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From Pacific to plate: The tale of a sustainable coho salmon

[column size=”one-third”] It starts with the fish  [/column] [column size=”one-third”] It goes to the fish store [/column] [column size=”one-third” last=”true”]…

By Pauline Holdsworth and Ian Holliday , in Environment Feature story , on February 13, 2014 Tags: , , , ,

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It starts with the fish

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It goes to the fish store

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It ends with the restaurant


Each year, B.C. fishermen and farmers harvest over 100,000 tonnes of salmon. We followed one fish to find out what it takes to get it from the sea to the table.

It starts with the fish

[fve][/fve] Frank Keitsch’s experience is only a small part of the fishing industry in B.C. Today, farmed salmon outnumbers wild salmon at a rate of about four to one.

Ocean Wise is hoping to change that ratio dramatically.

“Our vision is a world where sustainable seafood is the only option you can get on restaurant menus and in retailers, so that as consumers, we don’t even have the choice to purchase non-sustainable options,” said Ann-Marie Copping, the manager of Ocean Wise.

The program has grown exponentially since its inception in 2005. Today, 525 partner businesses have signed up across Canada. When it started, Ocean Wise was working to promote wild seafood. Now, it’s pushing to reform the farming industry by encouraging farms to move inland.

The program does not recommend salmon farmed in open net pens on the ocean, which is how the vast majority of B.C. salmon farms operate today.

It goes to the fish store

[fve][/fve] B.C. salmon is a hot commodity – locally and internationally.

Stores like The Daily Catch are seeing their business grow year by year and there is growing global demand for B.C. salmon.

The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture said B.C. exported $911 million worth of salmon in 2011. They estimate that salmon was served in two billion meals in 73 countries.

The international market tends to be more interested in B.C.’s wild harvest than its farmed salmon. Wild sockeye made up almost 80 per cent of China’s 2011 import of B.C. salmon.

Salmon is the most popular type of seafood at The Daily Catch.

The shop goes through about 1500 pounds of seafood each week. Peter Griffin estimates that most weeks between 700 and 800 pounds of that is salmon.  All of the salmon the store sells now is wild.

It ends with the restaurant

[fve][/fve] Many of the people we followed in this story said they think fish farming is a big part of the future of sustainable seafood, but they’d need to see farms move out of the oceans. They want to see closed containment tanks on land to avoid any contamination of wild stocks.

Most fish farms today are open net pens floating in the ocean. Critics say they damage local ecosystems and threaten natural stocks. In recent years, some fish farmers have started to move toward closed systems. These land-locked farms raise their fish in giant circulating tanks, far away from the ocean.

There are now two closed system salmon farms on Vancouver Island, one run by ‘Namgis First Nation. When the fish from these two farms hit the market this spring, Copping said Ocean Wise will consider recommending them.