What is salmon aquaculture?

Salmon canapés with crème fraîche, caviar and dill.

Salmon aquaculture is the cultivation of salmon in human-controlled environments, which can be contrasted with fishing practices that collect salmon in the wild. Practices used in salmon aquaculture can vary, but the most common methods involve hatching the salmon and keeping them in sea cages that prevent the fish from swimming away. Less commonly, fish may be spawned and released into the wild with the intention of increasing the total number of fish available. There are many concerns about the negative effects of salmon aquaculture on wild fish populations as well as the marine environments in which farming takes place.

Salmon is commonly raised through aquaculture.

The methods used to raise salmon usually involve raising a selected stock of fish. Eggs and sperm are harvested from well-stocked salmon and fertilized in controlled environments. The hatchlings resulting from this breeding program are usually raised in freshwater tanks for several months until they are mature enough for marine cages. Juvenile salmon typically live in these freshwater tanks for a year or more before being moved to saltwater.

Sushi made with salmon.

One of the most important innovations in salmon aquaculture was the invention of the floating sea cage. These cages keep fish from escaping, but they must be placed in gentle bays and protected from storms to function properly. This makes countries like Norway and Chile particularly popular for salmon aquaculture, as suitable marine areas are common in these countries.


During their life in the sea cages, salmon must be fed fish food made from other fish because salmon are carnivores. Salmon are kept in marine cages for a year or two and are then harvested with nets. Fish are normally killed where they are raised, unlike practices in many other animal husbandry operations. There are no salmon slaughterhouses, which means that companies involved in salmon aquaculture must also be able to safely and effectively harvest the fish for human consumption. Typically, fish are killed quickly and humanely, both for the fish’s benefit and because fish release hormones when stressed that decrease the quality of their meat.

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Salmon fillets are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Some groups, however, are only involved in the hatching part of salmon aquaculture. These groups believe that by hatching and releasing the fish into rivers, the natural population of wild salmon can be at least partially restored. This is generally not a very good business plan for companies as anyone can catch the salmon, reducing the chances of making a profit. For groups that are concerned not only about profit but also about environmental health, this method of salmon farming offers the positive impact of a healthy salmon population without many of the negative environmental effects of salmon farming.

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