As with cattle feedlots, the shear overpopulation of this system results in spikes of disease and parasites, and in many cases the industry relies on antibiotics and pesticides to control these issues. Parasites, such as sea-lice, spread from the farmed salmon and effect the wild habitat. Wild fish numbers in areas with open-net aquaculture suffer huge population reductions, sometimes more than “50% per generation.” Beyond parasites, the most popular salmon farmed in B.C. is Atlantic salmon, an introduced species. Approximately 160,000 of these farmed-fish escape from the net-pens into open water in B.C. annually. These non-native species have been known to have severe effects on native fish populations, out-competing them and spreading disease.
Like cattle feedlots, the waste pollution caused by open-net aquaculture is destructive. Fish waste accumulates below the pen and in the surrounding water. Alone, this can dramatically change the surrounding ecosystem, and when combined with pesticides and antibiotics the results are devastating. In 2009, the Fraser River sockeye salmon run dropped by nearly 90% due, in part, to open-pen aquaculture set-ups in the river delta. This not only effects the immediate ecosystem, but also the many animals that rely on the salmon run for food.
You can find out more about open-net aquaculture and its effect on B.C.’s coastal ecosystem here. Yet open-pen aquaculture isn't the only way to farm fish.
At Sunnyside Natural Market, we get all our fresh - and some frozen - seafood from Albion Fisheries, a founding member of the Ocean Wise program. All of our seafood is sustainably caught, and, if farmed, sustainably farmed.
Steelhead trout, also known as steelhead salmon, is a Pacific coast salmonide fish with a habitat that stretches from southern California to the Alaskan peninsula. They are similar to other Pacific salmon with one exception: they can be repeat spawners, like trout. They straddle the line so well between salmon and trout, that proper classification has been an issue for scientists.
Currently, the wild population is yellow-listed, as many populations have declined due to habitat damage or over-fishing. In many regions, steelhead trout have already gone extinct. Because of this, steelhead trout that is farmed using proper methods is the only way to eat the fish sustainably.
Our steelhead trout comes fresh weekly from Lois Lake, B.C., a landlocked reservoir about 4 hours north of Vancouver. This trout is raised in semi-closed containment, using a solid-walled tank that floats in the reservoir separating farmed fish from the external environment. Disease transfer is mitigated by the solid wall, and technology is used to monitor nutrients to ensure feed and waste are minimized in the surrounding environment. No growth hormones or antibiotics are used, and the flesh is not dyed pink - as it often is with farmed salmon. The farm is currently working towards zero waste. You can learn more here.