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Compassion in World Farming urges ASC label to reverse policy that will increase suffering of factory farmed salmon

News Section Icon Published 2/3/2023

Compassion in World Farming has today (3rd February 2023) written to the farmed seafood certification body The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) urging them to reverse a recent policy change that will allow millions of fish to endure more suffering.

The international seafood certification scheme – one of the world’s largest – has announced that, as of 1st February, its policy on sea lice would change, allowing millions of salmon to suffer painful infestations before being treated. The scheme has lowered its ‘acceptable’ level for sea lice which, in some cases, will represent a shocking five-fold increase in sea lice levels.

Sea lice are a widespread problem in farmed salmon due to the animals’ close confinement. These parasites literally eat away at the fish causing painful open wounds and injuries to their gills and mouth, and can even lead to the death of infected fish.

Dr Krzysztof Wojtas, Head of Fish Policy at Compassion in World Farming, said: “The Aquaculture Stewardship Council should be improving its fish welfare standards to meet the expectations of consumers, not lowering the bar and allowing fish to suffer more.

“Last year we welcomed the introduction of basic draft welfare standards by ASC. However, this policy change is deeply disappointing and represents a significant step backwards for the scheme. It will allow farms to lower their standards on sea lice and force millions of farmed salmon to endure more suffering through painful infestations.

“Fish are sentient creatures and recent scientific research has discovered that they not only feel pain and experience fear but – like many other animals – they explore, travel, socialise, hunt and play. All farmed fish deserve to have lives worth living in environments that meet their physical, mental, and behavioural needs.

“We have written to ASC urging them to reverse this policy for the sake of the millions of fish around the world who will suffer the pain and distress its implementation will cause.”

The ASC certifies salmon farms in several countries around the world including Scotland, Norway, UK, Chile, Canada, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Japan, Denmark, and Australia. The protocols in place to control parasite infections are crucial to the welfare of hundreds of millions of salmon around the world every year.

Compassion in World Farming is campaigning to get fish certification schemes to introduce welfare standards for fish. While many include sustainability standards, few have welfare standards, contrary to the expectations of many of their consumers. The four major international schemes certify around 8% of fish killed globally, which equates to many billions of fish.

For more information please email or call 01483 521 886

Notes to Editors

1. Compassion in World Farming was founded in 1967 by a British dairy farmer who became horrified at the development of intensive factory farming. Today Compassion is the leading farm animal welfare organisation dedicated to ending factory farming and achieving humane and sustainable food. With headquarters in the UK, we have offices across Europe, in the US, China and South Africa.

2. View the letter from Compassion in World Farming to ASC urging them to reconsider their sea lice policy change.

3. Certification and labelling programmes have become a primary tool to address sustainability issues of farmed seafood. There are 4 farmed fish certification schemes worldwide.

4. On 1st Sep 2022, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s (ASC) certification scheme opened the second and last open public consultation to its Fish Welfare project. This project aims to identify key impacts on farmed aquatic animal welfare and develop new and improved welfare standards.

5. Read more about our Rethink Fish campaign.


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