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Opinion Piece: Salmon Aquaculture – The Real Opportunity

Wednesday, June 30th 2010 10:17:59am

To the Editor:

This is an opinon piece by Eric Hobson of the SOS Marine Conservation Foundation. It is available for free use so long as Mr. Hobson is credited as the author.


Salmon Aquaculture – The Real Opportunity

With a growing human population and overfished oceans, there is an ever-increasing global demand for aquaculture products like farmed salmon.

In recent years, the salmon farming industry in B.C. has been unable to fully realize the benefits of this growing demand because of legitimate environmental concerns associated with raising salmon in open net-pens.

By farming salmon in these open net-pens, as is the current industry practice, fish waste passes directly into the ocean. Published, peer-reviewed science overwhelmingly supports that by having a large number of animals together in these open systems, naturally occurring diseases and parasites can increase in number and be transmitted to wild species such as juvenile wild salmon.

As a result, industry has lost its social license to expand, jobs are insecure and British Columbia is missing out on an economic opportunity.

The opportunity is that B.C. is uniquely positioned to establish a viable, sustainable industry by moving from open net-pens to closed containment production systems.

Closed containment production systems essentially place a solid wall between the farm environment and the marine environment. Diseases and parasites can’t pass through and waste is captured. By being better able to control conditions for the salmon, growth rates would likely accelerate and the nutrient laden waste can be captured to grow aquaponic crops like lettuce and tomatoes. See www.saveoursalmon.ca for discussion of the technology and economics related to land-based closed containment salmon farming.  

Projects to apply this technology to commercial scale operations are now under development.  In fact, the technology and equipment are already in use to raise juvenile farmed salmon for the open net-pen industry.

B.C. is in a very strong position to assume world market leadership for sustainably raised farmed salmon given the province’s existing resources and experience: plentiful clean water; favorably priced hydroelectricity; the ability to reasonably lease Crown land and an existing workforce skilled in salmon farming techniques.

Better regulation and a move to closed containment systems will restore public confidence in B.C.’s salmon aquaculture industry and allow B.C. to lead in meeting the increased global demand for sustainably farmed salmon. Industry would have more certainty in decision-making and more job opportunities would result.

Closed containment aquaculture is a real opportunity – the solution whereby British Columbians can have their wild salmon and farmed salmon too.  

Eric Hobson
President
The SOS Marine Conservation Foundation
www.saveoursalmon.ca

The SOS Marine Conservation Foundation is a broad coalition of Western Canadian business leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals focused on resolving marine conservation challenges and creating new economic opportunities.