CANADA’s Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) has once again reiterated its support for salmon farming to be transferred to terrestrial systems and has expressed its concern over the “fallacies and myths perpetuated by the salmon farming industry on the feasibility of closed containment.”
The federation argues that viable technologies to produce healthy fish completely separate from the surrounding environment and wild fish are being utilised throughout the world. “Interest is growing among farmers who recognise that there is a lucrative market in supplying chefs and customers, who increasingly demand fish grown in an environmentally-sustainable manner,” said Bill Taylor, President of ASF.
A partnership between The Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute of West Virginia and ASF is producing healthy, unstressed farmed salmon, free of disease and sea lice, without vaccines, harsh chemicals, and antibiotics in closed-containment freshwater facilities on land. “Our goal,” continued Taylor, “is to give fish farmers and regulators the opportunity to choose a different way to grow fish that is, not only better for the environment, but better for business too.”
The group feels that the salmon farming industry greatly underplays the environmental impacts of farming salmon in open net pens in the ocean. Just one example is this industry’s portrayal of outbreaks of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) as a disease occurring naturally and to be expected as part of the business of farming salmon. In fact, this deadly flu-like disease is spread quickly among farmed salmon that are stressed in densely-packed open ocean net cages, wherever these farms exist – Norway, Scotland, the Faroes, Chile, Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and now Newfoundland and Labrador. In the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry, millions of farmed salmon have had to be slaughtered and the industry compensated with millions of taxpayers’ dollars from provincial and federal governments. Taylor questioned: “Would it not be more ‘economical’ to circumvent the expense of destruction and compensation by growing in disease-free closed containment facilities?”
On the other hand, say the ASF, the industry greatly exaggerates the amount of land, water, and energy required in land-based freshwater closed containment facilities. The media has quoted the industry as saying that 8,000 football fields would be required to put the salmon farming operations of NB and NS on land. In 2010, Canada produced 39,000 tonnes of farmed salmon on the Atlantic coast. The Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute in its research over two decades has found that growing 30,000 tonnes of salmon per year would require only 75 to 150 football fields (including the end zones), and growing 100,000 tonnes per year would require well under 500.
“Then there are the myths most recently perpetuated by the industry that closed containment requires ‘too much energy’ and ‘too much water’, continued Taylor. In actual fact, the technology used to farm fish in closed containment can be adapted for freshwater, brackish water, and seawater. Most of the water is cleaned and re-used; any that is not re-used is treated before being returned to the environment.
They also point out that closed-containment farms are increasingly energy-efficient and that European companies investing in this technology indicate that they are now achieving electrical load that is 70% less than this estimate. When considering carbon footprint, it is also important to take into account the local effects of untreated pollution being discharged from open net pen farms directly into the ocean. Ocean-based net pens do not have discharge limits, effectively placing the burden on the marine environment and other resource users.
Taylor concluded: “Sure, transitioning to closed containment might mean that the aquaculture industry will not get its more than 50% profit, but then taxpayers will not have to foot bills for disease compensation and lose the economic and social benefits from industries such as tourism, lobster fishing and the recreational fishery that rely on a healthy environment.”