For years there have been concerns about the potential impacts – genetic contamination and disease -- from salmon farmed in British Columbia net pens upon wild Pacific salmon. Now comes a pilot project to reduce environmental risk by raising salmon in a tank.
“The industry is developing new technologies that will make our country a world leader in aquaculture and create jobs and opportunities here at home,” Keith Ashfield, Canadian fisheries minister said last month in presenting an $800,000 government grant to help fund a fish farm proposal to grow commercial volumes of salmon in tanks on land in the Campbell River area of British Columbia.
Namgis First Nation received the lion’s share of the grant to help fund construction of a $7 million land-based fish tank pilot project.
The project is a partnership between Namgis First Nation, Save Our Salmon Marine Conservation Foundation and Tides Canada. According to Namgis Chief Bill Cranmer, the partnership is hoping to complete the pilot project by fall in time to begin raising salmon smolts in the tanks by September.
The pilot project is expected to produce 260 to 290 tons of salmon a year, eventually ramping up to about 1,000 tons per year.
In a press statement, Ashfield said the ultimate goal of the pilot project is to shift salmon farming away from environmentally risky net-pens where farmed salmon sometimes come in contact with wild salmon and transmit diseases.
Canada’s Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans reported that the grant culminates a lengthy process that began with the 2008 launch of the “Feasibility Study of Closed-Containment Options for the British Columbia Aquaculture Industry.” That final report from that study was released by the DFO March 15, 2011 and is available online at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/sustainable-durable/aquaculture/resources-containment-eng.htm
While the study shows raising salmon in a land-based system of enclosed tanks would solve the environmental risks posed by net-pens, salmon raised in tanks are projected to cost about $9,000 per ton of product, compared to $2,000 per ton for salmon raised in net-pens.
Other companies are taking a different approach looking into construction of marine-based tank salmon farming projects in British Columbia, including a four-tank system launched in January by AgriMarine in partnership with the Middle Bay Sustainable Aquaculture Institute.
“When completed the Middle Bay Project it will demonstrate a new marine based commercially adaptable technology that will offer the socio-economic benefits of fish farming without many of the negative environmental issues associated with the traditional net case fish farms, according to a press statement from AgriMarine.