Chile will win and climate will lose if British Columbia scraps open-net salmon farms

Aslak Berge

In the international salmon market, several are ready to cover up for lost production.

The incumbent Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and his Liberal Party have announced phase open-net salmon farms to closed containment systems by 2025.

The proposal does not apply to the entire coastline of the country, only the West Coast.

Canada’s election campaign is in full swing. The liberals are neck and neck with the conservatives in the polls.

Read more: What is Trudeau’s alternative to British Columbia’s open-sea pens?

Climate Imprint
Among those who are applauding the proposal is the Norwegian Green Party.

The party, which is surfing on a wave of climate change, has also stated in their program that the aquaculture industry will gradually be forced into closed containment facilities.

This will, however, increase, not reduce, the climate impact from fish farming.

This is particularly evident in Canada.

The BC salmon farmers will not put their salmon into closed tanks. They will move. First and foremost to the East Coast. Mowi, Grieg and Cermaq are all set to settle on the Canadian Atlantic coast, which still allows open-net salmon farms. Whether they are able to compensate for the fallout in British Columbia is currently uncertain.

But the biggest winner will be long-distance salmon from Chile.

The largest supplier to the US market, devouring over 400,000 tonnes of salmon a year, is the Latin American country which is 4,000 kilometres flight journey away.

Step up
As Canada now reduces its salmon production, it will mean increased demand for airborne salmon. Although part of the “flying fish” will also be sourced from Europe, it is Chile, with its processing industry and infrastructure aimed at air cargo, that is best positioned to cover.

Cermaq and Mowi, which have fish farming operations in both Chile and Canada, can of course also choose to step up their production in Chile, if conditions so provide. To them, it seems a more obvious alternative than embarking on a risky and comprehensive project of taking salmon from open to closed or land-based facilities in British Columbia.


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