Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Verlasso Salmon: A Seafood Watch "Good Alternative"

Do you avoid farmed salmon? Do you believe that farmed salmon is not sustainable? Maybe you need to reassess the situation.

Wild or farmed salmon? That is often the dilemma. There have been numerous real problems with farmed salmon, so organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch have generally labeled all farmed salmon as Avoid. However, I have previously criticized such watchdog organizations for making too broad an assessment which can ignore the good work of specific producers. Not all farmed salmon is the same, and the Seafood Watch is finally paying attention and making positive changes to their assessments to account for such exemplar producers.

For the last two years at the International Boston Seafood Show, I have reported about Verlasso Salmon, a farmed salmon operation which seemed to be avoiding the problems of other salmon farms. In 2012, I stated: "Verlasso seems to be headed in an excellent direction, working hard to be sustainable, and I applaud their efforts." This year, I repeated my sentiments: "Verlasso continues to move in the right direction and it is worthy of your support." You can read my previous posts for some of the specifics that make Verlasso salmon more sustainable, and you will be able to see that they also continue to improve their practices. Plus, and importantly, their salmon is tasty.

In 2012, the Seafood Watch instituted a pilot program for an External Assessment Model, which would "...allow third parties to utilize the Seafood Watch criteria and methodology to assess fisheries and aquaculture operations that would not otherwise be assessed by the Seafood Watch program." The Seafood Watch understands that they have a limited ability to assess all of the aquaculture and wild seafood operations around the world, and this pilot program would allow them to expand their assessments, without decreasing the quality of their program. Since 2012, the Seafood Watch has been testing out this new program on a limited basis and the results are starting to come in.

Verlasso Salmon became part of the Seafood Watch's new pilot program, the External Assessment Model, and its aquaculture practices were reviewed and assessed over a sixteen month period. And the result was a striking success for Verlasso. Verlasso is now the first and only ocean-raised farmed Atlantic salmon to receive a “Good Alternative” rating from the Seafood Watch program. All other Atlantic Farmed Salmon still has an "Avoid" rating, making Verlasso Salmon unique, indicative of their strong efforts to produce sustainable seafood.

The Seafood Watch assessment of Verlasso’s hatcheries, farms, processing plants and management took 16 months,” said Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, director of Seafood Watch. “Based on the extensive data we collected, which was vetted internally and by external peer reviewers, we’re confident that Verlasso is raising Atlantic salmon with environmentally responsible practices.” This announcement is a positive sign for other individual seafood operations who are committed to sustainability, but who might have fallen under a general Avoid rating in the past. I am impressed that the Seafood Watch has instituted the External Assessment Model and hope it continues to reward worthy fisheries.

Scott Nichols, the Verlasso director, stated. “Verlasso is devoted to finding comprehensive solutions for salmon aquaculture’s historic challenges. We are deeply gratified by Seafood Watch’s recognition of our efforts. We have collaborated with conservation leaders to help us on our journey to raise the best salmon with sustainable practices. The Good Alternative ranking is an exciting validation of our achievement.

Congratulations to Verlasso Salmon for their achievement, and congratulations to the Seafood Watch for making the effort to improve their ratings and address the issue of worthy, individual operations which were previously marginalized under their overly broad assessments.

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