain the health of the aquaculture animal. To better understand how to further develop this requirement in the future, we will be collecting data on the role of whole fish in aquaculture.