Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
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Aquaculture in Atlantic Canada

A Sustainable Industry: Leading by Example

Oysters and freshwater salmonids have been farmed sustainably in Atlantic Canada for nearly 150 years.

Although sustainable, commercial marine aquaculture is relatively new, it has been an important component of the Atlantic Canadian economy for three decades with salmon, trout, mussel and oyster aquaculture. Alternate species and multi-species aquaculture are coming into commercial production now, adding further diversity and benefiting the economy of the region.

Aquaculture activities in Atlantic Canada take place in rural, coastal areas that have seen their local economies reduced for various reasons, and aquaculture provides meaningful, environmentally sustainable economic activity, allowing many Atlantic Canadians to stay in their communities and maintain their quality of life.

Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Future

All aquaculture companies in Atlantic Canada, from the smallest to the largest, are family owned and privately held. They are part of the fabric of Atlantic Canada, sharing the same sense of community spirit displayed by early settlers. The employees of Atlantic Canada aquaculture companies are well trained and highly skilled, and they work and live in the community year-round. They are young – the majority under 40 years of age – 40% are women, and they are engaged at the community level. They all share the same attribute: respect for the environment to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.

Fish and shellfish farmers are an integral part of their communities. This is evidenced by the numerous contributions they make to local charities, support groups, food banks, housing projects and child-care services and by the many community-wide endeavours they support, such as community centres, sports arenas, art galleries and scholarship endowments. Atlantic Canadian aquaculture companies buy their supplies and services locally to support the economy.

Environmental Stewardship

Fish and shellfish farmers are environmentalists at heart. Their livelihood depends on respect and caring for the local environment to which they are inextricably linked for long-term survival and growth. Wherever and whenever possible, fish and shellfish farmers contribute to environmental remediation activities such as helping to restore the inner Bay of Fundy wild salmon populations nearing extinction or by providing leadership in coastal beach and harbour cleanups, habitat restoration projects and environmental education programs. After all, it is their community and their environment too!

Woman holding a large fish in water

Photo Credit: Cyr Couturier, MUN Marine Institute

Sustainability Initiatives at the Farm Level

Aquaculture operators in Atlantic Canada are continually improving and adopting innovative, world-class practices that lead to more sustainable operations. Examples of these initiatives include:

  • The reduction of fish meal and oil in finfish diets to reduce pressure on wild stocks. Salmon farming operations in Atlantic Canada use less than 30% fish meal and oil in the all-natural diets of the fish, and they are net protein producers. They have pioneered the use of alternative natural feed components such as oilseeds and fishery by-products from local areas to reduce carbon impacts. They lead efforts globally to find natural oil and meal diet alternatives using innovative technologies fostered in Atlantic Canada.
  • Waste reduction is essential for sustainability. Shellfish and finfish companies use waste products, developing them into soil enhancers, organic fertilizers, nutraceuticals and natural products for enhancing wild shellfish beds. More recently, biofuels have been extracted from aquaculture waste streams in Atlantic Canada and used to reduce hydrocarbon use.
  • Some finfish farming operations combine fish, shellfish and seaweeds to create mini-ecosystems for recycling natural waste from the finfish farms. These Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture systems are one way to enhance sustainable aquaculture in cage systems. The systems have been adapted to land-based culture of marine finfish such as halibut and for co-culture of freshwater finfish and high-value terrestrial crops, a practice called aquaponics.
  • A variety of innovative fish health management tools are employed by the Atlantic aquaculture industry, including vaccination, strict biosecurity protocols, crop rotation and fallowing.
  • The shellfish culture industry uses biodegradable materials for growing shellfish where possible as well as high quality reusable flotation materials to eliminate the impact of hydrocarbon-based culture materials on the environment.

Leaders in Eco-Certification and Environmental Sustainability

Atlantic Canadian aquaculture companies are leaders in eco-certification and sustainability initiatives. Aquaculture companies have developed stringent, auditable codes of practice for environmental integrity and social responsibility. Shellfish producers in Newfoundland and Labrador were the first to develop an ISO 65 eco-standard in North America in 2005. The first salmon farming company in North America to obtain the internationally accredited eco-standard – Certified Quality Salmon Standard – is from Atlantic Canada. Several finfish companies have adopted Safe Quality Food Certifications that indicate they meet environmental, food safety and social standards. These internationally recognized standards have several things in common: they are independently audited and certified for environmental sustainability, food safety and social responsibility.

If you would like more information on this sector, please contact:

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
P.O. Box 6051
Moncton, New Brunswick

Phone: 1-506-851-2271
Toll-free: 1-800-561-7862 (Canada and United States)
Fax: 1-506-851-7403

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Catalogue number: AC5-18/2011E ISBN: 978-1-100-19608-4 ACOA: 2011-12