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When you’re in the seafood business and  farming salmon, the topic of sustainability comes up constantly. Naturally, as a farm that raises its salmon in its natural, ocean environment, we at Skuna Bay are as passionate about being responsible in our waters as anyone could be. After all, we need to have healthy and pristine waters in order to have a sustainable future. So our Craftsman Farmers’ jobs in many ways are as much to be conservationists as they are to be animal farmers.

All that being said, while of course we think we operate at the height of sustainability, anyone can say anything at any time, but there’s limited credibility in boasting about one’s own operation. This is why it has been so important to hold a credible, valid, third party audited certification from a well-recognized certification program. And this past week there were some developments on this topic at the Sustainable Seafood Summit in Seattle. At that event, our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program announced a change to their criteria, that moving forward, salmon farmers who adopt the ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) certification would automatically qualify for a “yellow (good alternative)” ranking under the Seafood Watch program. This is commendable and good news for responsible producers. Finally, it is being recognized that rearing salmon in its natural, ocean environment is a positive thing for the world and that our efficient, low carbon food method could truly be a major contributor to sustainable food solutions globally.

 

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Hello Chefs from the farms! 

I wanted to share with you the latest from our Skuna Bay farms. Since we resumed harvesting earlier this year we’ve been really happy with how our salmon is responding. Feeding has gone well and our fish are showing us their appreciation – at almost 11 lbs, our average size has never been larger! Mother Nature seems to be cooperating and while I have been raising salmon too long to expect an easy ride, we feel like we’re in the best position we have ever been, positioned for great quality fish and lots of them in the months and years ahead. One thing that gives me a lot of optimism is an innovation that we have introduced and are starting to perfect. This is a “graded harvest”.

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For the past 6 months we have been at a farm that has drastically under performed - so we made the difficult decision to reduce supply rather than relax our standards. Our time at the Bennett sea farm reminded us that even our best efforts, even all the passion and experience in the world sometimes isn't enough to overcome Mother Nature. The main problem was that we were limited to harvesting from this one area as the fish at our other farms in Nootka Sound were not mature and not ready to be harvested. It meant that we had no other options. Bennett's troubles were due to a lack of oxygen in the water because of a lack of storm activity in the fall (this meant less turbulence in the water column and less oxygen - when this happens fish struggle and can't be fed and they fail to thrive which causes other problems). The fish were smaller and less of them met the Skuna Bay standard (a quality criteria we weren't willing to bend). This is the one farm location where we see this.

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For more than 2 years we Craftsman Farmers of Skuna Bay have been proudly raising great salmon for great chefs. In doing this we have used our experience, our knowledge and generally our love for what we do to ensure that every time the chef receives their box of Skuna Bay in their kitchen, the fish in that carton arrive in 'fresh-from-the-ocean' condition. That has been the mission and we have searched for ways (small and large) to control every little variable that can affect that experience.

Doing this and seeing the chefs' response to our work has been very rewarding and it motivates us to continue doing what we are doing: improving and driving for better results for our chef customers.

Yet for these past few months we have been reminded that ultimately we Craftsman Farmers can't control everything, especially Mother Nature. We have been harvesting at a farm since last December that has consistently given us challenges that are

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It’s Thanksgiving week which reminds me that it is a good time to reflect on the many blessings we at Skuna Bay have been afforded this year and since our inception in November of 2011 in Southern California when we delivered our first salmon to a chef. It sure has been humbling to have some of the greatest chefs in North America ask for and appreciate our salmon.

When we began this journey two years ago with our first distributor partner Santa Monica Seafood, we had no idea where things would go. We knew we wanted to achieve two things: one we wanted to give chefs a great salmon experience every time they ordered it so that they could always have confidence that they would be putting their best in front of their customers. And two, we hoped to show that it is possible to responsibly rear salmon in its natural ocean environment with more attention to detail and with a focus on high standards. We hope we are achieving that but the task is never complete.

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The question I get asked the most seems to be "how do you ensure great texture?"

Texture drives all in a salmon experience and the variables that determine great texture are mostly controllable. So that's what we focus in on. The big picture is water that has a strong tidal current so fish are swimming against resistance and building up strong muscles. Lower pen densities are important too so the fish has room to swim. At harvest is the most critical time - we must make sure the fish are neither stressed nor fatigued because that would introduce lactic acid into their muscles and would affect texture. We ensure we harvest in small "pockets" and time it so the fish are in the pocket no longer than one hour. Then we move our salmon to the processor so they are inspected, selected and packed before they go into rigor so no one is handling a stiff fish and possibly tearing their fillets. The final piece is that closed system where, once the fish is packed, no one opens the box till it arrives in the chef's kitchen. That way, the fish always maintains the right temperature and stays like it was when it came out of the ocean.

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Hello Chef,

I am a salmon farmer and very proud to be doing what I am doing. I have farmed fish for 25 years in Scotland, New Zealand, Canada and I even spent two years in Papua New Guinea as a volunteer helping people set up their own farms in order to feed their population.

I believe raising salmon in their natural ocean environment is one solution to the world’s problems. We help feed the world and in the process reduce pressure on the wild salmon populations. In fact, if there was enough wild salmon to go around we certainly wouldn’t need to exist. But there isn’t and we can help with that.

We realize not everyone in the world does a good job farming salmon but we are trying to show how it can be done right. And now with our development of Skuna Bay, we are challenging the status quo – trying to show great chefs in Vancouver (but also all over North America) how salmon can be raised responsibly. We hope that you will help us deliver on that vision.

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from Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD Doctor of Public Health, Registered Dietitian and Author

We face a sea of choices when it comes to diet and good health. . .but salmon is one choice that offers so much when it comes to quality nutrition and fits swimmingly into our healthy lifestyle!

Salmon is a SuperFood

Salmon is a nutritional powerhouse, best known perhaps for being the highest whole foods source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. But it’s also an important supply of a number of other key nutrients essential to health.

As a doctor of public health and registered dietitian working with clients, I am often asked what a person should eat for optimal health. The good news is that there clearly are some delicious foods that enhance health when eaten frequently, while other foods may do the opposite. And as a food enthusiast who works with professional chefs and at-home cooks—enjoying delicious meals in both settings frequently—I know that when it comes to food, while health is essential, flavor is also key.

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NAME: Blair Billard AGE: 41
FARM: Nootka Sound farms – Williamson, Concepcion, Atrevida, Muchalaht South
REGION: West Coast Vancouver Island
YEARS AS A SALMON FARMER: 16 WHY YOU BECAME A SALMON FARMER: I have always been fascinated with the life cycle of salmon and have been working with them all of my life….. Salmon conservation, salmon enhancement, and then salmon farming. Salmon farming was a natural direction for me to take and I’m both happy, and proud to be a part of raising food for the world in a sustainable way. WHAT YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT RAISING SALMON IN THE OCEAN: I have the most beautiful office setting in the world. Some of the most incredible experiences I’ve had in nature happened while I was on the salmon farm in the Pacific Ocean. I’ve seen whales, dolphins, eagles, seals, sea lions, bears, and wolves just to name a few.

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NAME: Steve Munro
AGE: Old enough
FARM: Williamson Pass in Nootka Sound
NUMBER OF YEARS AS A SALMON FARMER: 12 great years


 

WHY YOU BECAME A SALMON FARMER: Being a salmon farmer was a convenience at first. If I had known how fulfilling the work was, I would have gone to school and pursed a career in aquaculture years ago.

WHAT YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT FARMING SALMON IN THE OCEAN: Having the opportunity of working outdoors in some of the best waters in the world, while growing a viable resource for people to eat.

FAVORITE WAY TO EAT SALMON: There isn’t any way I wouldn’t eat salmon!

WHAT YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT: Family, friends. I believe that what I do for a living helps people.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACE DAILY: Being away from my family. It helps that I am working at something I love and having an understanding family

BEST MEMORY: The first time my family came out to stay on the farm, which gave me the opportunity to show them what I do.

THING YOU ARE MOST PROUD ABOUT: That I have had the opportunity of working with Skuna Bay, growing some of the best fish in the world.