Aquaculture Industry Snapshot
By Richard Moccia

Aquaculture is...the farming of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. This agribusiness sector produces food and food additives, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and nutraceuticals for the worlds' consumers. Farming implies some form of intervention in the rearing process which enhances biomass production, such as the control of reproduction and growth, management of health and disease or protection from predators. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated and distinguishes aquaculture from the wild harvest fishery.
World Aquaculture
Aquaculture began at least two thousand years ago in China with the culture of carp in rice fields. Today, aquaculture is practised world-wide and involves the culture of hundreds of different species of animals and plants. Many experts regard aquaculture as the fastest growing sector of agriculture, expanding at nearly 11% per annum over the last decade. Over this period, world aquaculture production grew from 10 to 30+ million tonnes. By the year 2000, the world's total landed catch from the wild fishery plateaued at approximately 90 million tonnes, while the demand for fish and seafood grew to about 130 million tonnes. The availability of high quality protein sources in light of declining wild fish stocks and continued population growth is crucial. In spite of the many challenges facing the industry, aquaculture is ideally suited to solve this need.
Canadian Aquaculture
In Canada, commercial aquaculture has grown rapidly from a small cottage industry with a value of $7 million in 1984 to an industry that generated nearly $700 million in revenue in 2000. Aquaculture production now accounts for nearly 30% of the total landed value of the Canadian fisheries sector and provides jobs for more than 5,200 Canadians in the production, supply and services sectors. Continued aquaculture growth is a priority for the federal and most provincial governments, and a development strategy has been initiated to promote increased growth of the industry.

Canadian finfish aquaculture production exceeded 91,000 tonnes in 2000. Salmon is the predominant cultured species with production of 72,000 tonnes. Cage culture of Atlantic salmon is centred in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick and both Atlantic and Pacific salmon are cultured in cages along the coastline of British Columbia. Six thousand four hundred tonnes of trout were raised in Canada in 2000, with most of the production coming from Ontario. Other cultured finfish include Arctic charr and cod.

Shellfish accounted for approximately 33,000 tonnes of aquaculture production in Canada in 2000. The East and West coast produced 10,000 tonnes of oysters and the Prince Edward Island mussel industry produced nearly 18,000 tonnes of mussels. Other shellfish species raised in small quantities are manila clams and scallops.

Ontario Aquaculture
In Ontario, fish culture has been practised since the turn of the century by the provincial government, but mainly for lake and stream stocking. Fish culture remained exclusively a government endeavour until 1962. Changes to the Game and Fish Act allowed the private sector to culture and sell rainbow and brook trout for human consumption or stocking and smallmouth and largemouth bass for stocking only. Since then, Ontario's commercial aquaculture industry has grown to a value of $65 million, producing over 4,500 tonnes of fish annually.

Currently, rainbow trout accounts for over 95% of the production output from Ontario aquaculture. This is primarily a result of the legislative restrictions on the species which could legally be farmed, coupled with well established culture techniques, availability of domesticated stocks, good quality commercial feeds, and a recognized demand for the species. Amendments to the Game and Fish Act in 1997 now permit the culture of over three dozen different species. These include most endemic game fish, crayfish, baitfish and tilapia. In addition to trout, there is also small-scale culture of Arctic charr, tilapia, perch, walleye, sturgeon, and several species of baitfish in Ontario.
Growth Pattern of Ontario Aquaculture
Annual growth in the Ontario aquaculture industry continues to increase, and follows a general trend which began in 1985 when both the number of farms and overall production output started to expand. This growth picture more or less parallels the performance of the aquaculture sector both nationally and internationally, and was a response to a variety of factors, including; an increase in the global demand for fishery and aquaculture products; a general decline in output from the wild-harvest fishery; shifts in the income levels of certain demographic groups; enhanced marketing initiatives for aquaculture products by the private and public sectors; shifts in philosophy about private property rights versus public resource management; a bullish international economy during the 1980's; consumer concerns about the quality and safety of wild-harvested fish; awareness of the health benefits of fish consumption; and enhanced uptake by the investment community of technology-rich businesses like aquaculture, to name just a few. Demographic changes in the local and regional population have continued to fuel this demand-surge for Ontario, and improved organization and entrepreneurship within the private sector during the last decade have kept the opportunities alive.
Future Developments
Future expansion of the industry should continue in the province, with an increasing concentration of farms anticipated along the shores of the Great Lakes, particularly Lakes Ontario and Huron, and Georgian Bay. Both land-based and near-shore cage culture operations will develop, with the likelihood that most cage sites will produce between 100 and 300 tonnes per year, with only a few larger. This is based primarily on the limits of efficiency of scale, and the ability to mitigate environmental impacts in the surrounding watershed. In the right location, optimum water temperatures facilitate relatively short production cycles, and the unit cost of production of cage-reared fish may be lower than in a land-based facility. Land-based farms will continue to be a combination of smaller facilities producing value-added products and based on groundwater supplies, as well as much larger, pump-ashore farms along the shores of larger lakes. There has been some growth in the number of production facilities using recirculation technology, restricted primarily to those warmwater species like tilapia which can now be legally grown and sold for human consumption.

There is good potential for development of commercial culture of Arctic charr, tilapia sp., yellow perch, walleye, certain baitfish species and possibly lake sturgeon in Ontario. Although the list is large, it is unlikely that any significant commercial production will occur over the next few years with most of the remainder of the permissible species. Production of rainbow trout will continue to be the mainstay of Ontario aquaculture for the next several years. Rainbow trout culture has considerable unrealized potential for growth in this province. We possess excellent technology and infrastructure to produce this species, as well as a highly experienced private sector that is has evolved significantly in recent years. Most new operations are commercial business ventures focused on producing high quality trout for maximum profit. Properly promoted and marketed, we believe that there exists a large, untapped, domestic as well as regional export potential for trout products, especially fresh, boneless fillets at a reasonable price.

Finally, Ontario's regulatory and economic climate will continue to be the largest factors influencing the growth of aquaculture here. Notwithstanding these facts, it is the opinion of many experts that aquaculture has a strong potential for continued growth in this province, and it is expected that production will continue to grow over the first decade of the new millenium.
University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1