How Fish Farming International planned to develop Verholmen.

Concerns about discharges and noise sink plan for Gigante’s second salmon farm

Impact on seaweed and bird life outweigh benefits of 19,000-tonnes-per-year development in Norway, says state administrator’s department


An on-land salmon farm proposed for a small island in Norway has been blocked by Nordland state administrator’s department because of the potential impact of discharge water on the environment, reports Fish Farming Expert's Norwegian sister LandbasedAQ.

Fish Farm International had applied for permission to build a flow-through facility with an annual production capacity of 19,087 tonnes of fish and a requested maximum permitted biomass of 10,724 tonnes.

The company is a subsidiary of Gigante Havbruk, which also owns a controlling interest (60.85%) in Gigante Salmon AS, a company constructing a 16,000-tonnes-per-year flow-through facility on the island of Lille Indre Rosøy in Rødøy, Helgeland.

As with the Rødøy farm, the facility on Verholmen in the Meløy municipality of Nordland is planned with raceways in pools made by blasting and excavating into the bedrock. This means the pools are below sea level, reducing the energy required to pump up seawater from below the depth where sea lice can be found.

An almost untouched area

Verholmen is the middle of several islands in the northern part of Bolgværet. The island measures approximately 820 metres northeast/southwest and 90m southeast/northwest. It is within an area designated for agricultural, nature and outdoor purposes, as well as reindeer husbandry, although the island itself is set aside for industry, where, according to the regulations, a pool for fish farming can be built with associated facilities such as supply and outlet pipes, tanks for the collection of waste, gas plants, etc. There is also an area set aside for a quay.

In its refusal, the department of state administrator (regional governor) Tom Cato Karlsen said that establishing the farm would entail major encroachments on an almost untouched area.

All discharge water would be received by the strait between Verholmen and Vesholmen, which is shallow, narrow, and limited by islets on several sides.

All water discharged from the planned facility would enter a narrow strait between Verholmen and Vesholmen.

Planned cleaning would reduce the volume of particulate emissions, but there were no plans to capture dissolved nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus.

The size of the requested production means that the emissions, even after purification, are still considered large, equivalent to untreated sewage from 86,000 person-equivalents in terms of organic carbon and 190,000 person-equivalents in terms of nitrogen (per year).

“Despite good current conditions, a discharge of this size will lead to an ever-increasing concentration of nutrients and particles in the water column. This organic discharge, both the particulate and the dissolved part, will have the greatest impact on the main recipient, which is the strait between Verholmen and Vesholmen,” wrote the department.

“Continuously elevated concentrations of nutrients will cause a major change in the macroalgae community, from habitat-forming perennial species to more opportunistic species, probably in large parts of the strait.”

More risk than benefit

In addition, Karlsen’s department considers that planned noise from operation will have major negative consequences for the red-listed bird species that use the islets around Verholmen.

The department said it understands the benefits of land-based fish farming and the positive implications for the area, including jobs and investments in public services in the nearby island of Bolga, which had a population of 91 in 2020.

“The fact that the municipality has adopted the zoning plan that facilitates the measure also indicates that the municipality considers the consequences to be overall positive for them. Nevertheless, we consider the pollution-related disadvantages to be very large against the background of the area’s value, and greater than the advantages in general. Based on this, our assessment is that permission cannot be granted,” concludes the department.

Fish Farm International can appeal the refusal.