September 18, 2013

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.V. – Less than three years ago, the seafood industry questioned whether Atlantic salmon – one of the most popular fish in the world – could be grown in cleaner and healthier land-based systems. Earlier this month, more than 140 scientists, engineers, academics, fish farmers and suppliers, conservationists, government representatives, and innovative entrepreneurs from 15 countries came together to discuss not if it could be done, but rather how to improve the performance, sustainability, and cost of raising salmon and other fish in commercial, land-based aquaculture.

The Aquaculture Innovation Workshop, sponsored by The Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute in partnership with Tides Canada, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Atlantic Salmon Federation, provided an open forum for these groups to learn about and discuss the challenges and rapidly emerging opportunities for land-based fish farming technology. During the three-day international symposium at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, participants shared results from scientific studies and commercial advancements, identified opportunities to make this emerging aquaculture technology more environmentally friendly and economically viable, and highlighted the potential for growth with key decision makers in government, industry and philanthropic organizations. 

“The world’s appetite for fish is increasing, and global demand has long passed what capture fisheries alone can provide; so aquaculture is challenged to cover the supply gap,” said Joe Hankins Director of the Fund’s Freshwater Institute. “Over the last two decades, the Freshwater Institute’s scientific and engineering research has developed fish-farming systems on land that produce healthy, tasty fish and leave water clean. Until recently, this technology wasn’t considered a practical option for the seafood industry. Now we’re seeing minds changing and an ever-increasing acceptance of this more-sustainable intensification technique as an efficient fish farming option. The wide-ranging make up of the workshop participants, across all aspects of the issue, underscores this.” 

Their mind shift is based in part on the foundational work being done in the Freshwater Institute’s facilities in Shepherdstown.  As a leader in the development of sustainable solutions to water resource management, the Freshwater Institute has conducted extensive research into closed-containment harvesting techniques that produce the highest quality fish populations for food production without vaccines, harsh chemicals and antibiotics. The workshop participants saw a third generation of Atlantic salmon nearing market size in Freshwater’s production tank. The ongoing successes of these land-based aquaculture systems were highlighted at the workshop as practical and sustainable solutions to help meet the increasing demand for healthy food.

The international symposium was the fifth in a series of summits designed to provide a platform for diverse groups to learn about cutting-edge technological advances, case studies for commercial-scale projects currently underway, and cost-benefit analyses.

“We’ve come a long ways in three years,” said Catherine Emrick, Senior Associate, Aquaculture Innovation, Tides Canada. “What this technology provides is not only a better way to produce Atlantic salmon but also a better way to develop a diversified aquaculture industry that takes advantage of the infrastructure and resources already present.”

“For the first time this industry is seeing a technology that is scalable and gets a return on investment,” said Norman McCowan, President, Bell Aquaculture. The Freshwater Institute designed a closed-containment system for Bell to raise its signature perch on land that conserves water, reduces fertilizer use and provides chemical- and pesticide-free healthy fish for human consumption. 

“The collaborative effort in this industry is the number one key to moving forward, and I am seeing a lot of that here,” said Chris DePalma, CEO of SweetSpring Salmon Inc., who attended the Aquaculture Innovation Workshop. “As time goes on we’ll find more sustainable ways to produce this (seafood) protein. The recirculating aquaculture system technology is potentially revolutionary.”

The presentations from the Aquaculture Innovation Workshop #5 are available for download from Tides Canada.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land since 1985.

About The Conservation Fund's Freshwater Institute
Our Freshwater Institute is one of the nation’s premier research and development facilities dedicated to sustainable water use and reuse. For more than 20 years, we have been developing environmentally sustainable closed-containment aquaculture systems to grow trout, perch and salmon at our facilities in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

About Tides Canada
Tides Canada provides innovative philanthropic, financial, and project management services for change makers – philanthropists, foundations, activists and civil organizations. It works on issues like water and oceans, environmental conservation, climate and energy solutions, food, the Arctic, social inclusion and civic engagement.

About the Atlantic Salmon Federation
The Atlantic Salmon Federation is dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well being and survival depend. 

Press Release Contacts
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |
Joseph Hankins | The Freshwater Institute | (304) 876-2815 x212 |