MACHIAS — Maine salmon farmers have fought long and hard to overcome the perception that their fish are somehow inferior and that their operations are harmful to the environment.
Last week, the Monterey Bay Aquarium rated farmed Atlantic salmon from Maine a “good alternative” under its Seafood Watch program that guides many of the nation’s consumers in which seafood they should buy. The program bases its recommendations on whether the seafood originates from sources which can maintain or increase production in the long term without jeopardizing the ecosystem.
The announcement is good news for the Maine salmon farming industry, which includes 22 pen sites – most of them in Cobscook Bay – three hatcheries and a processing plant in Machiasport. Essentially all of those facilities are owned or operated by the Canadian-based Cooke Aquaculture Co.
Cooke markets its salmon under the True North and Heritage brands.
According to the Seafood Watch program, Atlantic salmon farmed in Maine is OK to buy because “effluent (from the fish pens) and habitat impacts are moderate, and stringent operating permit mandates have resulted in superior fish containment.” The group also credits the industry for its “very low reliance” on marine feed ingredients – fish meal.
While the listing mentions “high concerns” about the industry’s use of therapeutic chemicals and the quantity of sea lice in the waters around salmon pens, Seafood Watch said in its listing, “there is evidence that no on-farm diseases have been transmitted to wild fish.”