Not Just Salmon

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance predicts new aquaculture species will be worth $880 Million by 2020
March 26, 2009

Not Just Salmon 

It's no secret that wild fisheries on both Canadian coasts can't keep up with growing demand.

But when it comes to aquaculture - growing seafood instead of catching it in the wild - most Canadians only think 'farmed salmon'.

Although salmon aquaculture is the major player in the Canadian aquaculture scene, a handful of new species are making a splash.

The four most promising aquaculture species are Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut, Arctic char and sablefish. These industries forecast a combined net worth of $880 million by 2020.

While the Atlantic cod aquaculture industry is in development, Arctic char, Atlantic halibut and sablefish are in various stages of commercialization - with product already being sold.

Aquaculture represents the future of fresh, year-round seafood for a growing global population, and Canada's farmed seafood products are already held in high regard in the US, the EU and key Asian markets. However, most Canadians are in the dark when it comes to the fastest-growing segments of our aquaculture industry.

Did you know that Atlantic halibut - a bottom dweller in the wild, grows up to 500 pounds? That Arctic char stick close together to keep warm in cold water? Or that sablefish contain 75 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon, which is already well known for its heart-healthy nutritional properties?

With Atlantic Canada's wild cod stocks at two percent of historic levels, perhaps the biggest news is the development of a commercially viable Atlantic cod aquaculture industry. Poised to play a symbolic role in Canadian identity, the iconic Atlantic cod 'revival' could bring back $545 million to Atlantic Canada by the next decade. This vision is closer to reality than you might think; Canada has been harvesting farmed cod in small quantities for the past five years.

Still other farmed seafood species, such as geoduck, urchins and sea cucumbers, offer commercial promise. It's time we put the spotlight on these new aquaculture species, and give them the recognition - and support - they deserve.



- Commercial stage: 300 metric tons / year

- 2020 industry potential: $35 million

- Markets: Primarily Canada, plus the USA and Hong Kong

- Operations in the Yukon, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Newfoundland and Manitoba

- Similar to salmon, but milder taste

- Restaurant entré can sell for $35 to $45

- Listed as 'best choice' by the Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide for Healthy Oceans

- "Our quality is so consistent that some of our vendors don't even open the shipping boxes." (John Rose, President of Icy Waters Ltd, Whitehorse, YK)


- Commercial stage: $3 million current value

- 2020 industry potential: $100 million

- Market: North America

- New Brunswick currently provides juvenile fish to Norway, Scotland

- Competition: Iceland, Norway, Scotland

- High value: $7 per pound

- Specially-designed cage for bottom-feeding fish / shelves for fish to rest after feeding

- Adult broodstock Atlantic Halibut weighs up to 125 kg - larger than most humans

- "Atlantic halibut is the highest-value fish in North America." (Brian Blanchard, GM of Scotian Atlantic Halibut, Wood's Harbour, NS)


- Commercial stage: 500 tons / year

- 2020 industry potential: $200 million

- Key market: Japan. Plus Canada, USA, Europe, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore

- Grown by Sablefish Canada, in partnership with the Kyuquot First Nation in British Columbia

- Featured in Earls Restaurants

- British Columbia has the world's only commercial Sablefish farm

- Miele award in 2008: Judged by 250 top chefs in Asia

- Highest concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids

- "Japan is our best customer, but Whole Foods is one of our newest customers." (Paul Simpson, Director of Sales at Sablefish Canada, Salt Spring Island, BC)


- Developmental stage

- 2020 industry potential: $545 million (128,000 tons)

- Selling small quantities to restaurants, wholesalers in north-eastern USA and Canada since 2004

- Operations in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick

- Competition: Norway, plus Iceland and Scotland

- Partnering with Genome Canada for an elite broodstock program

- First commercially farmed cod harvested in 2003

- "Cod is the reason Atlantic Canada got settled. It's an iconic species in Newfoundland and Labrador." (Frank Powell, Alternate Species Manager, Cooke Aquaculture)