Atlantic Sapphire's RAS facility in Denmark. Photo: Atlantic Sapphire.

Atlantic Sapphire blames human error for fish die-off

On-land salmon farmer Atlantic Sapphire has blamed human error for the loss of around 400 tonnes of fish at its recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility in Denmark.

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It estimates the die-off will cost it around $3 million (£2.16m) more than it will get back in insurance pay-outs.

Atlantic Sapphire, which also a larger on-land salmon facility in the United States, said in a market announcement last night that the incident occurred in one of its two saltwater grow-out systems in Denmark on Friday. The other grow-out system was unaffected.

Preliminary analysis, which the company said remains subject to change, indicates that maintenance work performed in the filtration system caused water quality to quickly deteriorate, resulting in elevated mortality.

Stagnant water

“Atlantic Sapphire is continuously improving its operating procedures to ensure that all actions taken by the farm operators do not pose a risk to the stability of the systems, therefore impacting the fish,” stated the company.

“However, human error altered the water levels in the RAS system and allowed previously stagnant water to flow into the tanks. To minimise the risk of a similar incident reoccurring, the company has updated certain operating procedures and such changes will take effect immediately.

“Further, the system in question had a larger standing biomass than the grow-out systems in the US (split in two). The Denmark facility had not been split in two, because this modification was not practically possible with the farm fully stocked with fish. Now this modification is possible and will be performed, which will reduce the impact of future mortality events in a system.”

‘Skilled, passionate people’

Atlantic Sapphire said the number of fish lost was the equivalent of around 17% of annualised harvest volumes from the Denmark facility at steady state production. The fish would have been harvestable in the second half of this year.

In a post on Twitter this morning, Atlantic Sapphire chief executive Johan Andreassen said: “We have incredible skilled, passionate and dedicated people. We have worked for years learning and improving, accomplishing things few people thought was possible.

“We know we make the best salmon and what we are doing is extremely complicated 24/7. We will prove it to the world!”