March 21, 2022
What is aquaculture?
Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. It takes place in marine environments, freshwater lakes and rivers, land-based ponds, or tanks.
The main types of growing operations include:
- freshwater net pen and land-based systems,
- bottom culture shellfish operations in intertidal zones and grow-out areas in sub-tidal zones,
- long-lines, net pens and restocking operations in open water.
In Canada there are currently approximately 56 different species of finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants that are commercially cultivated including salmon (Atlantic, Coho, Chinook), trout, Artic char, sablefish, mussels, oysters, clams, scallops as well as kelp.
Potential applications of genomics to aquaculture include:
- Improving fish and aquatic health
- Supporting environmental integrity
- Producing high quality, sustainable food
- Enhancing social license for the fisheries and aquaculture sector
- Improving breeding strategies
- Improving fish feed formulations
How is aquaculture implemented?
Fish or plants in an early life stage are stocked in water bodies including net pens, cages, confined areas in rivers, ponds and tanks, and reared until harvest. Rearing is time and resource intensive: maintenance of cages/tanks, monitoring of water quality, growth rate, feed consumption, health and welfare and the mitigation or treatment of potential diseases are all considerations.
What are the benefits of aquaculture?
There are many benefits to aquaculture including:
- Stable supply of fresh seafood all year round to meet domestic and global market demand
- Quality of seafood can be managed and improved in a targeted manner
- Pressure on at-risk wild stocks may be reduced
- Growing consumer demand for fish/shellfish/aquatic plants can be met
- Employment opportunities in rural and coastal areas.
Aquaculture has significant economic impact. In 2019, the overall production of farmed seafood in Canada was 187,172 tonnes with revenues of over $1,23B.
Aquaculture is also a significant source of employment in Canada, primarily in rural and coastal communities. In 2019, farming and seafood processing activities generated 21,300 full-time jobs earning an estimated $970 million in wages.
What are the challenges of aquaculture?
There are many challenges associated with aquaculture:
- Infectious diseases and parasites
- Harmful algal blooms)
- Variations to salinity, temperature, pH, oxygen levels
- Treatment of bacterial pathogens with antibiotics may cause antibiotic resistance
- Escapees from net pens result in economic loss
- Aquaculture relies on traditional fisheries to supply feed, eggs and ‘seeds’ (the industry term for young invertebrates); these supplies are not always readily available
- Potential risk of pathogen and parasite transfer between farmed and wild aquatic species
- Social acceptance
- Uncertain future of salmon aquaculture in BC due to announced policy changes as well as recent federal and provincial decisions (Discovery Islands, Broughton Archipelago)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
BC Government Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance
Statistics Canada: Table 32-10-0107-01 Aquaculture, production and value