The aquaculture industry in Canada is a dynamic sector which has experienced significant growth since 2000 primarily as a result of increases in production of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in marine net pens. The salmon farms are located in sheltered waters of the Pacific Ocean off of British Columbia, and in the Atlantic Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Atlantic salmon sales generated 88 percent of the aquaculture industry’s total value in 2010 and 70 percent of tonnage. Canadian farmers also culture rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in net pens and raceways located primarily in inland waters of Ontario.
The dominant component of the shellfish industry is the production of blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) using longlines centered around Prince Edward Island in the Atlantic Maritime region of eastern Canada. The shellfish sector also operates in coastal waters of the Atlantic Maritimes where American cupped oysters (Crassostrea virginica) are grown, and in British Columbia where Pacific cupped oysters (Crassostrea gigas) and Japanese carpet shell (Ruditapes philippinarum) are produced.
Between 2000 and 2010 shellfish production increased 14 percent to 35 346 tonnes while value increased by 124 percent from USD 28.5 to USD 64 million. Sales of blue mussels comprise 57 percent of revenue from the shellfish sector. The value of Atlantic and Pacific oysters roughly doubled to USD 11.2 million and USD 8.5 million respectively, as did that of Japanese carpet shell which were valued at USD 8.1 million in 2010.
Future significant growth of Canada’s aquaculture industry faces significant challenges from both a regulatory and environmental perspective. Public opposition is strongest in British Columbia where the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of Canada (DFO) recently assumed many regulatory responsibilities from the Provincial Government. In the autumn off 2011 DFO released discussion draft Integrated Management of Aquaculture Plans (IMAP) for finfish and shellfish respectively (DFO 2011, 2011a). The IMAP process will be a key feature in development of the British Columbia Aquaculture Regulatory Program, which in turn, will have a key impact on future aquaculture development in the Province. There are a number of new species being investigated for their culture potential. If a regulatory regime that insures environmental protection while enabling the economic viability of aquaculture ventures is created, the finfish sector could expand significantly producing sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria). Experimental work is also underway with Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis), and the wolf-eel (Anarrhichthys ocellatus). Shellfish aquaculture is far less controversial than net-pen culture of finfish and will likely continue to expand in both British Columbia and the Atlantic Maritime Provinces.
Salmon farming began in the 1970s in Canada as an industry with a small number of entrepreneurs using ocean net pens in the northwest Pacific to raise the native coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). The focus then shifted to Atlantic salmon which was more suitable to domestication growing faster than Pacific salmons and adapting to higher densities in cages. The first success in Atlantic salmon farming took place in New Brunswick in 1979 and the industry has expanded since, most notably in British Columbia. Salmon farming in British Columbia has experienced tremendous success with industry value increasing from USD 271 million in 2000 to USD 671 million in 2010 (FAO FishstatJ; Statistics Canada, 2011). Production density varies from stocking to harvest, but a range of 15–25 kg/m3 is standard in the industry. Production costs are in the range of USD 2–3/kg (Forster, 2002).
As the industry has evolved there has been a general movement towards vertical integration combining the hatchery, grow-out, processing, and marketing components of the value chain in a single business. Nonetheless, there are distinct regional differences with a large presence of Norwegian multinational companies in British Columbia on the Pacific coast, in contrast to the Atlantic coast where salmon farms are largely controlled by a small number of Canadian owned and managed companies. Over the last few years, there has been major consolidation reducing the salmon industry to some five vertically integrated companies that control the majority of production.
Trout farming represents the oldest fish culture activity in Canada. Beginning with the production and distribution of rainbow and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) for stock enhancement in the mid- to late 19th century, demand for trout ultimately lead to actual farming roughly a century later. Although most farmed trout is produced for human consumption, a portion of it is still allocated to recreational fisheries. Farmed rainbow trout production of 6 883 tonnes worth USD 31.7 million in 2010 represents 5 percent of the overall value of the finfish sector, with a farm gate value of USD 4.60/kg
The blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) is the second most important species in Canadian aquaculture in terms of production and value. It is farmed on both coasts, but the province of Prince Edward Island supplies over 77 percent of the production.
Mussels account for 17 percent of total aquaculture tonnage. Production has fluctuated between 20 000 and 24 000 tonnes over the last decade, averaging 21 934 tonnes between 2000 and 2010. Growing demand for mussels in the global market and marketing campaigns have significantly increased the farm gate value of blue mussels from USD 0.88/kg in 2000 to USD 1.48/kg in 2010
Prince Edward Island contributed 18 845 tonnes of the total production in 2010, distantly followed by Newfoundland and Labrador, 2 461 tonnes (10 percent), and Nova Scotia, 2 121 tonnes (9 percent). Together, these three Provinces are responsible for 96 percent of mussel production.
Oysters have been harvested in Canada for centuries but their farming began in the 1950s. Today, the majority of oysters sold are supplied by farmers. British Columbia producers farm the Pacific cupped oyster, while growers in the Atlantic Maritime Provinces produce the American cupped oyster. Increasingly, oyster culture has been moving to off-bottom systems that use floating rafts, buoys, and longlines to suspend the shellfish above the ocean floor. Deep water oysters can grow up to three times as fast as intertidal oysters.
Of the total oyster production, 68 percent were harvested in British Columbia. Over the past decade, total oyster production fluctuated between 5 300 and 8 011 tonnes, averaging 7 049 tonnes between 2000 and 2010. Value doubled more than the last decade from USD 3.8 to USD 8.5 million.
Aquaculture plays a significant role in sustaining and revitalizing many declining coastal and rural communities in Canada. As a result of declines in resource based industries such as timber and fisheries, these remote communities have been struggling to maintain economic stability and provide employment opportunities for youth. Farmed salmon is the largest food export of the Pacific province of British Columbia and the largest crop in the New Brunswick agri-food sector.
Salaries and wages paid in the aquaculture sector in 2010 totalled USD 103 million and employer paid benefits amounted to USD 15.7 million (Statistics Canada, 2011). A study carried out in 2004 estimates that aquaculture employed 5 565 people (Mathews, 2004). One-third of these employees earned a yearly income between USD 25 000 and 35 000 and received other benefits. The survey also found that 80 percent of the jobs were full-time and most of them were on salmon farms in rural British Columbia (53 percent) and New Brunswick (25 percent). This direct employment creates indirect employment further downstream in supply and service industries. Using an employment multiplier of 2.5, as reported in other aquaculture studies, the estimated total direct and indirect employment created by the aquaculture industry would be 14 000 jobs. Approximately 50 percent of employees in the aquaculture industry are young, between 21 and 35 years of age, and 28 percent are female. The aboriginal share of the workforce is growing and is currently at 6 percent.
Labour productivity varies significantly between the finfish and shellfish sectors. Finfish farming has achieved an average annual productivity level per employee of 45 tonnes in freshwater and 61 tonnes in marine waters, whereas in shellfish farming each employee produces 25 tonnes. The productivity is greater at large integrated farms than at small family-operated farms which significantly depend on family and temporary or seasonal labour (British Columbia, 2003).
Atlantic salmon farming in marine net pens is centered in the southern half of the western coastal province of British Columbia and the near shore waters of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The surface area of the net pen cages is small but they are widely dispersed. Salmon production from these three provinces was 101 385 tonnes with 70 percent coming from British Columbia. Prince Edward Island is the centre of production for blue mussels using submerged suspended longline gear. Canada produced 24 484 tonnes of mussels in 2010 with 77 percent harvested from waters around Prince Edward Island.
Canadian aquaculture is dominated by the marine sector in which Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) account for 95 percent of production. The sector is highly reliant on introduced species which include the Atlantic salmon, Pacific cupped oysters (Crassostrea gigas), and Japanese carpet shell (Ruditapes philippinarum) which together comprise 76 percent of production. Atlantic salmon are not native to British Columbia and eggs were first imported there in 1984 from Scotland, and later as juveniles from Washington State. Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are native to British Columbia but are grown primarily in Ontario where they were introduced. The Pacific cupped oyster was brought to British Columbia from Japan in the 1940s, and but for a hiatus during World War II, seed shipments continued into the 1970s when hatchery production in North America became commonplace. Transport of fish and shellfish is highly regulated today with requirements for transfer permits and health certifications.
Atlantic salmon have been domesticated through selective breeding programmes and today’s stocks perform far better that the original strains. Rainbow trout have similarly responded well to traditional selective breeding programmes. There are no genetically engineered fish or shellfish currently under culture. The salmon industry has expressed opposition to culture of the genetically modified aquabounty salmon should it receive approval for culture and marketing by the United States Food and Drug where approval is under consideration.
Cage culture: Nearly all of the cages used in Canada can be classified as gravity type cages (Masser and Bridger, 2007). Marine cages are moored as a group, or flotilla, typically within submerged grid mooring systems. These grids frequently provide upwards of eight mooring lines connected to each cage to maintain its position within the grid. Salmon smolts are stocked into marine cages from freshwater hatcheries. In these cages the smolts are nurtured and fed for 18 to 24 months until reaching a harvestable size. The use of automatic feeders which incorporate the use of underwater cameras to monitor feeding behaviour and control feed delivery helps to insure adequate feed is provided while minimizing loss and water quality impacts from uneaten feed.
Freshwater cages similar to those used for salmon are used by rainbow trout growers in Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay in Ontario and in Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan. The smallest operation consists of six cages with a production of 160 to 180 tonnes a year. Operations smaller than this do not appear to be economically viable.
Bottom and off-bottom shellfish systems: Bottom culture methods were used most extensively for oyster culture until the development of off-bottom culture methods in the 1970s. In mussel culture off-bottom methods have greatly replaced bottom culture methods off both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts because of their increased efficiency. When compared to wild harvested mussels, farmed mussels deliver twice as many mussels per kilogram, as well as meat yields that are usually 3 to 4 times higher (DFO, 2003). Longlines are the most common system in use on the east coast while on the west coast, both longlines and raft systems are in use.
Canada’s aquaculture industry has grown consistently in the last decade rising in value between 2000 and 2010 from USD 318 million to USD 767 million, an increase of 141 percent (FAO FishstatJ; Statistics Canada, 2011). Total production rose from 110 628 tonnes to 145 114 tonnes during this time for an average annual percentage rate increase of 2.75 over the decade. This increase in production was largely driven by net pen farming of Atlantic salmon which grew from 72 495 to 101 385 tonnes while increasing in value from USD 271 023 to USD 670 830, a revenue increase of 148 percent. Salmon are grown in Atlantic Canada in the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but the industry is centered in British Columbia where production rose from 39 300 to 70 800 tonnes with value increasing from to USD 147 million to USD 345 million over the decade. Production statistics are summarized in Table 1.
Trout farms can be found in six of ten provinces but Ontario is the largest trout producer in Canada responsible for 59 percent of production. In 2010, Canadian trout farmers produced 6 683 tonnes of rainbow trout valued at USD 31.6 million.
The shellfish sector is centred in the Atlantic Maritime Province of Prince Edward Island where 2010 production of blue mussels was 18 845 tonnes valued at USD 25 million. This represents 77 percent of the total mussel crop and 69 percent of total value. Using primarily off-bottom longline culture techniques, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia produced 2 377 and 7 400 tonnes of Atlantic and Pacific cupped oysters respectively with a combined value of USD 20.3 million. Continued expansion of the shellfish sector is likely if recently initiated marketing programs open new domestic and export markets.
Table 1. Canadian finfish and shellfish aquaculture production and value 2010 (tonnes, USD 1 000)
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Canada according to FAO statistics:
Total value of Canadian exports was USD 572 million in 2010 (Statistics Canada, 2011). Exports of aquaculture products from Canada have been consistently greater than aquaculture imports which are comprised primarily of shrimp from Asia and small quantities of catfish and trout from the United States of America. Total exports of farmed salmon increased 7.3 percent in 2010, while farmed mussel exports increased 19.9 percent compared to 2009.
Nearly 90 percent of Canada’s aquaculture products are sold in export markets in some 20 countries. The largest export market for Canada is the United States of America which in 2010 accounted for 98 percent of whole Atlantic salmon export sales, 93 percent of Atlantic salmon fillet exports, and 99.8 percent of export sales of blue mussels. Mussels are exported as partially cooked, smoked and pasteurized, but most are sold fresh in the shell. Proximity to American markets, strong demand and lower transportation costs influence this market concentration.
The major American export destinations include Washington, Massachusetts, California, Maine, and New York (Table 2.). Canadian aquaculture products are well accepted in American markets for their quality and wholesomeness. In Europe, Canada markets a limited quantity of aquaculture products in France while in Asia, Japan and Taiwan P.C. stand out as top markets.
Table 2. Exports of selected Canadian aquaculture products and value, by country of destination — 2010
Food safety and food quality standards of fish and seafood exported from and imported into Canada are regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Principal legislation used for regulation includes the Federal Fish Inspection Act and Food and Drugs Act. The CFIA develops and verifies compliance with appropriate product and process standards that contribute to the acceptable quality, safety, and identity of fish and seafood products.
The Fish Inspection Regulations (Fish Inspection Act) require that all Canadian seafood products for export or inter provincial trade must originate from federally registered processing establishments. The processors involved in exports must also register themselves with the CFIA and have an in-plant Quality Management Program (QMP) in operation. The QMP, a regulatory-based in-plant quality control programme, which began in February 1992, is the world's first mandatory food inspection programme based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles to provide high level assurance that fish and seafood products produced in Canada are safe and wholesome to eat. The QMP also deals with non-safety issues, including fish quality and federal regulatory requirements such as labeling. The QMP has been effective in maintaining access to international markets at a time when many countries are introducing HACCP requirements for imported fish and seafood. This is important for Canada's fish processing industry which is heavily export oriented.
CFIA inspectors perform compliance verification through a combination of audit and inspection activities to ensure that registered processors have implemented the QMP plan as designed and meet other regulatory requirements. The CFIA, in collaboration with Environment Canada and DFO also enforces separate safety policies and procedures for bivalve molluscan shellfish harvesting and processing under the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP).
Aquaculture products do not contribute much in providing food for poor people in Canada. In fact, seafood consumption is highest among older more affluent consumers. In general, successful aquaculture products are premium food items such as salmon, shrimp and oysters.
Canadian per capita consumption of wild and farmed seafood combined has declined since reaching a peak of 10.3 kg in 1999. In 2009, per capita seafood consumption was 7.81 kg comprised of 3.5 kg of fresh and frozen product, 2.5 kg of processed seafood, 1.3 kg of shellfish and 0.5 kg of freshwater fish.
Aquaculture development has achieved some success at providing employment opportunities and poverty alleviation. There are a number of successful aquaculture entrepreneurships that have created income and employment opportunities for aboriginal communities. Largely dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, aboriginal people in Canada were hit hard by the decline in commercial capture fisheries and timber harvest. Aquaculture helped to generate income and create jobs in their own communities.
A significant partnership between a private commercial venture and the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation in the small coastal town of Klemtu, British Columbia has been underway for a decade and provides an example of a successful salmon aquaculture joint venture. In 1988 the people of Klemtu invested in salmon aquaculture to try to replace the economic opportunity lost due to declines in the commercial salmon fishery. This salmon aquaculture business operated for five years before it was forced to close as a result of declining salmon prices and high operating costs. In 1998, the Kitasoo/Xai’xais reached an agreement with a private firm to operate the facility and the resulting business has achieved considerable success becoming an economic mainstay for the community. The farm and processing plant provide revenue and jobs and the business has reduced unemployment in Klemtu to 40 percent from about 90 percent ten years ago.
The Kitasoo have also constructed a plant processing 635 tonnes of farmed salmon each month, generating gross monthly revenues of USD 2.4 million. Processing activities employ 30 full-time equivalent jobs at full operation contributing approximately USD 1.1 million in wages to the village economy.
In British Columbia, approximately 21 First Nations are engaged in shellfish aquaculture activities and 14 First Nations are engaged in finfish aquaculture. First Nations in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada are also pursuing aquaculture initiatives.
Aquaculture in Canada is a shared federal, provincial, and territorial responsibility. Federal authority to regulate the aquaculture industry is shared between 17 departments and agencies, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) as the lead. The DFO is mandated to develop and implement policies and programmes that create conditions for sustainable aquaculture development. DFO is headed by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who oversees the administration of the Fisheries Act. The Minister is responsible for approving and communicating Departmental policies for the management of fisheries, habitat and aquaculture. The Minister has overall responsibility for the management and direction of the Department under the authority of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Act. The Deputy Minister (DM) reports to the Minister and is responsible for the operational management of the Department.
Regional Managers for Aquaculture and Fisheries Management report to one of the six geographical Regional Director Generals.
DFO works in concert with provincial and territorial authorities to administer a complex regulatory framework for aquaculture planning and management. Provinces and territories are generally responsible for aquaculture site leasing, licences, and the promotion of aquaculture products. However these provincial-territorial responsibilities considerably overlap with federal responsibilities. As a result, and in the aftermath of a successful lawsuit filed against DFO in British Columbia, DFO has assumed responsibility for aquaculture under the authority of the National Fisheries Act. Through a consultative process, DFO has developed two Integrated Management of Aquaculture Plans (IMAP) for finfish and shellfish aquaculture. These draft discussion plans released in the autumn of 2011 will provide a background and guidance as part of a consultative process to devise a regulatory programme for aquaculture in British Columbia. The aquaculture sector will still be regulated by territorial and provincial governments as well, but DFO will assume primary responsibility for regulation of water quality and other activities with the potential to interact with the ecosystem, environment and natural resources. The aquaculture industry establishes their representation in the governing process through their associations and their federation, the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA).
In the absence of a federal aquaculture act, three pieces of legislation are used to regulate aquaculture planning. They include, Fisheries Act, Navigable Water Protection Act (NWPA) and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). The legislation is administered to grant legitimacy to aquaculture operations using open water resources.
Aquaculture planning also adheres to provincial legislation. All provinces have legislation to regulate aquaculture activities, and some provinces have proclaimed an aquaculture act. In accordance with provincial regulatory requirements, all new and existing operations must prepare a management plan. In some cases, local government bodies also play a role through the application of zoning by laws.
The management of aquaculture activities also involves a complex regulatory process. The movement of fish is regulated under the National Code on Introductions and Transfers (I and T) of Aquatic Organism (2002) to minimize genetic, ecosystem, and disease effects. Fish health management on farms complies with National Aquatic Animal Health Program (NAAHP) and Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) designed to prevent infectious disease or contamination and to maintain competitive market access. The harvest and marketing of aquaculture products are regulated by the Fish Inspection Act (1985) to ensure that the products meet national and international standards of wholesomeness and food safety.
The need for scientific research remains critical to enhance the growth and diversity of Canadian aquaculture. From the early days of development, DFO has played a lead role in research and technology transfer in Canada. Federal state and provincial government research facilities are dedicated to research on new species development, selective breeding to improve broodstock performance and seed quality, enhanced growout technologies, health management, and improved husbandry, nutrition and feeds. Federal research provides a sound science and technology base for innovations in the industry, and collaborations with the extensive network of universities and state and provincial researchers, coupled with industry partnerships expands the reach of this research. Research, development and commercialization of new technologies in the culture of salmon, mussels and oysters, and the success of these industries is largely the result of past and ongoing government support through collaborations with industry, academia and extension. Research priorities are established through formal and informal processes involving Federal, Provincial, Territorial and academic researchers, often in collaboration with industry associations. High priority research is often conducted in collaboration with industry partners as in the case of investigations into ISA prevention and interactions of sea lice with wild populations of salmon.
Academic training and research are undertaken by many universities across Canada. Universities that excel in undergraduate and graduate teaching and research include Vancouver Island University in British Columbia, Aquaculture Centre of University of Guelph in Ontario, Université Laval in Quebec, Centre for Coastal Studies and Aquaculture at University of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Centre for Aquaculture and Seafood Development of Memorial University of Newfoundland, just to name a few. There are also many community colleges, especially in the coastal provinces that impart training to cater to the needs of aquaculture technologists.
Aquaculture development in Canada has advanced over the last decade but the potential for growth is far greater than has been observed. There are a number of reasons for this. The Atlantic salmon industry suffered a serious setback with outbreaks of ISA in the early 2000’s. An aggressive initiative to create a National Aquatic Animal Program Health Program and industry initiatives in biosecurity proved successful in overcoming this ISA challenge and to date, there has been no recurrence.
Strong opposition from certain groups to salmon farming in British Columbia has also created serious challenges, and while there have been no significant adverse environmental or ecosystem impacts from net pen farming of salmon supported by rigorous scientific research, this has not prevented well-publicized claims to the contrary.
Finally, there are still overlapping and constraining regulatory and management concerns on the part of the industry. A collaborative effort between industry and government regulatory agencies is needed to create a system that provides for environmental protection while enabling industry expansion.
As the lead agency, DFO recognizes this and it is reflected in their vision "to benefit Canadians through the culture of aquatic organisms while upholding the ecological and socio-economic values associated with Canada's oceans and inland waters." The sustainable expansion of aquaculture production will provide additional seafood to prevent future shortages, create much needed revenue and employment, and improve human health by creating greater opportunities to increase seafood consumption.
In order to accomplish this, a number of initiatives have been undertaken in recent years. Two research and development programmes run by DFO are specifically designed to involve industry in research and innovation to promote industry competitiveness and diversification. The first one, the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), has been in operation since 2001; the second one, the Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program (AIMAP) began in 2008. More recently, Canada’s Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Network (CIMTAN) has been supported to create a network of scientists and industry partners and improve the science and practice of multi-trophic aquaculture.
ACRDP is an industry-driven programme with annual funding for collaborative research to enhance fish performance, fish health, and industry environmental performance. Sustained funding has enabled ACRDP projects to achieve considerable success.
AIMAP began in 2008 and has a budget of USD 22.3 million to make available for the following five years. AIMAP has four broad objectives, and priorities under each of the objectives have been established based on consultations with provinces, territories and sector stakeholders. These objectives include sustainable production, increased diversification, green technology, and market access
CIMTAN has approximately USD 4.9 million in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council which has been used as leverage to almost double the budget to just under USD 10 million to support programmes. CIMTAN will also go beyond addressing natural science and engineering questions, to address socio-economic and regulatory aspects necessary for the full development of IMTA. CIMTAN is based on a network of 26 scientists from eight universities, six federal laboratories of DFO, one provincial laboratory, and three industry partners from six provinces
These are exciting new initiatives and the research supported by these initiatives can resolve production challenges the industry faces. More complex are the regulatory and public perception obstacles the industry faces. There is the potential for the new collaborative process being initiated through the recent involvement of DFO in taking the lead to manage aquaculture in British Columbia to assist in overcoming these obstacles. The Integrated Management of Aquaculture Plans for finfish and shellfish outlined in discussion drafts could provide a foundation for a process to move this forward.
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