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Grieg welcomes Canadian ‘commitment’ to salmon farms; Mowi more cautious

Andreas Kvame:
Andreas Kvame: "We welcome the transition." Photo: Grieg Seafood.

Salmon farmers Mowi and Grieg Seafood have given differing responses to the Canadian government’s decision to renew salmon farm licences in British Columbia for two years, and to use that time to pursue its policy to “transition” the industry from open net pens in the province.

In a market announcement, Grieg chief executive Andreas Kvame said: “We see the renewal of our licences and the commitment to work together with us to develop a transition plan as a sign that Canada wants a thriving, sustainable salmon farming industry in British Columbia.

“Our industry is in continuous development with new technologies and innovations, and in Grieg Seafood we are committed to improvements that strengthen biological control and reduce interactions with wild salmon. We welcome the transition and look forward to working with all levels of Government, including our First Nations partners, to find a stable, secure and common path forward in BC.”

Content unclear

Mowi was more guarded, pointing out in its market announcement that for the time being the content of the transition plan remains unclear.

“However, Mowi Canada West will continue to work with all levels of Government, including First Nations, to secure a future for sustainable and viable salmon farming in British Columbia and securing important jobs for the province and rural coastal communities,” said the company.

Norwegian-owned Mowi and Grieg are BC’s major salmon farmers, along with Cermaq, which is owned by Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi and headquartered in Norway. Cermaq did not respond to a request from Fish Farming Expert for a comment on the licensing decision.

What is transition?

Canada’s ruling Liberal Party promised a transition in salmon farming methods in BC in its election manifesto, but has not defined what that will mean, possibly because salmon farming is constantly evolving.

To those opposed to net pen fish farming, transition means a move to on-land farming using recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).

But Grieg has so far chosen to regard transition as a move towards a farming system that has less environmental impact but still involves putting salmon to sea for at least some of their life. It has developed drop-down barriers that extend the full depth of the pen and help separate farmed fish from passing wild salmon. These can be used with oxygenation and aeration systems that Grieg has used to significantly reduce the number of mortalities caused by harmful algal blooms.

Grieg has also expanded its Gold River hatchery, giving it capacity to grow larger smolts which spend less time at sea.

The FishGlobe is a floating closed containment system Grieg is using in Norway.
The FishGlobe is a floating closed containment system Grieg is using in Norway.

FishGlobe

At a capital markets day last week, Kvame also speculated that the FishGlobe floating closed containment project it is using might be suitable for BC.

“[FishGlobe is] a closed containment which I think is important [so that] we can explore and maybe utilise sites that we are not able to use today with this new technology,” said Kvame.

“It’s also very interesting to use in other regions than Norway, for instance in British Columbia as either for post-smolt production or full cycle production.  But it has to be tested out, and it takes time.”

Cermaq has also investigated an alternative farming method, trialling a floating semi-closed containment pen supplied by Norwegian company Fiizk. Although the trial was stopped early due to problems with a pump resulting in fish deaths, the company has not given up on the idea.

Mowi has so far stuck to net pens in BC, but uses some floating semi-closed containment for post-smolts in Norway, and is considering them to grow post-smolts to a kilo in Scotland.