A new study by the University of Victoria’s Seafood Ecology Research Group, led by ecologist Dr. John Volpe, provides important information into the sustainability of farm-raised seafood. While this expansion of a previous study (GAPI) still fails to provide comparison into other forms of farm-raised terrestrial meats, it does still provide an important benchmarking tool for aquaculture’s sustainability improvements.
Positive Aquaculture Awareness commented on the initial Global Aquaculture Performance Index (GAPI) here.
While this latest study (“How Green is Your Eco-label” ) is sponsored by the notoriously anti-salmon farming Foundation PEW Environment Group and has attempted to create a negative spin on results, it cannot deny very important and positive facts that are most evident in the report;
#1 – While all food production has impacts, global salmon aquaculture – with or without eco-standards applied – has a very good impact rating. 3rd best of 20 species studies according to the initial GAPI study. On a scale of 0 to 100% (zero being the worst and 100 being perfect or “zero-impact”), global salmon farming received a 70%. Back in high school, most of us would have killed for a score like that!
#2 – Canadian aquaculture also receives a high score of 70% – 11% higher than global average.
#3 – While the report suggests that most eco-labels do not provide significant improvements in sustainability over conventional operations, that may not necessarily reflect the quality of eco-label standards, but may in fact suggest that aquaculture – or more specifically ‘salmon’ aquaculture – is already a high achiever. Improvements in sustainability have been rapid in the past decade, and future improvements will undoubtedly continue but albeit in much smaller increments. (Olympic records used to be broken by minutes, but today are edged only be milliseconds)
#4 – The authors warn that the scale of aquaculture production impacts sustainability ratings – more production = more impact. This is common sense. But it is also important to note that trading aquaculture production for terrestrial production may not make ecological sense. Without a fair comparison to other meats we also consume (chicken, pork, beef etc), the authors may be inadvertently suggesting that we replace aquaculture, one of the most sustainable and ecologically positive forms of healthy protein production, for other terrestrial meats that are less environmentally friendly.
The bottom line is; these results are very encouraging for Canadian salmon farmers and would suggest that Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program need to revise their outdated seafood sustainability cards. In fact, we’ll be sending them some new toner for their printer to ensure they have plenty of yellow ink.