There was plenty of salmon at the Port Hardy Chamber Business Awards banquet held April 8.Salmon on the menu, salmon in the Quatse Fish Hatchery, and a speech by BC Salmon Farmers' Association Executive Director Jeremy Dunn.
Dunn explained the association has 41 members in BC, who produce 75,000 metric tonnes of fish each year."When you think about it, it's a lot of fish," Dunn said. Seventy per cent of salmon is exported and 30 per cent is sold domestically. In 2015, exports to the United States hit record numbers and in China the demand doubled from previous records.
Salmon farming is a global industry and while we may think we are big, we are actually the fourth largest producer in the world. However, salmon is BC's number one agricultural export (dairy is second) and puts $1.1 billion into the provincial economy. "Growing salmon in the ocean is BC's advantage. Growing salmon in tanks on land is LA's (Los Angeles') advantage," said Dunn.
Salmon farms provide stable, year-round jobs and 40 per cent of the economic impact is from Campbell River north. "Port Hardy has the opportunity to be the centre of salmon farming in BC. That's where the economy of BC is actually happening and growing," Dunn said to spontaneous applause. Salmon farming creates 2,400 direct, full-time positions and the association members have 19 agreements in place with First Nations. "Aquaculture was amongst the first (industries) to have shared partnerships with First Nations," Dunn said.
BC has 109 salmon farm sites, with between 60 and 70 active at any given time, Dunn explained.There are five farms in the North Island which are very productive and the salmon from here is desired around the world. Dunn told the audience he was born in Tofino and believes that what happens in the ocean is important.
Towards this end, the association members have made a commitment to reducing antibiotics; showing greater transparency; focusing on the well-being of both farm-raised and wild fish; and developing a comprehensive program for monitoring sea lice on wild salmon.
Sea lice, Dunn said, were present on wild salmon before fish farming began and research shows that farmed salmon are not having a negative impact on their wild relatives. Members have access to one therapeutic method to treat sea lice called 'Slice". "The trigger is three mobile lice per fish," he said, adding it is only administered under the advisement of a veterinarian.
Dunn said the members are committed to showing extreme diligence in contaminant management; minimizing the use of copper-based anti-foulants; reducing their dependency on wild fish resources for protein and oil in salmon food diet; and increasing their engagement levels in research into understanding wild Pacific salmon.
The members are also committed to fostering "a strong and vibrant workplace that supports local communities and local activities at the grass roots level," Dunn said. As part of this support, the members have donated $600,000 and 15,000 pounds of fresh salmon to community organizations.
As to why Atlantic and not Pacific salmon are farmed, Dunn said Atlantic salmon is a farm animal, and Pacific salmon require a lot more antibiotics to raise. And when it comes to improving on the product, "none of the farmers in BC support GMO (genetically-modified) salmon."