South Westland Salmon Farm is ‘pond rearing’, where the salmon spend their entire life cycle in fresh water, based on the fact that some salmon naturally landlock themselves. We farm Chinook, King, Spring and Quinnat originally from the Sacramento River in Northern California.
The salmon are raised in circular nets attached to floating pontoons, which rise and fall with flood waters. This works very well with the clean, cool waters of Waituna Creek, producing excellent flavoured, firm fleshed fish. The limitations are the allowable amount of water flow with the annual harvest being approximately 8-10 tonnes.
Harvesting begins at 18 months old, with a pan sized salmon weighing about 800 grams. They are then harvested daily, according to demand, over a period of 12 months. The last of the fish weigh 5kgs. Then the cycle begins again. Salmon eggs are sourced from the Salmon Smolt NZ hatchery on the Waimakariri River. The eyed ova are hatched at the farm. Six weeks after hatching the alevin ‘swim up’ ready to feed. They remain in the hatchery until they are fingerlings and then transferred into the pond.
Salmon processing is carried out on sight at the farms small processing plant and smokehouse. The entire production of the farm is sold in the shop and café, the majority as cold smoked salmon. The cold smoking process is quite lengthy. The salmon is filleted, dry salted, washed, dried then smoked with manuka wood chips at a low temperature for 24-36 hours, depending on the size of the fillet. It is then chilled and vacuum packed for sale in the shop or sliced and packed for use in the café. Fresh salmon fillets are also processed for meals and to take away.
With no training or prior knowledge of the salmon farming industry, the Monks have been able to develop processes that work effectively and efficiently.
The operation began in 1986 with an investigation into the feasibility of Ocean Ranching (releasing young salmon). The focus then turned to ‘pond rearing’.
In 1991, with salmon coming on stream from the ponds, Brenda and Graham Monk opened a small shop, ‘kiosk style’, at Waituna Creek (where the existing car park is now). The salmon products plus food items and souvenirs were offered for sale. This proved to be a resounding success, and the existing shop and café, opened in November 1995.