MH Ireland’s Organic Salmon -FAQ

What’s the difference between organic salmon and ‘regular’ salmon? 


There are three main differences. Firstly, the fish are nourished with a diet containing only organic approved natural ingredients from sustainable sources, with fish meal and oil derived from the trimmings of fish caught for human consumption.  All ingredients are free from genetically modified organisms.

Secondly, organic farmed salmon are reared in large pens which allow them to follow their natural shoaling behaviour, pens contain less than 10 kilo per cubic metre – less than half that of conventional farms.

Finally, the organic production sites are continuously flushed with clean water, preventing any build-up of parasites or pollutants. This natural, healthy environment and low population density allows the fish to develop good muscle tone and body shape. Marine Harvest Ireland has a leading expertise in breeding organic salmon, which is a high-value market which shows strong growth, especially in Europe.


How do standards on welfare and environment of the salmon differ from organic salmon to regular salmon?


Salmon are extremely sensitive to pollution and only grow if the waters in which they live are clean and well oxygenated. Thus the monitoring of both fish and environment is crucial in any kind of salmon farming operations. At a very early stage we realised the importance of having a clear environmental policy in place and Marine Harvest Ireland was one of the first salmon farmers in the world to hold the International Environmental standard as set out by ISO 14001.   In addition, Marine Harvest Ireland is a member of the Irish Voluntary Food Sustainability programme called Origin Green.  The Origin Green programme is independently verified enabling Ireland’s farmers and producers to set and achieve measurable sustainability targets – reducing environmental impact, serving local communities more effectively and protecting the extraordinarily rich natural resources that our country enjoys.

Every day our teams work in harmony with the environment, in line with strict organic standards, to produce the finest quality organic salmon to meet the needs of the discerning organic consumer. A strong respect for the environment is central to our commitment to quality.

Is your organic salmon labelled? How many types of labels exist for organic salmon?

Our organic salmon are certified by EU Organic Aquaculture Standards, in addition to private label standards in Germany and Switzerland. The three organic certification bodies that certify our organic salmon are Naturland Verband (Germany), Bio Suisse (Switzerland) and the Global Trust Certification.  Each authority conducts an annual audit to ensure the highest organic standards are maintained. The standards set out by these organic agencies ensure that the way in which the salmon is reared, respects both the welfare of the salmon and the environment. The systems in place offer the assurance of complete traceability.

What is in the feed given to organic salmon? Are these also certified organic ingredients? How does this differ from non-organic salmon feed?

Organic salmon are provided with special diets that contain only organic, natural ingredients from sustainable sources, with fish meal and oil derived from the trimmings of fish caught for human consumption.  In addition, organically certified vegetable ingredients such as peas, sunflower and wheat form part of the diet.  All ingredients are free from genetically modified organisms.  Feed quality and safety is monitored and managed in conjunction with our suppliers.


How long does it take before organic salmon has reached the commercial size? Is there a difference with non-organic salmon?

Salmon take between 18 and 24 to months at sea before they reach commercial size, between 3kg and 5kg. The exact time depends on a number of factors including on the seawater temperature.  Once the fish reach the desired weight they are harvested as rapidly and with as little stress as possible. This is important for the animal’s welfare as well as its quality.

Is the colour of organic salmon different? Are they for example pinker?

The pink colour of salmon is acquired naturally in the wild from the crustaceans they eat. This pigment is vital for healthy salmon development, so naturally fermented sources of pigment are added to our organic salmon feeds.


How do you treat parasites or occurring diseases? Is this also via an organic method? Are you allowed to use antibiotics to treat diseases?

We use sound farming practices, proven policy principles and keep our fish in good conditions that satisfy their biological needs for food, clean water, space and habitat. Our fish health management focus is on disease prevention which includes vaccination and builds on control approaches, supervisions by our fish health professionals and a continuous quest for new knowledge and in-depth understanding.  The use of therapeutics for the control of parasites and infections is strictly controlled by Organic standards.

MHI has developed a new non medicinal strategy to control sea lice using cleaner fish.  Cleaner fish are species which display a natural behaviour of removing parasites and dead skin from other fish species in the wild.  The main interest is in wrasse of the genus Labroides, of which there are a number of species indigenous to European waters, and also the Lumpsucker (Cyclopterus lumpus) are also used for this purpose.

MHI organic farms are stocked with cleaner fish with good success while having the beneficial effect of radically reducing the need for chemical treatments.

Particular to organic farming, stocking densities are lower and the organic production sites are continuously flushed with clean water, preventing any build-up of parasites or pollutants.