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Data from Ocean Farm 1 will be used by scientists from NTNU. Photo: Solstad Farstad
Data from Ocean Farm 1 will be used by scientists from NTNU. Photo: Solstad Farstad

Sea lice in the world's first offshore salmon farm, Ocean Farm 1, were expected and do not require special measures, according to Trond Williksen, chief executive of the facility's owner, Salmar.

The lice were discovered six weeks after the farm was stocked with a million fish to begin operations. Asked whether the company was surprised that it had lice in Ocean Farm 1 after a short time, Williksen made his thoughts clear.

"No, we are not. We have seen traces of low infestation in the past week, and are certainly not surprised by it," he said.

He said the fact that lice have found their way into the cage should not alter anything for the pilot / test phase that is now running.

"It is one of the conditions we expected and that's part of what needs to be addressed in the pilot phase," said Williksen.

Salmar put out more than 21,000 lumpfish in the cage last week. Williksen said this was a planned stocking, and not an immediate response to the discovery of sea lice.

Conventional methods

Asked if Salmar was planning any further lice measures, he said: "We'll handle it the same way as in our other facilities," adding that if Salmar has to treat sea lice in Ocean Farm 1, it will adopt the conventional methods that might be used elsewhere.

Ocean Farm 1 was built for Salmar by Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group in China’s Shandong Province, and arrived in Norwegian waters in September after an 11-week journey by cargo carrier.

It is 110 metres wide, 68 metres high, can contain 250,000 cubic metres in volume and withstand magnitude 12 earthquakes. About 20,000 sensors allow the marine site to achieve complete automation in monitoring and feeding the fish. The farm can mature up to 1.5 million fish in 14 months. It is also equipped with a 360 degree revolving gate for cleaning fish nets and driving fish shoals.

Salmar, which owns 50 per cent of Scottish Sea Farms, was awarded the first development licences for the Ocean Farm 1 concept on February 28. The eight permits the company were granted are limited to 780 tonnes of salmon/trout each for a period of seven years.