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Source: Simon Fraser University

Farming salmon in fresh water

October 19, 2006


Larry Albright, 604.626.6747,
Carol Thorbes, 604.291.3035,

October 19, 2006

Farming salmon in fresh water

Many say it can’t be done.

But Larry Albright, a recently retired marine microbiologist at Simon Fraser
University, is proving that salmon — even the prized sockeye — can be farmed
successfully in fresh water.

"All Pacific salmon, including sockeye, coho, chinook, chum and pink salmon
can be cultured throughout their entire lifecycle in freshwater," says
Albright. The scientist has 17 years experience raising trout and now salmon
in fresh-water fish farms and co-owns a fresh-water fish farm in Langley. "I
have personally cultured the same stock of domesticated sockeye salmon
through four sequential lifecycles in fresh water only."

Speaking before the provincial government’s touring special committee on
Sustainable Aquaculture on October 18, Albright went beyond explaining how
salmon can be farmed in fresh water. He predicted that switching from
conventional salmon farming in ocean-based netted pens to enclosed inland
freshwater ones would have significant positive outcomes:

  • Disease- and antibiotic-free: Unlike conventional commercial fish
    farms, fresh-water fish farms rarely use antibiotics and other
    chemotherapeutants because their ground-based water sources don’t have
    common pathogens.

  • Improved public perception of fish farming: Inland and groundwater-fed
    fish farms are not mired in the controversy that shrouds ocean-based fish
    farming. Recent research done by other scientists at SFU and elsewhere
    demonstrates that ocean-based fish farming breeds sea lice in numbers that
    kill nearby juvenile wild salmon.

  • Smaller ecological footprint: While ocean-based fish farms cover
    several kilometres of seacoast, a typical fresh-water farm occupies no more
    than five acres of land.

    (electronic photo files available on request)

    Larry Albright: Backgrounder

  • Albright’s lab was the first to work out the sealice’s lifecycle.
    Albright chairs the B.C. Fresh Water Aquaculture Association. He is also
    voluntarily helping the N’quatqua Band in D’arcy, just north of Pemberton,
    B.C., run one of the province’s few commercial fresh water fish farms on
    native land.

  • Albright says his main challenge in rearing fresh water salmon is
    getting them to market. While his fresh-water reared trout ends up on the
    tables of several high-end seafood restaurants in Vancouver, he has yet to
    pique the interest of seafood chefs in his fresh-water salmon. The fish are
    about a third smaller than their salt-water cousins and, similar to
    conventionally farmed salmon, their flesh is a less vibrant pink. Albright
    hopes to change popular perception that appetizing salmon has to be a
    certain size and colour.

  • Albright estimates that the cost of commercially farming salmon in
    fresh water would be 1.3 times higher than the cost of commercially farming
    trout in fresh water.

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