A Small Footprint
By Samantha McLeod
B.C. salmon farms contribute over $1.5 billion annually into B.C.’s economy and only occupy 0.05% of the entire B.C. coast. All Atlantic salmon farms in B.C. will be certified to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standard by 2020. B.C.’s farm-raised salmon sector is one of the world’s most closely regulated and transparent industries. Annually, Fisheries and Oceans Canada posts at least 22 different reports on regulated salmon farming industry practices in B.C. with many identified to the farm-level. There are 118 Marine Finfish Aquaculture Farms and 20 Land-Based Farms operated by the 59 member companies of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA). About 60 to 70 salmon farm tenures are active at any one time.
Research and Collaboration
Farmers in B.C. salmon farming industry invest significant resources to better understand wild salmon populations and the marine environment including, $1.5 million industry dollars committed over 5 years (2015-2020) to a competitive research funding process, prioritizing research to fill knowledge gaps on marine species and the environment, and particularly on the health of wild salmon stocks. Eleven projects have been funded as of 2018 at approximately $800,000. Over the past year, BCSFA has also hosted almost 400 participants from across Canada and internationally at four workshops.
The 59 member companies of the BCSFA span farming, feed production, processing, equipment supply, service and engineering, packaging, diving, harvesting, and many others aspects of production. Farm-raised salmon is B.C.’s #1 seafood and agrifood export commodity: In 2017, it was valued at $534 million. About 70% of all salmon sold in B.C. is farm-raised. In B.C.’s coastal communities, aquaculture-related jobs pay approximately 30% more than the median employment income in B.C. Aquaculture in B.C. generates about 6,600 jobs.
Value to Communities
In 2017, Companies in B.C. salmon farming industry supported hundreds of individual initiatives for education, health and well-being, indigenous peoples, arts and sports – all of the organizations and activities that provide quality of life in a community. In 2017-2018, BCSFA donated almost 10,000 pounds of salmon and sable fish to 71 events. The donations amount to over $50,000 worth of fresh seafood. Also in 2017, the BCSFA hosted 428 guests including university students and staff, government and elected officials, international buyers, media personnel, chefs and local residents, touring 7 farms in the Discovery Islands and Broughton Archipelago.
Responsible neighbours and Indigenous Partnerships
Companies in Salmon farming industry have engaged in 22 economic and social partnerships with coastal First Nations. Approximately 78% of B.C.’s annual production of farm-raised salmon is harvested from areas covered by agreements with First Nations. Participating in community beach clean-ups is a big part of being a responsible neighbour. For instance, Cermaq Canada with the Ahousaht First Nation and local community did major beach clean-ups in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island in early June, 2018. Helicopters hired by Cermaq airlifted huge pieces of long abandoned marine industry debris from several beaches near Tofino. Over several days, clean-up crews chopped up the debris into pieces of less than 700 pounds, which could then be airlifted out by helicopter.
The carbon footprint
A carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by the production of a product. Carbon footprint is measured in kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per kg edible protein of the product.
BC salmon farming industry carbon footprint
Farming the ocean
One salmon farm is roughly the same size as two regulation size soccer fields in length, and 30 meters deep. At peak density (the most fish allowable) a farm is 98% water and 2% fish. For example, growing 75,000 MT of salmon on land (comparable to the amount grown in the ocean in B.C.) would require 4.16 billion litres of water to fill the tanks. The ocean offers optimal temperature, salinity and oxygen conditions throughout the year. This means that these parameters do not have to be manipulated, conserving energy and costs in operations, and ultimately meaning a smaller carbon footprint. The average stocking density (the amount of fish in a pen) on ocean-based B.C. salmon farms is between 10 and 20 kilograms of fish per cubic metre, at peak production. These low stocking densities are better for the health and welfare of the fish.
Farming salmon on land
Smaller-volume land-based farms operate in B.C. and throughout the world but the technology required to replace the current volume of fish farmed in British Columbia from the ocean, is not yet commercially proven. More importantly, the volumes of electrical power, water and land area that would be required to replace current ocean pen sizes would be contrary to BCSFA members’ commitment to, and the general public’s expectation of sustainable farm practices. BCSFA members operate 20 land-based facilities across the province.
Feeding farmed salmon
Over the past several years, the suppliers of feed for B.C. farm-raised salmon have taken great strides to reduce the amount of fishmeal and fish oils in their aquafeeds, while still maintaining nutritional value and traceability of their marine ingredients. On average, current salmon feeds contain less than 15% fishmeal and fish oil. To further help reduce the impact on marine derived ingredients, providers make an effort to incorporate fish trimmings from wild harvest processing into feed where possible. This further reduces dependence upon wild fisheries as sources of marine ingredients B.C. salmon feed producers have decreased the dependency on wild pelagic fish (e.g. anchovies and herring) for fishmeal and fish oil in feeds substantially over the past 5 years. Since 2013, the dependency on wild pelagic fish for fishmeal has dropped by 25% and for fish oil has dropped by 32%. About three-quarters of all raw materials sourced for salmon feeds come from within Canada and the United States.
BC salmon farming industry
By-catch, predation and escapes
Wild marine fish species may move in and out of salmon farm netting often leaving on their own. Most of those which remain in the nets are released alive from net pens during harvests. Any mortalities of wild fish during the handling of farm stock and harvest are considered incidental catch, similar to bycatch of non-target species in commercial fisheries. Since Spring 2017, DFO has been sampling the stomach contents of farm-raised Chinook and Atlantic salmon to see if they contain any wild fish. Six farms are chosen per season from all areas of B.C., and 300 salmon are sampled per farm, for a total of 1,800 per season. In 2017, 7,200 farm-raised salmon were sampled. Nine wild fish were found in stomachs, (prevalence of 0.125%). Six of these were herring and the three others were unidentifiable. On a global scale, B.C.’s salmon farmers are leaders in preventing the escape of farm-raised salmon B.C. salmon farmers have a zero tolerance policy with respect to escapes. in 2017, there were 4 individually escaped Atlantic salmon reported over 3 incidents. BCSFA Sustainability Report 2018.