Salmon Farming in Vancouver and Barramundi Aquaculture

This unit presents a controversial topic: salmon farming in the open ocean. The examples are from salmon farms along Vancouver Island, in British Columbia (BC), Canada. It asks the student to read from several texts, with a focus on "The Anti-Salmon: A Fish We Can Finally Farm Without Guilt" by Barry Estabrook.

According to his bio in The Atlantic Monthly, "Barry Estabrook was formerly a contributing editor at Gourmet magazine. Stints working on a dairy farm and commercial fishing boat as a young man convinced him that writing about how food was produced was a lot easier than actually producing it. He lives on a 30-acre tract in Vermont, where he gardens and tends a dozen laying hens, and his work also appears at"

In his article, Estabrook discusses some problems with traditional salmon farming, along with the farming of a species of fish, the barramundi, that seems to present a viable alternative because it tastes good and is easier and less environmentally-destructive to farm than salmon.

Click on the link below for a complete text of Estabrook's article.

The Anti-Salmon: A Fish We Can Finally Farm Without Guilt.


After reading Estabrook's article, define each word below. Read the article again after you understand these terms.

  • domesticate
  • docile
  • solitary
  • folly
  • cast [verb] (casting)
  • closed-containment system (for aquaculture)
  • aquaculture
  • barramundi
  • fjord
  • migrate
  • sluggish
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • sea lice (singular, "louse")
  • SLICE (for control of sea lice)
  • sustainable
  • feces
  • cavernous
  • hangar
  • slosh
  • minnow
  • perilous
  • venue

Opposing Positions About Salmon Farming Along Vancouver Island

Before answering the "Thinking Critically" questions and completing the writing assignment, please view the following videos and consult the articles below.

  • The following video about sea lice management was produced by Marine Harvest, Canada,which, according to their website, "operate[s] salmon farms on the coast of beautiful British Columbia and Vancouver Island, where 550 people produce 45,000 tonnes of sustainable Atlantic salmon each year."

  • The video below was produced by Calling From the Coast. The narrator states that "over ninety percent of the salmon farming industry in British Columbia is owned by Norwegian multi-national corporations, who have little concern for the health of B.C.'s ecosystem."

Articles Related to Salmon Farming

The articles below provide additional resources for students who wish to probe the issue of salmon farming or aquaculture more deeply. The articles were found using the Academic OneFile Gale database. These articles (with full text) are available free through the databases of most colleges, universities, and public libraries. Consult a librarian to access them.

  • The Price of Lice

    In "The Price of Lice," Andrew A. Rosenberg contends that "Wild salmon stocks in Canadian coastal waters are being severely affected by parasites from fish farms. So intense are these infestations that some populations of salmon are at risk of extinction."

  • Stream of Escaped Farm Fish Raises Fears for Wild Salmon

    In this article, Natasha McDowell reports that "The escape of an estimated 100,000 farmed salmon in the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland, has highlighted mounting concerns about the ecological impact of such incidents on natural salmon stocks."

  • Fugitive Salmon: Assessing the Risks of Escaped Fish from Net-pen Aquaculture

    Rosamond Naylor, Kjetil Hindar, Ian A. Fleming, Rebecca Goldberg, Susan Williams, John Volpe, Fred Whoriskey, Josh Eagle, Dennis Kelso, and Marc Mangel assess "the ecological, genetic, and socioeconomic impacts of farm salmon escapes, using a risk-assessment framework. [They] show that risks of damage to wild salmon populations, ecosystems, and society are large when salmon are farmed in their native range, when large numbers of salmon are farmed relative to the size of wild populations, and when exotic pathogens are introduced."

  • Monitoring and Potential Control of Sea Lice Using an LED-based Light Trap

    In the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences," Inigo Novales Flamarique, Christina Gulbransen, Moira Galbraith, and Dario Stucchi write that "To control infestations on farmed salmon [by sea lice], several chemotherapeutants have been developed, but these are invasive (often causing fish stress and loss in production), costly, may induce parasite resistance over time, and their impact on the environment is a major social concern." They conclude that "light traps constitute an effective, noninvasive, environmentally friendly method to monitor sea lice."

Thinking Critically

Answer each question as completely as you can, using well-formed sentences. Although there is no "correct" answer, please be sure to support your answer with evidence from the text, from the videos, and from any other sources you may have consulted.

  1. In the two-paragraph introduction Estabrook compares Atlantic salmon to tigers. Why does he compare salmon to tigers? An extended comparison is called an analogy. Does Estabrook's analogy clarify your understanding of the issue? Why?
  2. Why does Estabrook call barramundi "the anti-salmon"?
  3. One of the videos calls for consumers to ask merchants and restaurants if the salmon they are buying was wild-caught or raised in closed-containment farms. Why? What benefits to the use of closed-containment farms (or what Estabrook calls "a recirculating system") does Estabrook discuss in his article. Do these benefits make sense to you? Why?
  4. Marine Harvest, Canada, a salmon farming operation and the producers of one of the videos, claims that "All our hatchery salmon are raised in closed containment tanks where they stay until they reach ten to twelve months of age. When salmon are small it is possible to use closed rearing systems; but in the ocean, it is not yet possible." Read the explanation on their website, Closed Containment Salmon Farms. Is their argument convincing? Why or why not?

Writing Assignment

In a 500-word essay, describe efforts being made in your own community that promote sustainability. As you develop your essay, be specific. Include names, specific locations, and the actual activity taking place. You may document more than one effort. Can you foresee any unintended negative consequences of these efforts? If so, how might they be prevented?