Most Canadians are familiar with salmon farming.
Though opinions on that aquaculture vary greatly, there is no doubt that it has lined the pockets of several former fishermen who otherwise faced unemployment.
Salmon farming is well received in the Atlantic salmon’s home, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and several years of salmon farming experience has taught those involved vital lessons.
Salmon farming began in Norway in the 1960s and Atlantic salmon is now the most important farmed species in Norway, says in a recent publication issued by the Norwegian Seafood Federation.
The Norwegian farmed salmon we can buy today is only 10 generations away from the first wild species that were gathered for farming purposes.
“Norwegian salmon is eaten in more than 100 different countries and export of salmon makes up 41 per cent of the country’s total fish exports,” says the federation essay.
Nearly all of this exported salmon is farmed and few consumers can tell the difference.
What is more, this industry has grown at an amazing rate.
Shortcomings and setbacks such as insufficient feed, parasites, overpopulation and poor placement of ponds were quickly overcome, and as the salmon farmers shared their discoveries, the industry kept enlarging.
In the past few years, Icelanders and Norwegians alike have understandably begun to use their knowledge of salmon farming in other fields, especially cod.
Cod farming is becoming a large industry, and one that is well worth looking at.
Only a few years ago, Norwegian and Icelandic salmon farmers used their acquired knowledge to launch cod hatcheries.
For example, the government-controlled Icelandic Cod Project started in 2002, but before that, some private farmers had performed some experiments.
But the Norwegians have the upper hand here as their projects are growing at a much faster rate.
Quickly, it became obvious that it is much harder to feed baby cod than baby salmon, partly because the cod live at different levels in the ocean over the course of a life cycle.
Norway pours resources into plankton research.
Several ongoing aquaculture research projects are looking into reproductive biology, reproductive biotechnology, brood-stock management, embryogenesis and larviculture — to name but a few areas.
Some of these projects are limited to Norway, but many are international and depend on the good cooperation and collaboration among the circumpolar countries.
More fish farming is being experimented with in various countries. In Norway, alone, fish farmers are now attempting — with good success — to raise white halibut and rainbow trout, as well as plaice, catfish and char.
Also, scallops, mussels and European flat oysters have long been farmed in Norway.
I visited a cod farm in Norway recently, along with a group of Nordic journalists.
What surprised me most was the fishes’ curiosity.
Three-year-old cod swam around in green buckets, and as soon as our heads appeared over the rim, they all swam towards us to check us out.
Many lifted their heads out of the water, as if to get a better view of us, splashing their tails and splattering our cameras.
I never knew cod were curious, but these certainly were. In fact, they reminded me of a group of Icelandic horses, who, when you stop to look at them, all gather by the fence and nip at your clothes — seemingly simply out of curiosity and a longing for some bread. (Icelandic horses don’t eat apples, you see, only bread, probably due to the sparseness of the first in Iceland in the olden days.)
Perhaps the future of fishing lies in farmed fish — just like few people would dream of eating wild cows nowadays, in a few decades, we might find the idea of a wild fish on our plate simply surreal.