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Lice ‘set the agenda’ for Faroes farmer HiddenFjord

Atli Gregersen, boss of HiddenFjord, which has stocked 'the world's toughest locality' with 780g smolts. Photo: Therese Soltveit.
Atli Gregersen, boss of HiddenFjord, which has stocked 'the world's toughest locality' with 780g smolts. Photo: Therese Soltveit.

Sea lice, not Covid-19, have been the main challenge for Faroese salmon farmer HiddenFjord this year, according to managing director Atli Gregersen.

“The lice problem is not solved well enough. Even with many sustainable measures against lice, such as larger smolts, the use of cleaner fish and the relocation of production to more open seas, we must acknowledge that it is increasingly the salmon lice that set the agenda,” he told Fish Farming Expert’s Norwegian sister site, Kyst.no.

Gregersen says HiddenFjord has no difficulties exporting and selling the fish it produces. 

“We have not had major problems selling our fish, but of course the price has gone down due to the coronavirus. We use the Danish krone in the Faroe Islands, and thus we have not had the help of price falls (from a weak NOK), as in Norway.”

Farming in the Faroe Islands takes place in spectacular natural landscapes. HiddenFjord's ambition is not to use chemical treatments against salmon lice and as little mechanical delousing as possible. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Therese Soltveit.
Farming in the Faroe Islands takes place in spectacular natural landscapes. HiddenFjord's ambition is not to use chemical treatments against salmon lice and as little mechanical delousing as possible. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Therese Soltveit.

14,000 gwt

Production is going well. “We expect to harvest 14,000 tonnes of gutted weight this year. This is the same as last year,” he says.

“Autumn looks OK. We expect to able to sell what we have planned, and hopefully the price will come under more pressure.”

In April, the company released fish at a new locality called Víkar on the north side of Vågøy. The fish averaged 780 grams when stocked, and the company will harvest in October, which means six months at sea.

“It is a very exposed locality. We have a licence at this location and for us, it is a natural development to ‘try’ to use this, by all accounts the world’s toughest locality, if you think of year-round operation. We farm in three localities where we have often measured between five and six metres significant wave height. In Víkar, the significant wave height is about nine metres.”

Remote controls

Gregersen says HiddenFjord is not required to operate in any out-of-the-ordinary way on the site, but points out that the site places many new demands on the company.

“It is not easily accessible, as there is a north wind at the site. It is also relatively far from land base. We therefore have to develop more remote controls on the site. That is why we have invested in getting mobile coverage in the area. We now have fully automatic feeding there, and we get all the data. Among other things, wave height, oxygen and images from the plant sent via the internet.”

The company has also recently started harvesting at its location in Sørvåg.

“The first release of fish has been in the sea for 10 months. The site will be harvested by the end of October. The total time from the first day of release to the last day of slaughter will be less than 13 months,” Gregersen states. 

650g smolts

HiddenFjord has since 2010 worked to produce larger smolts at its Fútaklettur facility in the Faroe Islands. The major investment in smolts began in earnest in 2010, and the smolts have gone from 88 grams to around 650 grams in average size. 

HiddenFjord is owned by the brothers Regin and Atli, and their ambition is to produce salmon completely free of chemicals, as well as avoid too much use of mechanical delousers.