Land-based fish farms now part of aquaculture's future


‘THE time for questioning the importance and viability of closed containment land-based salmon aquaculture is now past, as new technologies demonstrate their productivity, efficiency, and adaptability” this was the key message at a recent workshop in the Wilfred Carter Atlantic Salmon Interpretive Centre, Chamcook, New Brunswick, Canada.

Those in attendance included senior personnel from Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST) and Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) along with 78 delegates from Canada, USA and Europe representing state governments; conservation bodies; angling interests and 18 companies involved in developing closed containment (CC) systems.

The purpose of the workshop was to update those present on progress in developing alternative forms of salmon farming and the relevance of CC technologies, especially the land-based options, to global salmon farming.

There was consensus that aquaculture has to be the main provider of fish and sea foods in the future. There is already a multi-million pound industry producing hundreds of thousands of tons of farmed salmon in Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Chile.

A feature of the workshop was acceptance that new technologies cannot replace existing open cage systems, but will work alongside them, providing an alternative to salmon farms that are shown to be poorly sited, or for retailers wanting production units close to market.

An important issue for ASF and AST is the extent to which CC technologies can provide a “biological firewall” between farmed salmon and wild migratory salmonids. The range of CC systems includes floating modules in the sea and, while these were seen as an improvement on open cage units, land-based systems were more likely to reduce risks.

On the positive side, CC land-based aquaculture would ensure segregation from wild salmon and sea trout. Sites can also be sited close to markets, and control of water quality and temperature made easier to manage along with bio-security, diseases, early maturation and delivery of daily husbandry.

On the not-so-positive side, the new prototypes will have to explain how their capital costs can be justified as well as show an availability of fresh water, cost electricity and deal with consumer resistance.

It became apparent at the workshop that the Danish company, Atlantic Sapphire, is a potential market leader in developing commercially viable land-based CC systems. The company will build a 2,500 tonne CC facility in the US, and plans to expand production to 16,000 tonnes within 10 years.

An aspect of company policy is to move towards sustainable feeds for farmed salmon in the near future. A number of other companies in the UK, Canada, Norway, China and USA are close behind them.

Meanwhile, the board of Inland Fisheries Ireland has expressed concern in relation to location and scale of the proposed salmon farm in Galway Bay, and how its operation could impact on wild salmon and sea trout stocks.

Question marks also surround the 500 jobs associated with the offshore farm. Published data shows that 9,923 tonnes were produced in 2007 and created 133 jobs. If the same ratio applied for the current proposal then this adds up to only 202 jobs. A recent report in fishnews.euclaims Scottish islanders were delighted when a 2,000 tonne salmon farm was granted planning. The jobs gain will be four full time jobs.

The board believes that proposals for two further offshore salmon farms in Co Mayo and Co Donegal are premature given that signific-ant issues over the current proposal have not yet been resolved.

“We cannot be complacent about the resource or management of the environment. In this regard the board would like to reiterate its commitment to the protection of Ireland’s wild fish and aquatic habitat,” the statement added.