Farmed Salmonid Code of Practice - Progress Update

October, 2021

All those responsible for the care of farmed salmonids or that have an interest in fish welfare can look forward to the publication of the finalized Code of Practice on November 9th, 2021. On this date, a news release announcing the Code will be circulated, and the Code of Practice will be made available online (with printed copies circulated soon after).

A report summarizing how input from the public comment period was considered will be published alongside the Code. Given the breadth of topics covered by this Code (~45 in total), the report will focus on the comments pertaining to stakeholders’ top-of-mind welfare concerns as well as other Code sections that received the most input during the comment period.

Lastly, the research needs list (jointly developed by the Scientific and Code Committees) will also be published on November 9 and outlines key research gaps to ideally address prior to the next iteration of this Code. 

Congratulations to the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance and to all members of the Code Committee for reaching this milestone and establishing Canada’s first-ever farmed fish Code—you have a lot to be proud of!

July, 2021

The Code Committee wishes to thank all those who participated in the comment period, which ran from November 2, 2020, to January 7, 2021. After several virtual subcommittee meetings in early spring, the entire Code Committee met virtually several times at the end of May and in early June and July to discuss the entire Code one final time. The Code Committee is very pleased to announce that they have reached consensus on the final Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Salmonids, which will be published this fall. A report summarizing how input from both the top-of-mind survey (done at the outset of this project) and the public comment period was considered will be published alongside the final Code.

Not surprisingly, the main issues identified through the top-of-mind survey generally corresponded to the topics in the draft Code that received the most comments during the comment period particularly stocking density (biodensity), water quality, handling, and euthanasia and slaughter. For health monitoring and management (a top-of-mind concern) the section on sea lice received the most comments during the comment period.

March, 2021

The draft farmed salmonids Code was open for public comment from November 2, 2020 – January 7, 2021. Nearly 125 individuals participated from across Canada with a majority from BC (40%) and Ontario (33%) and a further 7% from the Atlantic provinces. We also heard from people in the U.S. and the U.K. Most respondents identified themselves as animal welfare advocates (43%), consumers (19%), or seafood farmers and other industry representatives (15%). In addition, about 20 groups submitted input on behalf of either their company, association (industry or animal welfare), or ministry. 

The Code Committee is now considering the feedback and has so far had three subcommittee meetings and one meeting of the full committee. The subcommittee meetings have focused on the Feed Management chapter especially feed withdrawal, feeding strategies, and other sections that garnered the most input during the comment period. Revisions to the Rearing Unit chapter have focused mainly on lighting, stocking density, and overall design. Several additional meetings will be scheduled very soon for this spring.

November, 2020

The comment period for the farmed salmonids Code began on November 2 and the draft Code will be open for public comment until January 7, 2021.

The Code Committee hopes to see widespread participation during the comment period and met in October to discuss the best strategies to promote the opportunity within their stakeholder groups. The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, which initiated the development of this Code, prepared key communications for social media and other platforms, including an industry Q & A available here.

The Scientific Committee’s research report on priority welfare issues was published alongside the draft Code. An important resource during the development of this Code, we encourage others to review the report as they consider the proposed requirements and recommended practices in the draft Code. Participants may also wish to review the results of NFACC’s 2019 survey on top-of-mind welfare topics for farmed salmonids.

September, 2020

Over the summer, the Code Development Committee held five online meetings to firm up all aspects of the draft Code of Practice for farmed salmonids (salmon, trout, charr). The committee is now pleased to announce that the public comment period for this Code will start on November 2, 2020 and run until January 7, 2021. On November 2, all stakeholders will be able to access the draft Code through the online system at A press release will announce the beginning of the public comment period.

The Scientific Committee’s research report on priority welfare issues is now finalized following a peer review, and it will be released publicly when the draft Code is released for its public comment period.

Beyond the findings of the report and the knowledge and hands-on experience of Code Committee members, the draft Code was informed by the results of NFACC’s 2019 survey asking stakeholders for their top-of-mind thoughts on fish welfare. The public comment period is a critically important second outreach to all stakeholders and one that will allow direct input on proposed requirements and recommendations developed through the Code Committee’s nearly two-year collaborative effort.

Fifth meeting – June 22, 23 & 24, 2020

A good portion of this online meeting was focused on drafting sections on water quality and stocking density. Consistent with stakeholder input from the top-of-mind survey, the committee is aiming to include appropriate stocking density ranges specific to char, trout and salmon. But their overall approach on stocking density also acknowledges the many variables involved in determining an appropriate stocking density. The committee also revised sections on site selection, enclosure design, lighting, and emergency planning.

While producers monitor a very wide range of water quality parameters, the Code Committee is tending to prioritize content on temperature, pH, oxygen, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and turbidity.

An overall priority has been to ensure that the provisions in the rearing unit chapter can appropriately be applied to the variety of rearing unit types and sites in Canada’s farmed salmonid industry ranging from ponds, to sea and lake net pens, to land based flow-through and recirculating systems.

Draft content on sea lice was also revised (e.g. monitoring lice levels, preventing infection, proper use of treatments and physical control methods).

Lastly, the committee reviewed content describing special considerations for broodfish (e.g. handling, egg collection, health management). 

The peer review of the report on priority welfare issues is complete, and the research writer is working with the Scientific Committee to address and respond to the input.

In August, the Code Committee will have at least 4 online sessions to walk through the entire draft Code so that it’s ready for the 60-day public comment period, which is slated for November – December 2020.

Fourth meeting – March 4 and 5, 2020

This meeting opened with a general discussion on a listing of draft requirements and recommended practices developed to date for the farmed salmonid Code of Practice. With a majority of the Code chapters drafted, the listing enabled the Code Development Committee to take a step back from any specific section of the Code and gain a sense of how the overall draft Code is coming together.

From there, the Co-Chair of the Scientific Committee presented their research summaries on ice slurry slaughter and water quality issues in recirculating aquaculture systems.

In terms of Code content, the Code Committee focused on hatcheries and nurseries – a critically important production stage necessitating attentive, skilled husbandry. Content was drafted on egg management, first feeding, lighting, and optimizing pre- and post-transfer conditions for grow out. Beyond this, the Code Committee worked through a draft Code chapter on euthanasia, slaughter, and mass depopulation (e.g. acceptable methods, training and protocols, and criteria for euthanasia).

In April, the Scientific Committee and their Research Writer presented the remaining chapters of their report on priority welfare issues: welfare impacts of sea lice and associated treatments, stocking density, and indicators of acute and chronic stress in salmonids. With all chapters of the Scientific Committee’s research report now drafted and presented to the Code Committee, the report will now be submitted for peer review. 

The next meeting has been scheduled for June 2020. Due to the pandemic, it will be an on-line meeting.

Third meeting – November 6 and 7, 2019

This meeting opened with a discussion about the need for appendices within the Code of Practice on practical tools of use to producers and other end users of the Code (e.g. template records, decision trees, visuals to support fish health and welfare assessment). The Code Development Committee also had an opportunity to finalize the scope of this code, which will focus on farmed salmonids (trout, char, salmon).

In addition to on-farm preparations for transport, this Code will cover the care and handling of fish during the actual transportation process. This is a departure from the approach of other on-farm Codes. After careful consideration, and consultation with the transportation Code director, the Code Committee felt that the many distinct features of fish transportation warrant its inclusion in the farmed salmonid Code rather than the transportation Code of Practice. One example, among many, is that fish are often transported by boat and the transportation Code is strictly focused on road transportation.

The Code Committee then turned its attention to revising the chapter on transportation with emphasis on new content on the actual transportation process (e.g. monitoring water quality and fish behaviour, emergency preparedness and response). They also revisited selected sections of the husbandry and health chapters (e.g. knowledge/skills of personnel, pest and predator control, fallowing). Preliminary content on lighting and feed withdrawal were also drafted. 

Another highlight of the meeting was a presentation by the co-Chair of the Scientific Committee on their synthesis of research on fish consciousness and sentience.

The next meeting has been scheduled for March 2020.

Second meeting – September 5 and 6, 2019

Since the May meeting, subcommittees from the Code Development Committee have been meeting by teleconference to develop preliminary Code content. This helped ensure better quality drafts were brought to the face-to-face meeting in September, which focused on the following four chapters of the draft Code of Practice: pre-transportation (e.g. assessing fitness for transport), feeding management (e.g. quality of feeds, feeding methods), health (e.g. health plans, skin and gill health), and husbandry (e.g. handling, grading). The co-Chair of the Scientific Committee presented the draft research report sections on lighting and feed withdrawal. 

At the end of day 2, the committee reviewed the input from the top-of-mind survey to confirm that insights from that outreach are being considered along the way. A comparison of international fish welfare standards was prepared and is also informing the committee’s discussions.

The committee also had a general discussion about the great diversity in the farmed fish sector and the importance of ensuring this Code is workable for all farms – small and large.

The next meeting has been scheduled for November.

First meeting – May 16 and 17, 2019

The inaugural meeting for this first-ever Canadian Code of Practice for Farmed Salmonids was held in May. The objectives for this meeting were to provide committee members with an orientation to the Code development process and allow participants to get to know each other and establish specific approaches to reaching consensus.   

In addition, both the Code and Scientific Committees reached agreement on a final list of priority welfare issues for the Scientific Committee’s research report. They also reviewed a detailed analysis of a recent online survey on top-of-mind concerns for fish welfare (a synopsis of survey findings is available here). The committees were pleased the public and all stakeholders were engaged at this early stage and sees value in reporting back on how these top-of-mind concerns are addressed in the eventual Code.

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance presented an overview of the industry today and participants offered insights on unique production and regulatory contexts across Canada.

tentative outline for the Code has been drafted:

  1. Hatcheries
  2. Enclosures
  3. Feeding management
  4. Health management
  5. Husbandry
  6. Euthanasia
  7. Transportation
  8. On-farm slaughter
  9. Mass depopulation

The next meeting has been scheduled for early fall.