Myths and facts

Despite the fact that the aquaculture industry has become a highly professionalized industry and is a sustainable alternative to the dinner plate, we find that a lot of people have little to no knowledge of how salmon is produced, and have outdated knowledge about the fish's production and health, sustainability in the industry and the value it creates along the coast. Through some questions and answers, you can learn a little about our industry.

Answer: It takes between two to three years from the time the salmon roe is hatched until the salmon is fully grown and ready to eat. During these years, the salmon go through different phases. By controlling the temperature and light in the freshwater phase, we determine the hatching, smoltification and the transfer time to sea farms, and this is how we create autumn and spring generations.

Answer: The salmon eat feed that is adapted to nutritional needs and the size of the fish. Natural products from fishing and agriculture are used in fish feed. In addition, nature-identical, industrially produced micro-raw materials are used, such as e.g. vitamin C. The main raw materials are soy protein concentrate (SPC), fish flour, rapeseed oil, fish oil, wheat gluten and wheat, in addition to micronutrients.

The salmon gets its red color from the pigment astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is one of the three strongest antioxidants in nature, and is necessary for the life and health of fish. In the wild, salmon eat crustaceans and fish, which are natural sources of astaxanthin, whereas farmed salmon must get it through their feed. Industrially produced astaxanthin is used, which is identical to what is found in crustaceans. In organic feed, pigment produced by a pigment-producing soil bacterium or other natural pigment sources is used. Without enough color in the feed, the salmon meat becomes pale.

Answer: Salmon farming is subject to the Animal Welfare Act, which regulates animal welfare. Everyone who works with fish (well boat, hatchery, etc.) must attend a course and be certified every five years. Good fish welfare is an important prerequisite for good fish health, low mortality, good quality, good reputation and good profitability.

For the production of salmon, a cage contains a maximum of 2.5% fish and 97.5% water. This provides good growth and environmental conditions for the salmon. For organic production, this ratio is 1% fish and 99% water. The fish has a sense apparatus to feel pain. The fish's environment and behavior are therefore carefully observed and controlled to ensure that the fish have a good life. All of our locations are equipped with underwater cameras and are monitored daily by our own personnel from our operations centre. When slaughtering, anesthesia is mandatory.

The salmon is vaccinated against bacterial diseases and virus infections. Vaccines and good operating and management routines help prevent disease, which in turn reduces mortality. All fish farms are subject to regular inspection by fish health personnel and there is an obligation to report fish mortality and infectious diseases. There are strict hygiene rules and to minimize the risk of infection, installations and production units are regularly set aside and cleaned.

Answer: The use of antibiotics in Norwegian fish farming is, so to speak, completely phased out in favor of vaccines that the salmon receive before they are released into the sea. We prevent disease by vaccinating all fish during the hatchery phase (freshwater phase) against the most common diseases that can affect salmonid fish in farming. In Akvakultur i Vesterålen and our parent company Nordlaks, antibiotics have not been used on fish in the sea since 1989.

Answer: Salmon lice is a crustacean that is found naturally in the sea and feeds on the salmon's skin. Salmon lice live and multiply on salmon and trout in salt water. Lice are found on fish in aquaculture farms and on salmon and sea trout that live in fjords and coastal waters all year round. Lice also accompany wild salmon from the sea when they enter the fjord in the spring to spawn in the rivers. Salmon lice fall off the salmon and sea trout when they go up the rivers. If the incidence of lice is high, it can be a challenge for both farmed salmon and wild salmon. Lice cause wounds on the fish which can cause infections and problems with the salt balance. Salmon lice do not affect the food safety or quality of the salmon.

The authorities have set a limit on how much salmon lice the fish can have, to prevent infection to wild fish: max. 0.5 sexually mature female lice per fish. In the aquaculture industry, the fish are monitored by counting lice weekly. All counts are reported to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) and are available at www.lusedata.no.

The aquaculture industry has available a set of different measures to control the lice levels. Resistance among salmon lice to certain pharmaceuticals is a challenge the industry i facing, and a number of alternatives to the pharmaceuticals are therefore being developed. The companies in the same region coordinate the use of means to ensure the best effect.

Examples of initiatives are:

  • Breed to produce a salmon that is not so attractive to the salmon lice.
  • Special feed which e.g. strengthens the mucus layer of the fish.
  • Lice skirt around the top 5-10 meters of the cage to prevent lice from settling on the fish.
  • Cleaner fish that eat lice from salmon.
  • Well boats with mechanical removal of lice, for example fresh water and warm sea water.
  • Laser that "shoots" the lice, e.g. Stingray.
  • Bathing treatment with approved pharmaceuticals, either in a fish cage or in a well boat.
  • Pharmaceuticals via medicated feed.

Answer: Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3. A salmon fillet of 150 grams covers the need for omega-3 for seven days. The authorities recommend 2-3 meals of fish a week and half of it should be fatty fish, such as salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids from salmon slow down the development of cardiovascular diseases and are central building blocks in our brain. Salmon is also a source of protein, vitamin D and B12 and the minerals iodine and selenium.

Farmed salmon is healthy and safe to eat and the level of foreign substances is far below the authorities' limit values. No salmon diseases can be transmitted to humans.

If you can't find an answer to what you're wondering about above, see also nordlaks.no/sporsmal-og-svar/

Would you like to learn more?

Salmon facts: www.salmonfacts.com
Seafood Norway: www.sjomatnorge.no
Norwegian Seafood Council: www.seafood.no
The Veterinary Institute: www.vetinst.no
The Institute of Marine Research: www.hi.no
Barentswatch: www.barentswatch.no
Norwegian Food Safety Authority: www.mattilsynet.no
Nofima: www.nofima.com
Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment: www.vkm.no
Norwegian Seafood Research Fund: www.fhf.no
Akvaplan Niva: www.akvaplan.no