Government of New Brunswick

Prepared by: Michel Desjardins Aquaculture Biologist - DAFA and Julien Albert Project Proponent - Flétan St-Laurent Halibut

Aquaculture is an agri-food sector that is growing rapidly worldwide. Many different species are reared, depending both on local geographical and climatic factors and on market needs.

In Canada, and especially in New Brunswick, aquaculture is largely dominated by Atlantic salmon farming, but other species offer real opportunities for diversification, including one new arrival: Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus). This fish, recognized as the largest marine flatfish in the world, can weigh up to 300 kilograms.

Aantic Halibut
(Hippoglossus hippoglossus)

A group of Acadian Peninsula businesspeople identified the rearing of Atlantic halibut as an economic diversification opportunity for the region. A pilot project was developed in order to evaluate the technical feasibility of such an activity on the Acadian Peninsula. In view of the local conditions, particularly the extent and duration of ice cover during the winter, only land-based rearing infrastructures could be used for this type of operation.

The rearing structures were built during the summer of 2002 and consist mainly of a saltwater well, a water treatment unit designed to reduce the concentration of undesirable metals such as iron and manganese, and a partially closed rearing system. This leading-edge technology makes it possible to reuse the same water several times (92 to 94% recirculation) with a very limited intake of new water and to concentrate the waste for other uses such as organic fertilizers.

Every 21 days, Atlantic halibut samples are taken
and weighed in order to adjust the feed ration.
Maurice Boudreau/Aquaculture Technician

The main objectives of this project were to:

  • Master the treatment processes for water from saltwater wells as part of a marine finfish aquaculture operation.
  • Evaluate the zootechnical performance of halibut in a partially closed rearing system where the water is treated with ozone

In mid-August 2002, an initial group of halibut with an average weight of 600 g was introduced, followed by a second group in mid-October with an average weight of 22 g. In mid-May 2003, the halibut from the two groups had attained an average final weight of 1877 g and 187 g, respectively. During the pilot project, the halibut were fed a herring-based commercial feed. In addition, the water temperature in the rearing units was constantly maintained between 10 and 12°C, which is appropriate for this species.

The pilot project made it possible to treat underground saltwater and evaluate the performance of Atlantic halibut in a partially closed land-based system, with encouraging results. The knowledge acquired during this pilot project and the technological innovations developed by the proponents, in partnership with the staff of the Aquarium and Marine Centre and that of the Marine Products Research Centre in Shippagan, point to development opportunities for this new industry in New Brunswick.