Illustration of Rainbow trout/Steelhead trout

Rainbow trout/Steelhead trout

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Harvest Method

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Rainbow trout, steelhead

Oncorhynchus mykiss

Method

Farmed

Pond, Raceway

Location

US

Overall Rating

6.72 / 10

Summary

Rainbow trout are native to North America and have been introduced in many countries for the purpose of sport fishing. The US produces over 20,000 mt of rainbow trout annually, and imported 12,000 mt of rainbow trout in 2015. Although trouts farmed in flow-through systems has the potential to cause much waste water and some habitat damage, well-regulated and enforced management schemes have resulted in low effluent concerns and minimal habitat impacts. While chemicals such as antibiotics are used, the quantities have decreased significantly over the past five years. Additionally new regulations require that any medicated feed be administered under veterinary prescription and oversight. The feed used to raise farmed trout requires fish meal and fish oil. Every 1lb of farmed trout requires 1.25lbs of wild fish in the form of feed. As rainbow trout have been intentionally stocked in North America via hatcheries, escaped rainbow trout would not have significant effects on the wild population, unless they happened to interact with genetically pure native fish. There is little evidence to show transmission of disease from farmed to wild populations.  As farmed trout is sourced from domestic broodstock, wild populations are not depleted by the farming operations.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Rainbow trout, steelhead

Oncorhynchus mykiss

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

Rainbow trout, steelhead

Oncorhynchus mykiss

Method

Wild

Midwater gillnet

Location

US Washington Quillayute River

Overall Rating

2.937 / 5

Summary

Steelhead are rainbow trout that spend part of their life in the ocean. Ocean Wise does not recommend US wild steelhead except for those coming from the Quillayute River. While the Chehalis, Hoh, Queets, Quinault, and Humptulips rivers catch bycatch species of concern including threatened bull trout or green sturgeon, the Quillayute River fishery’s bycatch is primarily Chinook and coho salmon. These two salmon species are not species of concern. All commercial fishing for steelhead in Washington is conducted by First Nations Indian tribes. The fishery is relatively well-managed. Regulations include habitat restoration, and the improvement of hatcheries to minimize their impacts on wild fish. Catches in the Quillayute River have varied between 3,988 and 11,546 steelhead per year between 2000 and 2013. Wild steelhead is consumed locally within the US.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Rainbow trout, steelhead

Oncorhynchus mykiss

Method

Farmed

Open net pen

Location

US

Overall Rating

6.71 / 10

Summary

Rainbow trout are native throughout many freshwater systems of North America and have also been introduced as sport fish. The US produces 15,000 mt of rainbow trout and is the 10th largest producer in the world. The majority of the aquaculture operation occurs in raceways, but 3,600mt is produced in net pens from a single farm in the Columbia River, Washington.

The nature of open net pens allows for effluent containing excess feed and fish waste to flow directly into the environment. However, the habitat surrounding the farm is strictly monitored, and has not been observed to have been significantly affected. Cumulative impacts of numerous farms in one area are minimized due to strict regulation which limits the size of the industry. Although few chemicals are used, the open net pens allow the chemicals to be discharged into the surrounding water.

Rainbow trout are sourced from domesticated broodstock. This relieves fishing pressure on wild populations of rainbow trout. However, rainbow trout aquaculture uses wild fish resources in the form of feed. Rainbow trout are carnivorous fish which require about 1.5lbs of fish in the form of feed for every 1lb which they produce. They are raised with a net loss of protein.

The risk of escapes in open net pen systems is high. However, since the farmed rainbow trout are sterile, they cannot breed and genetically compromise wild populations. Furthermore, hatchery-raised rainbow trout are intentionally stocked in the wild for sports fishing. Therefore any escapes would not significantly change the present ecosystem. Open net pens can cause transfer of disease from farmed fish to wild populations. In the case of rainbow trout in the US, vaccines and effective husbandry and management greatly reduce this risk.

Data quality and understanding of rainbow trout operations in the US is high. Scientific literature, industry data and government information is also readily available. Management limits the size of the industry in order to minimize cumulative environmental impacts of numerous farms.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Rainbow trout, steelhead

Onchorynchus mykiss

Method

Farmed

Floating closed containment, Open net pen

Location

Lois Lake, British Columbia and Ontario

Overall Rating

5.7-5.8 / 10

Summary

Farm practices in BC and ON warranted a scoring adjustment for certain criteria.

In Ontario, chemical use was reviewed and the province was found to have particular policies in place that limit antibiotic treatments, as well as evidence of declining chemical use over time, resulting in a lower concern than the SFW assessment scored for open net pens in the whole country.

In BC, the only farm that grows trout in pens is situated on a man-made lake, Lois Lake. Rather than using open net pens, fish are grown in floating closed containment pens made of fibreglass constructed according to a strict industry standard, which significantly reduces the escape risk.

View Ocean Wise appendix for more information.

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Variety

Rainbow trout, steelhead

Oncorhynchus mykiss

Method

Wild

Midwater gillnet

Location

US Washington: Chehalis River, Hoh River, Queets River, Quinault River, Humptulis River

Overall Rating

2.18 - 2.508 / 5

Summary

Steelhead are rainbow trout that spend part of their life in the ocean. Ocean Wise does not recommend US wild steelhead except for those coming from the Quillayute River. While the Chehalis, Hoh, Queets, Quinault, and Humptulips rivers catch bycatch species of concern including threatened bull trout or green sturgeon, the Quillayute River fishery’s bycatch is primarily Chinook and coho salmon. These two salmon species are not species of concern. All commercial fishing for steelhead in Washington is conducted by First Nations Indian tribes. The fishery is relatively well-managed. Regulations include habitat restoration, and the improvement of hatcheries to minimize their impacts on wild fish. Catches in the Quillayute River have varied between 3,988 and 11,546 steelhead per year between 2000 and 2013. Wild steelhead is consumed locally or sold within the US.

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Variety

Rainbow trout, steelhead

Oncorhynchus mykiss

Method

Farmed

Open net pen, Raceway

Location

Colombia

Overall Rating

4.6 / 10

Summary

Production of Rainbow Trout in Colombia has increased by approximately 20% annually over the last 30 years, growing from 300 mt in 1985 to 6,700 mt in 2016. Exports to the US represent about 6-8% of total US trout imports and have been stead at around 700-800 mt since 2012.

Rainbow trout farmed in Colombia in freshwater net pens and raceways are Not Recommended due to low effluent and chemicals scores. Data availability is low in general, and it is unclear whether effluent related regulations are enforced adequately. Chemical use is reported to be low; however, several antibiotics listed as highly important to human medicine by the WHO are permitted to be used, and there is no adequate legal system to manage their use. Scores for habitat, feed, escapes and disease were moderate.

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