Fish and shellfish have been an important part of the human diet since the beginning of recorded history. The ancient Romans and Assyrians tried to meet the demand for fish by farming them in ponds. Today, the global demand for seafood is at an all-time high, and one of the companies at the forefront of supplying the increasing demand is Cooke Aquaculture from Black’s Harbour, New Brunswick.
Cooke Aquaculture was established in 1985 as “Kelly Cove Salmon” by the father and son team of Gifford, Michael and Glenn Cooke. While the company’s beginnings were humble, starting off with a single marine cage site containing 5,000 salmon, the family knew that long-term success and sustainability would require a plan that included full, vertical integration of all aspects of salmon production. The Cooke’s purchased “Oak Bay Hatchery” and embarked on an aggressive plan for growth that continues to this day.
Over the years, the company expanded its facilities, product lines and distribution networks and now has operations in all Maritime provinces, Maine, Chile, Spain and Scotland as well as sales throughout the United States and Canada.
Through its wholly-owned subsidiaries, Cooke Aquaculture processes and sells 115,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon and 20,000 metric tons of sea bass and sea bream each year with annual sales of nearly $1 billion.
Sustainability is good for business
Sustainability isn’t just another buzzword to Cooke Aquaculture.
“It’s a word that’s often overused” says Nell Halse – VP Communications for Cooke Aquaculture, “but what it really mean is, if you are using good farming practices and you are really committed to protecting the environment where you are farming, you are going to have healthier fish…so when a customer buys a beautiful piece of salmon from a farm like that, they can be comfortable that the farm was operating in a really responsible manner.
The secret is Innovation
Dr. Keng Pee Ang, head of Development, Feed and Nutrition for Cooke Aquaculture, is a happy man because the Cooke Aquaculture breeding program. “This is the first time we were able to get over 100,000 babies from our in-house breeding program.”
Dr. Ang oversees a cunner breeding program that could prove to be a key part in controlling sea lice in the future. Sea lice are marine ectoparasites (external parasites) that feed on the mucus, epidermal tissue, and blood of host marine fish.
“We may be the first to ever produce cunners in captivity,” says Dr. Ang. “Maybe someone did it as an experiment, but we may be the first to do it commercially.”
Dr. Ang says the basis for the trials on the use of cunners as a tool to combat sea lice came from Norway. “These fish are called cleaners simply for the fact that they clean other fish,” says Dr. Ang. “So the Norwegians have been using cleaner fish for a while.”
And it’s delicious
Atlantic salmon is prized for its rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals. It is one of the best sources of DHA and EPA Omega-3 fatty acids and remains a favourite among fish-lovers as an extremely versatile fish to cook.