Activists join forces to demand removal of organic certification for Scottish salmon farms

Editorial Staff

Salmon farms certified as organic by the Soil Association are required to demonstrate their commitment to minimizing their impact on aquatic ecosystems, maintaining lower population densities compared to other standards.

In an open letter dated Monday 29 January, a number of activist organisations and community groups have accused the Soil Association, the UK’s organic food certification body, of deceptive labeling practices concerning Scottish farmed salmon.

Thirty organisations, including the Coastal Communities Network, Blue Marine Foundation, WildFish and Don Staniford’s Scamon Scotland, say the the industry in Scotland “runs completely counter” to the principles of the Soil Association’s promotion of healthy, humane and sustainable food.

The Soil Association developed its organic standard for farmed fish (including farmed salmon) in 2006 and currently certifies 23 salmon farms in Scotland – 14 seawater sites, and 9 freshwater sites.

But it their open letter to the association, which plans to update its organic fish farming standards this year, the groups call for the removal of its certification of Scottish salmon and trout farms, as “unacceptable greenwashing of an unsustainable industry”.

The debate around the Scottish salmon farming intensified in December when Chris Packham, the president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), another major certifier of Scottish salmon, called for a halt to the sector’s growth.

Almost 100% of Scottish salmon is RSPCA certified; So why is the charity’s president calling to end salmon farming?

Critics argue that the updated standards for fish farms proposed by the Soil Association continue to permit the use of chemicals such as deltamethrin and fail to address concerns that high mortality rates indicate an unsustainable industry.

More than 160 chefs and restaurants, along with 50 community groups, charities, and NGOs, have joined WildFish’s “Off the table” campaign to exclude farmed salmon from their menus, according to the Guardian.

Claire Mercer Nairne, the owner of supporting Perthshire restaurant The Meikleour Arms, said: “Many well-meaning restaurants serve farmed salmon because of reassuring organic certification. Organic for most people means better for the environment, but unfortunately in this instance that could not be further from the truth.”

Defending the certification

Responding to the allegations, a spokesperson for the Soil Association defended their certification process, emphasizing the strict rules farms must follow to minimize environmental impact and ensure animal welfare. They also stressed the association’s commitment to working with the sector to drive improvements.

Tavish Scott, CEO of Salmon Scotland, expressed support for the industry’s adherence to high standards and criticized activist groups for potentially endangering the global success of Scottish salmon.

“Scotland’s salmon farmers consistently meet the highest international standards and third-party assurance – including organic certification – will continue to play an important part in ensuring Scottish salmon remains the best in the world. We won’t let that global success be put at risk from a handful of urban-based activist groups,” said Scott, who went on to question the credentials of some of the groups involved with the letter.

WildFish masquerades as a conservation organisation and is actually an angling pressure group that wants to make 12,500 hard working salmon farmers, who live in some of Scotland’s most remote communities, unemployed during a cost-of-living crisis.


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