Here in Nova Scotia, we’re incredibly fortunate to have a wide variety of product that we can farm on our shorelines. From finfish to shellfish to seaweed and eels, the great bounty our waters allows gives little room to wonder why our province is well renowned for its seafood. Let’s take a look at some of what Nova Scotia has to offer!
These coral-fleshed finfish are farmed in cool, fresh waters, giving them a unique taste separate from both Salmon and Trout! Within Nova Scotia, these fish have often been used as an aquaculture starter fish, as they are hardy and grow well at high densities as they naturally group together in tightly packed schools. On the market, this fish is extremely popular as at harvest Char yield a fillet 7-8% higher than other farmed salmonids.
This flatfish is the largest in its family usually weighing between 50 to 100lbs, although the largest ever found was nearly half a ton! These animals are difficult to farm as the young fish undergo a unique maturation process where their left eye moves over the top of their head relocating completely on the right side of their body, leaving them completely “blind” on one side. Younger halibut is the most valued on the market and is considered a speciality item on many menus for its low-fat white firm, mild meat.
The salmon aquaculture industry in Canada began in 1978, when the first salmon farm was opened in St. Andrews NB. With wild Atlantic salmon stocks depleting rapidly, the demand for farmed Atlantic salmon has increased, making farming of this finfish the most profitable aquaculture sector and the third-largest seafood export by value in Canada. Today, 300 million meals of salmon are being produced annually in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia alone.
Two-thirds of the global striped sea bass populations migrate to spawn in the Bay of Fundy. These local fish are not a well-kept secret as anglers and foodies from around the world appreciate their delightful taste. Striped Bass are distinguishable by the 7 to 8 horizontal stripes that line their sides. Although it was only recently that Atlantic Canada began to farm these fish, the future for this industry looks both bright and delicious.
Although there are many trout species two are farmed in Nova Scotia – Rainbow Trout, which is the most common, and Brook Trout. Trout can be farmed in marine and land-based aquaculture systems, but when Rainbow Trout live in saltwater they are called Steelhead Trout. Each different trout species can be distinguished by their unique colouration patterns that help camouflage the fish to their surrounding environment.
This robust species with its distinctive thick white shell has the ability to live in waters of varying salinities, ranging from brackish, estuarine-like coastal waters to full seawater! The subtle discrepancies in environmental conditions are linked with the dramatically different tastes associated with each type of oyster. Most traditional American Oysters take 3-7 years to grow to the 5-inch market size, although recently smaller “cocktail oysters” have become popular which are only 3 inches long.
In Canada, hard-shelled clams (more commonly known as Bay Quahogs) are only farmed in Nova Scotia. Three sizes of these monstrous clams are produced littleneck, cherrystone and chowder clam, which range in size from 2-3 inches and take between 4-8 years to grow.
There are over 350 species of scallops worldwide but only two are cultured in Nova Scotia; Bay Scallops and Sea Scallops. Different from the other bivalves farmed in Nova Scotia, scallops are free-living and have even been known to swim! This action is done by taking in a large quantity of water and expelling it rapidly, using jet propulsion to move across the ocean floor. The muscle that facilitates this action is the adductor muscle, which is also the portion of the scallop prized by connoisseurs around the world. The largest discrepancy between the two scallop species is age, where the oldest Sea Scallop was found to be 20 years old, but in contrast, Bay Scallops are relatively short living, reaching maturity within a year and dying before they are 24 months old. Interestingly enough, in order to combat their short life span, Bay Scallops are hermaphroditic and contain both female and male reproductive organs!
Clams have always been an important part of maritime culture and diet, where records show that clams were consumed 2000-3000 years ago in the Atlantic Canada region. Soft-shell Clams – which are the only species farmed in Nova Scotia – are found in tidal mudflats/beaches buried up to 20cm under the surface. This variety has a thin, brittle shell that cannot completely close as it has a long neck (or siphon) that extends past the shell, giving its name the “long neck clam”. The siphon is used to filter seawater for food then expel it at the surface, leaving distinctive holes which make them easier to find and collect. Each year over 300 jobs are provided seasonally to harvest farmed clams.
These bivalves literally are what they eat, as these filter feeders rely on healthy, non-polluted environments in order to survive and flourish. Mussels are a bivalve shellfish which grow quickly and profusely; two traits which make them ideal for aquaculture. In addition to growing at an exponential rate (as they reach market size in less than two years), they are incredibly sustainable, and have the ability to pump 4 litres of water an hour! Blue Mussels are an excellent source of protein, rich in omega3 fatty acids, and a delectable, healthy treat from the sea.
Eels are fish that are characterized by their round, elongated and slender bodies. The American Eel market is expanding vastly around the world. Currently, eel aquaculture relies on obtaining juvenile stock from the wild to be raised in captivity, however, research is currently being done to completely close the system in hopes to make the collection of wild eels obsolete.
In Nova Scotia, two types of sea vegetables are farmed on land, Irish Moss and Knotted Wrack. Knotted Wrack is grown primarily for the extraction of alginate. Alginate is used extensively within the scientific community for production of gels, but this product can also be a thickening agent and many times appears in ice cream and cosmetics. Irish Moss, contains carrageenan, a food additive that thickens or stabilizes a wide variety of household products, including your toothpaste! sea vegetables have also developed new areas of revenue as consumption of seaweed has more recently become popular.