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Growing the World’s Best Fish

Members of the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) raise their fish in world-class facilities located in the province’s coastal communities. The industry uses cutting edge techniques at hatcheries, farm sites and processing plants to ensure that fish are raised humanely with little disruption to the natural environment.

BCSFA members are dedicated to raising the world’s best fish, using world leading practices. Focusing on three pillars of sustainability - environmental, economic, and social - salmon farmers in B.C. discuss areas of public interest in the latest Sustainability Progress Report.

Members of the BCSFA have committed to meeting requirements of ‘Gold Standard’ environmental programs by 2020. Every salmon farm in B.C. holds at least one third party certification or recommendation. Creative Salmon is already producing North America’s only Certified Organic Chinook salmon and - for B.C. farmers of Atlantic salmon, who were the first to collectively achieve the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (GAA-BAP) standard - it means working to achieve the standard set by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).

View list of third party certifications and recommendations.

B.C. salmon farmers are amongst world leaders in adopting the ASC certification and now have 12 ASC certified farms - 15% of active salmon farms in B.C.  This stringent standard was developed by the WWF and has only been granted to about 5% of the world’s salmon farms.

In addition, all Atlantic salmon farmers in B.C. have further committed to the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) – launched in August 2013. This initiative brings salmon aquaculture companies around the globe together to work to minimize the industry’s environmental footprint and continue to improve social contributions.

In October 2016, Ottawa based RIAS Inc. released an Environmental Footprint Report - presenting results from a life-cycle analyses of literature on the environmental footprint of B.C. farm-raised salmon compared to production of other food proteins. Based on the valuation of greenhouse gases, land use, water use, and eutrophication, B.C. salmon farming has a lower total environmental cost than beef, chicken, or pork.

Growing Fish Sustainably

Salmon farmers in B.C. are committed to growing the world's best fish and are continually improving their environmental practices. Developing the ASC standard was an 8-year process, which engaged over 2,000 participants and stakeholders.

To obtain the ASC certification, salmon farms must meet over 50 requirements, which include antibiotic usage, feed programs, and environmental impact on the ocean floor.

Land-based aquaculture systems

BCSFA members grow fish from egg to plate on the west coast. Each company has its own brood stock program that produces eggs unique to that company, right here in B.C.

Salmon will spend about half of their life (12 to 18 months) in a land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility where they will hatch to alevin, develop into fry, and finally go through the parr-smolt transformation - signifying that they are ready for salt water. These are the same stages of life salmon go through in their natural environment.

Once smolts reach about 100g they are vaccinated against common ocean viruses they may encounter in saltwater, and are then carefully transported by truck and boat to the ocean farm.

Major investments have been made toward RAS technology to optimize production and improve environmental performance. RAS recirculates 98% of the water, and reduces the consumption of water resources, thus making it a sustainable method for producing high-quality smolts.

Ocean farm sites

Salmon spend the second half of their life in an ocean-based farm living in crystal clear B.C. water.

Salmon farms are located in the most remote areas of the B.C. coast - along the Mainland and Vancouver Island - and have to be anchored safely. Once the smolts arrive at the farms they are placed into pens, where the farmers care for the animals the way other farmers do with animals on land. The fish live on the farms for up to two years – until they are approximately 5-6 kg – before being harvested and transported by boat to the processing plant.

Often farmers live in floating houses on the farm to monitor the fish all day and night through the use of specialized equipment, such as underwater HD cameras (to allow farmers to watch the fish when they’re eating), sophisticated pneumatic feeding systems to ensure optimal feeding, and

monitoring devices that allow farmers to have important information on ocean temperature, oxygen levels, and water current.

Fish welfare, worker safety and environmental consciousness are top priorities for B.C. salmon farmers. They use the best technology available to grow the healthiest fish possible Improvements and advances in technology have led to higher quality sustainable feed, automated feeding and surveillance systems, improved containment structures, Remote Operated Net Cleaners (RONCs), satellite-based worker safety monitoring/communication units, and effective fish health innovations.


Sustainable feeds

Salmon eat a high quality diet made of oils derived from plants and fish, as well as fishmeal and natural sources of protein that would otherwise have gone to waste (such as poultry meal or wild capture fish processing trimmings).

Over the past several years, feed suppliers for B.C. farm-raised salmon have taken great strides to reduce the amount of fishmeal and fish oils in their aquafeeds, while maintaining nutritional value and increasing traceability to their marine ingredients - with 75% of sourced raw materials coming from within Canada and the United States. On average, current salmon feeds contain less than 15% fishmeal and fish oil. Salmon raised in B.C. do not contain any added hormones or steroids, and they have never been genetically engineered.

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Salmon farmers in B.C. are net producers of fish – meaning that it takes less than 1kg of feeder fish to produce 1kg of edible salmon. The efficient conversion of feed to weight of fish harvested is a key component of sustainable fish farming, and B.C. farmers closely monitor their use of feed to ensure efficiency.

Local Processing

B.C. is home to some of North America’s most sophisticated salmon processing plants, which ensures that fish are making it to market in prime condition.

Member processing plants are located in Tofino, Port Hardy, Browns Bay (north of Campbell River), Klemtu, and on Quadra Island. Steps are taken at each plant for minimal handling of the salmon and keeping the fish at a stable low temperature. The processing plants offer stable year-round employment and have a commitment to occupational health and safety that is second to none.

Once all the fish are processed they are packaged and shipped to customers in 11 countries around the world, including Canada, the United States and Asia. In fact, B.C. salmon farmers set a new record for exports in 2015, with 54.4M kilograms of farm-raised salmon going to 11 countries (20.6M kilograms was sold domestically in Canada).

No matter how far B.C.'s farm-raised salmon travels, it is always sold fresh and is typically in stores or restaurants within 36-48 hours of being harvested.

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