are anadromous. They spend their
lives primarily in saltwater, returning to
freshwater to spawn. Traditionally farmed
salmon are often grown in open-net
ocean pens. That’s led to problems such
as pollution, an increase of sea lice and
escapement of nonnative species. Both
wild and traditionally farmed salmon share
a need for a saltwater environment for part
of their lifecycles.
Farm-raised SweetSpring salmon from AquaSeed has earned a green rating from
the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
There are feed issues, as well. While the
farmed salmon industry has been working
to improve feed ratios, it can take as much
as 5 pounds of meal made from smaller
wild-caught fish to produce a pound of
salmon—a ratio environmentalists say is
simply not sustainable.
label is considered pedigree bred. It took
AquaSeed owner Per Heggelund 18 two-year generations to produce a Pacific coho
salmon that can thrive in a freshwater
environment. But unlike the genetically
modified AquaBounty salmon, this salmon’s
makeup has not been tweaked by adding
genetic material from other sources.
says Ken Peterson, spokesperson for
the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “It was
encouraging to have such a positive
response to the green ranking, but I’m
not aware of anyone who has picked up
the ball and is doing the same type of
aquaculture. But certainly, that’s our hope.”
The Pacific coho salmon developed by
AquaSeed and sold under the SweetSpring
The AquaSeed fish are bred to be efficient,
as well. Heggelund has been able to whittle
the fish-in-fish-out ratio down to 1.1 pounds
of feed to produce a pound of salmon. It takes
12-15 months to produce harvestable fish.
The faster growth can be attributed to the
water temperature in the tanks, which can be
controlled and fluctuates less than it would for
fish grown in open-net pens, says Heggelund.
AquaSeed produces 200,000 pounds of
salmon a year, but Heggelund hopes to
double production by the end of the year.
For now, the company’s coho salmon is
being served at Microsoft’s corporate
cafeteria in Redmond, Wash., and at
Mashiko Japanese Restaurant & Sushi
Bar in Seattle, with the remainder being
sold at Overwaitea Foods grocery stores in
British Columbia, Canada.
The instrumental aquaculture changes
made by AquaSeed prompted the
Monterey Bay Aquarium to bestow a
green rating on the farm-raised salmon in
January. Even better, the fish’s high levels
of omega- 3 fatty acids and low levels of
PCBs pushed it onto Seafood Watch’s
Super Green List—which had industry-watchers abuzz.
“We’re getting all kinds of requests for the
product,” says Heggelund. “The challenge
right now is just getting production up to
satisfy the market. We’re adding tanks and
expanding our system here.”
“Our hope was that others would follow
their lead and begin using the same
methods—to create a market demand,”
Calif.-based writer Clare Leschin-Hoar
has covered fishing and seafood topics for
The Wall Street Journal, SciAm.com, San
Diego Magazine, Slashfood and more. Visit