In our previous posts on Seaspiracy, we have addressed the allegations made by the film and the reality of those. Today I would like to speak about the different organizations that are stewards of our oceans and about the Aquaculture industry.
Certification Organizations Credibility
The film deliberately tackles the Marine Stewardship Council, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, and the Earth Island Institute. Claiming the certifications they provide are not credible. Considering these industries supply strong food security for almost half the world population the organizations decided to address Seaspiracy ‘s claims.
ASC said their certifications mean going through a thorough auditing process that involves the strictest standards in aquaculture. That so, Aquaculture farms certified by the ASC must comply and demonstrate their fish feed is coming from responsible sources. The ASC’s Feed standards require that the ingredients -marine or land-based- are sourced transparently and responsibly.
A certification by the ASC can only be achieved when the farmers demonstrate they are treating the environment and the locals responsibly and with respect. Also, when receiving certification by this organization, the farm must monitor, investigate, and record all mortalities, execute programs for mortality reduction and have periodical inspections from experts such as veterinarians and fish health experts. Farms must always ensure fish’s health and welfare. The organization has strict standards in place to ensure water quality, waste disposal, and the prevention of pollution.
Conformity Assessment Bodies carry out the verification and audits of these standards. These processes are very robust and long with observers from local communities, consultants, and stakeholders.
The MSC also took their time to respond to the claims from Seaspiracy. The first thing they say is “Sustainable fishing does exist and helps protect our oceans”. They agree overfishing is an issue. The organization participated in the reform of fishing practices and the growth of the sustainable seafood movement. MSC certifications are, just like ASC’s, carried out independently by Expert Assessment Bodies.
The certification process with this organization involves a long and rigorous process and the compliance of strict standards. These standards are not reached easily. Fisheries, sometimes, invest a few years trying to comply with every aspect. Part of these standards involves proof from the fisheries about the active minimization of unwanted catch. MSC certification cannot be bribed or purchased as the organization is independent and not-for-profit. Which means they do not receive any profit from providing these certifications.
Earth Island Institute
I believe this organization was the one that received the bigger impact of the blast created by Seaspiracy. You would think that when people are interviewed their words are being accurately represented by the interviewer. Because science taught me that even when you do not like the results you must always report the facts as you found them. However, it is not what happened with many of the interviews in the film. Mark Palmer, from the International Marine Mammal Project by the Earth Island Institute, says his interview was taken out of context. They also addressed the claims from Seaspiracy.
The MMPI and their dolphin-safe tuna is a free-of-charge label. Companies wanting to carry this label, however, must prove their tuna fishing practices are compliant with the welfare of dolphins. This means that by having these labels, fisheries are able to prove there are no captured, netted, injured, or dead dolphins, at all. They have a strict zero-tolerance policy when it comes to the dolphins. Ever since the Dolphin-Safe project started, there has been a decline of over 95% in dolphin kills. Their audit process is also carried out independently by Assessment boards.
Our population is growing, rapidly. Resources are somehow limited, and understanding this is key to industries like Aquaculture. Aquaculture is in charge of over 50% of the seafood that is consumed globally. In the past 15 years, it has become a key for food security. Also takes a lot of weight off the shoulders from wild fishes by not overfishing. The industry poses the question and answers for the global economy and food security. As well as the solution for many poverty-stricken inhabitants of the world as it feeds them and provides them with a source of income.
And you know, the fact that they took so little time to address aquaculture in Seaspiracy, was not at all surprising. There was so little scientific knowledge in the overall 90 minutes. But especially the less-than-15-minutes they invested trying to slam Aquaculture. Tabrizi said they were not looking for scientific accuracy, as they were not scientists nor claiming to be it.
Taking that position after releasing a 90-minute-film that generalizes the practices of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, is, to say the least, irresponsible, and cowardly. If you are making a documentary and looking to educate people you must always use information that is as updated and accurate as possible. If you do not do this, then your film is not different from a fiction production not based on facts.
Their three main claims were that: Aquaculture uses fish feed ingredients that originate exclusively in wild fishing. Farmed salmon are completely infested with sea lice and diseases, the fishes swim in their own dirt, and infect wild stocks. And lastly, farmed salmon is dyed pink. Let us address these issues one by one. But first I would like to say that Aquaculture is one of the most innovative food production industries. And every individual I have been in touch with from all over the world is always looking for better, most effective, and more sustainable ways to perform their practices. Now, let us get to it.
Regarding Fish Feed. Maybe, in its beginnings, we can claim that aquaculture feed was coming mainly from wild catch. However, there are feed manufacturers that are extremely committed to sustainability and innovation. In fact, BioMar is one of them and they have several sustainable sources for their feed production, ensuring maximum sustainability and traceability.
Over the last 10 years, Sustainable Fish Feed has reduced the proportion of fish-based ingredients down to 10%. It is important to point out, salmon -which is the only species Seaspiracy addresses- is not by nature adapted to a vegetarian diet. This has not stopped research on 100% plant-based feed with this species. Researchers are trying to reach maximum sustainability while ensuring fish welfare and proper growth with key nutrients.
Salmon flesh is pink, just like flamingos’ feathers are. And is the same reason behind a lobster being red/pink. Astaxanthin. In the film, they say fish farms are basically dyeing salmon to make it attractive to you. This is not true, and if we are brave enough to claim that, we must first understand Astaxanthin is in the Salmon diet naturally. .
This component is specifically present in krill and shrimps. These two species are almost at the bottom of the marine food chain, so basically, following the argument from Seaspiracy, Salmon, Flamingo, and Lobster are dyeing themselves just to be attractive to the eye
Sea Lice and Water Quality
Sea Lice is a concern every organization in the Salmon Farming Industry worries about. This is why every year innovative solutions arise. First, what are sea lice? They are ectoparasitic crustaceans, which means they stick to organisms’ surfaces, found on marine fishes. They are present on wild salmon, usually returning fresh from the sea. This parasite affects the welfare of salmon as well as the quality of their flesh. Several studies( Jackson et al, 2014, Skilbrei et al, 2013, O’Donahue et al, 2020) have found the impact of farmed salmon over wild fish stocks is below 1%. There are strict standards and regulations regarding Sea Lice levels. However, every producer chooses the methods to keep these levels low.
Now, fishes do not “swim in circles in their own filth”. As a matter of fact, water quality and oxygenation are key to great production. Being in open water is basically impossible because our oceans have great water flow. But even in closed pen systems water quality and oxygenation is the first and biggest concern for farmers. Free flow of water precludes the presence of filth in the nets.
In our next and last entry about Seaspiracy we are going to address the problems we are currently facing in our oceans. And propose different and realistic ways to tackle these problems. If you do not want to miss out our entries, make sure to follow us on Social Media so you can be notified whenever we post updates ______________________________________________________________________________________________
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