Atlantic salmon

Atlantic salmon

Atlantic salmon

Atlantic salmon

The farming of Atlantic salmon dates back to the 19th century, when hatchery techniques were developed in the United Kingdom. This first involved the production of immature fish to restock rivers for recreational fishing. In Norway in the 1960s, however, the first marine farms set up floating cages in fjords, with the aim of marketing adult salmon. Their success sparked the development of salmon farming first in Europe and then in all temperate seas in both hemispheres, based on a hybrid stock resulting from cross-fertilisation of the Norwegian stock with different local stocks. The rapid rise in production led to market saturation in the late 1990s. This crisis resulted in a major restructuring of the sector.

Atlantic salmon © ScandFish
Latin nameSalmo salar

Fact sheet


The reproduction of Atlantic salmon is fully controlled in fish farms, using carefully selected broodstock born in captivity. The eggs are removed from the females that are ready to lay and are fertilized by being mixed with the male’s milt. They are then placed in incubation tanks. The alevins emerge from the egg four to six weeks after fertilization.


The rearing of alevins takes place in two stages, reflecting the salmon’s stages of development in fresh water.

The first stage, in silos or trays, corresponds to the larval stage, which lasts four to six weeks, until the larvae have absorbed their yolk sac and become parr, at which point they are capable of feeding. In the second stage, the parr are transferred to fresh water tanks (or floating cages in a lake), where they will remain one to two years, the time needed for their ‘salmonification’, i.e. acquisition of the biological characteristics that will enable them to live in sea water.


The smolts are transferred to a sea site, where they are placed in a floating cage. They stay in the cage for around two years, the time it takes to reach commercial size (around 2 kg).

Salmon are carnivorous and the smolts are fed pellets made of fishmeal and fish oil (50 %), but containing other ingredients such as vegetable meals and extracts (cereals, beans, soy, etc.), vitamins, mineral salts and astaxanthin, the (natural or synthetic) pigment essential to their health that gives them their typical colour. The composition of the feed and the feeding rate, as well as the farm’s location and the harvesting and slaughter process, are all significant factors in the quality of the final product.


Most modern companies handle salmon from the egg to slaughter. The product is then delivered to processing companies, which market it fresh, cut up, or in smoked slices. A growing part of production is also marketed as prepared dishes, frozen or tinned. Salmon is now found in hundreds of commercial preparations available in supermarkets.