February 24th, 2012
TIMES & TRANSCRIPT
By James Foster
ST. ANDREWS — Two salmon conservation groups say they’ve been able to grow quality farmed salmon inland, without any incidence of sea lice or disease, despite not using harsh chemicals or drugs that have prompted criticism of the aquaculture industry.
The Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute and the Atlantic Salmon Federation said yesterday they are very pleased with the health, growth and quality of farmed Atlantic salmon that TCFFI is now harvesting from land-based, closed-containment facilities in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Since last May, the ASF and TCFFI have grown salmon of the St. John River strain and have achieved “exceptional quality and survival of the fish,” the groups say. As well, they say 99.8 per cent of water flowing through the system is continuously cleaned and returned to the fish tanks, and 99 per cent of fish waste solids are controlled and captured.
“These fish are doing very well and the trial is proving that we don’t need the ocean to produce farmed Atlantic salmon for market,” ASF president Bill Taylor said.
“Our fish are getting good reviews on their taste and attracting attention from government, industry and conservation-oriented consumers.”
The salmon aquaculture industry has come under fire for their ocean-pen system of salmon rearing, which some critics, including the ASF, say pollutes the water and harms native wild Atlantic salmon. The aquaculture industry says those claims are not proven and that rearing salmon inland, away from the sea, in closed containers is difficult and would render them uncompetitive.
Taylor says the ASF will hold sessions showing the aquaculture industry that it can be done.
“We plan to hold a workshop at our headquarters in St. Andrews in October 2012 to provide mentoring resources and emerging information on farming salmon in closed containment facilities,” Taylor said.
“The workshop is intended to assist the salmon aquaculture industry, government regulators, funders and conservation advocates in making future decisions on the use of closed-containment systems for farming salmon in New England, the mid-Atlantic and Atlantic Canada.”
ASF has served its closed-containment farmed salmon at dinners in New York City and St. Andrews and has received encouraging feedback. More taste-testing is planned for fundraising dinners this spring.
“Last November, ASF appeared before the Fisheries and Oceans Standing Committee on Closed Containment Aquaculture in Ottawa and delivered a presentation on the importance of transitioning from open sea cages to closed-containment aquaculture facilities to protect wild salmon, their environment and their economic value,” Taylor continued.
“A recent report by Gardner Pinfold Consulting Economists Ltd. of Halifax, N.S. valued wild Atlantic salmon at $255 million in 2010. It’s important to protect these valuable wild salmon from loss due to negative interactions with farmed salmon in the form of disease, parasites and genetic mixing that weakens the wild gene pool,” Taylor said.
Just last week, salmon were culled at a Nova Scotia salmon farm after it was suspected that a disease that is also contagious to wild salmon had infected the farmed fish.
The ASF says fish farms can be a reservoir for disease and parasites which are becoming more and more resistant to available chemical treatments. They note that escaped farm salmon breed with wild Atlantic salmon and weaken the gene pool, as seen in the low survival rates of offspring. Fecal and feed wastes collect in great quantities on the sea bottoms near fish farms, the federation says.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation is dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well being and survival depend. The Conservation Fund champions closed-containment aquaculture through its Freshwater Institute and has produced more than 200 tonnes of trout, charr and salmon in land-based systems in recent years.
Their closed system allows all but 0.2 per cent of water to be reused and removes all but one per cent of fish wastes and phosphorous to be reclaimed and used as fertilizer. Filters greatly reduce the need for antibiotics and pesticides.
Aquaculture is a major industry in New Brunswick and in the Atlantic provinces, with almost 40,000 tonnes of fish produced on the east coast in 2010.