Something to think about: Canada's deep history in aquaculture

July 13, 2017 - Campbell River, B.C.

By Ian Roberts, Director of Public Affairs, Marine Harvest Canada

I want to take a brief historical look at Canada’s evolution of aquaculture – because perhaps a surprise to many, it is a deep history that far precedes Canada’s birth year of 1867.

In 1857, the first recorded incubation and hatching of brook trout and Atlantic salmon in Quebec City occurred. While researching this topic, I found that around that same time, Superintendent of Fisheries and fish culture advocate Richard Nettle expressed his opinions about the decline in salmon abundance and resulting need for aquaculture, stating “…the beneficent creator has provided for many, is being destroyed by the few.”

By the 1850s, the province of Ontario witnessed declining salmon fisheries, so Samuel Wilmot set out to artificially spawn salmon - spawning 15,000 in 1866. Soon known as Newcastle Fish Hatchery, it was one of the earliest built in North America and “established a pattern for fish culture in many parts of the world.”

But our country’s history of practicing aquaculture is not just 150 years old. It goes much, much further back. About 20 centuries ago, aboriginal peoples in what is now British Columbia began farming shellfish for food security – to boost nature’s supply. Clam “gardens” – a man-made rock wall forming an isolated saltwater field at low tide – grew several species of clam (little neck, horse, and butter) as well as cockles.

How we do aquaculture in Canada has evolved much over the centuries, but why we do it has essentially remained the same.