Our Story

The Search for Sustainable Seafood

In search of healthy sustainable food supplies, over half of the global fish supply comes from aquaculture, and it’s now the fastest growing food sector in the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) indicates that 70% of the world’s wild fisheries are now either fished to the maximum sustainable yield or are being over fished. The future rising demand for fish as food will have to be met by increasing aquaculture production.

Our Story Begins

An Innovative Idea

Jim Dunphy, Gerald Johnson and Bob Johnston were inspired to see if they could create an innovative and sustainable way to operate an aquaculture business. They started their investigation by researching whether they could establish a halibut aquaculture industry on land rather than the sea in Prince Edward Island by accessing the saltwater resource under the Island through wells.

The Pilot Project

In 2008, Halibut PEI Inc. started a pilot project at a lobster holding facility in Victoria, PEI. The location was unique in having three deep, salt wells, which were leased for the research project. A most gracious thanks to partners in the Federal and Provincial Governments for helping to fund this crucial research project.

The objective of the project was to demonstrate that the salinity levels and temperatures of the water from the saltwater wells would be suitable for a unique, land-based halibut aquaculture operation. They purchased halibut juveniles from the Scotian Halibut Hatchery in Clark’s Harbour, Nova Scotia, a hatchery established in 1998. During the winter of 2008-2009, 2300 halibut juveniles were placed in tanks at the Morning Star facility.

Exciting Results

The results of the pilot project significantly exceeded expectations. Mortalities were minimal and growth rates were exceptional, and no antibiotics were needed because the water was pure. The nature of the water provides optimal conditions and results in a low environmental footprint, and since the fish are land-based, concerns about fish escaping into the wild are non-existent. Even better, these saltwater wells would otherwise be unusable but are experiencing new life thanks to ingenuity.

Building on Success

Based on the success of the first-year project, the operation at the Morning Star location was ramped up to fill all the existing tanks.

Because of such positive successes, Halibut PEI Inc. continues to grow. Currently, they are finishing another expansion plan that will more than double the level of production.

Market Demand vs Supply

A recent study estimated that the North American demand for farmed halibut aquaculture products is in excess of 10,000 tonnes annually while production currently is less than 100 tonnes. The study projected that production in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick should reach 2600 tonnes by 2015 creating 200 full time jobs for an industry producing $52 million in sales.

Largest Halibut Recorded

The largest halibut every recorded weighed 620lbs! It’s one of the largest fish found in the Gulf of Maine, surpassed only by swordfish, tuna and some larger sharks.

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Next-generation aquaculture systems, which are land-based, closed-containment (enclosed), and can be located close to market, are not only more efficient and environmentally sound than other forms of protein production, they also offer a far more bio-secure solution with dramatically reduced transportation costs.

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Conversation Program Partner

Halibut PEI Inc. is a proud Ocean Wise Partner, a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about sustainable seafood issues. The Ocean Wise logo next to a seafood item assures that the item is a good choice for keeping ocean life healthy and abundant.

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Turning a Blind Side

The Atlantic is distinguished by its flat shape and strange appearance of both eyes on the right side. Halibut’s eyes are initially located on each side of its head, but during its first year, the left eye migrates to the right side of the head, and it then swims with its blind side facing the ocean bottom.

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Wild Atlantic Halibut Endangered!

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists wild Atlantic Halibut as endangered. The IUCN Red List assesses the extinction risk of species and is the most comprehensive source on the status of wild species. Its aim is to motivate the global community to work together to reduce species extinctions.

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