Mesh pens don't overcrowd salmon: MUN researcher

Aquaculture researcher Cyr Coutourier says pens currently used on the province's south coast do not overcrowd fish.

An aquaculture researcher at Memorial University disagrees with critics who say the industry should grow salmon in land-based tanks rather than in pens at sea.

Cyr Coutourier said mesh pens currently used on Newfoundland's south coast don't overcrowd the fish.

He said any tanks built on land would have to be very large to achieve the same growing conditions.

"It's a huge environmental footprint, a spacial footprint, not to mention the cost that would be required," said Coutourier.

"Not only economically, but environmentally. The carbon footprint is higher than a net pen, for example, for the equivalent area and the equivalent production."

Coutourier also said there's no guarantee that growing salmon in tanks will prevent infections.

This week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed an outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia at a farm operated by Cooke Aquaculture.

That prompted a call from provincial Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett to stop keeping the fish in pens.