Leading the Blue Revolution

Marine Harvest Canada
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Salmon is a healthy source of protein and a rich source of vitamins and minerals such as Omega-3 fatty acids. The oily fish is part of a healthy, well-balanced diet and helps to support both physical and mental wellbeing. Marine Harvest’s farm-raised Atlantic salmon is high-quality and nutritious and sustainably satisfies five million people around the world each day.
Farmed fish is the most carbon-, water- and feed-efficient animal that is farmed for consumption. Marine Harvest is committed to producing salmon to the highest standards to satisfy the growing demand for this healthy protein and help to meet the nutritional needs of growing populations worldwide.

The Marine Harvest name can be traced back to the 1960s, in Scotland. At that time, aquaculture pioneers ‘closed the loop’ on the lifecycle of a salmon, enabling farms to grow salmon from egg to harvest without reliance on wild eggs.

The company has grown to over 11,000 employees globally and supplies one-fifth of the world’s farm-raised salmon. From its facilities in Canada, Norway, Scotland, Chile, Ireland and the Faroe Islands, Marine Harvest ships to more than seventy countries worldwide.

Marine Harvest Canada is British Columbia’s leading aquaculture company and the supplier of Sterling brand salmon. The Canadian Business Unit has over five hundred employees. Teams of five to eight workers work in shifts on each of the company’s thirty-five sea sites and are responsible for $12 million to $15 million worth of live salmon at each location.

Marine Harvest Canada’s fish-farming operations are located in or near coastal communities. Vancouver Island’s Campbell River, known as ‘The Salmon Capital of the World,’ is home to the company’s Canadian headquarters.

Nearly one hundred fifty Marine Harvest Canada employees are located in Port Hardy and Port McNeill, while further north Klemtu is home to Kitasoo Seafoods, which is a joint venture between Marine Harvest Canada and the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations.

Marine Harvest Canada’s farm-raised Atlantic salmon is four-star certified by Global Aquaculture Alliance for meeting its best aquaculture practices. The standard recognizes four aspects of salmon aquaculture including separate certifications for salmon farms, seafood processing, feed mills and hatcheries.

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) sets standards for sustainable food production and is another certification held by Marine Harvest. By 2020, Marine Harvest anticipates being fully certified by the ASC to a standard that was developed by the World Wildlife Fund’s Salmon Aquaculture Dialogues.

“Marine Harvest Canada is committed to not only raising its salmon to the world’s most stringent regulations but also to the world’s ‘gold standard’ third-party endorsed product and process certifications,” explained Director of Public Affairs for Marine Harvest Canada Ian Roberts.

“Having achieved North America’s first certification of a salmon farm to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s salmon standard meant a lot to our customers, to our local communities, and, most importantly, to our employees. Achieving this high standard of product certification is quite difficult, and our dedicated staff were excited to take the challenge head-on,” said Roberts.

Marine Harvest’s salmon far exceeds any regulatory requirements specified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Health Canada and countries of export. CFIA audits each processing plant annually to ensure compliance with the Quality Management Plan for Fish and Seafood. Marine Harvest maintains exceptional food safety management processes, and the results speak for themselves.

Marine Harvest produces an inherently sustainable product. Salmon naturally require less energy to grow than land-based farmed proteins. Marine Harvest salmon are produced according to what is known as a 1:1 ratio in that one kilogram of food is needed to produce one kilogram of salmon.

“We are farmers, and it’s a different type of person that works in this type of industry,” said Director of Human Resources Dean Dobrinksy. “We care about the fish; we care about the product, and we care about the environment, and we are very passionate about it. What Marine Harvest tries to do is foster that.”

“People often think that fish farming is very different from terrestrial farming. It is actually just the same, but you do it in the water. Any chicken farmer or pig farmer protects his animals against diseases by vaccinating, and so do we. It is really farming; it is not fishing,” said Managing Director Vincent Erenst.

Vaccinations not only help protect Marine Harvest’s salmon but also protect the natural environment. Sustainable feeding patterns reduce the amount of food remnants that make their way into the ocean. The company’s ocean farms are located in deep, high current locations away from sensitive shore habitat – all helping to reduce any potential impact on the natural environment.

Protection of the environment is paramount to food safety. Marine Harvest is committed to protecting the waters and nature to ensure product quality and food safety. Products are inspected for therapeutic residues, pathogens and naturally occurring environmental contaminants.

Marine Harvest Canada acknowledges that it operates in the traditional territories of twenty coastal First Nations. In pursuit of a sustainable business that is environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable, it has established formal relationships with thirteen of these First Nations communities.

First Nations comprise twenty percent of Marine Harvest Canada’s employees, and the company has significant supply and service contracts with First Nations-owned businesses. The company is committed to improving the communities where its employees live and work.

“Our employees see us as an employer that cares about our employees, and they provide that care back. We provide a very solid foundation of good competitive wages and benefits. We do a very good job of both respecting and engaging our employees at all levels,” Dobrinsky explained.

“It is only through our dedicated workforce and their tireless commitment, energy and effort that we are able to produce world-class salmon. It is very important that the company invest in each employee, through systematic training opportunities,” Dobrinsky acknowledged. Employees have opportunities to climb the career ladder through the technician advancement program, management leadership training, and by obtaining diplomas and degrees through institutions such as Vancouver Island University and UBC.

Marine Harvest Canada is the recipient of safety awards and recognition of its efforts to embed safety in all of its work processes. It works towards becoming an Occupational Safety Standard of Excellence diamond status employer with zero work accidents.

Marine Harvest Canada uses an integrated system of broodstock selection, freshwater hatcheries, saltwater farms and a state-of-the-art processing plant. Marine Harvest has an extensive team of sales and marketing professionals and a strong logistical network.

Salmon eggs are fertilized and hatch over an eight-week period. After another four to five weeks, the fry begin to feed in freshwater and continue to do so over the next nine to eighteen months.

The fish adapt to changes in water that are initiated by technicians to mimic those that prompt natural cycles. Changes to light and temperature initiate the smoltification process. When the salmon are ready to transition to the sea, it is visibly apparent. After reaching a weight of about 120 grams, select fish are transferred from freshwater tanks to ocean net pens with holes small enough to prevent their escape. In the ocean, it takes about 20 months to grow to a size of five to six kilograms live weight.

From egg to desired weight takes about three years. At this point, Marine Harvest sends a modernized boat that looks like a standard fishing vessel, but has more equipment on board, to process the fish. Once harvested, the salmon is processed and ready for shipment to markets across Canada and around the world. “Nobody is faster on the West Coast. We have, in certain markets, a huge advantage when it comes to freshness,” noted Erenst.

In only a half a day, Marine Harvest can satisfy Asian markets, and its product makes its way across Canada and the U.S. within hours. “The farming process is very lengthy; processing and selling is extremely short, and it must be so, because it is fresh fish. The shelf life of fish is anywhere between fourteen and twenty-one days. So it’s important that you get it to the customer as fast as possible,” described Erenst.

“When it comes to seafood, everyone recognizes that fresh is best. At Marine Harvest, our fish can be swimming in the cold, clear water off the coast of British Columbia on Monday and on a dinner plate in California on Wednesday. Our quality control, which includes precise control of product temperature, is something our customers have come to know,” Roberts said.

As the world population continues to grow, so too does demand for healthy proteins like salmon. Marine Harvest Canada is well positioned to satisfy this demand, by supplementing the finite supply of wild fish in a sustainable, safe and high-quality manner.

When asked about the company’s short and long-term goals, Erenst responded, “We actually don’t have short term goals because our production takes three to four years, so any changes take many years to fully implement. Short-term goals are doing the best we can at any moment.”

“Currently, Marine Harvest Canada only produces whole fish which are then sold to wholesalers or processors. Especially with the growth of our volume, we want to start to do more of it ourselves,” stated Erenst. The parent company sells consumer-ready products, smoked salmon and prepackaged fresh salmon around the world, which is an area of potential growth for Marine Harvest Canada.

“We are growing an extremely healthy protein. We are actually growing a fantastic product, and it is done in an environmentally sustainable way,” Erenst concluded. Marine Harvest Canada produces an exceptional product, and it is no wonder why it has become British Columbia’s leading aquaculture company.



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