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Aquaculture in NC: The Global Connection

“We just sold a much bigger one to Denmark, but couldn’t be this style”, said the trade show representative as if he had traveled to the town next door. Aquaculture has its roots in northern Europe in many ways, mainly through connections to the beginnings of domesticating Atlantic salmon. So many American companies are making good money selling their technology and feed to customers around the world that have already made the step into large-scale aquacultural production.

A few countries in particular made their influence known several times: Denmark, Chile, and Canada. Though these have prominent roles in the global capture fisheries as well, their particular geology gave them a head start on salmon that is expanding over into other types of aquaculture.

According to Denmark’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, they are expecting advances in saltwater breeding and reduction of environmental impacts of aquaculture to further expand their industry in the coming years. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Denmark is already the sixth largest exporter of seafood products, mostly of freshwater farmed trout and trout roe, which have a century of history in the country.

Chile’s start in aquaculture began with Atlantic salmon in the wrong hemisphere – that is, they brought salmon from Norway down to the similar ecosystem of the Chilean coast, jumping the barrier of warm equatorial water that prevented the salmon from doing so naturally. They’ve added bivalves and the seagrass Grassilaria to the portfolio. According to the FAO, they export most of their aquaculture products and growth is currently halted due to environmental concern from the grand salmon experiment.

Aquaculture in Canada is much more highly organized, with several professional organizations such as the Aquaculture Association and the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance. They trace their aquaculture back to stocking programs of trout and oysters in the 1950’s (FAO fact sheet), but it is now mostly comprised of salmon. Future expansions will focus on cod, halibut, and haddock. Our connection to Canadian fisheries is likely due to proximity, because though highly organized, they represent only .3% of the world’s aquaculture production.

Either way, the connection to these countries is through aquaculture technology. We share UV sterilization technology, water quality testing, feed formulations, and other demands. Our producers play on the same stage at the world seafood expos such as the one in Boston, where our American Prawn Cooperative recently had a display. The biggest international news of late is that China is crossing the boundary this year from a net exporter of seafood to a net importer. Our connections to Denmark, Chile, and Canada through networking in the global seafood expos might help North Carolina seafood explode on the global market to meet this new demand. But then again, maybe we’ll let the big producers bear the heavy burden and keep North Carolinian seafood to ourselves, the pride of our land and sea. Only the future will tell.