Our National Salmon Farming Commitments to Canadians

Canada's salmon farmers are committed to remaining global leaders in the sustainable production of farm-raised salmon to provide a safe, reliable, healthy, and low-carbon footprint protein for Canadians and the world.

Canada's salmon farmers began discussions in 2021 to develop a set of national commitments and established an External Advisory Committee to provide expert advice and feedback on the development of industry-wide commitments for salmon farming. The Committee is comprised of representatives with diverse expertise from key stakeholders and rightsholder groups from Canada's East and West Coasts.

We have come a long way since raising the first salmon in Canada. Today, the salmon farming sector supports jobs in mainly coastal and Indigenous communities in Canada. It is a sector led by science, featuring state-of-the-art technology to produce a healthy protein with a low-carbon footprint.

These commitments support the strong values that all Canadians share. All major salmon producers in Canada, as members of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA), have embraced these commitments, and will continue to work together to monitor and track our progress. Our goal is to achieve these commitments by 2032, and to transparently report on our progress each year.

Salmon farming practices will continue to improve to meet the increasing demand for environmentally-responsible, nourishing food. We remain committed to being the best producers of farm-raised salmon in the world.

timothy j kennedy

Timothy Kennedy

President & CEO
Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance

  • Download Our National Commitments Brochure

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Fish Health

The health and welfare of farm-raised and wild salmon is a top priority. We are committed to using best management practices and technologies that support the well-being of farm-raised salmon. We will also pursue a variety of partnerships, measures, and initiatives that support wild salmon recovery, habitat restoration, and enhancement efforts.

See what the sector is already achieving in this area

Actions & Targets
  • Embrace Canada's Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Salmonids

    The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Salmonids was released in 2021. As the first fish welfare code in Canadian history, it provides an important benchmark for animal health and welfare indicators. Limits on stocking density, or number of fish in a given space (in net pens and land-based systems), fish handling requirements and predator control strategies are some examples of the areas covered. To access the full Code, see here.

  • Target 90% farmed fish survival in ocean farms

    In the wild, fish survival rates are challenged by natural predators, disease and environmental factors all of which contribute to overall low survival rates. On the farms, where fish health and safety are a cornerstone of successful operations, survival rates are much higher. While both terrestrial and aquatic farmers strive for 100% of their crop to reach the marketplace, there are certain factors, similar to those faced in the wild (i.e., predation, climate change, etc.), that result in mortalities. This is true of animal farming practices overall, where some mortality is anticipated.

  • Continued reduction in antibiotic use

    The use of vaccines and improved health management practices have enabled a significant reduction in the use of antibiotics in salmon farming over the past decades. To prevent disease, salmon are reared in a healthy environment that limits stress and reduces susceptibility to pathogens and pests. The fish also receive preventative vaccinations—along with diagnostic testing and regular fish health examinations by licensed veterinarians. If disease-causing bacteria are determined to be present on a farm, only veterinarian-prescribed antibiotics authorized by Health Canada may be administered.

  • Compliance with sea lice regulations and protocols, including Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies

    Sea lice are a naturally occurring ocean parasite. All smolts (young farm-raised salmon) start their life in land-based hatcheries and enter the marine environment free of sea lice. Once in the marine environment, the salmon are susceptible to these parasites which can be found freely circulating with the ocean currents or on wild fish. All salmon farmers in Canada have pest management plans in place, employing a variety of preventative and treatment measures. Sea lice thresholds and targets vary by region and regulatory regime.

  • Achieve zero escapes annually

    Minimizing the interactions that farm-raised salmon have with the surrounding environment is one of the ways to avoid potential interactions with wild salmon and the ecosystem. Rare failures in farm infrastructure, such as torn nets or human error, have resulted in salmon escaping into the ocean. With continuous improvements in technology and the implementation of additional safeguards, escapes have been reduced significantly (e.g., in 2020, escapes in British Columbia were down 82% from the 10-year historical average, according to (BCSFA).

  • Work with First Nations, governments and other partners to deepen understanding of marine environments and implement new technologies and innovative approaches to animal husbandry that minimize farmed and wild fish interactions and maintain ecosystem health

    While numerous scientific reviews show that the impact of farms on wild salmon populations is low, a better understanding of marine ecosystem dynamics will contribute to solutions that further reduce disease and pest transmission, flowing from either wild to farmed or farmed to wild salmon.

  • Support local and Indigenous wild salmon recovery, habitat restoration and enhancement initiatives, through research, funding, and in-kind support

    Over many decades, wild salmon stocks have been in decline. Salmon farming was, in part, a response to this decline in wild populations. Several key drivers have been identified as contributors to the decline, primarily related to overfishing, urbanization and destruction of critical habitats and climate change. There are numerous actions that can meaningfully contribute to the support of wild salmon, many of which benefit from the contribution of expertise and experience that are shared by salmon farmers.

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Climate Change

Farm-raised salmon have one of the lowest carbon footprints of any farmed protein, and we know we can do more. We are committed to continuing to reduce our carbon emissions and are equally committed to becoming more resilient in the midst of a changing environment.

See what the sector is already achieving in this area

Actions & Targets
  • Support Canada's commitment to net-zero by achieving a 35% reduction in GHGs by 2030

    Energy use for the sector is primarily in the form of electricity to land-based hatcheries and fuel for marine transportation (staff to and from the farm sites) as well as fuel for generators that contribute to energy requirements at ocean facilities. Farm-raised salmon have a small carbon footprint when compared to other protein sources, however the sector in Canada is targeting further reductions. Technology is advancing in areas such as renewable energy, the incorporation of electric equipment and sustainable shore-based power solutions.

  • Continue to develop and adopt technologies and practices that build the capacity of producers to adapt to a changing climate

    Changing climate conditions are impacting agricultural sectors across the country, and salmon farming is no exception. Warming waters, increased storm and weather event intensity and changing salinities all contribute to changes in the surrounding ecology and the abundance of many resident species including potential pests and predators. Marine aquaculture operations are well positioned to increase monitoring of the surrounding environments where farms are located and thus contribute to a better understanding and more effective mitigation efforts in dealing with changes.

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Sustainable Feed

We support innovation in aquaculture feeds and are committed to the sourcing of environmentally sustainable ingredients that provide high-quality nutrition for our fish.

See what the sector is already achieving in this area

Actions & Targets
  • Work with our feed producers to ensure 100% of the fishmeal and fish oil in our feed come from certified sustainably managed/FAO-compliant fisheries

    Fishmeal and fish oil are important ingredients in most commercial fish feeds, providing a balanced amount of essential amino acids, phospholipids and fatty acids. Fish diets that include fishmeal help increase feed efficiency and growth through better food palatability. The nutrients in fishmeal also aid in disease resistance by boosting and helping to maintain a healthy functional immune system and in reducing waste by providing greater nutrient digestibility and absorption. Ensuring that the fishmeal and fish oil is being harvested and processed in a sustainable way is critical in ensuring the sustainability of the sector.

  • Support the accelerated development and adoption of sustainable alternative ingredient sources that optimize fish health, prioritizing Canadian suppliers where possible

    While fishmeal is the most natural diet for farm-raised salmon, significant research and development is going into developing plant-based protein alternatives for fish. Given the pressure on certain wild fish stocks (traditionally used for fish meal) finding a viable suite of alternatives that maintain a well-balanced diet and continue to produce a nutritious final product, will contribute to the overall sustainability of the sector.

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Food Security

We believe that farm-raised salmon have a key role in helping to feed Canada and the world as capture fisheries reach their limits. Global population growth and demand for seafood continue to accelerate creating pressure on wild stocks of all finfish. We are committed to providing a reliable and healthy source of farm-raised salmon to Canadians to help navigate future uncertainty to communities and boosting food security throughout Canada.

Actions & Targets
  • Eliminate waste by utilizing 100% of the product to support a circular economy

    A circular economy retains and recovers as much value as possible from resources to reduce or eliminate waste. In the food system, this involves reducing food spoilage and waste through utilization of by-products and food waste and nutrient recycling. One example is fish by-products being used in pet food and fertilizers.

  • Support organizations that provide food security to Canadians

    According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 10 Canadians (9.6%) polled said they experienced food insecurity in their household because of financial constraints. Household food insecurity is a well-established determinant of health and is tightly linked with financial hardship.

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Food Traceability

Canadian farm-raised salmon is fully traceable from egg to plate. We understand the importance of having systems in place to make it easier for consumers to know where their food comes from and to provide greater assurance around our sustainability credentials. We will work to ensure consumers can more easily access the information they want about their salmon meals.

Actions & Targets
  • Support the development of consumer-friendly traceability systems for Canadian farm-raised salmon

    Food traceability is the ability to follow the movement of a food product and its ingredients through all steps in the supply chain, both backward and forward. Traceability involves documenting and linking the production, processing, and distribution chain of food products and ingredients. Leveraging digital traceability systems is an emerging trend in the agri-food sector around the world.

  • Continue to work to raise the level of traceability awareness of the ingredients used in fish feed by working closely with our feed suppliers

    Feed traceability is the ability to track the movement of single ingredient feeds and mixed feeds, one step back and one step forward. This is a regulatory requirement of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Feed companies, and international certification bodies, such as the ASC have been introducing enhanced systems to increase transparency in this area.

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Ocean Health

Healthy oceans are essential to healthy salmon farming. We are committed to continuous improvements to farm practices that further protect the marine ecosystem, including the benthic ecosystem health beneath our farms, and to the prevention of plastic waste and debris from entering the oceans from our operations.

See what the sector is already achieving in this area

Actions & Targets
  • Monitor fish feeding by using underwater cameras or equivalent

    Camera sensor units have software that enables real-time analysis of fish biomass and welfare. Overfeeding can contribute to environmental impacts through the increase of the carbon footprint of operations (due to feed waste not contributing to harvestable product), the decrease in growth and performance of fish and on the benthic environment through more nutrients having to be absorbed by the receiving environment. Therefore, feed optimization and maximizing feed conversion ratios are of critical importance on farms.

  • Work with partners to investigate and adopt new technologies and innovative practices to manage waste produced by fish

    In all aquaculture operations, organic material such as unconsumed feed, fecal matter, and other organisms and materials are released into the surrounding waters and can accumulate on the sea or lake bed (this organic material is called biochemical oxygen-demanding (BOD) matter). Science-based government regulations are in place to ensure the impact of organic waste is well managed to ensure the ecosystems remain healthy.

  • Support restorative aquaculture, multi-species and/or co-production opportunities at applicable locations

    In a report released in November 2021, an expert working group led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), defined restorative aquaculture as follows “restorative aquaculture occurs when commercial or subsistence aquaculture provides direct ecological benefits to the environment, with the potential to generate net positive environmental outcomes.” The full report, with more information on the set of global principles, can be accessed here: Global Principles of Restorative Aquaculture. The potential for restorative, multi-trophic and or co-production operations is immense in Canada.

  • Ensure that no farming equipment is released from farm sites, and in case of accident, that there is prompt recovery

    The US' National Office Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides the following description of marine debris: “Marine debris is defined as any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes”. For the salmon farming sector this would relate to equipment such as nets, tools, floats, pipe etc. that can, in the case of accident, be released into the marine environment. For more information access NOAA's site here.

  • Work with governments, suppliers, and international partners towards using 100% reusable, recyclable, or biodegradable packaging

    Polystyrene products (commonly known by the trademarked brand Styrofoam), are a common form of packaging in the food industry, including for salmon, where the product is often shipped fresh and is therefore perishable. Polystyrene is light weight, low cost, water resistant, and a good insulator, which is ideal for packaging seafood, which needs to be kept cool and sanitary. However, there are negative environmental impacts associated with polystyrene and there's a move away from the product. The US states of Maryland, Maine and Vermont, New York and New Jersey have all passed bans on polystyrene and other states are set to follow. In Canada, the federal government's ban on single-use plastics includes take-out containers made from polystyrene for ready-to eat food.

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Public Reporting

Transparency builds trust, strengthens accountability, and improves performance. We are committed to working with government bodies and other key stakeholders and rightsholders to provide information about our salmon farming operations to Canadians in a way that is easily accessible and understandable.

Actions & Targets
  • Report against these industry-wide commitments at an aggregate level on an annual basis

    The Canadian farm-raised salmon sector has extensive public reporting in place, via company-level annual reports (including ESG reports), through third-party certifications and through federal and provincial regulations. The industry is working together to aggregate performance to create additional transparency on progress.

Funding for this project has been provided through the AgriAssurance Program under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.