Photo: Another breakthrough in better salmon farming

Closed containment salmon farm (Credit: AgriMarine Inc.)

By Jay Ritchlin, Director of marine & freshwater conservation program

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.

January 18, 2011

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Jan 18, 2011
5:03 PM

Finally some common sense . Leaving wild stacks to build up again and farming stocks will add jobs, plus help with the learning of all Aquaculture ventures for other fish species. Then we may be able to allow the ocean to have a rest and replenish itself as all we have been doing is taking and the oceans cant keep up. This is one of the best bits of news Ive had for a long time. We as a species cannot keep on taking from our planet, everything is not infinite, once its gone its gone, and at the rate we are losing fish species around the glob, its terrifying to see where we are headed so this is a ray of light… keep going and make this law in all states of America in fact globally. As our appetite for seafood increases with the population well you do the maths……. its not a good picture…..

Jan 19, 2011
11:12 AM

Salmon farming does not create new biomass, it merely trades one biomass for another, so it is not creating more food for humans, but is taking food from the marine ecosystem for other species. Sustainable? No!

Jan 19, 2011
1:52 PM

It is nice to be able to read some good news for a change. The damages caused by open net cages in Chile is well documented and to see the same mistakes being repeated in Canada appalled me. Kudos to Agrimarine and to Overweitea for selling the product and labeling it so consumers have better choices.

Sep 10, 2011
6:12 PM

I wonder how much a closed containment salmon farm costs. When is this going to catch on and replace open net salmon farms ? Does anyone know ???

Dec 06, 2012
7:11 AM

Very interesting, Jay Ritchlin.

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