After disinfecting shoes, the first thing we saw walking into the float house on a fish farm are the rows and rows of food bags, 170 in total.
Each weighs one ton, a supply vessel brings the bags out every two weeks or so and they are the most expensive part of the operation.
“Our whole object of feeding is that the fish consume it all,” said Jon Kasten, manager of Grieg Seafood’s Barnes Bay salmon farm. “We really watch closely…This is our primary focus, fish health and feed management. The money is made or lost on feed for us.”
Last Thursday the BC Salmon Farmers Association took a small group of people for a public tour of Grieg’s Barnes Bay farm. We took a water taxi to the north end of Quadra Island into Barnes Bay, which also hosts two Cermaq farms and a Marine Harvest farm.
“A major question people ask is the amount of marine ingredient in our feed,” Kasten said. “It’s been one of the criticisms within aquaculture. The feed we currently feed has 15-20 per cent marine ingredient.”
Another question from those trying to make an informed decision about fish farms was about the deformities, diseases and sea lice that we often hear about from environmental activists.
Kasten said it is a numbers game.
“Within a population of people, or any farmed animals of 720,000 fish or people or organisms, there is going to be a percentage that are not well,” he said. “We are holding a lot of fish, there is always birth defects, genetic issues, the fact of the matter is there is a very small percentage of our fish are unhealthy. It is not in the best interest of the business to have sick fish. We don’t put those fish that they are showing…to the market.”
Kasten also explained the life cycle.
“The story is that these would be eggs in fresh water, and they would spend up to a year in the fresh water,” he said. “We could move them to sea and pretty much grow them out at sea for roughly 18 months and then start to harvest.”
At the moment the fish at the Barnes Bay farm weigh 800-1,200 grams, the target weight is 5-6 kilograms.
All of the salmon on the farm are Atlantic Salmon of the same age. The brood stock are kept at designated sites.
Kasten explained that Atlantic Salmon handle being farmed much better than Pacific Salmon. It is also more profitable to grow them because their conversion rates are better, as in they grow more per kilogram of food they are fed than Pacific salmon do.
The tour wrapped up in the living quarters upstairs where we could watch the salmon being fed on camera and enjoyed a salmon filled lunch and the beautiful views.
Kasten has been working in the salmon farming industry for many years. He brings his dog out with him to the site for all of his shifts.