Farmed and Wild Salmon

 

As the representative body of over 60 businesses and organizations through the value chain of finfish aquaculture in BC, the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) aims to provide educational information to the public and stakeholders about salmon farming in the province. Our goal is to promote opportunities for fish farming in BC by furthering public education and building trust in our sector from communities on Vancouver Island like Port Hardy, Gold River, Campbell River, and Tofino to those on the mainland like Vancouver and Kelowna, and all the way to the nation’s capital in Ottawa.

One of the more common questions we see comes from individuals trying to better understand the differences between farmed salmon and wild salmon. This article aims to answer these questions and further our mission to build public understanding and trust in the industry.

What are farmed salmon and wild salmon?

In Britsh Columbia, farmed salmon includes growing salmon in hatcheries on land-based farms, and then in the ocean (aquaculture farms), as well as processing harvested fish at several locations across our province. Wild salmon refers to fish born and raised in the wild that migrate as part of their lifecycle. In BC, both farmed and wild salmon live in the natural ocean environment during their saltwater lifecycle phase.

What are the advantages of farmed salmon?

Did you know that three-quarters of the salmon harvested in British Columbia each year is raised on farms? Aquaculture in BC allows for farmed salmon to be available year-round as an important part of a healthy diet for families. Salmon is nutritious, rich in micronutrients, minerals, marine omega-3 fatty acids, high-quality protein and several vitamins. With the impact of climate change on wild fish populations, salmon farmers provide the world with a healthy and sustainably produced protein source.

Farmed salmon is the most resource-efficient animal protein on the planet. Compared to commonly farmed terrestrial proteins, farmed salmon consume the least amount of feed, use the least amount of freshwater, and have the lowest carbon footprint. The waters of BC naturally provide the temperature, salinity and other conditions for farming healthy salmon. Did you know less than 0.05% of the coastal area of BC produces almost 86,000 tonnes of fresh salmon annually? Talk about efficiency!

What are the challenges of farmed salmon?

Transparency is important for salmon farmers and the BCSFA. While salmon farming does allow for many environmental and supply chain advantages, it is not without challenges. Fortunately, BC salmon farmers are passionate about the health of their fish and the sector as a whole invests heavily in continuous improvement and transparency.

Fish feed used in salmon farming has been a source of concern in the past. However, salmon farming companies aim to remain at the forefront of environmental responsibility. As such, ongoing research and development coupled with the need to satisfy both fish health requirements and consumer demand for responsible sourcing means a wide range of new and sustainable raw materials and ingredients are entering the feed picture. These advances, both using sustainable feed ingredients and using more efficient feeding techniques, mean that BC farmed salmon now require as little as 1.2 kg of feed to gain 1 kg of body weight. Farm-raised salmon actually has the best feed-conversion ratio of all animal proteins.

Excessive sea lice loads can impact the health of wild juvenile salmon. While sea lice occur naturally in BC waters on many species of fish, farmed salmon smolts entering the ocean do not have lice. Sea lice can be transferred to farmed salmon from the environment and/or other fish once they enter the ocean. Significant advances in managing sea lice have allowed for continuous improvement and innovative options in managing this pest. As a result, industry management of sea lice continuously improves and salmon farms are regulated through strict guidelines to ensure the health of their fish and the environment they operate in.

Overhead look at a salmon farm along BC coast.

Farmed Salmon: A healthy, environmentally friendly food source

Everyday people across Canada and the world enjoy healthy, nutritious, and delicious meals thanks to BC fish farmers and the farmed salmon they raise. Farmed salmon is a great source of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and high-quality proteins. BC salmon farming is not without challenges, but the industry’s commitment to transparency and continuous improvement continues to drive efficiencies, grow healthier fish, and expand our understanding of wild salmon and the overall marine environment.