Industry sustainability report says B.C. salmon farmers are modernizing and advancing

Salmon farmers in B.C. are achieving third-party certifications as fast, or faster than any other region in the world where farms are raising Atlantic Salmon, according to the BC Salmon Farmers Association Progress Report released on Oct. 14 at the association’s business summit in Campbell River on Friday.

The report shows that salmon farmers are continuing to develop programs and practices that increase the understanding of modern salmon aquaculture practices and provide greater transparency for the public.

“This report furthers our members’ commitment to transparent operations and shows great gains against many key indicators over the past few years,” said Jeremy Dunn, executive director of the association. “Although there’s more work to be done and a resolve to continue improving, B.C.’s results are as good or better than any farming region in the world. From a global perspective B.C is a relatively small producer of farm-raised salmon, but the contributions to local community and economies, particularly on Vancouver Island, are significant. Our farmers are proud that they’re showing it’s possible to create jobs and respect the environment at the same time.”

All members of the association operating salmon farms are certified to comprehensive third-party standards such as the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s salmon standard and the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard, according to the report. The report also said that all of the salmon farmers have committed to being 100 per cent certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council salmon standard by 2020. At the moment there are 11 association salmon farms that are certified to that standard.

Salmon farmers regularly monitor water conditions, and, according to the report, saw an abnormal year in 2015. The temperatures were 1.5 to two degrees higher than average, in some months, for the four coastal farming regions of B.C. and salinity values were higher than average in July and August.

Not only are the members making progress with environment, they are also contributing to the local economy and building community relations. According to the report, salmon farming contributed over $1.1 billion to the B.C. economy every year as well as employing 5,000 people that get paid 30 per cent more than the median employment income.

More than three quarters of the salmon raised in B.C. are done in partnership with First Nations. Collectively, salmon farming companies in B.C. have continued to see agreements with First Nations and now have 20 economic and social partnerships and are working towards many more.

B.C. salmon farmers set a new record for exports in 2015, and are on track to beat that again this year. China is now B.C.’s second most important export market, next to the U.S.A. Export volume to China has increased 140 per cent since the previous high in 2012. On average the production of salmon has also become more efficient. The feed conversion rate in 2015 was 1.2 kg of feed to grow 1 kg of fish, the most efficient of farmed animals, according to the report. The feed that they use contains raw sourced materials, 75 per cent of which come from within Canada and the U.S.A.

Through advancements in fish health management and improved vaccines, antibiotics use over the past 20 years had decreased. The report said that on average B.C. farmers treated their fish with antibiotics 1.4 times per two year production cycle, as reported in 2015. B.C salmon farmers grow 58 per cent of all salmon raised in Canada and account for 60 per cent of the total landed value of seafood in B.C. They generate more than $1.14 billion towards the provincial economy.