One of the world's largest aquaculture companies is turning its farming focus in South America to a Pacific salmon subspecies — yet the company will continue to raise Atlantic salmon on the B.C. coast.

Cermaq, an international fish farming group based in Oslo, raises salmon in Norway, Chile and Canada. In B.C., the company, which until recently used the name Mainstream Canada, operates on both the east and west sides of Vancouver Island and has 27 ocean and three freshwater fish farms.

Cermaq's economic growth plan for its South American operation indicates that Pacific coho salmon will become a key component of future growth.

It says coho are robust, less susceptible to disease and sea lice than either trout or Atlantic salmon species, and as a result coho salmon cost less to farm.

Atlantic salmon farming has become controversial in B.C. because of concerns about diseases spreading to wild salmon populations and because of fears over the potential for the Atlantic salmon to escape into Pacific salmon territory.

Cermaq Canada spokesman Grant Warkentin, based in Campbell River, said the company is licensed to grow Atlantic salmon in B.C., customers want the product, and its head office has not directed employees to change direction in the province.

With files from CBC News