A freshwater alternative

November 16, 2006, Volume 37, No.6
By Carol Thorbes

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Larry Albright has proven he can successfully rear B.C.'s prized sockeye salmon in land-based freshwater fish farms. Now all he needs is a bigger market for his fish.

The recently retired SFU marine microbiologist and adoptive father of 50,000 sockeye salmon eggs is looking forward to rearing his latest batch of newborns, which hatch this month.

“I have cultured the same stock of domesticated sockeye salmon through four sequential lifecycles in fresh water only,” says Albright, co-owner of a Langley freshwater salmon and trout farm. His 60,000 maturing and adult fish - mainly trout - live in escape-proof ponds, raceways and tanks filled with fresh water from artesian wells.

Albright's mission is to market his sockeye as successfully as he has his trout, the two-pound beauties served at many high-end restaurants. The only thing stopping him is popular perception of what a good-eating sockeye looks like.

“A lot of restaurants still prefer wild sockeye because of their deep red flesh colour, and because they are about a third larger than freshwater sockeye,” explains a proud Albright, cradling one of his four-pound specimens which will be ready to spawn next summer.

Albright is betting the sea-lice controversy plaguing conventional ocean-based fish farms, and declining wild salmon stocks, will eventually generate an appetite for his freshwater fare.

Unlike conventional ocean-based salmon farms, says Albright, his operation is disease- and antibiotic-free. And he cites other freshwater salmon-farming benefits including a smaller ecological footprint — occupying less than an acre of land compared to the larger areas of coastline taken over by seawater farms — and more jobs. Albright says many rural First Nations reserves, where unemployment is high, sit on plentiful supplies of ground water that could be used to support disease-free, freshwater salmon farming.

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