“That non-conformity must be cleared up for a facility to retain its BAP certification”

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Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) program integrity team is investigating animal cruelty allegations at Cooke’s salmon hatchery in Bingham, Maine, USA.

On Monday, SalmonBusiness reported on a five-minute video, uploaded by the animal welfare and vegan activist organisation Compassion Over Killing on Youtube.

The undercover footage showed what was alleged to be Cooke workers handling fish in a non-professional manner at its Bingham hatchery with one of the employees stated that “over the years you kinda get desensitized”. The footage also shows fish suffering from infections and spinal deformities.

In a press release, the non-profit dedicated sustainable aquaculture the Global Aquaculture Alliance said it had seen the video.

“Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) is aware of the complaint against Cooke Aquaculture’s fish hatchery in Bingham, Maine. The BAP third-party certification program takes all complaints seriously, and there is a mechanism in place to address any complaint that comes to the attention of BAP. The BAP program integrity team is in contact with Cooke Aquaculture and is investigating the matter,” it wrote.

What would be the consequences if any malpractice was found? Would it be the site or the salmon farmer that loses the certification?

“If an investigation were to find any non-conformity to the BAP standards, that non-conformity must be cleared up for a facility to retain its BAP certification. The facility in question must adopt a plan to address any non-conformity; there’s a timeline,” a Global Aquaculture Alliance spokesperson emailed SalmonBusiness.

On the company’s Facebook page, Nordic Aquafarms President Erik Heim posted that he had “not seen anything like this in my 10 years in aquaculture”.

The land-based salmon farmer wrote:

“Although I may not have the full story, what is revealed here in terms of staff attitudes, if true, is shocking. This is not how a professional aquaculture operation is run, and does not reflect staff passionate and caring about their fish. I have not seen anything like this in my 10 years in aquaculture. We expect Cooke to investigate immediately and take appropriate action if true. I would strongly advocate frequent audits in U.S. aquaculture operations as a step in ensuring high animal welfare standards, transparency, and consumer confidence in responsible farming standards. Right now, Cooke must be allowed to respond to this in an appropriate manner.

“There is, however, also propaganda here. Natural mortalities are a part of nature. Natural mortalities are much higher in wild salmon populations. Professional operators are not OK with dirty tanks as claimed in the video”.