Sustainable fish farming?

Focus Online
July/August 2014

An experiment in fish farming may point the way to keeping our wild fish healthier.

Salmon at the first commercial land-based Atlantic salmon farm in North America are certainly fat and, as far as anyone can tell, they seem happy as they swim around their 500-cubic-metre tanks.

That’s a bonus not only for the fish, but also for Kuterra, the ‘Namgis First Nation company raising the fish. Contented fish also seem to be tasty fish—following the initial April harvest, the product is flying off grocery store shelves.

It has been a good commercial start for Kuterra, which is raising the fish on ‘Namgis land near Port McNeill. But there is more than commercial success at stake as proponents of closed containment fish farming aim to show land-based pens can help save BC’s runs of wild salmon by getting open net pen fish farms out of the ocean.

Controversy surrounds the ocean-based salmon farming industry because of interaction between wild runs and farmed salmon. Concerns, acknowledged in the Cohen Commission report and 2012 Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel Report, include transmission of disease and parasites from farmed fish to wild salmon, escapes of non-indigenous fish from the farms, predator control—including shooting sea lions and seals and accidental drownings when marine mammals become entangled in nets—and discharge of antibiotics, pesticides and farm waste into the ocean.

But, for decades, closed containment critics have claimed that farming Atlantic salmon on land is impossible, impractical or uneconomical.

‘Namgis, supported by SOS Marine Conservation Foundation, the US-based Freshwater Institute, and Tides Canada, are out to prove the environmental and economic benefits of recirculating aquaculture systems.

‘Namgis have traditions stretching back 4000 years that tie them to Pacific salmon and the word Kuterra comes from Kutala, which means salmon in Kwak’wala. But, despite the close ties to Pacific salmon, the choice was made to farm Atlantics—the species grown by fish farming companies—because of the need for a true comparison, says Kuterra spokeswoman Jo Mrozewski. “We are comparing apples to apples,” she says.

Kuterra fish are grown without the use of antibiotics or pesticides and smolts are quarantined for four months to ensure they are disease-free before graduating to grow-out tanks. They are then raised in slightly saline, disinfected groundwater from wells. The temperature is controlled; 98 percent of the water is recirculated; fish are protected from predators and the elements; and changes are made if there is any sign of stress.

Read the full article in Focus Online.

Posted July 22nd, 2014

America catches some of the world’s best salmon but eats some of the worst

July 21, 2014

The US is a salmon-catching powerhouse. Nearly one-third of the world’s wild salmon supply comes from US nets. Even when you take into account farmed salmon, US fishermen still bring around one-tenth of the total supply of salmon to the market. But more than half of America’s salmon catch is going overseas:

It’s not that Americans aren’t eating salmon. They are—just not their own. Two-thirds of the salmon eaten by US consumers is imported—mostly from farms in Chile, Canada and Norway and from processing factories in China. More than just a quirk of taste, this habit of snubbing domestic salmon in favor of foreign farmed fish exemplifies a more disquieting trend for US industry, argues journalist Paul Greenberg in his book American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood (purchase required). It’s the result of an American seafood ignorance that could threaten both the country’s long-term status as a fishing powerhouse and its secure supply of nutritious protein.

The network of freshwater streams and coastal waters of the US’s Pacific Northwest is one of the country’s most bounteous natural resources, supplying many hundreds of millions pounds a year of salmon, some of the most nutritious wild protein in the world. In the early 1900s, species including the king and coho salmon abounded in Oregon, Washington, and northern California.

But a dam-construction bender during the New Deal in the 1930s and 40s destroyed the spawning habitats for millions of salmon. The salmon populations of the Snake and Columbia River systems in particular were decimated, leaving Alaska as the last major US source of wild salmon. The fine web of ponds and streams that form southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay is the biggest remaining sockeye salmon run on the planet.

So why are Alaskan fishermen sending more than half of their catch overseas?

Part of it has to do with processing. Since many Americans don’t like picking out bones and are squeamish about eating something with its head still on, they need their seafood broken down and packaged before it hits the frozen section of the grocery store. But deboning and filleting fish is a lot harder to mechanize than, say, carving up a chicken or a hog. So the US has outsourced the vast majority of its processing capacity to places like China, where labor is relatively cheap.

Read the full article in Quartz.

Posted July 21st, 2014

New Sea Lice Monitoring System to Help Newfoundland's Aquaculture Industry [East Coast]

The Fish Site
July 18, 2014

The Newfoundland Government is providing approximately C$80,000 to implement a software-based Sea Lice Decision Support System, a project that supports the advancing of best practices in aquaculture.

Keith Hutchings, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, announced the funding, which will help the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association establish and test this powerful tool for monitoring sea lice prevalence and evaluating control programs.

“Sea lice naturally occur in ocean environments and can impact many species, but with this internet-based software system, the industry will have far greater capacity to monitor and mitigate the impact on farmed fish. This C$80,000 investment is in keeping with the millions invested in other types of infrastructure to ensure aquaculture in this province is always following best practices,” said Keith Hutchings, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The funding for this project was provided jointly by the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Department of Innovation, Business, and Rural Development. The innovative software was initially developed by the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island, and has been used with great success in New Brunswick thus far.

“One of the many ways the Provincial Government promotes the success of industries within the province is to support the pursuit of best practices, and this project is a great example of that. By integrating this leading edge software into an already comprehensive program of fish health monitoring, the industry will be well positioned to maintain its strong reputation as a quality source of farmed seafood for the long-term,” said Susan Sullivan, Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development.

As the software is established throughout Atlantic Canada, it will help operators and scientists in different provinces compare and contrast data trends over several years, which in turn will provide valuable information to regulators, veterinarians, and provincial governments.

Read the full article on the Fish Site.

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Posted July 18th, 2014

Wild salmon rally at Peach Arch

Chilliwack Progress
July 18, 2014

'Protect Wild Salmon' is a rally at the Peace Arch border Crssing set for Saturday morning, with two speakers from Chilliwack among those expected to address the crowd.

Sto:lo elder and event organizer Eddie Gardner said the cross-border protest is about calling on the federal government to take decisive action to protect the salmon.

"Wild salmon is the very lifeblood of B.C," he said. 'It's an amazing gift to the world."

Cheam First Nation councillor Ernie Crey, who has the fisheries portfolio, said the federal government has "dangerously increased threats to wild salmon survival" by approving a 41 per cent expansion plan of open-net fish farms along the migratory routes of wild sockeye.

It's one of the questions being asked by a NAFTA committee looking into Canada's role under the Fisheries Act in overseeing fish farms and their impact on wild salmon.

Read the full article in the Chilliwack Progress.

Posted July 18th, 2014

Study: Fish pen site still inert [Nova Scotia]

Chronicle Herald
July 18, 2014

Two years after an aquaculture company’s salmon pen location in Shelburne Harbour was abandoned, part of the harbour bottom is still dead, an independent study has revealed.

Inka Milewski, a marine biologist who currently serves as the science adviser for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, has been studying selected areas of the Shelburne harbour bottom since 2011.

“It’s not a good news story, because we don’t have recovery,” Milewski said this week in Shelburne.

She studied a lease site off Sandy Point where a salmon cage had held fish. The lease site was surrendered back to the province in 2011, Milewski said.

The site was held for several years before that.

No new cages are operating off Sandy Point, but other parts of Shelburne harbour have cages.

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has established sediment quality guidelines across the country for marine and fresh water.

Milewski said her findings show guidelines have been exceeded.

Read the full article in the Chronicle Herald.

Posted July 18th, 2014