Aquaculture - An Industry In Need of Change

Farmed Atlantic salmon are a major risk to wild populations wherever they exist - whether in marine feedlots where they grow to market size, or in hatcheries where they are grown as young fish in rivers, into which they escape, threatening wild populations there.

ASF and the Future of Aquaculture

It is increasingly evident through peer-reviewed scientific research conducted by ASF and others, that salmon farming harms the environment and wild Atlantic salmon.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation provides science-based advice on the issue, and on ways to reduce the harm caused by farmed salmon.

  • ASF and partners are undertaking a major initiative to explore alternative, land-based aquaculture. Read more
  • ASF actively promotes the placement of marine cages at a significant distance from the mouths of Atlantic salmon rivers
  • ASF promotes greater transparency from both government and the industry to include the public and local communities  in both planning and sharing information on escapes and the results of any escapes
  • ASF promotes government maintaining an administrative distance from aquaculture operations, rather than economically supporting operations that risk endangered wild populations and pollute inshore environments
  • ASF is asking for a definition of sustainable aquaculture that includes minimal impacts on both freshwater and marine ecosystems

ASF and Environmental Assessments of Projects

The largest proposed open net-pen salmon aquaculture project in North American history has been proposed for Placentia Bay on Newfoundland's south coast. ASF went to court and won a requirement for a full Environmental Impact Assessment, after the province had given the project a green light. The province has appealed, but meanwhile has suggested draft guidelines for an EIS. Below is a link to ASF's response on the proposed guidelines:

Aquaculture Backgrounders & Studies

Aquaculture Facts (2013) 113.2KB
ISA Backgrounder from ASF (Jan. 9, 2014) 139.2KB
Prevalence of Escaped Farmed Salmon in Eastern North American Rivers 992.3KB
ASF Aquaculture Policy (2003) 281.9KB
Cypermethrin & Sea Lice Backgrounder 157.6KB

Aquaculture Studies

Myers - Global Assessment of Salmon Farming Impacts 231.0KB
Royal Society of Canada - Marine Biodiversity 10.1MB
2011 - Loss of Adaptation in a Wild Atlantic Salmon Population Following Introgression by Farmed Escapees 516.6KB
Reduced Fitness due to Farmed Salmon - McGinnity et al 103.0KB
Sea Lice Infestation Rates on Wild and Farmed Salmon 140.6KB
Milewski - Conditions under NS Cages - 2013 2.1MB
Buschmann-et-al-2007 2.3MB
Waste production from salmon farm.pdf 781.8KB
ECELAW Report on NS Aquaculture Regulation 760.8KB
Doelle-Lahey Report on NS Aquaculture Regulation 1.3MB
Highlights of the Doelle-Lahey Report on NS Aquaculture Regulation 71.5KB

ASF and Land-Based Aquaculture

ASF has undertaken a pioneering project in land-based closed-containment aquaculture in cooperation with the Freshwater Institute located in West Virginia.

Learn more

Recent Research Results

Summerfelt et al - 2013 Growout Trial 1.5MB

The Risks Posed by Aquaculture

Farmed salmon are penned by the thousands in cages anchored in inshore waters. High density encourages disease, and it also results in the release of both massive amounts of salmon feces and treatment chemicals into coastal waters that cannot absorb the loads. When farmed salmon escape due to careless workers, winter storms, or weak equipment, they head for native rivers.

The body of peer-reviewed literature on the disastrous impacts of aquaculture on wild Atlantic salmon has grown to overwhelming proportions, and in many cases has left wild populations fighting extinction. Among the ways in which aquaculture has been proven to disastrously impact wild Atlantic salmon:

Transfer of Parasites and Disease - When massive numbers of Atlantic salmon are kept together, sea lice parasites build up. Through the decades they have become resistant to the most benign treatments, and densities of the parasites in water around the cages and in long downstream plumes has soared. It takes only EIGHT sea lice to kill a wild Atlantic salmon smolt. If there are other stresses for the wild Atlantic salmon, even fewer can be a contributing factor, and especially in Norway and Scotland this has been shown to be a major issue for wild salmon.

Farmed salmon, themselves stressed by various factors, including lice, can be a reservoir of viral and bacterial diseases for wild Atlantic salmon.

ASF and its partners continue to put pressure on regulators to site salmon farms away from wild Atlantic salmon rivers, and to take seriously the threats of  sea lice and other diseases.

ASF is taking the matter further, and investing in Land-based, closed-containment aquaculture, where the farmed salmon are raised away from the ocean itself, making them unable to pass diseases and parasites to wild populations.

Transfering Genes to Reduce Survivability of Wild Atlantic salmon - Farmed salmon escape. Cages break in storms or from careless workers backing outboard motors into them.  Escaping salmon disperse quickly and then, during autumn, head for wild Atlantic salmon rivers. If they successfully spawn with wild Atlantic salmon, the results are disastrous for salmon in those rivers.

ASF Researchers have been part of a team that has proven, with peer-reviewed science, that the resulting offspring are less adapted to river conditions. Read more.

A 10-year study in Ireland published in the Transactions of the Royal Society proved that the survivability of offspring of wild-farmed matings was lower, and in the following generation lower still.

Genetic Swamping Through Interbreeding - Of particular concern are the endangered or threatened populations of wild Atlantic salmon throughout the Bay of Fundy and in Maine, and the threatened population in the rivers of the south coast of Newfoundland. Any escapes from the net-pen marine feedlots will send an overwhelming number of farmed salmon into rivers, and in a single season those farmed salmon could irreversibly remove the genetic integrity of the wild runs.

ASF remains a vigilant observer, constantly reminding governments and the industry of the need for transparency in the pursuit of reduced impacts on wild salmon populations that are already at low levels.

ASF's pioneering work on land-based aquaculture is partially driven by the need to restore the endangered populations that have little ability to survive even modest pressure from escaping farm salmon.

Competition for Freshwater Habitat - An ASF study of the genetics of juvenile salmon in rivers where there are aquaculture hatcheries has shown that most hatcheries are "leaking" significant numbers into those rivers. This raises the fear that the larger aquaculture fry and parr will displace wild juveniles. Those rivers will then have a higher proportion of farmed salmon that are ultimately far less likely to survive in the wild, reducing the river's wild populations in a spiral towards extinction.

CFIA and the Controversy of  Accepting ISA as Part of Salmon Farming
This is a link to a page of media coverage from January 2013 -
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