Organic aquaculture has become more important as consumers have become more environmentally aware and concerned about sustainability and harmful impacts of aquaculture.Aquaculture has the highest rate of expansion and Certified organic aquaculture products have increased since the mid-1990s. It has become more mainstream, especially in Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, but many consumers can be confused or sceptical about organically labelled product due to conflicting or misleading standards around the world.
The aquaculture industries in general are still figuring out how to be sustainable, what best practices are and what ecological considerations is can or should be implemented. Current standards are often quite strict and some people argue they are unattainable (and therefore should be relaxed). Organic regulations designed around soil-based systems don't transfer well into aquaculture  and tend to conflict with large-scale, intensive (economically viable) practices/goals. There is a definite consumer demand for organic seafood, and organic aquaculture may become a significant management option. Currently integrated aquaculture systems may form the base of approved organic farming practice.
Production and Marketing
Organic aquaculture was responsible for an estimated US$46.1 billion internationally (2007). There were 0.4 million hectares of certified organic aquaculture in 2008 compared to 32.2 million hectares dedicated to Organic farming. The 2007 production was still only 0.1% of total aquaculture production 
The market for organic aquaculture shows strong growth in Europe, especially France, Germany and the UK - for example, the market in France grew 220% from 2007 to 2008. There is a preference for organic food, where available. Organic seafood is now sold in discount supermarket chains throughout the EU. The top five producing countries are UK, Ireland, Hungary, Greece and France. 123 of the 225 global certified organic aquaculture farms operate in Europe and were responsible for 50,000 tonnes in 2008 (nearly half global production).
Organic seafood products are a niche market and users currently expect to pay premiums of 30-40%. Organic salmon is the top species and retails at 50%. Market demand is drving Danish rainbow trout farmers to switch to organic farming.
There is some controversy over licensing restrictions, as some seafood companies propose that wild caught fish should be classified as organic. This is a situation where the flexibility and ambiguity of the term 'organic' is clearly demonstrated. While wild fish may be free of pesticides and unsustainable rearing practices, the industry itself is not necessarily environmentally sustainable nor is it actually farming. As a rule, Organic Aquaculture certification follows rather strict requirements and standards. These rules may vary between different countries or certification bodies. This leads to confusion when products are imported from other countries which can result in a backlash from consumers (for example, the Pure Salmon Campaign ).
Defining accepted practices is also complicated by the variety of species - freshwater, saltwater, shellfish, finfish, mollusks and aquatic plants. The difficulty of screening pollutants out of the aquatic medium, of controlling food supplies and of keeping track of individuals may mean that fish and shellfish stocks should not be classified as 'livestock' at all under regulations.
A number of countries have created national standards and certifying bodies. A number of ‘self-labelling’ organisations also exist at local scales in many countries. One of the largest certification organisations is IFOAM which supports and connects organic movements internationally. The variation in standards, as well as the unknown level of actual compliance and the closeness of investigations when certifying are all also variable, and are one of the major problems in consistent organic certification. In 2010, new rules were brought in on 30/06/2010 in the European Union to consistently define the organic aquaculture industry. However, aquaculture was only first included in the organic agriculture standards in 2007.
"Organic" has an official definition in the United States, since the 2008 organic aquaculture standards passed by the US National Organic Standards Board. Canada's General Standards Board’s (CGSB) proposed standards in 2010 were strongly opposed because they allowed antibiotic and chemical treatments of fish, up to 30 percent non-organic feed, deadly and uncontrolled impacts on wild species and unrestrained disposal of fish faeces into the ocean. These standards would have certified net pen systems as organic, and most of the fish certiified would not have complied with the US organic aquaculture standards. At the other end of the scale, the extremely strict national legislation in Denmark has made it difficult for the existing organic trout industry to develop.
Certifying bodies that cover or focus on organic aquaculture
|Certification body||Countries of operation||No. of certified aquaculture farms||Accredited for grower groups||No. of certified groups||Aquaculture commodities within the scheme||Production (tonnes)|
|Agrior||Israel||2 + 1 fish feed mill||no||NA||Tilapia, carp, red drum, sea bass, sea bream, Ulva and Ulea seaweed||400|
|AgriQuality Ltd.||New Zealand, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Malaysia||yes||Example|
|Bioland e.V.||Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland||no||Example|
|Debio||Norway||3||no||NA||salmon, trout, cod||trout 0.5 salmon 120 cod 600|
|Instituto Biodinamico||Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay||yes|
|Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale||Italy, Lebanon, Turkey||yes|
|National Association Sustainable Agriculture Australia||Australia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands||yes|
|Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand||Thailand||1 (not under the IFOAM-accredited scheme)||Example||0||nile tilapia and butter fish||8 000 litres (fish sauce)|
Table from IFOAM: Annex 6. Organic schemes
- United Kingdom The Soil Association
- Hungary Biokontrol Hungaria
- Naturland (Association for Organic Agriculture)
- Spain: Voluntary standards set by the Advisory Group CRAE do not cover organic aquaculture.
- New Zealand - BioGro
- Switzerland - Bio Suisse
- Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway) as well as Japan, Thailand and Australia - KRAV
Current and Future Research and Development
There are a number of problems facing organic aquaculture: difficulty of sourcing and certifying organic juveniles (hatchery or sustainable wild stock); 35-40% higher feed cost; more labour intensive; time and cost of the certification process; a higher risk of diseases, and uncertain benefits.
Various methods and complementary processes are being investigated for organic aquaculture, most notably Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture(IMTA) and aquaponics  (a land-based outgrowth of aquaculture in many places). Organic methods of farming various species are also topics of interest, particularly shrimps,salmon and Atlantic Cod
Projects such as the Danish ORAQUA Project are unvestigating areas such as "Availability of relevant organically produced vegetables with a high protein content; The effect of the organic vegetable protein; sources on growth and digestibility in rainbow trout; The influence of organic protein and oil; eating quality; The influence of organic vegetables on the health and welfare of farmed fish; Optimizing the production by case studies of organic production systems"
Potential Alternatives To Non-Organic Treatments and Processes
A great deal of research needs to be done into a number of areas around organic aquaculture. Current requirements usually stipulate a reduction in unsustainable fishmeal, in favour of organic vegetable and fish by-product replacements. A recent study into organic fish feeds for salmon found that while organic feed provide some benefit to the environmental impact of the fishes' life cycles, the loss of fish meals and oils have a significant negative impact. Another study discovered that certain percentages of dietary protein could be safely replaced.
One major issue is finding practical and sustainable alternatives to non-organic veterinary treatments, feeds, spat and waste disposal. Potential veterinary alternatives include homeopathic treatments and production-cycle limited allopathic or chemical treatments 
Not only do the fish have to be organically reared, organic fish feeds need to be developed. Research into ways of decreasing the amount on non-sustainable fishmeal in feed is currently focussing on replacement by organic vegetable proteins. Some organic fish feeds becoming available, and/or the option of integrated multi-species systems (e.g. growing plants using aquaponics, as well as larvae or other fish). For example, locating a shellfish bed next to a finfish farm to dispose of the waste and provide the shellfish with controlled nutrients.
Known data on organic aquaculture by country
|Country||Organically managed area [ha]|
1Indonesian Shrimp farms are locally certified as organic but a recent study found them to be highly environmentally damaging.
Current situation in Norway:
- Denmark: Rainbow Trout. Organic production ~400 tonnes (1% of total trout production) 
and shrimp (Europe)
- Carp (low volume production, poorly marketed - Europe)
- Shellfish: oyster, clam, mussel, scallop, geoduck seed (USA) 
Organic production of crops and livestock in the United States is regulated by the Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP). While it does cover aquaponics, it did not properly cover aquaculture until the recent 2008 amendment, hampering the progress of organic aquaculture in the states.
The first certified organic aquaculture farm in New Zealand was a salmon farm which was the largest producer outside of Europe contributing to the European market.New Zealand green-lipped mussel Greenshell mussels - certified by Sealord (12), DOM ORGANICS Greenshell mussels, certified organic by Bio-Gro New Zealand Ltd. (BGNZ)
Salmon (14) 12 tonnes/year - Ormond Aquaculture Ltd certified (CERTNZ) organic freshwater aquaculture farm
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