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Old 09-20-2005, 08:12 PM
lenny lenny is offline
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Free range fish farming

The following is a copy of a proposal for "free range fish farming," which I would like to show to this forum before I start sending it to environmentalists, conservation groups, goverments, and whoever else may be willing to support this venture. This could be huge. It could fix alot of problems and feed alot of people. I am not trying to get rich. I am not going to patent this idea. The Romans raised salmon in pools and harvested them when they they came back from the ocean, which is essentially what this is all about. It seems that during the advancements of modern civilisation, we forgot how to do things the easy way. What I would like is for people to implement this idea on a large scale, maybe all us fishermen will get involved. Please consider that this is a draft copy, and that it was written for an audience group with varying backgrounds. I appreciate your feedback, and perhaps some of you would be interested in seeing this become a reality. I can be reached at

Free Range Fish Farming Proposal
Eric T. Lenover
Sept 17, 2005


People need to change the way they exploit salmon for food. What I am proposing is to raise “free range salmon.” It will require a cold water source, followed by a hatchery, rearing ponds, fish processing plant, and then flow downhill to the sea. We raise appropriate species of fish in the hatchery and rearing ponds, when they are ready to migrate they swim to the ocean. After feeding and growing to a mature size, they return on a spawning run, and swim right into the processing plant.

This method has vast advantages over current practices such as net cage aquaculture and commercial fishing. It is my greatest hope that it will someday replace both of these unsustainable industries. By taking these unnecessary pressures off our wild, native stocks, we may actually have a chance at conserving them before they disappear.


Our species has inflicted considerable harm to the various races of anadromous salmonids. Overharvesting of wild stocks and the effects of habitat degradation have greatly reduced their numbers. Many races of wild fish have been lost, and many more are in danger. Each of these races has evolved over time to take advantage of its own unique environmental conditions. Each is irreplacable.

Today even the great runs of the west coast of North America are dwindling. This frontier was preceded in not too recent history by the devastation of the atlantic salmon and the eastern brook trout of Atlantic Canada and the northeastern United States. Going back in time not much further we see the disappearance of salmon in the many rivers of England and Europe. Anywhere the population of our species has exploded due to the general advances of industrialisation, the salmon’s has shrunk due to the general effects of industrialisation.

Even putting aside dams, global warming, pollution, deforestation, irrigation, and the widespread commercial slaughter of these wild fish, a new threat to their survival has emerged. We are currently raising these fish like livestock, trying to domesticate them as a way of controlling and insuring production. I am not going to compare studies that suggest net cage aquaculture is good with studies that say net cage aquaculture is maybe not so good. I am going to explicitly state that net cage aquaculture is killing wild salmonids and defiling their environments just like fishermen, environmentalists, conservation groups and concerned members of the scientific community have been telling you for years. We need a solution to this nonsense and fast.

I will take no credit for discovering this idea. I did not invent it and I will not seek to patent it or control it. Fact is the Romans beat me to it. I would however like to convince forward thinking peoples of this world that there is a better, cheaper, easier, and more sustainable way to raise these fish. It is my greatest hope that we can eliminate net cage aquaculture, commercial fishing, and hatchery supplementation of wild fish. These wild fish belong to their rivers, and are a gift to traditional user groups such as native peoples, sport fishermen, grizzly bears and bald eagles.

Free Range Fish Farming:

Anyone who has ever witness an “enhanced” salmon run will need no further proof that this is possible. This is currently standard fisheries management on the pacific coast of North America, where anglers, natives and commercial interests alike demand fish to replace severely depleted wild stocks. The survival rate of these eggs is very much higher than the wild, therefore requiring less genetic material to produce a certain number of fish. I’ve seen rivers so full of hatchery coho that they were swimming nose to tail, one after the other, slowly upstream to spawning grounds that belong to their wild cousins. This must seriously disrupt the spawning of the wild fish, just the sheer numbers of hatchery fish would overwhelm the gene pool.

How it works; Migratory salmonids are ”imprinted” with the unique chemistry of their home waters. When they are mature they seek this scent, following it through ocean currents, into rivers and eventually to the place of their birth. Nature has allowed a low stray rate (maybe 2%) for the purpose of both genetic diversity and exploitation of previously unavailable spawning grounds. This homing system is extremely accurate. The Vancouver Aquarium has sockeye salmon coming home to a concrete pool with scented saltwater pumped through it and into Burrard inlet!

These hatchery fish may lack many aspects of wild fish, such as genetic diversity and willingness to attack a fly. But one aspect we could all agree on is that they taste like a wild fish. These fish have been out in the ocean feeding on plankton, baitfish, and shrimps. They chase and kill in order to eat and grow. Their flesh is filled with nutrients from the ocean, trace elements and minerals that have been bio-accumulated through the food chain. Caretenoids from the shrimp give their flesh a rich colour. Oils rich in omega 3 protected them from the low temperatures of the deep, rich waters in which they feed.

As good of a source of food these hatchery fish have turned out to be, they just simply do not belong in the rivers with wild fish stocks. Ideally, when they come back to land, we should collect them all and bonk them on their heads. Then we should gut, gill, and bleed them all right away, to preserve the flesh in a perfect condition. After which we should consume them. A simple system for producing these fish will include a water source, a hatchery, rearing ponds, and a fish processing plant, all flowing down hill in that order. When the fish return, they swim right into the processing plant, in prime condition and maximum size. We don’t chase after fish and we don’t feed them into adulthood. We hatch them, let nature look after them, then they come back to us and we eat them.

Through selecting different species and races of salmonids, we can vary the return times of the fish. For example; a facility on the west coast of Canada could support the five species of pacific salmon (King, coho, sockeye, chum and pink) plus steelhead (rainbow) trout. Plants could be made of early returning fish from large river systems, and later runs from smaller systems. Steelhead are known to run in just about every month of the year, depending on the conditions of their native rivers. So by properly selecting eggs and milt from different populations of native fish, we could create year round runs of hatchery fish for food. On the east coast of North America, we could work with atlantic salmon and eastern brook trout. On the huge north coasts of Canada, as well as in Greenland and other northern regions arctic char may be raised. In Europe there are atlantic salmon and brown trout. Russia has taimen, as well as atlantic and pacific salmons. In the southern hemisphere, Chile and Argentina have a mixture of just about everything. I’m sure there are other anadromous salmons, trouts, and chars that I may not have even mentioned. Come to think of it, this will work on any fish species that migrates to the river of its birth to spawn, including a lot of freshwater and tropical fish. It will work in the Great Lakes, which already supports many non native salmonids.

Free Range Fish Farming has many advantages over our current fish protein producing and collecting methods.

Quality of product: When the fish return to a FRFF, they are maximum size and peak condition because they are at the start of their spawning run. They swim a short distance upstream, into a processing plant and are quickly killed, eviscerated, and bled. This ensures that bacteria has very little chance to taint the meat. Any knowledgeable fisher would do the same immediately after landing the catch, and I can assure you that this makes a huge difference in the time it will keep fresh. I have personally kept trout fillets in my refrigerator for six days before cooking, and they had no fishy odour whatsoever. I have also seen fish from the fresh fish market degrade below edibility after one day in the refrigerator. This is because commercially caught fish die long before they are processed. They hang in gill nets, and when brought in they sit on ice until they are cleaned, sometimes on shore hours or days later. Of course not all commercial fisherman follow these practices, live capture methods such as trolling are just not as profitable as larger scale methods like open sea drift netting.

Net cage farming uses a controlled environment to ensure the fish live and grow to market size and quality. Factors that need to be controlled include parasites such as sea lice, which are controlled by chemicals. The fish are also fed antibiotics to combat disease, as their immune systems are compromised by a diet of rendered fish. This rendered fish also happens to lack in caretenoids so to make the flesh coloured like a wild fish would be, so dyes are included in the feed. Although these chemicals all play their part in ensuring the quality of the fish being raised, I doubt they actually increase the “quality” of the fish.

Energy expended:

FRFF requires a basic hatchery with pumps, aerators, and backup generators. It also requires a fish processing plant. Considering that commercial fishing is becoming more reliant on hatchery raised fish, we can also say that both commercial fishing and net cage farming also require hatcheries and processing plants. Now lets think about all the other uses of energy in these two industries. Like fossil fuels – for boats and generators and also for rendering all that feed. Do we not have a finite supply of fossil energy? A well designed fish hatchery could make do with solar and water energy, and a processing plant could be powered by humans with fillet knives if need be!

Easing the pressure on wild stocks:

I feel no need to prove that commercial fishing or net cage aquaculture harms wild fish stocks. Even the people who make money denying these facts know it is true. I could quote recent studies and so could they. But realistically, enough damage has already been done. These methods indiscriminately destroy native fish populations. It doesn’t matter how much we count and monitor the runs, one gill net could catch the entire spawning run of a small creek. A misplaced fish farm could kill the parr of an entire watershed as they swim through its sea lice infested waters. It’s true that other factors affect wild fish. We also need to fix those problems.

FRFF solves all of the problems associated with the other methods. Hatchery fish are kept out of the wild gene pool. They do not swim up the river to spawn with wild fish, slowly diluting the genetic variables that contribute to adaptability. There is no competition for spawning gravel, no destroyed redds. They swim into a processing plant, then we eat them.

When net cages are breached by weather or animals, fish escape and when mature spawn in nearby rivers. This is why we now have atlantic salmon in the Pacific Ocean and rainbow trout (a pacific species) in the Atlantic ocean. We have no idea how this might affect native fish populations because it is an ongoing experiment we have decided to conduct on the fragile ecosystems of this earth.

No waste to dispose of:

In net cage farm practices, excrement, unused food, and chemical residues collect on the ocean floor under the pen. This destroys any marine life in the area. When and if the accumulation causes problems to the operation, they move. Industrial waste disposal is handled by the ocean for free, and many industries take advantage of this fact. Including many city sewage plants.

Discriminate harvesting:

When you catch a salmon in the ocean, where did it come from? A run of thousands in an untouched northern river? Or perhaps a polluted metropolitan creek, where it was the last surviving member of a now extinct race. It is impossible to tell without tagging or DNA tests. With FRFF, you can be assured the fish being harvested were put there for that specific purpose.


I have great faith in this already proven method. It is so simple. It is cheaper. It produces a higher quality product. It gives us a chance to save the wild stocks. If we could implement this idea on a grand scale, simple economics would force the expensive and unsustainable current practices out of business. Instead of subsidising these industries, governments of the world could help coastal villages to build a future. Poor countries could feed themselves. Instead of taxing the resources of the sea to produce fish for the rich nations, we can restore the health of the waters.
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Old 09-26-2005, 02:22 PM
OC OC is offline
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Thanks for intrest in better ways to farm fish via free range fish. Not to discourage you but my concern is that right now we are having trouble with oceans and what looks like the amount of biomass in our migratory routes of Salmon and on both coasts. Be it global warming or some other problem we do not have enough food out there now for our wild fish and crappy hatchery fish. Anyway it's looking that way. So my thought is do we need more compition for what we have. With aqua culture raping our seas for fish food world wide to feed their farm fish and shrimp we are in big trouble on the high seas. Do we need more non wild fish in the food chain right now?
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Old 09-26-2005, 02:43 PM
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sean sean is offline
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Od regarding the fish food. Saw this in my local paper yesterday. Sounds interesting...

Recipe for leftover squid

Two URI professors invent a process that turns the byproduct into fish food.

08:45 AM EDT on Friday, September 16, 2005

Journal Staff Writer

SOUTH KINGSTOWN -- The defrosting mass of frozen squid parts looked like the monster in a sci-fi horror movie, a grayish lump of rubbery flesh and a mishmash of teeny tentacles.

Journal photo / John Freidah

Eugene Park, above left, and Chong Lee are the entrepreneurs behind SquidHydro, a protein-rich food to feed farm-raised fish in the aquaculture industry. The two convert squid waste byproducts into a powdery end product.

These are the parts of the squid the fishing and food processing industry doesn't want -- mostly heads, guts and tentacles that can be an environmental problem if discarded into the ocean. Two University of Rhode Island professors hope to turn those squid byproducts into a profitable business.

Marine BioConversion, the start-up company of Eugene Park and Chong Lee, has developed a process to turn squid byproducts into protein-rich food to feed farm-raised fish in the aquaculture industry.

The two academics hope to move their project from the laboratory to a manufacturing plant in Galilee within a year, said Park, in a recent interview at their URI lab. Park and Lee showed off a basketball-sized lump of frozen squid parts and a sample of their finished product, called SquidHydro, which looked something like curry powder.

After two years of development and testing, Park and Lee say that their fish food performs better than other commercially available feeds, leading to better growth and survival rates for fish larvae.

As the professors explained, the conversion process invented by Lee involves grinding the squid parts and then allowing the enzymes in the squid to break the material down further into something resembling wet, black yogurt. The key is to know when to stop the breakdown to provide the optimal amount of nutrition in the mix, they said.

Their final product tastes like dried squid, said Lee.

The feed is easily digestible and healthful to young fish, the two entrepreneurs said. Squid have a short life span, so they generally don't have time to pick up poisons, such as mercury, from polluted water, Park said.

Park, an associate professor and co-director of the URI Center for Pollution Prevention, recently returned from a trade mission to Newfoundland, Canada, that was part of the annual New England Governors-Eastern Canadian Premiers conference in St. John's. Governor Carcieri also attended.

Newfoundland has a substantial aquaculture industry, Park said, and he is interested in having SquidHydro evaluated there. "That would be a huge boost for us in our marketing," he said.

The business grew out of the Center for Pollution Control's efforts to solve environmental problems generated by squid byproducts, Park said. The business in 2001 received about $75,000 in seed money from the state-financed Samuel Slater Technology Fund to complete research, Park said. He has also put some of his own money into the project.

Park and Lee are negotiating a licensing agreement with URI to commercialize the technology developed at the university, Park said, adding that negotiations with the URI Foundation have progressed "in baby steps." They have yet to agree on what share of the company and its profits would go to the univerity. Park said it may make sense to line up a major investor before completing the licensing agreement so that the investor would have a say in the deal. Investors are interested in their idea, and capital should be available, he said.
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Old 09-27-2005, 12:47 AM
Moonlight Moonlight is offline
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All right! Just what we need another reason to overharvest Squid.
Sorry but I still do not see any advantage to fish farming. Less is better includes people. ( any volunteers?)
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Old 09-27-2005, 06:19 AM
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juro juro is offline
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I can't help but see some merit in the proposal, considering that we currently discard a tremendous quantity of by-product that could provide more efficient returns.

However, it would require that the rate of harvest of squid be kept at constant levels to prevent the things that were mentioned above - abuses.

Case in point - North Sea Sand Lance harvest. Literally in excess of one million tons of sand eels are harvested annually for use in fish feed. This has impacted every organism in the North Sea from predatory fish to sea birds to massive whales. The harvest is growing in size every year. It doesn't take a crystal ball to see where this is heading.

Yet with some fisheries (gulf shrimp for instance) generating a 12:1 by-kill ratio, I do see merit in using what we are already discarding. The herring roe fishery in Alaska always seemed wasteful of the herring bodies to me, although in that case they are most likely jettisoned into the rich north pacific soup and ultilized by all kinds of sea creatures.

One last concern is where too much of one thing is used natural systems usually fail. Squid gut powder, sand eel meal, etc - are convenient and controllable for our human ways of thinking but in the scheme of nature too narrow of a dietary range.

Take for instance the sitka spruce re-plantings of modern logging operations. In nature, when these grow in a certain density a weevil explosion destroys the entire stand. Thus they don't occur in such densities.

In our desire to have uniform stands of s/spruces we planted acres of them together and when they reached a certain age decades later the weevils destroyed what is not supposed to happen in nature before they could be logged.

You could look at that as a weevil problem, or you could look at that as a human thinking problem. I think the latter, since nature is the ulitmate truth; the great balancing act in the universe, and we are always trying to fool her.
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Old 09-27-2005, 08:19 AM
lenny lenny is offline
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Feed Conversion ratio (F.C.R.)

The ratio of the gain in the wet body weight of the fish to the amount of feed fed. The true F.C.R includes wasted feed and mortalities. The ratio, usually expressed as a true ratio (i.e. 1 : 1.5) is often quoted as a "rate" (1.5). Feed conversion ratios of less than 1 : 1 are possible with commercial diets, as the pellet being fed is a "dry" diet, and a high percentage of weight gained by the fish, is water trapped in the tissues and cells. Feed conversion ratios with commercial "dry" diets are typically in the region of 1 : 0.8 to 1 : 1.5. Ratios with wet diets are higher than this, and can be as high as 1 : 10.
this is taken from the "Aquaculture dictionary" at

Also a good read, and very factual;
Net loss of wild fish to produce farmed salmon

Net cage aquaculture is a non sustainable practice. The world still needs to be fed. Something has to change on a grand scale. With a little bit of public pressure and proactive legislation, we could phase out net cage aquaculture. We just need something to replace it with.
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Old 09-27-2005, 09:56 AM
Moonlight Moonlight is offline
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Juro the carcasses from the Herring Roe fisheries are; exported for food, ground up and used for bait in crab fisheries, used as is in some longline fisheries, and some is gound for dumping back into the water to become part of the on going chain of life. From time to time when the cold storages in Alaska are grinding up "Waste" you will see big schools of juvenile Cod and Sablefish feeding by the thousands on the "waste".
I remeber somebody converted Herring from the sac roe fishery into Oregon Moist Pellets for hatchery feed the problem was that the product was too lean and had a much higher percentage of bone than normal. This caused a huge number of fish in the hatchery systems with eye Cataracts.
At first blush everything we waste seems terrible but sometimes it ain't so bad especially when its part of a well manged fishery.
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Old 09-27-2005, 10:15 PM
Smalma Smalma is offline
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Lenny -
An interesting topic - and you are right it is not an original idea - there are several examples of this approach. When applied to the real world it is clear that FRFFs may not be the panacea we would hope they would be.

First problem is siting of the freshwater rearing site. If they are placed on a large river system we would likley have adverse impacts on existing wild stocks. If they are place on a small stream without exist or miminal salmonid populations the behavior of the return adults will be such that they will not enter the stream until they reach maturity.

They will mill around the mouth of the small stream until they are ready to spawn. The fish returning to the "processing plant" will be dark and of reduced qualtiy. For the process to achieve a high quality product they will have to fishing in the terminal area creating the same problems of mixed stock fishing and fishing gear impacts. Additional such a scenario results in same FRFFs straying to the near by rivers spawning with existing wild stocks. The situation of your FRFFs is almost exactly what the Tulalip tribes have created here in Puget Sound. Their hatchery is a small stream with minimal wild salmonids (mostly coastal cutthroat). However they can not get enough chinook or coho back to maintian their program, rather they get eggs from a state run hatchery. They are successful in getting chum salmon back to the hatchery. The fishing on the return fish occurs in the terminal bay as well as the outside mixed stock area. Generally the fish caught in the terminal bay are of poorer quality.

Their chinook program illustrates the problem with FRFF produced fish straying to nearby systems. Roughtly 10% of the natural spawning chinook in the nearby Snohomish system are from that program.

You are correct in that FRFFs would end the sea-lice problem - a big plus. However the release of the smolts create both predation and competition problems for nearby wild stocks - trading one problem for another.

Much has been made of the use of fish meal for feeding of farmed stocks and the potential over-mining of forage stocks. This is true but the real issue is we as humans insist on feeding high up on the food chain. We want our fish protein to be salmon rather than herring fish meal. It is pretty easy to demostrate that if we are going to eat X tons of salmon the farmed product makes a much more efficient use of the forage base than wild fish. Higher food conversion rates and less mortality going to factors other than human consumation.

FRFFs would be unlikely to produce the year-round availability of product that the farmed fish do. You are correct that there are year -round runs of various salmonids. However most still retain relatively narrow spawning windows which limits their availability in the home stream unless they are in large river systems. For example while steelhead of one stock or another return to home systems every month their spawning still is confined to late winter/spring/early summer. When they are produced in a small system they are hestiate to enter them until sexaully mature thus making them only seasonal available unless their harvest is moved into the larger (mixed stock area) streams or marine waters.

In short except for some very special and limited circumstances FRFFs present as many economic and biological problems as either net pens or commerical fishing on existing hatchery and wild stocks. FRFFs should be consider just one of the many tools available to supply protein for our diets. That tool is likely only the best one in limited cases.

Sorry to be negative however if we are really going to address the problems generated by society needs we need honest assessment of the resulting problems and realistic solutions based on considered and informed risk assessment judgements- there are no magic bullets to solve the problems.

Tight lines
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Old 09-28-2005, 07:00 PM
OC OC is offline
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Very true Smalma,

It's great that you are against the destructive issues of fish farming and they are many. But don't you think the idea of free range salmon is also playing with mother nature? When industry plays with mother nature for profit all loose except those making the profit and that profit is very short term gain. It has been proven time and time again that industry/ big business can not feed the world.
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