Aquaculture Stewardship Council: New Salmon Sea Lice Treatment Threshold Serves Industry Not Oceans

VANCOUVER: The amendment to Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s parasiticide treatment index to manage sea lice allows a dramatic increase in the total number of chemical treatments permitted under the Salmon Standard — up to 350 per cent in some regions — and introduces the concept of ‘conditional’ certification. 

It also removes the need for operators to consider potential impacts of chemicals used to control sea lice (a crustacean) on other crustaceans, like lobster, despite recent studies showing that parasiticide exposure can have negative effects on marine organisms other than sea lice. 

“Periodic reviews of the Salmon Standard are supposed to be conducted to ensure that it is relevant, effective and reflective of industry best practice,” Karen Wristen, executive director of the Living Oceans Society said. “However, with these amendments, what we are seeing is that the ASC is actually lowering their requirements to accommodate industry norms and increase in the number of certified farms, rather than maintaining a vigorous ‘best practice’ designed to protect the environment.”

“Farms in Chile and Scotland, for example, with treatment frequencies as high as nine per cycle, will now be able to get conditional certification and use the ASC’s ‘responsibly farmed’ logo whereas in the past the ASC would not allow them to do so. These farms will then have up to eight years — assuming no backsliding occurs — to eventually meet a global target limit,” Kelly Roebuck, SeaChoice representative from the Living Oceans Society, said. The former PTI index typically permitted only two treatments per cycle.

“Ironically for Western Canada farms, the ‘Global Level’ metric will likely allow for an overall increase in the number of chemical treatments for sea louse control, while operators were easily able to meet the requirements under the previous standard,” John Werring, David Suzuki Foundation senior science and policy adviser said. “This is troubling because despite everything these farms are doing to control this parasite, the number of necessary treatments is increasing year over year and, with these amendments, farms will still be able to maintain their certification under this new global standard.” 

Positive changes in the amendment include the addition of the anti-louse chemical hydrogen peroxide toward the treatment limit count, the requirement for farms to monitor benthic sediment for parasiticide residues and the requirement to publicly report chemical treatment types, amounts and frequency.

Despite no longer reflecting “best practice” in managing sea louse control on open net-pen fish farms, these amendments are still more rigorous than those required by most other aquaculture eco-certifications. 


SeaChoice is a collaboration of three internationally recognized organizations — the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society — that use their broad, national expertise to find solutions for healthy oceans. SeaChoice is a science-based, solutions-focused influencer, advocate and watchdog leading the next evolution of seafood sustainability in Canada. It is a member organization of the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions and works with consumers, retailers, suppliers, government and producers to accomplish its objectives.

SeaChoice member groups have been active stakeholders in the ASC and Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue for 15 years. This has included steering committee representation during the original Aquaculture Dialogues, core participation in numerous ASC advisory and working groups, and active stakeholder engagement on ASC audits and projects.

Last year, SeaChoice’s global review found 96 per cent of certified farms were able to meet the previous parasiticide treatment index, so the PTI score was likely not a barrier for the top 27 per cent of salmon farms globally (by production volume). 

The absence of other eco-certifications from this news release should not be taken as an endorsement for those schemes.