A task force composed of members of the organic food and seafood industry representatives last week submitted two long-awaited reports to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).
The NOSB said that it would make a final decision in September on whether or not to recommend to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that seafood be eligible for organic certification.
The task force said a case could be made to allow aquaculture systems to be designated as organic but it was split over whether fishmeal used to feed the farmed fish could meet current organic regulations.
"The minority position believe that feed for certified organic aquaculture should be organic since a basic principle of organic livestock production is organic feed," one of the reports reads."As such, they do not agree that the wild harvested oil should be allowed in organic feed, stating that while harvesting fishmeal sustainably is important, it does not make the fishmeal or fish oil organic."
The task force recommended that final organic livestock rules could be amended to say: "Recirculating systems for aquaculture are permitted if the system being used supports the health, growth and well-being of the species."
At the same time, the group said it would make no recommendation on shellfish, such as molluscs and geoducks, but urged the Organic Standards Board to "keep the option open" as new innovations support the use of organic production practices.
The final rule that implements the Organic Foods Production Act goes into effect April 20, and the task force said that some sort of rules for organic production, handling and harvesting of wild fish could be included in those regulations. If that happens, the task force said the rules should include a monitoring plan, pesticide residue testing and a system that verifies food sources for the fish in question.