Frequently Asked Questions
Salmon are fed a nutritionally balanced diet, formulated by feed experts. The feed comes from sustainable fisheries in Australia and South America and contains everything the salmon need to thrive and grow, and nothing else. It comprises the three major food groups - protein, fat and carbohydrate as well as essential vitamins and minerals.
The main components are fish meal, fish oil, chicken meal and oil, vegetable proteins meals, wheat/starch, vitamins, minerals and astaxanthin.
Our feed carries certificates of analysis from registered laboratories, is certified GMO and BSE-free and all ingredients are traceable.
The fish meal in the feed is sourced from sustainable fisheries and can include anchovies, pilchards, and jack mackerel.
Globally, the aquaculture industry recognizes the need for sustainability. International guidelines (Aquaculture Stewardship Council - ASC) limit the amount of forage fish used in feed. Substitution from plentiful sources such as poultry bi-products ensures the feed contains the proteins that salmon require.
Poultry is a natural protein. In the wild, salmon eat what protein they can get - including flies, mice and small birds. Chicken meal is an excellent source of highly digestible protein.
It is a sustainable ingredient in relatively plentiful supply because of the large quantities of chicken that is processed for human consumption. It comes from clean, certified facilities and makes up about 20% of the feed.
Feather meal is a protein from chicken that makes good use of an otherwise waste material. Feather meal has been used in salmon diets throughout the world for more than 20 years and is about three to five percent of the feed. It is refined and heat-treated to ensure no bacteria are possible.
Salmon feed does not contain coloring. It does contain the carotenoid Astaxanthin which is one of the strongest anti-oxidants found naturally in algae and krill and is an essential micro-nutrient for salmon.
Salmon use it to protect their precious Omega-3 oils and ultimately it protects their eggs. It is so important to salmon they store it in their muscle tissue, hence the reddy-orange color.
Astaxanthin is also used in foods for human consumption, including dietary supplements as an antioxidant.
All salmon feed comes in the form of a pellet, which has been expertly formulated and produced by specialist aquaculture feed companies to ensure optimum nutrition and health.
Ingredients are sourced from bi-products from the human food stream, the use of these bi-products reduces pressure on wild fisheries.
See earlier question "what's in the feed?" for details on ingredients and where they come from.
In New Zealand we are hugely fortunate in that our salmon are largely disease free.
Our animal welfare plan does provide for the use of antibiotics should alternative remedies fail to preserve the health of fish stocks. In the same way that people can get sick and require a course of antibiotics, so might our fish one day, so we need to ensure the systems are in place for safe and effective treatment if ever needed. In 25 years this policy has seen antibiotics only ever used on a trial basis.
Consumers can rest assured the use of medicines in aquaculture is highly regulated with safe dosages, and proper withholding periods. Any use of antibiotics requires resource consent prior to usage. And treatment must then be conducted under Veterinary direction.
One of the major problems for salmon farmers in the northern hemisphere is sea lice, which impacts on salmon and can cause disease. However New Zealand King Salmon are not affected by sea lice.
Fish health is critical to our business - no fish, no business! Therefore our whole operation is centered around keeping the salmon healthy and growing. The main ways we do this are:
Our breeding program combines 20 years of husbandry practices to ensure our brood stock are the healthy and strong.
Parts of the Marlborough Sounds provide ideal conditions for growing premium grade salmon. They need cool, deep, clear water with a good current and shelter from wind and waves, low variations in temperature, salinity and low risk of harmful algal blooms.
Because of its isolation, New Zealand is uniquely free of all of the serious pathogenic diseases that can affect salmon, therefore New Zealand King
Salmon can farm in a natural and wholesome way (see earlier question about our policy on medicines.
Sea pen stocking rates are kept low to provide good growing conditions and ensure fish health is maintained. 2% of the sea pens comprise salmon and the other 98% is water, which flows freely through the nets.
Our salmon are overseen 24/7 by our experience qualified staff. Minimal handling ensure the salmon are not unduly stressed.
Every day the team at the farm take readings which include water temperature, oxygen, and salinity. Pathogens are regularly screened for by the Ministry for Primary Industries and New Zealand King Salmon's own fish health monitoring programme – none have been detected.
New Zealand King Salmon operate a Bio-Security Management Plan (2014)which has been developed with the involvement of external industry experts.
The key environmental issues for salmon farmers are the effects of organic matter which includes uneaten feed and fish faeces that settle on the seabed below the pens, possible depletion of dissolved oxygen in the water, and nutrient enrichment.
As a responsible farmer New Zealand King Salmon has robust management plans to maintain the integrity of the environment in which we farm, to ensure sustainability over the long term. It’s in our own best interests to do this because fish do not thrive in poor conditions or environmentally-compromised waters. See next question about how we care for the environment.
There are several ways we care for the environment around our farms. These include:
- Currently aquaculture is impacted by 19 separate pieces of legislation. The legislation of most significance to aquaculture in terms of using and developing water space is the RMA (Resource Management Act 1991). The RMA legislation also sets out responsibilities and processes for all parties that manage, control, use and develop natural and physical resources in the coastal marine area. All activities on the sea farms work within the RMA legislation.
- New Zealand King Salmon maintains certification for Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) which is an international programme that recognizes substantial and ongoing efforts around.
- NZ King Salmon have adopted Best Management Practice Guidelines – these have been developed in conjunction with local council, community groups and science providers. Refer to Environmental Quality Standards and Monitoring.
- The footprint of our salmon farms. New Zealand King Salmon currently farm a total of five surface hectares in the Marlborough Sounds. Three recently approved new farms will add another four 4.5 surface hectares. The Marlborough Sounds in total makes up 150,000 hectares.
- Every farm has resource consent conditions that must be met and reported on to the local These include feed discharge limits, independent monitoring of the sea floor and water column, and environmental quality standards.
- Regular (daily) monitoring including water temperatures, salinity, oxygen levels and feed inputs ensures both fish health and environmental.
- Nets are kept clean with in water new cleaners, and not with antifouling.
- Fallowing of sites enables the seabed to rest and regenerate. If left fallow a farm can completely regenerate in under 10.
Independent testing has shown that less than 0.1% of salmon feed reaches the seafloor.
Salmon feeding is monitored by under-water cameras. As soon as the salmon are full, feeding stops which prevents wasting expensive feed and having it drop to the sea floor.
Under the farms the worms and micro-organisms that live there eat and break down the organic matter.
The balance between feed inputs and what is occurring on the sea floor is managed carefully to keep everything in harmony. Feed discharge limits ensure that the salmon don't produce more organic matter than the 'opportunistic organisms' can keep up with.
Yes, absolutely. Our sponsorship portfolio includes partnerships with DOC, Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary, Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust (the wilding pine project), Picton Festival as well as local education through Foundation for Youth Development (FYD) and scholarships through Queen Charlotte College, and Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.
At our salmon farms we strive to do no harm to wildlife. And if you visit a salmon farm, you will see for yourself the abundant wildlife that shares the environment, including seals, dolphins, fish and sea birds.
We do have unavoidable interaction with wildlife and we have in place Management Plans for dealing with these interactions. Specific policies exist for dealing with Marine Mammal and Protected Sharks, Wildlife Interactions, and the New Zealand king shag.
As a matter of policy any marine mammal deaths and all seal interactions must be reported to the Department of Conservation.
Fish farming (aquaculture) is one of the most sustainable and efficient ways to produce animal protein on the planet. It offers a way to increase fish production and feed the world's growing population. Globally, aquaculture now produces more than wild-caught seafood, and more than the beef industry.
There are three key factors that make salmon farming so efficient and sustainable:
- Minimal space utilization for high production yield. New Zealand King Salmon currently produces around 6000 metric tonnes of salmon, from about 5 surfaces hectares of sea space.
- Low feed inputs relative to fish produced. Salmon use less feed (protein) resources for the edible meat produced, than any other farmed animal. Salmon are cold-blooded, virtually weightless in the water and use less energy to excrete protein waste so they convert feed to weight very efficiently and do not waste energy. Compare this to land animals who need energy just to stand up and keep
- A harvest yield that is higher than land-based animals. 70% of the salmon gets eaten compared with approximately 52% for pig, 42% for chicken, and lamb for 38%.
Source – Marine Harvest ASA Oct 16, 2013
- New Zealand King Salmon has been certified to the BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) Salmon Farm standards following an in-depth audit by an independent, 3rd party conformity assessment
- NZKS is proud to have achieved certification to these robust and rigorous standards requirements. BAP standards are transparent (www.gaalliance.org/bap/standards.php) and include a multi-stakeholder approach during the standards development process. The environmental NGOs involved include (but are not limited to) prestigious groups such as Monterey Bay Aquarium, Marine Conservation Society, Aquarium of the Pacific and New England Aquarium. In addition to this, all BAP standards go through a public comment period prior to being finalized to give an even broader group.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium’s consumer guide Seafood Watch has rated New Zealand King salmon as the only marine-farmed salmon to have achieved the Green rating, meaning it is a “Best Choice” for
- Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise conservation program also recommends New Zealand King salmon as a sustainable seafood
- New Zealand King Salmon is a member of the Global Salmon Initiative. The GSI is a collaboration between the world's largest salmon producers, accounting for over 70% of the world's production, to further improve
- The GSI aims to have all members compliant with the stringent Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standards which were initiated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to manage the global standards for responsible aquaculture.
- NZ King Salmon are in the final stage of adopting the Aquaculture NZ Environmental Management
- We conduct at annual internal audit of our Management Practices and Policies.
Long chain omega-3s are required in every cell of the body.
- Long chain omega-3s have anti-inflammatory effects, which is important for heart health and maintaining healthy.
- Omega-3 DHA helps to develop and maintain our eyesight.
- Omega-3 DHA plays a fundamental role in brain development and function, including motor skills and mental.
- Long chain omega-3s play an important role in the management of cardiovascular.
Source – Omega-3 Center
2 x 100g servings of King salmon will meet your total weekly requirement for omega-3s.
Sources: Requirement – Nutritional Reference Values Australia and NZ. Testing – NZKS testing.
Only fish containing more than 2g of long chain Omega-3s per 5.3oz portion are considered a “super” source. Salmon is one of only 5 species considered a super source.
The next category (containing more than 0.2g of long chain omega-3s per 5.3oz portion) which includes Canned Tuna, Snapper, John Dory and many Frozen Fish Fillets are considered an “excellent” source.
Source – Omega-3 Center
NZKS test Omega-3 levels every month. We send 12 whole salmon (covering the size range we produce) each month, to an accredited testing laboratory to measure Omega-3 levels.
We have started testing omega-3 levels in our salmon against Atlantic Salmon around the world and for the last couple of years King salmon has tested with higher levels than Atlantic salmon.
Mercury and methyl mercury are present in only very small concentrations in seawater. However, they are absorbed, usually as methyl mercury, by algae at the start of the food chain. This algae is then eaten by fish and other organisms higher in the food chain. Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury.
We test mercury levels twice a year. The levels present in our salmon fall well below global limits. Our September 2014 total mercury result is 0.035mg/kg vs toxicity limit for Methyl Mercury for the FDA of 1.0 mg/kg and for FSANZ of 0.5 mg/kg.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs are persistent, possibly cancer causing chemicals that were widely used from the 1930s to the 1970s and are now banned in North America. However they still get freshly released into the environment from hazardous waste sites, leaks from old equipment, and incinerators.
The PCBs in salmon come from the feed, which is made from smaller fish like herring and anchovies.
We test total PCBs levels annually. These also fall well below global limits. Our February 2014 testing shows 2.47ng/g vs a NZFSA limit of 500ng/g and an FDA limit of 2000ng/g.
Two years ago, New Zealand King Salmon proudly became one of the signatories to the New plastics Economy - Global Commitment as well as the New Zealand Packaging Declaration. This means we are committed to 100% of our plastic packaging being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
This is no easy feat!
Much of our salmon is packaged in specially designed plastic packaging. Packaging that enables us to maintain the shelf life of our fresh and smoked salmon and protects it during transportation to supermarkets and delis as well as to your home. It is a delicate balance to preserve and protect, whilst not adding to the growing problem of food and packaging waste.
There is a vast array of packaging options available, and there has been many advances in the make-up of plastic for food products over the last 5 years. However, there is limited on land end of life solutions available. The infrastructure for recycling and composting isn’t there for all of New Zealand and although Businesses want to make the right decisions and use the best solutions, what suits Auckland does not necessarily suit Invercargill. Local Councils have different rules and capabilities, this can be frustrating and confusing for everybody. More on that later.
Behind the scenes, we have worked with suppliers to down-gauge (decrease the weight of plastic) whilst maintaining shelf life. Much of our packaging is made from multi layer, high barrier plastic, carrying the recycle symbol 7. This type of plastic is not valuable and cannot be recycled due to the layers not being able to be pulled apart from each other easily.
Early in 2018, we were introduced to a company called Plantic. They use a layer of corn starch in between layers of easily recyclable and valuable PET. The beauty of using Plantic material is the decreased reliance on thicker layers of PET to help with shelf life and the ease at which Plantic can be recycled. When Plantic enters the recycling system, the corn starch layer dissolves into the wash water, leaving PET for recycling. So, less plastic is used, yet our product remains fresh and food waste is nil. Plantic went one step further, sourcing rPET (recycled PET) so that the material would stay in the plastics circular economy for longer.
After 12 months of trials with this new material, we were confident that we could use this for our wood roasted products.
Our last check was on the end of life solution. We checked with two NZ recyclers that the material that we were using for the trays could be picked up by the optical scanners at the Materials Recovery Plant (MRP) in Auckland. Yet not all of our consumers are in Auckland I hear you say. And you’d be correct. It is important that we make it clear that our trays (once cleaned of course) can be put out into the kerbside recycling bins in NZ. And what we’ve done is put the Australasian Recycling Logo (ARL) symbol for recycling into the bottom of each tray. We started doing this in March 2020 and in July 2020, we will be updating our cardboard sleeves to tell you clearly what to do with the cardboard sleeve, the plastic tray and the plastic cover that holds the salmon to the tray. We are following the WasteMINZ and Envirowaste supported ARL logos as these provide information on the recyclability of a material depending on the proportion of a population that can dispose of that material in kerbside recycling. In New Zealand, all councils accept plastic 1 – that's ‘Recyclable’ under the ARL. We believe it’s better to tell the consumer what to do with the packaging, rather than what the plastic type is. Hence you will start to see these symbols.
Thank you for your interest in our products, our packaging, the environment and the use of her resources.
As you can see, it’s not as easy as saying ‘let’s not use plastic’. Plastic serves a purpose, to preserve, protect and prevent food waste. It’s in our best interest to use plastic that can become part of the ‘closed loop’ plastics circular economy and it’s up to everyone, the producers, suppliers, customers, recyclers and regulators to enable the change required to manage plastic material properly.