The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and the Conservation Fund are partnering on a pilot research project to grow farmed Atlantic salmon in a freshwater closed-containment system.
Bill Taylor, president of ASF, said: “With concerns growing over the impacts of salmon farming on threatened and endangered wild Atlantic salmon, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the future of salmon farming must lie in closed containment systems.  ASF has decided to put our purse behind our policy and get involved in developing a promising new way to sustainably grow out healthy Atlantic salmon in closed containment facilities.”
The Conservation Fund, an American non-profit, has spent 20 years developing closed-containment aquaculture systems to grow trout, perch and now salmon at its Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  “We are refining water re-circulation techniques that continuously filter and recycle the water used to grow the fish,” explained Dr. Steven Summerfelt, director of aquaculture systems research at the Freshwater Institute.  “That means we can achieve large-scale fish farming with a small amount of water and releasing little to no pollution.  This opens the door to commercial fish production in areas with limited water resources and away from sensitive coastal areas.”
Dr. Summerfelt notes that fish have long been a major part of the world’s diet and pressures on wild fish have steadily increased.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations regularly surveys the state of the world’s fisheries and the health of the oceans.  In 2007, the group reported that 80% of the world’s fish stocks were fully exploited or overexploited.  By developing and commercializing closed-containment aquaculture, we can grow fish on land as a cleaner, healthier and less polluting alternative to older aquaculture methods, while saving our seas.
Jonathon Carr, ASF’s Director of Research and Environment, said “As much as 99.8 % of the water flowing through our closed-containment system is continuously cleaned and returned to the fish tanks.  By continuously filtering and cleaning the water, closed-containment systems control and capture over 99% of fish waste solids and phosphorus during the recycling process.”
Advances in closed-containment systems are now allowing fish farmers to cost-competitively produce fresh fish in almost any environment, including those with little water supply and strict wastewater discharge requirements.  The fish can be grown out without use of vaccines, pesticides, antibiotics or harsh chemicals.
“It’s quite simple,” continued Mr. Taylor, “consistently clean water and exclusion of fish pathogens produce healthy fish at commercial densities.  Use of land-based closed-containment systems for farming salmon is the only way to increase domestic fish production in North America without polluting the environment, over-exploiting limited water resources, risking escape of domesticated fish into the wild, or exposing the farmed fish to diseases.
The immediate appeal of closed-containment technologies is for fish farmers who want to market high-value fish raised in a sustainable manner.  Farmers who raise Atlantic salmon to sell at a higher premium can better afford the upfront costs of closed-containment systems.  “Moving forward, we hope to make this technology more affordable for all kinds of fish farmers,” remarked Dr. Summerfelt of The Conservation Fund.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation is dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well being and survival depend.  ASF has a network of seven regional councils (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Maine and Western New England).  The regional councils cover the freshwater range of the Atlantic salmon in Canada and the United States.