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Cermaq begins semi-closed containment trial in Canada

Cermaq Canada's semi-closed containment system has been stocked with nearly half a million smolts. Photo: Sam Chen / Cermaq Canada.
Cermaq Canada's semi-closed containment system has been stocked with nearly half a million smolts. Photo: Sam Chen / Cermaq Canada.

A trial of Cermaq Canada’s new semi-closed containment system (SCCS) has begun in British Columbia following the stocking of 495,000 smolts with an average size of 100 grams.

Two standard pens on the same site have also been stocked with a total of 233,000 smolts of the same weight. These will be used as the control group against which Cermaq can measure the performance of fish in the SCCS.

Cermaq, owned by Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi, is using an SCCS from Norwegian firm Fiizk. The SCCS uses a large, water-pressurised bag system which is made of a flexible polymer material that sits outside of the traditional netting system.

Fiizk's SCCS used a flexible polymer outer bag to protect fish from lice and algae, and draws water from depth. Click on image to enlarge.
Fiizk's SCCS used a flexible polymer outer bag to protect fish from lice and algae, and draws water from depth. Click on image to enlarge.

Sea water intakes

Water is pumped into the salmon pen through four sea water intakes that are capable of pumping 300 cubic metres of water per minute, which allows for the creation of constant water circulation through the 13 deep-level ports.

The system is the first of its kind in Canada but is already being used by Cermaq Norway, which has seen promising results from two groups of salmon grown up to 1kg before transfer to traditional net pens.

“We are excited about the start of the trial for several reasons,” said Cermaq Canada managing director David Kiemele.

“The first is the potential benefits for salmon, as trials in Norway have shown us that the system essentially eliminates the transfer of lice from wild salmon to our farmed populations.

“We are also excited to see how the farmed populations perform in the system in Canadian waters. In Norway, we have seen our fish grow faster and have better overall performance.”

Brock Thomson: System needs to be tested in Pacific waters.
Brock Thomson: System needs to be tested in Pacific waters.

Two transfers and harvest

There will be two transfers of fish from the SCCS and into the adjacent traditional farm system during the pilot trial.

The transfers, at both 600 grams and 1.5 kilos, will demonstrate the effectiveness of the system as a nursery, or a post-smolt facility, and better demonstrate the direct impact the system has on fish development and health.

As the fish are transferred out of the SCCS, they will be placed in separate pens, so the control groups remain together so ongoing performance compared to those fish remaining in the SCCS can be continued.

A smaller group of fish will be left in the SCCS through to harvest at 5.5 kg in the spring and summer of 2022.

Different waters

Cermaq Canada innovation director Brock Thomson, the project director for the SCCS trial, said: “We know the system is performing well in Norwegian waters, but we need to see how it performs in Pacific waters.

“Our waters are different for several reasons – including differing biodiversity, warmer temperatures and varying biophysical properties. We also have different fish welfare concerns – many of which we are hopeful the system will help to mitigate.

“The system has been adapted to our local waters by using four deep-water intakes to draw water into the system from depths between 22 and 27 metres. The hope is that this will potentially eliminate harmful algae and sea lice from entering the system. Overall, this technology gives us a greater ability to control water quality within the system.”

Smolts are delivered to the SCCS by wellboat. Photo: Cermaq Canada.
Smolts are delivered to the SCCS by wellboat. Photo: Cermaq Canada.
The SCCS is filled with 495,000 smolts. Photo: Cermaq Canada.
The SCCS is filled with 495,000 smolts. Photo: Cermaq Canada.

The SSC is sited at Cermaq’s Millar Channel site on the west of Vancouver Island.

“[The] farm site which is located in Ahousaht Nation territory, and we feel the weight of this responsibility,” said Kiemele. “We are committed to ongoing improvements to our operations through opportunities just like this, including the testing of new technology and looking at how our fish interact with the environment around them.”

Scotland next?

Fiizk’s SCCS is one of two being considered for use in Scotland by Loch Long Salmon, a new venture run by run by former Dawnfresh trout farming director Stewart Hawthorn and Christoph Harwood, of Simply Blue Aquaculture, a specialist in raising funds for marine projects.

LLS plans five farms which will each comprise four 30,000m³ enclosures reach capable of holding 1,000 tonnes of fish.

Mowi Scotland also recently announced that was exploring the potential use of solid-walled floating “Neptune” tanks to grow post-smolts from 120 to 800 grams in Scottish lochs.