Cermaq Canada's SCCS seen from above during the first trial. Photo: Cermaq Canada.

Cermaq prepares to trial ‘improved and optimised’ semi-closed cage in BC

Salmon farmer Cermaq Canada is preparing a second trial of a semi-closed containment system (SCCS) in British Columbia after making improvements to the equipment.

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Cermaq first stocked the Fiizk Certus 15,000m³-capacity enclosure with 495,000 smolts with an average size of 100 grams in December 2020.

The enclosure was sited at the company’s Millar site in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The company’s plan was to make two transfers of fish at 600 g and 1.5 kilos from the SCCS into open-net pens to demonstrate the effectiveness of the system as a nursery, or a post-smolt facility.

A smaller group of fish were due to be left in the SCCS through to harvest at 5.5 kg in the spring and summer of 2022, but Cermaq decided to harvest them early in October 2021 because of technical problems with the system that led to mortalities.

The central component of the Fiizk Certus SSC is an impermeable fabric bag that separates farmed fish from the external environment. Water is pumped into the bag from a depth below the level where sea lice are usually found, and can be filtered for added protection. Illustration: Fiizk.

Issues resolved

Cermaq said at the time that it would use the SCCS again once it had investigated what went wrong and resolved those issues.

“Innovative farming continues to progress in British Columbia as the second trial of Cermaq Canada’s new Semi-Closed Containment System (SCCS) prepares to get under way,” the company’s sustainability and communication director Lars Galtung told Fish Farming Expert.

“The system is the first of its kind in North America and the wealth of insightful information gained from the initial trial has been a launching point for the technology to be adjusted, improved and optimised for the site it will be operating on, based on the best possible data and performance metrics to date.

“The introduction of technology such as the SCCS which holds much promise in advancing an increased level of management for our farms while limiting interaction with the surrounding marine environment takes time, careful study, and robust trial design. The investment our innovation and fish health teams are making will lead to continued improvement and an exciting new horizon for alternate farming innovations for our company.”

Plan for transition

The new trial is taking place at the same time as the Canadian government progresses with plans to “transition” from the use of open-net pen salmon farming in BC.

Although this was interpreted by some people opposed to the industry as meaning a move to on-land production, fisheries minister Joyce Murray has said future farming “could be in the ocean” as long as it meets her requirement to minimise or remove interaction with wild salmon.

Critics of salmon farms claim they can spread sea lice and disease to wild fish. Despite nine studies by government scientists who concluded fish farms posed only a minimal risk to wild salmon, the federal government says a precautionary approach must continue to inform its policy.

Norway-headquartered Cermaq is owned by Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi and is one of the world’s biggest salmon farmers, producing around 190,000 gutted weight tonnes of Atlantic salmon in Norway, Chile, and British Columbia last year.