fish farming

B.C. is a hotbed of innovation in aquaculture

“There is really nothing more important than the environment when it comes to fish farming,” – expert panel discussion at the BC Seafood Expo

By Fabian Dawson

British Columbia is a hotbed of innovation in aquaculture, providing new technologies to protect the environment and make seafood farming more sustainable, a plenary discussion at the B.C. Seafood Expo heard yesterday.

“If you don’t protect and maintain the quality of the environment, you won’t succeed in aquaculture,” said Jeremy Dunn, director of public affairs for Mowi Canada West, one of the speakers at the session, which looked at innovations and advances in farmed, harvest and wild fisheries.

“There is really nothing more important than the environment when it comes to fish farming,” said Dunn.

The B.C. Seafood Expo 2019 held over two days this week in the Comox Valley, is one of the largest seafood industry trade shows in the Pacific Northwest and part of the 2019 BC Seafood Festival which runs from June 7 to 16.

“If you don’t look after the environment from the waters to the bottom of the ocean, the environment will bite you back,” said Steve Atkinson, president of Taste of B.C. Aquafarms in Nanaimo, which raises Steelhead Salmon at its Little Cedar Falls fish farm in Nanaimo.

Atkinson said there is a lot of misinformation about the ocean-based fish farming industry in B.C. and more needs to be done to correct the falsehoods that has confused consumers.

He said there is a common perception that the technology currently exists to take the salmon farms out of the ocean and move them on land.

“It simply is not so,” said Atkinson, adding that Atlantic salmon has not been successfully raised at commercial scales on land at a profit anywhere, other than at hatchery stage.

“You can’t be sustainable if you are not profitable,” said Atkinson, whose family-owned farm harvests two metric tonnes of Steelhead Salmon weekly, using a (RAS) Recirculating Aquaculture System.

Atkinson, who operates one of the very first closed containment salmon farms in production in North America, credited the cooperation between ocean-based and land-based fish farmers for making B.C. a global leader when it comes to fish farming.

He said land-based salmon farming has a future in B.C. as a complement to ocean farming, not a replacement.

Sean Wilton, CEO of Agrimarine Holdings Inc., who raises Steelhead Salmon in the mountain-fed waters of B.C.’s Lois Lake, said local fish farming success stories are often overshadowed by unsubstantiated claims by certain groups.

“We are not hearing enough of the aquaculture innovations that started here and have been refined here,” he said.

Wilton wants to see a better climate for aquaculture investment in B.C. and more fact-based debate about fish farming as it will raise opportunities for greater innovations and advances in technology.

“People here care about the environment and that is great and that is why our seafood attracts buyers and consumers around the word.”

“We just wish we had more to sell to the world,” said Wilton, commenting on the increasing global demand for B.C. seafood.

The 2019 B.C. Seafood Expo, which ends today, has attracted the largest buyers’ delegation in the 13-year history of the event.

Chef Chris Andraza of Fanny Bay Oysters Restaurant, another of the panel speakers, said B.C.’s seafood industry needs to be more active on social media.

“At my restaurant we try and get the message direct to the customer by educating our servers about the menu items, its origin and sustainability,” he said.

Andraza wants to see a unity in promoting B.C. seafood globally.

“We need to stop the negativity about farmed, wild, frozen or fresh…more of the energy needs to be spent promoting our excellent seafood and stop the depletion of wild stocks with unsustainable practices,” he said.

(IMAGE – L to R) – Steve Atkinson, president of Taste of B.C. Aquafarms, Jeremy Dunn, director of public affairs for Mowi Canada West and Sean Wilton, CEO of Agrimarine Holdings Inc. and Chef Chris Andraza of Fanny Bay Oysters Restaurant.


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