By Kai Chen with Sarah Klain

Sometimes cleaner greener industries need to be fertilized. Closed-containment salmon aquaculture could create jobs and avoid harm to marine ecosystems associated with salmon farmed in the ocean — with a little help from you.

Closed aquaculture systems — including tanks on land — could help bring wild sockeye salmon back to B.C.

Farming predators like salmon is inefficient — it means catching wild fish for farm-feed.

However, the aquaculture industry has developed a mostly vegetarian fish feed that uses much less fishmeal. Now significantly fewer wild fish are needed to produce the same quantity of farmed salmon.

Informed consumers (like you) could make closed-containment salmon aquaculture a reality by paying moderately higher prices.

In exchange, you get a guilt-free pass to delicious health-promoting salmon that doesn’t contribute to the decline of wild salmon stocks.

It is still cheaper to grow fish in open pens in the ocean where fish farms benefit from ocean-provided subsidies: Tides clean out fish feces.

Fish farms aren’t currently held accountable for ecological degradation when the poop overwhelms the ocean’s capacity to assimilate waste, when sea lice outbreaks spread from farms to wild salmon, or when farm-based antibiotics and vaccines harm wild fish.

Who pays then?

Fishermen and anyone who enjoys wild salmon.

Open-pen salmon farms might seem cheap to industry, but they’re costly to many of the rest of us.

It’s time for the provincial government to think creatively.

Fish on land?

Why not?

Getting Atlantic salmon out of the Pacific Ocean could help restore wild B.C. salmon.

– Kai Chan is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC;

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