West Creek BC, based in the lower mainland area of the province, grows high quality rainbow trout, sockeye salmon and coho salmon in land-based systems ranging from earthen ponds to large fibreglass tanks – and all without the help of charitable or government subsidies.
And, as CEO Don Read explained to Fish Farming Expert, they are doing so very successfully.
“We just don’t have any issues – the fish grow very nicely and we have less than 1% mortality,” he explained.
In a growing cycle of about 175-200 metric tonnes for his coho salmon, these mortality rates are incredibly low, and point to the efficiency of the system.
“We started small,” explained Read. “The production cycle was constantly evolving – we wanted to see that the fish grew well with low stress. We listened to the fish.”
Not jumping into high production yields is paying off in spades for West Creek. As the fish grew well with no issues, the company gradually increased production. “We are walking it up – we did not want to develop a facility to produce 500 metric tonnes on the first day,” explained Read. Instead, the company hopes to continually increase production incrementally, as far the health and quality of the fish allow.
West Creek coho salmon are sold at 4-6lb, which is proving popular with consumers.
“We felt that the market would accept that size. Today’s consumer doesn’t want a 10lb fish – they want a more manageable size, and our coho are a more convenient size for the average consumer,” he argues.
In addition to setting West Creek coho apart in the marketplace, the smaller fish size is just perfect for the growing conditions. “From a growth yield curve, the coho perform well at that size, and exhibit the most efficient feed conversion,” he points out.
Read explained that the company has never sought to compete with ocean-grown salmon.
“We have never tried to compete with ocean-based aquaculture of any kind,” said Read. “The only thing that would be comparable to [ocean-based] conventional salmon farming is our feed conversion – we have achieved an FCR of approximately 1.2.”
To read more about this remarkable project see the May/June issue of Fish Farming Expert magazine.