AquaBounty's facility at Rollo Bay, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Photo: AquaBounty.

We told American Aquafarms all they asked for, says AquaBounty

Salmon farmer and ova supplier AquaBounty today emphasised its quality control and assurance procedures after it was identified as the reason why an application for a fish farm project in Maine was rejected.

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Earlier this week the Bangor Daily News reported that American Aquafarms’ application to grow 30,000 tonnes of salmon a year in floating closed containment pens in Frenchman Bay, Maine, had been terminated by the state’s Department of Marine Resources (DMR) because of the company’s plans to source ova from AquaBounty.

According to the News, the DMR flagged the egg-sourcing issue in September. At the time, it told American Aquafarms that the company’s plan to get salmon eggs from AquaBounty’s Canadian hatchery wouldn’t be approved, because AquaBounty is not on its list of qualified sources or hatcheries. Although AquaBounty is best known for its AquAdvantage salmon, which have an inherited genetic modification that makes them grow faster, the company also produces conventional Atlantic salmon ova.

‘Several requests’

The News reported that American Aquafarms tried to provide documentation that AquaBounty could meet the state’s sourcing criteria and other requirements but proved unsuccessful.

DMR commissioner Patrick Keliher told the News: “We had to ask them several times to supply the information that was needed. They weren’t able to do it.”

‘Specific data’

In a statement today, AquaBounty chief executive and president Sylvia Wulf said: “AquaBounty has been in discussions with American Aquafarms about becoming an approved supplier to provide them with non-genetically engineered Atlantic salmon eggs from our facility in Rollo Bay, PEI, Canada. Representatives for American Aquafarms requested specific information and data from AquaBounty, which we have provided. We did not receive requests for any additional information.

“AquaBounty has rigorous Quality Control and Quality Assurance procedures in place to confirm the genotype of every commercial batch of eggs shipped from our hatcheries. We verify the genotype and ploidy of genetically engineered “GE” eggs shipped to AquaBounty farms using procedures approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, and we verify that no GE eggs are present in any shipment of non-GE eggs, using established molecular biological methods.

Quality control

“The same egg QC procedure would be used to verify the absence of GE eggs in batches used by AquaBounty to produce non-GE fry or smolts for our customers. Additionally, AquaBounty does not produce non-GE and GE eggs at the same time in a single facility.”

One of the conditions AquaBounty is obliged to meet to grow GE salmon in the US is that the fish are sterile, which is achieved by use of pressure on eggs to give the fish a third set of chromosomes, making them “triploid”. Standard, fertile fish are “diploid”, with two sets of chromosomes.