British Columbia Salmon Aquaculture

British Columbia
Region & Country

Open net-pen salmon aquaculture is now an established part of the economy in several regions of coastal British Columbia. Despite the prevalence of salmon aquaculture in these regions, the industry continues to come under scrutiny. Environmentalists and conservation biologists worry about the impacts of net-pen salmon aquaculture. Community leaders and development advocates are concerned about the economic sustainability of salmon aquaculture and its impacts on rural economies, especially those economies that traditionally have depended on the harvest of wild salmon.

Closed tank technology, an alternative to net-pen farming, may offer a solution to environmental concerns such as the infestation of wild populations with parasites and diseases that thrive among farm fish. There is agreement among stakeholders that environmental benefits exist, but considerable debate remains over the financial and economic viability of closed tank aquaculture.

Specifically, recent studies question whether closed tank salmon aquaculture is:

Financially viable (i.e. profitable); financially competitive with current net-pen technology; and
economically superior from society’s perspective.
A careful review, however, finds that existing studies on closed tank salmon aquaculture technologies in British Columbia don't provide a comprehensive assessment of their long-term financial and economic potential. The following report represents the first stage of an effort to better understand the true economic potential of alternative aquaculture practices in British Columbia. We evaluate existing financial analyses and reports of “proprietary closed tank aquaculture technologies,” and assess the degree to which these reports provide a realistic picture of alternative technologies for salmon aquaculture in British Columbia.

We found four principal issues that limit the usefulness of previous analyses:

Economies of scale and efficiency improvements are not considered;
Time horizon analyses are not conducted;
Sensitivity analyses are lacking; and,
The economic value of environmental and social impacts are not identified or evaluated.
None of the reports we examined provides sufficient data to expand the original analyses to address these shortcomings.

This work was conducted with the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR). Subsequently CSF has provided CAAR and the David Suzuki Foundation with technical assitance and participated in meeting with the fish farming industry leaders to produce new research that would quantify the environmental costs of alternative fish farming approaches. We have also provided CAAR with financial analysis and comment on industry's financial models.