By Dr. Diane Morrison, Fish Health and Food Safety Director
A quick Google search reveals many different definitions of health. Some focus on ‘lack of disease’, but most focus on the physical and mental well-being of the individual.
My own definition of health, or specifically good health, means being able to do all the activities that make my life enjoyable: riding my bike to work, going for a walk with the family, or chasing my dogs around an agility course.
What about the health of Marine Harvest salmon? Well, the first step is to agree that a different set of criteria comes into play when defining health for a food animal. Our salmon have a survival rate which typically exceeds 92% and the majority of mortality which does occur is caused by environmental issues or predators. Although our fish aren’t always free of disease or disease causing pathogens, routine and systematic screening has demonstrated that our salmon rarely have disease. This can be attributed to biosecurity controls designed to prevent the introduction of pathogens to our facilities and fish, as well as our health management plans which include broodstock disease screening, egg disinfection, and smolt vaccination. Together, these practices help ensure that our salmon are healthy from conception and remain so throughout their life cycle.
For a food animal veterinarian the definition of health must also look beyond the health of the individual animal and consider the health of the group, herd or school. In other words, are the animals achieving their targeted and expected production performance as a group? If not, is it due to environment, nutrition, or health status? The production performance of our salmon continues to improve as we reduce stocking densities, improve net cleaning, and improve the diet and delivery of the feed.
Do our salmon fit the definition of good health? I believe they do.
What about our final product? Those beautiful healthy salmon delivered to the processing plant for processing, boxing and delivery to our customers. Our salmon provide a healthy protein source for the final consumer. A recent paper found that one portion of farm-raised Atlantic salmon provides more omega-3 fatty acids than a same size portion of other species of salmon and four times the minimum daily intake of EPA and DHA as recommended by the World Health Organization (Jensen et al., 2012).
Our salmon are healthy and are a healthy meal choice packed with essential omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. I’m proud to be a member of the Marine Harvest Canada team which provides customers with salmon that are healthy, and healthy for you.