I am a salmon farmer and very proud to be doing what I am doing. I have farmed fish for 25 years in Scotland, New Zealand, Canada and I even spent two years in Papua New Guinea as a volunteer helping people set up their own farms in order to feed their population.
I believe raising salmon in their natural ocean environment is one solution to the world’s problems. We help feed the world and in the process reduce pressure on the wild salmon populations. In fact, if there was enough wild salmon to go around we certainly wouldn’t need to exist. But there isn’t and we can help with that.
We realize not everyone in the world does a good job farming salmon but we are trying to show how it can be done right. And now with our development of Skuna Bay, we are challenging the status quo – trying to show great chefs in Vancouver (but also all over North America) how salmon can be raised responsibly. We hope that you will help us deliver on that vision.
Yet some environmental lobbyist/activists have done a professional job of trying to scare people about what we do and paint us with the same brush as other less responsible operators. Unfortunately the people who criticize us haven’t even been to our farms. We have tried setting up meetings to show them what we are doing differently but there doesn’t seem to be much interest in a dialogue. Instead someone circulated a glossy attack sheet that slanders what we are trying to do without even sitting down with us to hear our story. That’s not much different than a blogger going onto Yelp and unfairly ambushing a chef’s hard earned reputation built carefully through hard work – with no opportunity to address the issue.
As you know Skuna Bay Salmon comes from Best Aquaculture Certified farms owned by Grieg Seafood and is the absolute best of these salmon. In fact these top level fish are unmatched in their quality and chefs love the fact that they can get the top level of fish consistently every time. In some ways it is similar to the Certified Angus Beef program – chefs have given us the feedback. But we go beyond just picking the best of the best. Our Skuna Bay salmon are processed differently, they are packed differently, they are sent to the chef differently and the end result is that every time this salmon arrives in the chef’s kitchen, it looks like it just came out of the water. In order to do this we changed most of our sea operations and all of our salmon get the benefit of that. We reduced our pen densities so now our pens are never less than 98.5% water. We reduced our reliance on wild fish in our feed and now we are the lowest in the world with a ‘fish in/fish out’ ratio of 1.25:1. We attained Best Aquaculture Practices certification. These are just a few of the ways in which we are different.
When we started Skuna Bay we selected its name because we wanted to celebrate an authentic body of water from the area where we raise our fish. Skuna Bay is that authentic location, located 14 miles from our farms in Nootka Sound. Our First Nation friends in the area were consulted on this name and they agreed that it well represented the area and was unique to where we raised our fish. It was important to us to pick a name that our First Nation partners were comfortable with.
But Skuna Bay is not just about a great salmon or a name – it is about transitioning the entire salmon farming craft over to a new model, one that leads with responsible rearing methods. One that treats our chefs with respect to ensure that the fish they get is the fish they ordered, one that is traceable, handled with care, prepared with detail. It is about doing everything differently with the plan that over time this method and these great fish will become the dominant model. With your support we will lead by this example.
Best Aquaculture Practice Certification is one way we have begun to lead: every salmon comes from a BAP certified farm, the first in the world to say that. BAP’s standards are set by a completely independent third party board that includes members of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Long Beach Aquarium – not exactly industry insiders!
We offset all of the carbon from our freight in shipping our fish to our customers – the only farmer in the world to do this so that it travels to you carbon neutral.
We use a completely recyclable corrugate carton, again the only one who can say that.
We fallow all of our farms so one third are always unstocked until the seabed has returned to its original condition.
Recently a BC activist group sent a letter to an Aquarium who supports what we are doing to lead and blasted them with rhetoric about our operation and some things that didn’t even involve our operation. This caused this Aquarium to do an in-depth analysis of our farms based on all of the very transparent information we provided. They recently declared our farms to be sustainable and on the path to constant improvement.
Since this tactic of attacking this Aquarium didn’t work, they are now turning their tactics to you, the chef. We regret that you are being involved in this. We are committed to being transparent and honest. And we believe you can’t hide what you see in the box – that great 10 lb salmon that looks like it just came out of the ocean and that you can expect every single time you order it.
It is easy to throw daggers as some people are doing without providing actual solutions and without even visiting our farms or seeing and listening to what we do differently. It is sad that even before meeting with us, the first action was to produce a glossy, well designed ad and send it out to mislead chefs. We think a dialogue with the goal of reaching real solutions would be better. Nevertheless we will continue trying to lead by demonstrating how salmon can be raised responsibly in their natural ocean environment. I will continue to be proud to do that.
Stewart Hawthorn, Farmer