Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae (e.g. Atlantic salmon, Pacific salmon), while other species in the family are called trout. Salmon is available from both wild and farmed sources, however all commercially available Atlantic salmon is always farmed.[i]

Salmon farming started on an experimental level in the 1960s, but became an industry in Norway in the 1980s, and in Chile in the 1990s.[i] The farmed salmon industry has grown substantially in the past 40 years and today approximately 60% of the world’s salmon production is farmed. In 2011 1,600,000 tonnes of farmed salmon were produced, while in comparison 930,000 tonnes of wild salmon were caught.[i]

Atlantic salmon farming has traditionally been dominated by a small number of farming regions – Chile, Norway, Canada and Scotland – as several natural conditions often have to be present to ensure optimal salmon farming production. Such conditions include: cold water temperatures varying between 80C – 140C, a sheltered coast line and optimal biological conditions. Today salmon farming is also taking place in Australia, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Ireland and New Zealand.

The salmon farming production cycle lasts about 3 years. The first year of production takes place in controlled freshwater environments, and then the farmed salmon are transported to seawater cages. Once the farmed salmon reach a harvestable size, they are transported to processing plants to be prepared for sale. For consumers, most farmed salmon is sold as salmon fillets, although you can also purchase whole fish.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) [SR1] predict growth in the world’s population to reach 9 billion by 2050, with the need for protein expected to grow by 70% worldwide.[ii]  Fish, particularly farmed salmon, can offer one solution to meeting this demand. As demand increases there will also be increased pressure on the already over-exploited wild fish reserves, and farmed fish are required to efficiently manage, and maintain fish stock levels in the wild and maintain the oceans natural biodiversity. It is important that the farmed salmon industry ensure sustainability is at the core of their operations if they are to meet this demand in a sustainable manner.

In addition to growing populations, the demand for fish is increasing as governments and food and health advisory boards are actively encouraging people to consume more fish as part of a healthy and balanced diet. [iii] Farmed salmon are most commonly recognized for their high levels of Omega 3 content, but they are also a good source of vitamins and minerals.[iv] so are often a healthy meal choice for many consumers.

Farmed salmon are also a highly efficient source of protein production and continue to have higher energy and protein retention figures when compared to other protein production sources such as pork and chicken. With this in mind, it is clear the farmed salmon industry can make a key contribution to balancing the needs of feeding the growing global population, as well as meeting the demand for healthy and sustainable protein production.