A salmon at the Sustainable Blue facility. Minority shareholders want to appoint a receiver to save the business.

Land-based salmon farmer Sustainable Blue faces receivership

Minority shareholders make move to save RAS operator that is the darling of the anti-net pen lobby


Sustainable Blue, a land-based salmon farmer that Washington state’s anti-net pen public lands commissioner Hilary Franz saw as the future of finfish aquaculture, is being pushed into receivership by two minority shareholders who acquired its CAD21.6 million debt from a bank.

Thane Stevens and Jim Lawley hope their move will enable the operation to keep going.

Sustainable Blue is reported to have hit financial problems after it lost 100,000 fish in a die-off at its recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility in Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada, last November.

According to news website AllNovaScotia, the fish represented Sustainable Blue’s planned harvest from November 28, 2023, until July 31, 2024, leaving the farmer without revenue and needing CAD12m to continue growing the 80% of fish unaffected by the mortality incident.

Bank loans

In June last year, Sustainable Blue’s owner, SFFC Group, signed an agreement with the Bank of Nova Scotia for “two non-revolving term facilities in the principal amounts of CAD17.5 million and CAD4 million”, according to an application by Stevens and Lawley to appoint a receiver. The company’s 52.9-acre property had been used as security for the loan.

“Without the proposed receivership, it is anticipated that the SFFC Group will have no choice but to shutter operations,” states the application.

Stevens and Lawley believe Sustainable Blue’s operations can be viable in the medium and long term and want to restructure the ownership and business of SFFC Group.

AllNovaScotia reports that Sustainable Blue has a number of high-profile investors, including anti-net pen campaigner Yvon Chouinard, founder of outdoor clothing company Patagonia. But ultimate control appears to belong to a Saudi Arabian “investment club” that ploughed US $28m into the company in 2020.

Welcome in Washington

In April, Washington state’s public lands commissioner Hilary Franz, who has shut down Cooke Aquaculture's open net pen salmonid farms in Puget Sound, signed a partnership agreement with Sustainable Blue to identify opportunities for siting sustainable finfish aquaculture in the state.

Franz said: “This agreement represents an important step toward restoring finfish aquaculture in a sustainable, healthy way that does not pit farmed fish against the native salmon we all work so hard to sustain.”

Sustainable Blue chief executive Kirk Havercroft said at the time: “This is a different path forward, and we’re thrilled to have the State of Washington on board to chart this new path in the United States.

“What we know is that all RAS systems are not created equal; Sustainable Blue offers a proven, long-running, zero discharge system that provides food security and economic stimulation, as well as consistency in product and market supply.”