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    Manitoba Water StewardshipFisheries Branch

    Box 20 200 Saulteaux CrescentWinnipeg, Manitoba

    R3J 3W3

    April, 2004



    Introduction 1

    Aquaculture in Manitoba 1

    Aquaculture in Canada 3

    Canadian Aquaculture Update 7

    Technical Aspects of Intensive Aquaculture 11

    Economic Aspects of Aquaculture 12

    Regulations and Regulatory Aspects of Intensive Aquaculture in Manitoba 14

    Intensive Aquaculture is a Business! 23

    In Summary 27

    References 28


    1. Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program2. Water Quality Characteristics3. Financial Tables4. Business Contacts5. Ontario Marketing Study6. Fish Farming Planning Checklist



    Aquaculture, or fish farming, has been practised in Manitoba since the late 1960s.It began with experimental studies on pothole lakes in the Erickson area in southwesternManitoba. To date, Manitoba operations have primarily taken the form of hobby farming,involving the release of fingerlings into farm dugouts or ponds on private lands, or intosmall lakes on Crown lands. These fish are then used primarily for recreational purposes.A good source of information on this type of activity, referred to as extensive fishfarming, is the booklet Trout Farming in Manitoba, available from the Fisheries Branch ofthe Manitoba Department of Conservation.

    "Intensive" aquaculture, which takes the form of fish rearing in cages, tanks, orraceways, is relatively new in Manitoba, and there are currently only a few commercialaquaculture operations of this magnitude in the province. However, increasing interesthas been expressed in developing larger commercial operations, creating a demand forbetter advice and guidelines on how to start an intensive aquaculture business.

    The purpose of this brochure is to attempt to provide this advice. It is notintended to provide all the details on commercial aquaculture. Intensive operations arestill very much in the developmental stage in Manitoba, with new techniques beingdeveloped all the time. The brochure will, however, make the prospective fish farmeraware of the potential legal requirements, environmental concerns, relevant agencycontacts, and general good business practices that will contribute towards increasing thepotential for success of an intensive aquaculture operation.


    Aquaculture was initiated in Manitoba in the late 1960s, largely throughexperimental stocking by the Freshwater Institute and the Manitoba Government of veryproductive potholes located in southwestern Manitoba. Rainbow trout quickly becamethe species of choice due to their rapid rate of growth and their general hardiness. Theycontinue to be the primary species raised in Manitoba.

    In the early 1990s, there were four private hatcheries that sold fingerlings; threeof these operators also sold eggs. These producers were also "grow-out" operations,selling "pan-sized" fish (greater than 6 inches long) for eating. Generally, these fishwere in the 2-4 pound range. At this point, prices for rainbow trout were dropping andArctic char was rapidly becoming of major interest to Manitoba operators. Some fishfarmers were experimenting with various species of salmon.

    AgPro Fish Farms in Winnipeg, established in 1986 under the name of EldersAqua Farms, was originally the only intensive grow-out operation in the province for troutand Arctic char. In the mid-1980s, the Freshwater Institute (Canada Department ofFisheries and Oceans) in Winnipeg began experimenting with production of Arctic charat their Rockwood Hatchery located in Manitoba's interlake region.

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    Subsequently, as part of a technology transfer agreement between Elders andDFO, the company converted its malting plant into a grow-out facility to initiate intensiveArctic char and rainbow trout production. The company later began experimenting withkokanee salmon. Despite AgPro's apparent success, the Head Office in Saskatchewandecided to close down the Winnipeg operation in 1994 while maintaining a cage culturefacility on Deifenbaker Lake in southern Saskatchewan (now called Cangro). Aroundthe same time, a long-time fingerling producer located at LaBroquerie, southeast ofWinnipeg, also closed its doors.

    Annually in Manitoba, there are between 25 and 30 licensed commercialoperators who raise fish for sale. They primarily farm private waters, although a few arelicensed to use Crown waters. There are also approximately 500-600 unlicensed hobbyfish farmers who buy fingerlings from licensed fish farmers to stock private waters fortheir own use.

    There are four major operators in Manitoba. One fingerling producer, ArcticAquafarms located near Garson, also operates a grow-out facility and a fee-for-fishingoperation. The federal Rockwood Hatchery at Gunton has been sold to privateinterests, and has changed hands several times over the past few years; Agassiz AquaTech took over in the summer of 2001 and operates a hatchery and grow-out operationat this site, producing primarily arctic char. The Manitoba Rainbow Trout FarmersAssociation at Erickson and Clear Springs Aqua Farms near Roblin, are primarilybrokers who import fingerlings from the U.S. and distribute them in the spring.

    In 1999, Manitoba fish farmers reported selling 196,000 rainbow trout fingerlings.Grow-out operations sold 4,260 kgs of rainbow trout and 3,962 kgs of arctic char. In2000, fingerling sales dropped slightly to 172,000 rainbow trout. Grow-out salesincreased slightly to 6,884 kgs of rainbow trout and 7,273 kgs of arctic char. In 2001,fish farmers reported sales of 190,000 rainbow trout fingerlings, 15,530 kgs of rainbowtrout, and 27,730 kgs of arctic char. Fingerling sales remained stable at 190,000rainbow trout in 2002, while grow-out sales increased to 16,050 kgs of rainbow trout,and 47,000 kgs of arctic char.

    There are three fee-for-fishing (or U-catch-em) businesses, where customerspay to fish in privately stocked ponds. Equipment is supplied, if needed. Such ponds arevery popular in the U.S. and offer opportunities for fish farmers near larger urbancentres. These ponds are easily accessible and can be fished from shore; ideal forsmall children and individuals who are unable to access sport fishing otherwise.

    Commercial fish farming operations and the services they offer are listed in moredetail in the brochure "Manitoba Fish Farming Operations", available from ManitobaWater Stewardship.

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    In 1988, the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) commissionedPrice Waterhouse to assess the growth potential of the Canadian aquaculture industryto the year 2000. The resulting report, "Long Term Production Outlook for the CanadianAquaculture Industry", issued in 1989 and updated in 1990, discussed the major speciescultivated, including rainbow trout and Arctic char, the primary species produced inManitoba. Highlights of this report follow.

    Trout Farming

    Commercial aquaculture in Canada began in the 1950s, with production focused ontrout culture in Ontario and British Columbia, and oyster culture in B.C., PrinceEdward Island, and New Brunswick. Trout farming in Canada is carried out primarilyin fresh water. However, with the growth of marine culture, producers have beenrearing marine trout in sea cages, primarily in Nova Scotia.

    Rainbow trout is the primary species of fish raised on Canadian freshwater fishfarms. It has been bred and reared for many decades and is now a domesticatedfish with a rapid rate of growth, high resistance to disease, and a good tolerance tocrowding.

    The production of trout in Canada serves three major markets:

    Pond fishing; Lake and river stocking; and Human food consumption.

    Freshwater trout production in Canada for 1989 was approximately 2,500 MT, about80% of which was from Ontario. Approximately 4% came from the Prairie Provincesand the Territories, collectively. This compared with annual production figures of32,000 MT in Italy, 30,000 in Denmark, 22,000 in the U.S. and 20,000 MT in France.At that time, Japan was producing between 15,000 and 20,000 MT per year.

    Price Waterhouse projected total Canadian production at between 3,400 MT and5,200 MT of freshwater trout by 1995, and between 4,100 MT and 7,300 MT by theyear 2000. Trout farming in the prairies and territories was thought to be at thedevelopmental stage. Under an optimistic scenario, these provinces would produceabout 200 MT by 1995 and about 400 MT by the year 2000. [More recent figuresshow total trout production in Canada reached 5,900 MT in 1994, of which 305 MTwas from Saskatchewan and Alberta. No data were available for Manitoba.]

    In 1987, Canada imported 1,062 MT of trout including 252 MT of fresh trout, 540 MTof frozen trout, and another 270 MT of other trout products. Almost 90% of theseimports went to Ontario, Quebec and B.C. Imports have remained at around 1,000MT since 1981, despite the growth in trout production in Canada of over 1,000 MTduring that same period. This is largely because the Canadian products do notcompete directly with the imported products. Canadian trout are sold fresh withincreasing amounts being sold smoked or as fillets rather than pan-sized. Themajority of imported trout from Idaho are sold frozen, at an average weight of about250 g and for a lower price than the Canadian product.

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    Because the Canadian product had the potential to be sold fresh all year round, thepotential to displace imports was not considered indicative of the size of the totalmarket. Moreover, similar to other fish pr