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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Leetown, West Virginia » Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #329816

Research Project: Developing and Refining Technologies for Sustainable Fish Growth in Closed Containment Systems

Location: Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture Research

Title: Production of market-size North American strain Atlantic salmon Salmo salar in a land-based recirculation aquaculture system using freshwater

item Davidon, John - Freshwater Institute
item May, Travis - Freshwater Institute
item Good, Christopher - Freshwater Institute
item Waldrop, Thomas - Healthy Earth - Sarasota
item Kenney, P. Brett - West Virginia University
item Terjesen, Bendik Fyhn - Nofima
item Summerfelt, Steven - Freshwater Institute

Submitted to: Aquacultural Engineering
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/28/2016
Publication Date: 5/13/2016
Citation: Davidon, J., May, T., Good, C., Waldrop, T., Kenney, P., Terjesen, B., Summerfelt, S.T. 2016. Production of market-size North American strain Atlantic salmon Salmo salar in a land-based recirculation aquaculture system using freshwater. Aquacultural Engineering. 74:1-16. doi: 10.1016/j.aquaeng.2016.04.007.

Interpretive Summary: This paper reports the results of Atlantic salmon post-smolt production to market-size (4-5 kg) in three successive grow-out trials in a near-commercial scale land-based, closed containment system using water recirculation technologies at the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute, which is located in the Washington DC metro-area. As a proof of concept, the research suggests that producing Atlantic salmon adjacent to a major US markets using freshwater land-based closed-containment systems is technically and biologically feasible. On average, post-smolt (initially 0.34 - 0.75 kg) reach 4.1-4.9 kg mean harvest size in 9 to 10 months. The salmon required just less than 1.1 ton of feed for every 1 ton of biomass gain. In addition, no obligate fish pathogens were detected; therefore, no antibiotics were required. The greatest obstacle faced by these production systems was the high occurrence of early maturation in male salmon that cannot be marketed as a quality fillet product, however, all-female salmon populations are now commercially available. The benefits that are being realized by increased biosecurity and strict control of the rearing environment, including improved fish growth, feed conversion, and survival rates, as well as reduced vaccination and treatment costs, have made the closed-containment approach an attractive technology option for reducing production costs when producing post-smolt and even market size Atlantic salmon.

Technical Abstract: There is interest in culturing Atlantic salmon Salmo salar to market-size in land-based, closed containment systems that use recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS), as this technology often enables facilities to locate near major markets, obtain permits, exclude obligate pathogens, and/or reduce environmental impacts. Use of land-based RAS to intensively culture market-size Atlantic salmon is a relatively new frontier and little information is available. Three trials were conducted to evaluate the performance of two North American strains of Atlantic salmon raised from post-smolt to market-size (4-5 kg) in a near-commercial scale (260 m3), land-based RAS using only freshwater. St. John River (SJR) salmon were reared during the first trial, and Cascade salmon (CS1 and CS2) were evaluated during two subsequent trials. Salmon were received as fertilized “eyed” eggs and cultured on-site through the entire production cycle. The grow-out period began at 14-16 months post-hatch when salmon post-smolt weighed 0.34 - 0.75 kg on average. CS1 and SJR salmon grew 386-393 g/month to a mean size of 4.1-4.2 kg and CS2 salmon grew 413 g/month to a mean size of 4.9 kg prior to first harvest. Thereafter, weekly salmon harvests commenced for the next 6-19 weeks. The grow-out period, excluding harvest, lasted 9-10 months for each trial. Average water temperature was maintained at 15-16 o C. Consistently linear growth rates were achieved by each population suggesting that growth was relatively independent of fish cohort/genetic strain, fish size, and maximum biomass density, which was 35, 100, and 118 kg/m3 for SJR, CS1, and CS2, respectively. Feed conversion ratios ranged from 1.07-1.10. Fish mortality (including culls) for SJR, CS1, and CS2 was 9.5, 6.6, and 7.5 % of the original number of stocked fish, respectively. No obligate fish pathogens, kudoa, sea lice, or pervasive parasites were detected. Salmon were not vaccinated against specific pathogens; and no antibiotics, pesticides, or harsh chemotherapeutants were used. Hydrogen peroxide (50-100 ppm) and salt (10 ppt) were occasionally used to treat fungus during pre-smolt production, and salt (2-3 ppt) was used to treat fungus or ameliorate stress after handling events. No salmon escaped the facility due to built-in fish exclusion barriers. Early male maturation was observed during each trial. Male salmon began to exhibit maturation traits (kype, darkened skin coloration) at a mean weight of 1.5-2 kg and were removed from the grow-out system when they weighed 2-3 kg. SJR, CS1, and CS2 populations exhibited 37.0, 38.5, and 17.0 % maturity, respectively. Fillet yield and product quality of immature, market-size salmon were comparable to reported measurements for commercially available salmon reared in net pens. This research suggests that it is biologically and technologically feasible to culture Atlantic salmon from post-smolt to market-size in a land-based RAS of suitable commercial scale; however, early male maturation could represent a production barrier. As of 2016, all-female Atlantic salmon eggs are commercially available and could provide an expedient solution to the problem of early male maturation in RAS.