The salmon farming cycle begins with the Broodstock: the adult spawning salmon that provides the eggs and milt for the next generation. Broodstock play a vital role in the success of the next generation of farmed salmon and are an important part of any farming operation. Mainstream Canada has implemented a unique and comprehensive selective breeding program within the industry and maintains pedigrees of brood fish to improve the performance of future generations.
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Each fall/winter we collect the milt and eggs from the spawning salmon at our Broodstock site. The eggs from each female are kept separate and mixed with the milt of one male for fertilization. Parent fish undergo extensive tests for disease screening and the eggs undergo disinfection to ensure that pathogens are not carried to the next generation. Once the eggs have hardened, they are transported to one of our three hatcheries for incubation.
Following disinfection upon arrival at the hatchery, each egg batch is incubated separately in Heath trays. The eggs will be incubated for approximately 5-6 weeks until they reach the eyed stage and will hatch after a total of approximately 9 weeks. Upon hatch, the alevins or sac fry will continue to develop using the nutrients in their yolk sacs. When their yolk sacs are almost consumed, the young fry are ready to feed.
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Once the young fry are onto feed they grow quickly over the next 6 to 12 months in freshwater. During this time they are fed a high quality diet nutritionally similar to the natural diet of wild salmon during their freshwater stage, to ensure optimal health. The fry grow to become parr and finally undergo developmental changes that prepare them for life in saltwater as smolts.
Through size grading, Mainstream Canada ensures smolts are consistent and of optimal size and weight to provide the best possible survival and growth rate in saltwater. Smolts are also vaccinated prior to saltwater entry to ensure they are able to fight off common pathogens found in the marine environment.
Freshwater Salmon Rearing
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Smolts ready for saltwater are transported by truck/barge or by well boats from the hatchery to the marine farms, where they are transferred to the net pens to begin the salt water phase of their life cycle.
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Smolts entered at the sea sites adjust to the saltwater environment and begin feeding. They are fed a high quality diet specially formulated to match the optimal seasonal and life stage requirements of salmon in the wild. The smolts are initially hand-fed several times a day the same diet as they received in the hatchery, to minimize stress.
Once onto feed, smolts grow quickly in saltwater, reaching a kilogram in size in 6 to 8 months. After the first few months, the young salmon are moved onto computerized feeding systems monitored by personnel using underwater cameras.
Saltwater Salmon Rearing
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The saltwater environment is carefully monitored for temperature, oxygen, and dissolved oxygen on a daily basis, to ensure optimal conditions for the fish. Monitoring for harmful plankton is also done during plankton season (Mar. – Oct.) and prior to high-risk times such as smolt delivery, grading, and harvesting. The salmon are raised at the marine farm site for 16 to 22 months. During this time, a licensed Veterinarian and Fish Health Technicians regularly monitor the health of the fish. Mortalities are removed weekly, or more frequently with smolts and young fish. Once the salmon reach a target weigh of approximately 5 kilograms, they are scheduled for harvest. Mainstream survival rates from smolt to harvest are generally 90% or greater.
To learn more about harvesting and processing of farmed salmon, click here.