Chemical Use, Escapes, and Disease Continue to Pose a Threat to the Marine Environment and Endangered Wild Salmon Populations, According to New Seafood Watch Report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 2, 2016Atlantic Salmon - Credit: Bernard Yau

Halifax, NS and Vancouver, BC – Open net-pen Atlantic salmon remains on the “Avoid list after a new assessment outlines the ongoing threats posed by excessive chemical use, high levels of escapes, and the presence of persistent diseases in Atlantic Canadian farms. The Seafood Watch report, completed as part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood recommendation program, also assessed farms in North East US, which have scored a “yellow,” or ”Some Concerns” ranking. These differed from Atlantic Canadian farms as they have lower disease outbreaks and the existence of a successful regulatory framework which includes protection for wild Atlantic salmon through a containment management protocol for escapes.

“This report confirms that there are significant problems with Atlantic Canada’s open net-pen finfish farming operations,” says Susanna Fuller of the Ecology Action Centre. “How is it that in Maine – just across the bay – net-pens owned by the same company have less disease and such fewer escapes? This very clearly indicates that the lack of regulations here in Canada is resulting in higher, and completely unnecessary, environmental damage.”

One of the major concerns facing both assessed regions is the extremely high levels of chemical use. Antibiotic and pesticide use in Eastern North American farms is significantly higher than other salmon farming regions in the world – 241 times higher than in Scotland and 204 times higher than Norway. Also, some of the chemicals used are listed as Highly and Critically Important to Human Health by the World Health Organization, according to the report.

“It’s alarming that such high amounts of chemicals, including antibiotics, are being used here in Atlantic Canada,” says Matt Abbott of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “This is of particular concern as the Canadian government has recently weakened laws and regulations prohibiting the use of chemicals, with the introduction in summer 2015 of the Aquaculture Activity Regulations. Not only are there high amounts of antibiotics in the farmed salmon, the regulation of pesticide use is now significantly less that it was a year ago.”

A significant difference between the US and Canadian farms was the regulatory requirement to track all escapes back to the farm. In Canada, there are no such requirements, although the Nova Scotia government is in the process of developing a similar protocol as part of its recent regulatory changes.

“Impacts on endangered populations of wild Atlantic salmon as a result of aquaculture operations cannot be underestimated.” says National SeaChoice Manager Lana Brandt.

With wild Atlantic salmon listed as endangered in both Canada and the US, the additional threats created by open net-pens pose an unacceptable risk to the future of wild populations. We need to address these issues and create changes in our regulatory system to ensure that Atlantic Canada’s ocean ecosystems are not unnecessarily and irreversibly harmed by these open net-pen farms.

– END –

To view the full Atlantic salmon recommendations please visit the SeaChoice website.

Or, for more Information contact:

  • Susanna Fuller, Marine Conservation Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre 902-446-4840


  • Lana Brandt, National SeaChoice Manager 778-833-2954



  • New Brunswick and Nova Scotia make up over 60 per cent of all North American marine farmed Atlantic salmon.
  • 100 per cent of US farmed Atlantic salmon is from Maine – accounting for 25 per cent of North American market.
  • 60 per cent of Atlantic Canada’s farmed salmon is exported to the US.
  • Average North American antibiotic use between 2012-2014 for Atlantic salmon farms was 241 times higher than in Scotland, 204 times higher than Norway, and 6 times higher than British Columbia.


  • Escapes pose ecological and genetic threats to the historically low wild Atlantic salmon populations, which are listed as endangered in Canada and the US.
  • In Canada, there is currently no centralized Containment Management System (CMS) to monitor escapes. Instead, it is self-regulated.
  • In the USA, they have a very successful, multi-faceted CMS in place, and there have been no containment breaches since 2003.
  • Only 0.24 per cent of wild fish found in the Gulf of Maine originated from a farm, compared to a New Brunswick river where 70.3 per cent of fish in the wild were from a farm origin.
  • Additionally, in Maine it is required to maintain a genetic database of hatcheries so that escaped fish can be traced back to their specific production site. This database does not exist in Canada.


  • A severe viral disease called Infections Salmon Anemia (ISA) is still present at many Canadian Atlantic salmon farms, while there have been no cases of ISA in the US since 2006.
  • In Atlantic Canada, sea lice loads are higher than industry-authored limits, and there is also a high transfer of disease on farms.

















Posted by... lana on Jan 7, 2016

Manitoba Freshwater Lakes

By Scott Wallace, SeaChoice member from the David Suzuki Foundationmanitoba

Most Canadians are unaware of just how important freshwater fisheries are for the production of fish. Manitoba’s freshwater fisheries in 2012 produced about nine million kg of various fish. These ‘seafood’ products are important for consumers and retailers in central Canada.

On November 9, 2015 the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program released a report on Manitoba Freshwater Lakes (see SeaChoice website). The report covers the three main fish producing lakes in the province and has recommendations for walleye, lake whitefish, yellow perch, and northern pike.

Unfortunately, the assessment resulted in a red ranking for all species in all lakes. While the results may be surprising, they clearly show that improvements are necessary. Many red-ranked fisheries in Canada and worldwide receive poor scores due to a lack of basic stock assessment, data reporting, enforcement, compliance and management measures.

As the results have shown, the management of Manitoba’s lake fisheries are in need of additional resources to better manage these stocks so that at the very
least an understanding of whether the level of catch is appropriate to the size of the stock they are harvesting.

Retailers and consumers can incentivize improvement of these fisheries by using their respective market influence to encourage a change to how Manitoba’s
commercial fisheries are managed.

Posted by... lana on Dec 15, 2015

Easy tips for “greening” your holidays

By Lana Brandt, National SeaChoice Manager

The holiday season is officially here, but our annual traditions should not negatively impact the health of our planet. The good news is that there are many fun and easy solutions to help you keep your holiday season “green!”

Seachoice-Holidays-11) Choose ocean-friendly seafood for your holiday menu

Take added care to select seafood from the SeaChoice green “Best Choice” list to ensure that your holiday menu is ocean-friendly. Be extra mindful when choosing traditional holiday appetizers such as the notorious shrimp ring as many common brands have been linked to child labour, slavery and other social issues.

2) Give presence; not presents

Reduce or eliminate holiday consumption by giving the gift of time instead of “stuff.” A tree surrounded in parcels with wrapping paper and ribbons brings an unnecessary footprint for our planet. If you still wish to exchange gifts with loved ones try exchanging a gift of experience such as concert tickets or a sustainable seafood dinner together. Better yet consider donating to your favourite local charity in someone’s honour or choosing local, fair-trade items that support healthy communities. Don’t forget when wrapping gifts to skip the plastic bows and single use waste in place for cloth reusable ribbons and wrapping solutions.

3) Choose natural decorations

Avoid filling your home with decorations made of plastic and other unsustainable materials. Choose natural decor to make your home beautiful and if putting up a Christmas tree consider a potted tree that can be re-planted after the holidays. When choosing lights also aim for energy efficient lights and timers to avoid unnecessary energy use.

On behalf of the SeaChoice staff and team we wish you a merry and bright holiday season and all the best in 2016!

SeaChoice-Social-ads-Nov-2015-BothBy Lana Brandt, SeaChoice National Manager

After many years of observing SeaChoice major retailers work towards achieving their sustainable seafood commitments, it brings me great pleasure to announce that Buy-Low Foods (BLF) and its corporately-owned locations, including Nesters Market, have successfully achieved their seafood commitment. In just two short years since publicly announcing that BLF would replace all red-listed “Avoid” seafood from their fresh and frozen departments with ocean-friendly alternatives, Buy-Low Foods can celebrate successfully achieving their robust seafood commitment.

The SeaChoice business team is proud of the Buy-Low Foods team for their efforts and ambition in replacing many high demand species such as farmed open net-pen salmon, Russian king crab and Atlantic cod with more responsible solutions. Buy-Low Foods has also been innovative in finding seafood solutions to challenging procurement issues to ensure they would achieve their sustainable seafood commitment by the end of 2015.

Seafood lovers should take note of BLF’s efforts in support of healthy oceans for today and tomorrow. Customers can now shop with ease, knowing that all fresh and frozen seafood has been sourced with care. Be sure to stop by and congratulate the staff for achieving their sustainable seafood commitment!

Posted by... lana on Nov 16, 2015

Seafood Waste – Are our efforts being wasted?

Guest Blog By Jenna Stoner, SeaChoice member from the Living Oceans SocietyGunnlaugson

Waste. Spoilage. Loss. Shrinkage. There are many names for food that is produced for human consumption but goes uneaten, but no matter what you call it it is all too common in the seafood supply chain.

A recent report from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future found that 47 per cent of the edible U.S. seafood supply is wasted each year and most of that loss occurs at the end of the supply chain at either the retail or consumer level1.

Research out of Dalhousie University found that higher amount of loss occurred in fresh seafood supply chains, with levels of loss at the retail level ranging from ~1.5 per cent for scallops and halibut up to 26 per cent for whole fish and mussels2.

This research begs an important question about our collaborative work: What good is it to produce seafood sustainably if at the end of day it is simply thrown in the trash?

Together we could make significant economic and environmental gains by reducing seafood waste and we hope that you will work with us towards this goal.


    • Conduct a waste audit of your operation
    • Find means of redirecting seafood nearing its sell-by date:

a) Transfer it to the prepared foods department
b) Donate it to a local community kitchen
c) Freeze it
d) Hand out recipe cards at your seafood counter for customers that may be out of their comfort zone preparing seafood.

Want help implementing these recommendations?
Contact us at info @

1 Love, D. et al. (2015). Wasted seafood in the United States: Quantifying loss from production to consumption and moving toward solutions. Retrieved form
2 Stoner, J. (2013). Applying the Concept of Sustainable Consumption to Seafood: How Product Loss Through Post-Harvest Seafood Supply Chains Undermines Seafood Sustainability. Retrieved from

Posted by... lana on Nov 9, 2015

Manitoba’s lake fisheries need improving

For Immediate Release – November 9, 2015 (Vancouver, B.C. and Halifax, N.S.)

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program released an assessment today recommending people avoid buying fish from Manitoba’s three largest fish producing lakes — Winnipeg, Manitoba and Winnipegosis.

Today’s assessment, carried out by the seafood program SeaChoice, scored these lake fisheries at a level comparable to some of the most poorly managed fisheries in the world. The fisheries fell short in areas such as understanding of stock sizes and catch rates, lack of catch limits for some species, inadequate data, poorly regulated bycatch, non-enforceable multi-species quotas and absence of harvest control rules. As a result, many fish stocks have collapsed or are severely depleted.

The assessment was prompted in 2012 by the prevalence of freshwater fish for sale without sustainability rankings. “We started out thinking these fisheries would be ranked on the higher end of the spectrum, but quickly became aware of the fisheries management challenges,” said Scott Wallace, senior research scientist with the David Suzuki Foundation and SeaChoice member.

Because of its large size, this is an important fishery for reform in Canada. The lakes make up about 80 per cent of freshwater fish —mostly walleye, northern pike, lake whitefish and yellow perch— coming from Manitoba. Manitoba’s fisheries are spread over 300 lakes and some years they are as large as B.C.’s salmon fisheries. Some smaller fisheries, like the Waterhen Lake walleye and northern pike gillnet have Marine Stewardship Council certification, demonstrating that sustainable fishing practices are possible for larger Manitoba lakes.

“There is no reason why these lakes can’t meet minimum standards including precautionary catch limits, improved reporting and publically available information,” said Wallace. “A first step would be to offer more resources to the provincial fisheries’ branch to improve fisheries practices for these three large lakes.”

Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIPs), which bring the fishing industry, government, conservation groups, processors, distributors and retailers together to improve sustainability also offer a path to reform, said Wallace.

Manitoba’s fish are sold in Canada and exported to U.S. markets and overseas. SeaChoice’s major retailer partner, Federated Co-operatives Limited, carries large quantities of Manitoba lake fish and has made a commitment to source from sustainable fisheries. “Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) is committed to sourcing walleye and northern pike from sustainable fresh water fisheries. FCL encourages the Manitoba Lake fisheries to make a commitment to improve fishery management,” said Lisa Sparrow-Moellenbeck of the Federated Co-operatives Limited.

“For many years, high-quality fisheries have provided food, recreation and jobs for generations of people living near and visiting Manitoba’s lakes,” said Tom Nevakshonoff, Manitoba’s Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship. “The review we are launching today will result in a science-based, comprehensive management plan to protect the fish stock and ensure resources are here today and maintained for generations to come. We understand that all Manitobans have a collective interest in the development of sustainable fisheries for years to come.”

According to the Manitoba Government, the review will engage a wide cross-section of those with a strong interest in Manitoba’s lakes and fisheries. Considerations will include further implementation of traditional knowledge, improved data and research, sustainable jobs, past assessments, best management practices from other lakes outside of Manitoba, and assessments of ecosystem health and the long-term connections to healthy fish populations. An initial report is expected by the summer of 2016, with the goal of having a long-term management plan for Manitoba’s fisheries subsequently.

For more information:

Lana Brandt, National SeaChoice manager 778.833.2954 –

Scott Wallace, Senior Research Scientist, David Suzuki Foundation 778.558.3984

Click here for full report.

Posted by... lana on Oct 16, 2015

Canadians be warned of the Frankenfish

12095201_10156153884865068_1767683505311377436_oBy Lana Brandt, National SeaChoice Manager

Just in time for Halloween, Canadians have the opportunity to voice their concern around genetically-modified (GM) salmon entering the marketplace. In 2013, the Canadian government was the first country to approve the production of a genetically-modified fish – in this case Atlantic salmon. Although the GM salmon has not yet been approved for human consumption, there is reasonable concern that this GM salmon could be allowed into the Canadian and United States markets, making this the first genetically-modified meat in the world.

Beyond human health concerns, there are also grave issues for the environment. Wild Atlantic salmon are already an endangered species due to overfishing and poor management. If GM Atlantic salmon were to ever escape, they would add pressure to the wild salmon by competing for food. In addition, if interbreeding were to occur, the genetics of wild Atlantic salmon risk being changed forever.

Halloween may be just around the corner, but do you want GM salmon masquerading as Atlantic salmon? Voice your concern here and be sure to tell your friends.

Posted by... lana on Sep 30, 2015

Making waves with MSC

Coal Harobour winter day Vancovuer BCGuest Blog By Catharine Grant, SeaChoice Member from the Ecology Action Centre

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is the largest fisheries eco-certification in the world. MSC’s goal is to promote sustainable fishing practices around the world and to encourage continuous improvement within certified fisheries. MSC has had great success in Canada: more than 80 per cent of Canadian fisheries (by weight) are now MSC certified.

Because of MSC’s influence on our fisheries, and its increasingly wide recognition in the marketplace, SeaChoice will be dedicating resources toward engagement with fisheries that are currently MSC certified or in the MSC assessment process. While MSC has brought about improvements in some fisheries, we believe that it can do more to encourage better practices particularly related to bycatch mitigation and ecosystem/habitat protection.

Because our member organizations have in-depth knowledge of fisheries science, as well as Canadian fisheries policy, SeaChoice is well placed to provide expert input into MSC assessments. We will also monitor fisheries that are already certified to ensure that requirements for improvement (through certification conditions and annual milestones) are met.

To date this year, SeaChoice has submitted comments on MSC assessments for Atlantic halibut, Atlantic herring, 3Ps cod, northwest Atlantic swordfish, northern shrimp and 3LN redfish, as well as met with MSC assessment teams to discuss a wide range of issues related to fisheries sustainability. We have also had ongoing dialogue with MSC staff about how to bring about improvements within the system. We believe that by engaging in MSC processes, and securing good outcomes in certified fisheries, we can help grow Canada’s supply of sustainable seafood.



Next Page »