What is Salmon Farming?


Salmon farming is a type of aquaculture where the fish are grown in net cages, typically located in sheltered bays and fjords along the coast. Salmon are hatched in brood hatcheries and grown in freshwater until they are large enough to transfer to marine pens. The majority of salmon farms in British Columbia grow Atlantic salmon because they grow well in farm conditions. Because salmon farm cages are simply suspended in the water and no barrier exists between the farm and the surrounding environment, they are often referred to as “open net-cages.”

Facts about BC’s salmon farming industry:

  • one farm can hold 500,000 to 750,000 fish in an area the size of four football fields
  • the biomass of farmed salmon at one farm site can equal 2,400 tonnes which equals 480 Indian bull elephants
  • BC has approximately 137 salmon farm tenures with about 85 farms active at any one time (84 tenures on Eastern Vancouver Island and Mainland Coast, 48 on Western Vancouver Island and 6 on the Central Coast)
  • The federal government has indicated that it would like to see BC farmed salmon production double within the next 10 years


This type of agriculture may sound straightforward, but there are many concerns over its negative impacts of on wild salmon and the environment.  The weight of evidence from peer reviewed scientific research from around the world indicates that open net-cage farming is negatively affecting wild salmon. We need to move beyond the debate and move forward with real solutions that offer protection for BC’s wild salmon.

Watershed Watch is working towards this goal by conducting outreach in an effort to raise awareness of harmful industry practices, and producing and sponsoring peer-reviewed research to add to the science on this issue. We have also previously worked directly with industry in an attempt to conduct collaborative research to come to agreed conclusions on the negative effects of salmon farming. Watershed Watch has also represented aboriginal groups such as the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council and the Ehattesaht Tribe in examinations of salmon farm impacts in their traditional territories.