This is the Majestic, Exotic Northern fish sought after by many of the world’s greatest chefs and sportsmen alike.
The Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus) is found in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters across the northern hemisphere. It can grow to an exceptionally large size and is especially most often found in the clear and unpolluted waters of the Canadian Arctic. Char are from the salmonid family, their cousins being salmon and trout, however Arctic Char are much more unique and far less common.
The Arctic char is a symbolic figure of Canada’s Arctic and arguably one of the most exotic fish to ever frequent the fresh waters of North America. As the reigning king of river bound idols, the char is a sought after fish that annually migrates through the rugged coastal tributaries of the far north. This awe-inspiring species demands the best of angler’s abilities and is widely considered one of the hardest fighting varieties in existence.
Nowhere in the wild is the abundance of this much sought after game and food fish greater — and nowhere does the Arctic char grow to a larger size — than in the Kitikmeot region of Canada’s Nunavut province. The Ekaluk’s sea-run char fishery is one of North America’s great natural treasures, worth every effort to safeguard and conserve for future generations.
Arctic Char Farming
There are very few aquaculture producers of char; in fact, the world’s annual production is a mere 4000 – metric tons-or about nine million pounds. Of that total, Iceland supplies two-thirds, while a handful of small producers in North America and Norway make up most of the remaining supply.
Interest in Arctic Char farming has been developing for sometime and there are clear indications that production is set to increase in Canada and other locations. The Arctic Char has several characteristics that are favorable to farming, particularly in closed containment land-based fish farms.
- Char are very much a schooling fish and as such they thrive at higher densities than most other fish, in fact at lower stocking densities they do not grow as well.
- Char also grow faster at lower temperatures than other commonly farmed salmonid fish such as Salmon and Rainbow Trout.
- They also convert feed to weight gain very effectively, in fact under the right conditions they can out perform salmon or trout.
- Arctic Char are harvested and sold at weights that are less than half the normal required for Atlantic Salmon.
These and other characteristics serve well to increase the economics of producing antibiotic, hormone and chemical treatment free Arctic Char products in closed loop land-based water recirculation farms. (Look for an upcoming more detailed post on the benefits of growing Arctic Char in land-based fish farms)
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood WATCH® rates farmed Arctic Char raised in closed containment aquaculture or land-based flow through systems in the US, Canada and Iceland with a “Best Choice” as “these farming methods have less effluent, disease, escapes and habitat impacts than other aquaculture systems.” Read more on Closed Containment Farms
Enjoy your Arctic Char dining experience.
Arctic Char is highly regarded in the culinary community and adapts well to a variety of cooking methods that would be applied to both salmon and trout: baked, broiled, grilled or pan-seared. Arctic Char has a light but distinct flavor and should be allowed to stand on its own, so application of light seasonings and sauces is recommended.
Arctic Char’s flesh varies from orange- red to coral-coloured, with a delicate flavor that many say surpasses that of trout and salmon. It’s a versatile fish, but one that isn’t as well known as other farmed fish.
Other names and spelling sometime used: Alpine Char, Alpine Trout, Charr, Iwana, Sea Trout