Why farm Seafood?


There is simply the need for it. There are not enough wild stocks to meet the global demand for seafood, in fact, over half of the seafood people consume in the world now comes from aquaculture production. The global demand for seafood is rising quickly and is expected to double by 2050. Wild stocks are facing serious pressure, so aquaculture has a very important role to play in providing a healthy and sustainable food source for human consumption while at the same time trying to assist by reducing the pressure off the wild stocks.


Is Aquaculture a new concept?


Aquaculture and its forms have been around for a very long time, as its origins go back thousands of years ago. Oysters in Japan and fish in Egypt were cultured before 2000 BC, and the domestication of Carp happened in China 5 centuries earlier than in Europe. First Nations in British Columbia built clam gardens thousands of years ago to create habitat for clam production. Building a rock wall at the low tide mark would have created an ideal beach habitat for clam production, evidence of this historic ingenuity can still be seen today.


What do farmed fish eat?


The diet for each species will vary slightly to reflect the dietary requirements of the species, but generally fish feed is manufactured by commercial feed mills which incorporate the most up to date research on dietary requirements while selecting ingredients that are sustainable and economical. Small fish will start off on a very small crumble feed that is high in protein and fat and larger fish will be fed a pelleted version that will be lower in protein and fat. Typically, less than 15% of the fish feed ingredients will be fish meal from capture fisheries and the bulk will come from other animal and plant protein sources. The manufacture, sale and import of livestock and fish feeds are regulated in Canada under the Feeds Act and Regulations and Health of Animals Act and Regulations administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).


What is Commercial Aquaculture and how is it different from Fishery Enhancement Aquaculture?


Commercial aquaculture is the culture (farming) of fish, shellfish, or other aquatic plants and animals for commercial purposes whose goal is to maximise profits, where profits are revenues minus costs. In other words, farming fish for sale and ultimately for a profit. On the other hand, fisheries enhancement aquaculture involves growing small fish in a hatchery and releasing them in the wild to augment natural fish production.


What species of fish can be cultured?


While the list of species for enhancement aquaculture is extensive, the list of species that can be cultured commercially is much shorter. Species that can be cultured commercially typically have a long and proven track record of being able to grow and thrive in an artificial setting. These species will have high survival rates, fast growth rate and will demand a high price to consumers. Examples of cold-water species would be Rainbow Trout, Arctic Charr, and Coho Salmon. Examples of warm-water species would be Tilapia, Barramundi, and catfish.


Is aquaculture within First Nation territory or communities regulated?


In Ontario, we struggle to find any examples of Indigenous aquaculture operations that operate under Provincial regulations, rather these examples currently operate under their communities’ jurisdictional rights, treaty rights and self governance, under direction of leadership. Currently, some of these examples are extended by way of an established agreement and or a BCR. Should a community be interested, the Giigoonh Chi-Naaknigewin (The Great Fish Law) has been established and operates under a communities’ Chi-Naaknigewin as a more formal approach which has been put into place to further protect communities, its members, the operation and of course the environment in which it operates.


Does Rainbow Trout net-pen aquaculture impact native fish populations? 


Rainbow trout net-pen aquaculture has shown no negative effects to native fish populations. In fact, recent studies are showing the opposite, with fish farms actually helping dwindling populations of native fish species to recover. For example, a five-year study from the Department of Fisheries & Oceans in the province’s Experimental Lakes Area demonstrated that the added nutrients from net-pen farms caused wild lake trout to spawn three years earlier than they had previously, which doubled their population during the duration of the study. Another study at the University of Guelph is underway to examine why there is increased biodiversity, meaning more fish, plants, and other organisms, around net-pen sites in Georgian Bay and the adjacent North Channel. When farms are sighted correctly, and run sustainably, net pen farms can have little to no negative effect on a local ecosystem.


Are sea lice a problem for Rainbow Trout grown in the great lakes in net-pen sites?


Sea lice is common in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but it does not pose a problem for Rainbow Trout grown in net-pen sites in the great lakes. Sea lice cannot survive in freshwater, in fact freshwater is one of the more modern techniques used now to deal with sea lice management in the marine environment. Sea Lice should never be a concern in a freshwater environment.


Are there any Indigenous communities presently involved in net-pen aquaculture?


75% of all the rainbow trout grown in net-pen operations in Ontario are grown through long term partnerships with Indigenous communities. As Indigenous involvement continues to accelerate this percentage is forecasted to increase in the coming years.


I don't have access to much water. Is aquaculture still an option for me?


The advent of Recirculating Aquaculture Systems, commonly referred to as RAS, requires very little fresh water for its day-to-day operations. As an example, a RAS facility growing 275 000 lbs annually (125 MT) can use as little as 20-30 gallons/min (75-120 LPM) of fresh water.


How can aquaculture help my community?


Aquaculture can take many forms and as a result it can have a multitude of benefits for First Nation communities. It can be a revenue generator, provide jobs, and help to ensure food security (especially in remote or isolated communities). In situations where the culture of the fish is for enhancement purposes it can help to either rehabilitate or maintain the fish stocks so that traditional fishing practices can continue, it also can create a feel-good social activity that the whole community could get behind.


How do I know what type of aquaculture would be the best fit for my community?


If your knowledge of aquaculture is limited, please do not hesitate to contact an Aquaculture Development Officer at Waubetek. Listening to your goals and objectives, along with your wants and needs the Aquaculture Development Officer will be able to narrow down the options that would be suitable for your location and community’s needs. The Aquaculture Development Officers at Waubetek have years of experience working in the aquaculture industry and would love the opportunity to share their expertise with you and your community.