Illustration of Char

Char

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Arctic char

Salvelinus alpinus

Method

Wild

Bottom gillnet, Weir

Location

Canada: Nunavut

Overall Rating

3.2 - 3.8 / 5

Summary

Arctic char are caught in four waterways (Ekalluktok River, Halokvik River, Paliryuak River, and Jayko River) near Cambridge Bay (Ekaluktutiak) on Victoria Island in Nunavut, Canada. Annual landings from these rivers currently amount to ~50 t total and this fishery accounts for ~44% of the Arctic char commercially harvested in this Territory.

Arctic char is a member of the Salmonidae family, and has the most northern distribution of any freshwater fish. Unlike Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), Arctic char is iteroparous and can spawn multiple times in the course of its lifetime. Comprehensive stock assessments are lacking; however, using data-limited methods, it is believed that the population is healthy and there is a low risk of over-exploitation for the next decade under current fishing pressure.

Management currently uses a river-specific quota system combined with annual licensing to limit the amount of char landed, and catch limits are based on a conservative exploitation rate of 5% of the number of char that are vulnerable to the fishing gear in each run. Scientific research into the population and impacts of the fishery is ongoing, and there is a high degree of collaboration from stakeholders at the national, territorial, and community level.

Weirs used in this fishery are temporary (erected during the season only) and all fish are trapped live so any non-target fish can be released without harm. Specific measures (including gillnet mesh size and weir positioning) exist to minimize the impacts of both gears, and overall bycatch is believed to be very low for both gears. Given that the fishery occurs near the fast-moving river mouth of these oligotrophic northern rivers with rocky bottoms, both gears have negligible impacts on the habitat.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Arctic char

Salvelinus alpinus

Method

Farmed

Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS)

Location

Worldwide

Overall Rating

6.7 / 10

Summary

Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) are similar for various farmed species. This recommendation applies to all species grown in RAS except for those where a separate species-specific RAS recommendation is available. Closed containment has recently emerged in the farming industry as an alternative to net pens in order to reduce the environmental impacts of an aquaculture system that is open to the environment.

Source of stock is domesticated broodstock for the vast majority of RAS farms. Therefore wild populations are not depleted to source the aquaculture operations. Impacts of feed use vary amongst RAS farms and the species being cultured.

The contained nature of RAS allows for close control and prevention of potential disease or parasite outbreaks. Risk of pathogens and their transfer to wild populations is low. Predator and wildlife mortalities are virtually eliminated when RAS systems are located indoors, and risk of escapes is low as the systems are not in direct contact with natural water bodies.

About 90-99% of water is typically recirculated after filtration and waste treatment. As such, little to no effluent is discharged to the environment and there is the opportunity to treat waste before discharge. The closed design of RAS and the application of biosecurity protocols reduce the risk of disease and parasites, and consequently require low use of chemicals. When chemicals are used, they cannot flow into the environment directly, and have the opportunity to be treated and sterilized before discharge. RAS farms are typically not built in sensitive habitats, and the closed system of the farms minimizes ecosystem impacts.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Arctic char

Salvelinus alpinus

Method

Farmed

Flow through system

Location

Canada, Iceland, US

Overall Rating

6.7 - 6.8 / 10

Summary

Canada, Iceland and the US produce the majority of the Arctic char found on the North American market. Arctic char in Iceland is primarily produced by land-based flow-through systems, whereas farms in the US and Canada while also inland, include more recirculating systems. Iceland produced 3,260 mt of Arctic char in 2012. US and Canada produce approximately 500 mt per year.

Arctic char are sourced from domesticated broodstock, thereby putting no pressure on wild Arctic char populations. Management in Canada, the US and Iceland is moderately effective, given the enforcement and regulations around effluent and habitat conversion.

Disease occurs rarely on the farms; therefore chemical use has also been low. Vaccines reduce need for antibiotics via prevention of disease. Parasite or pathogen transfer to wild populations is possible, but occurs infrequently, especially since disease occurrence is rare. Escapes are extremely unlikely given numerous physical barriers in North America and Iceland. In North America, any escapees experience direct mortality due to elevated water temperatures in the wild.

Farmed Arctic char has little imact on the ecosystem as effluents from the flow-through Icelandic farms are discharged into coastal waters with high currents which prevents accumulation and concentration of wastes. Waste water is treated before recirculation in Canada and the US. The farms do not cause negative impacts to the surrounding habitat.

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