Canadian salmon harvest hit a 22-year low last year

BC farm closures were main reason, says industry


The Canadian government’s closure of some fish farms in British Columbia has been named as the primary reason for the country last year recording its lowest salmon harvest since 2000.

Farm-raised salmon production fell from a peak of 148,000 tonnes in 2016 to 90,000 tonnes in 2023.

The fall follows on from former fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan’s 2020 decision not to renew licences for 19 farms in the Discovery Islands, BC.

“Canadians have said again and again that they want access to more Canadian-produced food. In the case of Canadian-raised salmon, they’re being denied and are seeing less and less,” said Tim Kennedy, president and chief executive of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA).

A staggering reduction

“Canada’s modern ocean salmon farming is among the most sustainable in the world with all farms being certified to international third-party standards and operating under modern regulations to protect the environment. The farm closures in BC since 2020 have not been based on science and have not put Canadian consumers’ best interests and health first. The peer-reviewed science consistently shows salmon farms have a less-than-minimal impact on wild salmon and salmon is one of the healthiest products for consumers.

“For a country with so much potential, the overall reduction of Canadian-raised salmon is staggering. We are ocean farming less than 1% of the viable area along our coastlines and producing less and less of an important domestic food supply when the market demand is remaining steady.”

Falling behind

The CAIA said Canada is in danger of losing its place as the world’s fourth-largest Atlantic salmon producer behind Norway, Chile, and Scotland. Australia and Faroe Islands produced 77,600 tonnes and 89,100 tonnes, respectively, in 2022.

It pointed out that this was despite Canada having the world’s longest coastline and far more bio-physical potential than those other nations.

The CAIA has calculated that replacement of the “lost” Canadian salmon in the North American market by air-freighted Chilean and Norwegian salmon has added the carbon equivalent of putting an extra 81,609 petrol-engine cars on the roads.