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The Pacific coho salmon produced by AquaSeed has been approved as sustainable by Seafood Watch. (Photo: Seafood Watch /AquaSeed Corp. )

Seafood Watch lauds sustainable salmon-farming method

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Monday, January 18, 2010, 21:50 (GMT + 9)

The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch programme is approving a particular method for farming Pacific coho salmon developed by AquaSeed Corp.

The Pacific coho salmon will also be given a green "Best Choice" rating on Seafood Watch's web site, following months of onsite visits by Seafood Watch scientists and reviews of the company's production facility, feed ratios, fish contaminant and pollution discharge levels, Scientific American reports.

Sold under the SweetSpring label, the salmon contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and has been placed on Seafood Watch's brand new Super Green List, which describes the fish as being good for human health without causing harm to the ocean.

"This is the first farmed salmon we've ever talked about as a good source [for food, since the program's inception in 1999]," said Geoffrey Shester, senior science manager for Seafood Watch. "This is extremely exciting. It's not an experimental science project. It is mature to the point where there is real potential to scale it up."

The AquaSeed salmon are grown in a freshwater, closed containment system, unlike salmon in the wild, which live primarily in saltwater but swim to freshwater every year to spawn. 

Traditionally raised farmed salmon require as much as five pounds (2.3kg) of meal made from smaller fish caught in the wild for every pound (0.5kg) of salmon meat, a level that is considered unsustainable by environmental groups.

AquaSeed's salmon are grown in land-based, freshwater tanks ranging in size from 60cm to 15m wide depending on the salmon's developmental stage. A high-end salmon feed and selective breeding has helped minimise fishmeal use, reducing the ratio of pounds of wild feed fish to produce pounds of farmed fish to 1.1 to one — a number AquaSeed owner Per Heggelund says he expects to reduce further.

"What's interesting about this is this is they've taken salmon back millions of years evolutionarily, to the point where they're freshwater again," Shester says.

Currently on the 17th generation of pedigree breeding, the company is focusing on providing the salmon with a DNA fingerprint to help skirt any unauthorised breeding. AquaSeed's main business is selling salmon eggs to salmon farms in Japan, China and other countries under the Domsea label. 

"We didn't set out to be in a food fish programme in a land-based facility," Heggelund says. "That wasn't our goal. We were more focused on the genetics—the livestock breeding of salmon for the normal traits of survival at certain stages of the life cycle, productive growth and feed conversion, and egg production."

Producing 90,700 kg of salmon a year, Heggelund is preparing to expand production, and is already working closely with large purchasers such as Compass Group and Whole Foods as well as Mashiko, a Seattle-based sustainable sushi restaurant.

By Denise Recalde


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