Closed containment technology takes centre stage at the 9th annual Seafood Summit

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Closed containment technology takes centre stage at the 9th annual Seafood Summit

Fresh Water Institute closed containment tank. Photo: Andrew S. Wright

Earlier this month, CAAR members attended the 9th annual Seafood Summit held in Vancouver, BC. Put on by SeaWeb and sponsored by major suppliers like Highliner Foods and salmon feed giant Skretting, the summit brings together seafood industry, environmental and retail sector representatives from all over the world to discuss the shared goal of making the seafood marketplace environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. This year, closed containment technology was the hot topic and CAAR along with Tides Canada organized one of the most well attended panels of the event: The Next Generation of Salmon farming – Exploring the Business of Land-Based Closed Containment Aquaculture.

The panel was co-moderated by Larry Pedersen, retired Provincial Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Lands – (the government body previously responsible for regulating the fish farm industry in BC before the federal government took over). Three of the four panelists were closed containment operators: Dr. Steve Summerfelt from the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute, Per Heggelund from Aquaseed and Bruce Swift from Swift Aquaculture – the latter two sell their product to retailers. The fourth panelist, Chief Anne Mack of the Toquaht First Nation discussed her community’s plans to develop closed-containment farms on their territory near Ucluelet on the west side of Vancouver Island.

Summing up the well received and solutions-oriented discussion on closed containment, Tides Canada co-moderator Eric Patel said, “The conversation has gone from, ‘Is it feasible?’ to ‘Where is it going to happen, how soon, and how much can it grow?’”

Panel attendees included a cross-section of seafood industry representatives from conservation groups to retailers and net-cage salmon farming industry executives including the BC Salmon Farmer’s Association (BCSFA).

Closed containment is the future of more sustainable salmon aquaculture in British Columbia. In his welcome speech to the nearly 800 summit attendees from around the world, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Roberson commented on the concerns surrounding net-cage salmon farming. Clearly it is no longer a question of if, but how quickly green tech leaders can increase production to a commercial scale. Another question is how quickly can the net-cage industry adapt in order to meet the growing retail and shopper demand for better farmed salmon?

CAAR members co-author milestone paper linking sea lice from salmon farms to Fraser sockeye salmon

Fraser sockeye salmon

CAAR members Craig Orr and Stan Proboszcz of Watershed Watch Salmon Society have co-authored a new study that provides a tangible link between salmon farms and elevated levels of sea lice on juvenile Fraser River sockeye salmon. Sea Louse Infection of Juvenile Sockeye Salmon in Relation to Marine Salmon Farms on Canada’s West Coast was published last week in the journal Public Library of Science ONE by researchers from Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, and the Universities of Victoria and Simon Fraser.

Sea lice normally infect wild adult salmon in the open ocean but ever since net-cage salmon farming began in BC in the 1980s and lice infestations started showing up on juvenile wild salmon, scientists have suspected salmon farms as the source. BC researchers have documented lice infestations on juvenile salmon in the vicinity of salmon farms for years while scientific research in salmon farming regions in Europe have long proven and acknowledged this link. Meanwhile, the industry operating in Canada as well as the Canadian government has denied the connection for over two decades.

This new paper not only provides further scientific evidence that sea lice from salmon farms likely infect Fraser sockeye, it also provides a renewed urgency around the need to get net-cages out of the water and out of the path of our fragile wild salmon populations. Read the study and media release.

CAAR joins forces with east coast group to halt proposed regulations that would allow increased use of eco-toxins in salmon farming on both coasts

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is proposing new regulations that would enable the use of more eco-toxic chemicals to combat sea lice in the production of net-cage farmed salmon. This would elevate the threat to marine life and the surrounding environment where the industry intends to use these parasiticides.

In response 20 groups and associations, including CAAR, the Atlantic Coalition for Aquaculture Reform (ACAR) and several east coast fishermen’s associations sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Harper last week asking him to ensure that DFO’s plans to introduce the proposed regulations are withdrawn and that the precautionary principle is applied when it comes to controlling parasites and diseases associated with the open net-cage aquaculture industry. Read the letter and media release.