Atlantic Sapphire's plant in Miami, Florida. Photo: Atlantic Sapphire

Atlantic Sapphire takes action after mass mortality

Land-based salmon farmer Atlantic Sapphire has announced changes to its management following a mass mortality event last week.

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Bjørn-Vegard Løvik will replace Dharma Rajeswaran as operations manager, while Rajeswaran will take on a new role as chief of staff.

The company blamed a filter malfunction at its recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility in Miami, Florida, for the loss of around 500 tonnes of fish.

CEO Johan Andreassen said in a stock exchange announcement that the changes come after a challenging start to 2021.

CEO Johan Andreassen

‘There has been increased mortality and operational disruptions, therefore we make changes for increased efficiency and reliability,’ he said.

‘I am therefore happy that Bjørn-Vegard Løvik will join us here in the USA; he brings over two decades of farming expertise to the team.’

Andreassen thanked Rajeswaran for his work and commitment as COO in the company since 2017, and said he looked forward to having him as an advisor in the company. 

Critical stage

Bjørn Vegard Løvik said in the stock exchange announcement that he had been involved in Atlantic Sapphire since the start of the company, and that he looked forward to contributing more actively to the daily operations at this critical stage.

‘What we do is not easy, but we know that we have the right team with unsurpassed experience so that we can get our American business to produce consistent results,’ he said.

Atlantic Sapphire attributed last week’s incident to an identified design weakness in the RAS system. This caused particles to accumulate in the biofilter, which may have led to gases forming in the plant, which affected the fish.

As a result, the salmon accumulated at the bottom of the tank, which blocked the intake of new water, leading to many of the fish dying.

Unspecified number

In an ambiguous stock market announcement last week, the company said: ‘500 tons (head on gutted) of fish is expected to be lost, equivalent of around 5% of annualised phase 1 harvest volumes, with an average weight of approximately 1kg.’

The statement can be interpreted to mean that the unspecified number of 1kg fish lost would have amounted to 500 tonnes at harvest weight, or that the company has lost 500 tonnes of 1kg fish, which would be half a million salmon. Atlantic Sapphire refused to elaborate when contacted.