One company, Atlantic Sapphire, offers a shining example of what B.C.’s salmon farming industry does not do, raise commercially viable salmon on land instead of in the ocean (open-net farming). Atlantic Sapphire got its start in Hvide Sande, where the company raised salmon. Today, the company is positioned to become the largest producer of land-based Atlantic salmon in the world.
As global demand for protein grows, Atlantic Sapphire hopes to help the supply issue with land-based salmon. Atlantic Sapphire markets its salmon as “All natural, no hormones, no antibiotics, no parasites, no pressure.”
Raising salmon on land allows Atlantic Sapphire to manoeuvre around the controversy in the open net salmon industry, which has been a result of the escape of salmon into the Pacific Ocean. When this happens, farmed salmon may displace already dwindling native salmon stocks. Net farmed salmon is also accused of spreading disease and parasites in native stocks. 99.4 % of BC’s farmed are raised in open nets along the coast. Some are along migration routes for Pacific salmon, where scientists have warned about the impacts of sea lice. Sea lice are a parasite that feed on fish, causing stress and damage to their immune systems and making them more vulnerable to disease.
The company’s Salmon has begun selling in stores and has often sold out. In upcoming years, Atlantic Sapphire plans to harvest 220,000 tonnes of salmon annually, this is more than one-half of all farmed salmon consumed in 2018 (USA). This is also more than twice B.C.’s yearly farmed salmon production.
Sapphire doesn’t intend to displace open net pen salmon farming; however, the repercussions are significant for BC, which sells 95 per cent of its farmed salmon to the U.S. The company says it aims to conserve dwindling fish populations by decreasing demand for wild fish. At the same time, Atlantic Sapphire shows to the world what the B.C. salmon farming industry says it cannot do — raise commercially viable salmon on land instead of in the sea. No matter which way you put it, this raises questions as to why BC has not made efforts to follow suite.
Although the idea of salmon raise on land may see outrageous to some, it is the reality we now live in. Investors and creators are urging consumers to stretch their imaginations to source salmon from the land. The wildly successful plant-based protein company, Beyond Meat, puts it as: "a new idea is only crazy until it’s not.”. Atlantic Sapphire’s share price has increased by 280 per cent over the past three years due to the popularity that their products have received.
The pandemic, if anything, has given land-based salmon farming a positive boost as it disrupted the global food supply chain. Even before 2020, consumers were looking for sustainably sourced food products, which will continue to grow as millennials and Gen Z demand greater environmental consideration for food production and transportation.
This space will be one to watch as BC is likely forced to adapt to the changing market conditions around salmon farming. At the same time, the increasing pressure from scientists warning of the long-term consequences of open-net farming are becoming more apparent and will likely mean huge changes are coming to the industry, whether BC and other regions dependent on salmon farming are willing to adapt or not.