For years, groups like the David Suzuki Foundation and our allies at the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform have helped lead the charge to make commercial-scale closed containment salmon farming a reality in Canada. A major milestone was reached this week with the news a commercial scale, ocean-based closed containment tank was installed off the coast of Vancouver Island.
After what has felt like a long awaited birth, the first of four floating closed containment tanks arrived last week in Middle Bay, just outside Campbell River, British Columbia. Commercial proponent Agrimarine Holdings and their non-profit R&D partner Middle Bay Sustainable Aquaculture Institute (MBSAI) sounded like proud parents when they announced their achievement on Monday.
And rightly so, as this major step forward didn't come easily. The David Suzuki Foundation and CAAR helped promote the idea of shifting salmon farming from open net cages to closed systems years ago as a way to eliminate or reduce many of the problems caused by open net cage salmon farming — particularly the threats posed to wild salmon. We did this for two main reasons:
- We knew that the jobs and economic activity created by salmon farming were important on a coast where many traditional resource jobs were being lost.
- While there was clear evidence of threats posed to wild salmon by farming operations, we knew that trying to solve all of these problems in an open net system would be costly, complex and hard to measure.
With both of these things in mind, we settled on closed containment technology as the best way forward. It could create new jobs and technologies for Canadians, and by separating the wild and farmed environments, would ensure that complex ecosystem problems could be solved, at least as far as salmon farming's contribution was concerned.
Agrimarine was one of the first to try and tackle this new approach to salmon farming. We are thrilled that they've come this far and will continue to work with them to monitor the environmental and economic benefits of farming salmon in closed tanks. We're also happy that there are other salmon farmers showing similar leadership in trying to supply the growing demand for closed tank farmed salmon from Canadian retailers (as evidenced, for example, by Overwaitea's decision to make closed containment farmed salmon available to its customers). These are all good signs that change is possible.
You can help by sending a fax urging the federal government to allocate funds for closed containment development in the 2011 budget.
Read CAAR's news release: CAAR celebrates AgriMarine's first commercial-scale closed containment tank installation
Jay Ritchlin is the director of the marine and freshwater conservation program at the David Suzuki Foundation, which is a member group of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform.