Growing mussels and seaweed alongside farmed salmon makes sense financially and environmentally, a New Brunswick research scientist says.
Thierry Chopin at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John has been studying the benefits of growing the animals and plants together for 15 years, and has been working with the salmon aquaculture company Cooke Aquaculture to test the integrated system at eight salmon farms.
At $190-million a year, farmed salmon is New Brunswick's biggest cash crop. However, fish waste and uneaten feed pose environmental concerns and force farms to move their cages to let sites become clean.
Having mussels and seaweed alongside the salmon balances the ecosystem because after the salmon release nutrients into the water, the mussels absorb the organic components and seaweed takes in the inorganic parts, Chopin says.
Diversified sites can weather bad years for salmon better than sites that grow fish alone, providing economic stability to farmers, he says.
There's another perk, too: Chopin says the mussels are considerably plumper than the ones people would normally see at the grocery store, with a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.