A new discussion paper from Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), released today, challenges the salmon aquaculture sector to be more proactive in publicly disclosing information about environmental impacts and to create a model for industry-wide best practice.

The paper argues that greater public disclosure would benefit the salmon industry because:

  • The industry already works across several countries with different official access arrangements and it makes no sense for the same companies to work to different standards in different locations.
  • A proactive approach to disclosure would be a more effective strategy in responding to critics than withholding data and would build public confidence.
  • Comprehensive environmental disclosure is becoming an essential part of corporate responsibility for many commercial sectors and the salmon industry needs to align itself with global best practice. 
  • The investment community needs transparency around environmental impacts in order to make informed decisions about investing in the industry. 
  • Fears about data disclosure provoking further attacks by critics are probably unfounded. In those countries with the greatest transparency – e.g. Norway – there is the least public criticism. 
  • Salmon certification schemes, such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, may well require significant public data disclosure. Failure to adequately disclose environmental impacts may act as a barrier to certification.

The discussion paper also reviews existing official arrangements for disclosing environmental data associated with salmon farming in Norway, Scotland, Chile and Canada. The paper concludes that current arrangements in Norway probably give the greatest transparency and that companies that work to these standards could apply the same approach when operating in different countries. 

The paper concludes that the salmon industry would benefit from a coordinated approach to environmental data disclosure with leading players agreeing global guidelines that would be set at the highest current standard. Such data release could be focussed around specific water bodies rather than individual farms – the so-called ‘zone approach’ – and so provide meaningful data for stakeholders such as wild salmon fishermen and conservationists without exposing individual farms to criticism. 

Commenting on the release of the paper, Jim Cannon, CEO of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership said, “It’s difficult to see why a salmon producer that works to a particular set of standards in one country should then adopt a different approach to data transparency when it operates somewhere else. The whole industry would benefit from a sector-wide agreement on best practice for publicly disclosing environmental information that everyone could adopt as standard procedure.” 

He continued:“The salmon industry is well known for having some vocal critics and this has made the sector extremely sensitive when it comes to disclosing environmental data. However, there are ways that the industry could produce information that would meet the needs of key stakeholders like fishermen and conservationists without putting the spotlight on individual farms. And a more open approach to data is likely to do the industry far more good than harm in the long term.” Responding to the paper, Ian Carr, Group Marketing Director for EWOS, part of Cermaq ASA, said, “Our experience with sustainability reporting is that it goes a long way to alleviating stakeholder concerns and supports our position as a responsible player in the aquaculture business. We are seldom criticised for the results we present and we support initiatives that make sustainability reporting more meaningful and useful for our stakeholders.” 

 The discussion paper, “Public Access to Environmental Information Around Salmon Aquaculture”, is available here.