Salmon farming began in British Columbia over four decades ago as small, family-run businesses. Since then it has grown to become the province’s largest agricultural export and one of the top four global producers of farmed salmon in the world.
Taken from broodstock as eggs, salmon are reared in land-based recirculating systems for the first year of their life. At Grieg, this occurs at our freshwater hatchery in Gold River. Once they become smolts, the fish are transferred by well boat to open-net pens in the ocean where they are fed by automated feeding systems for two more years. In BC, salmon farming companies practise area-based management. This means that the companies work together to stock and harvest fish at the same time based on the migratory routes and timelines of wild Pacific salmon. This is done in order to limit or decrease interaction between wild and Atlantic salmon to improve the health of both species.
The fish are then harvested and transported by well boat to a nearby dock and onto transport trucks. From there, the fish go to a processing facility to be cleaned and gutted before moving on to their final destinations like restaurants and airlines.
Meanwhile, the fish farms that were recently harvested are left to fallow until migration season for wild salmon has passed and/or rigorous testing confirms that the seabed and surrounding environment have recovered.
Farmed salmon accounts for one third of BC’s total seafood harvest, 62% of landed value and almost half the wholesale value of all BC seafood (source: BC Salmon Farmers Association 2019 Sustainability Report). In 2018, British Columbia’s Atlantic salmon’s export value was worth $512.3 million, and this number is set to grow alongside the industry and global demands for seafood.
The United Nations (FAO) estimates that the world’s population will reach 10 billion by 2050, and with it, the need for protein will double. It’s predicted that without aquaculture, the world will face a seafood shortage of 50-80 million tonnes by 2030.
Growing salmon responsibly and sustainably will help manage and maintain wild fish stocks around the world while feeding the global population a healthy protein high in Omega-3.
In 2018 salmon farming generated 6,600 direct and indirect jobs in British Columbia. In rural coastal communities where opportunities are limited, jobs in aquaculture provide year-round, well-paying employment and invigorate the towns of the employees.
Salmon farming is also unique in its work with First Nation communities, through partnership agreements and workforce training. As of 2019, nearly 20% of the workforces of the top four salmon farming companies are Indigenous persons.
Salmon farming has come a long way from its humble beginnings in BC. In 2019, innovation and protecting the environment are now at the heart of salmon farming. Grieg Seafood and other salmon producers are constantly researching and looking to implement new technologies and improve farming practices that will reduce our impact on wild salmon and the environment, enhance our work, help the communities in which we operate, and ensure BC is a leader in sustainable aquaculture practices.