Liza Mayer

Liza Mayer

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A lot, according to results of a poll conducted by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).

The organization said majority (92 percent) of ASC-certified fish and shellfish farmers who responded to the survey found that ASC certification enhanced their reputation; 90 percent benefited from meeting buyers’ preference; and 87 percent gained access to new market opportunities.

An ACS certification verifies that the product was raised in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. To date, more than 600 farms have been certified, the majority of which are in Europe and Asia, and 11,000 different products are available on the market bearing the ASC consumer label. ASC surveyed farms certified to all eight ASC Farm standards and got a 21-percent response rate.

In addition to the aforementioned benefits, the farmers said they valued the opportunity to reduce their environmental impact, and three quarters had become more aware of sustainability issues related to feed use.

More than one third of them found that their use of antibiotics and therapeutic medicines had decreased, while a quarter reported that their feed conversion ratio had lowered, thus reducing feed costs and environmental impact. Notable improvements in water quality and a reduction in fish mortalities were also linked directly to working through the ASC certification process, the organization said.

ASC certification was also found to have a positive effect on local communities, with 67 percent experiencing improved relationships. Over two thirds of farmers were found to actively support local communities through social projects, financial support and sponsorship of sporting events.

“Overall the survey showed us that we are doing a lot of things right. Our farm partners are important stakeholders and these findings are also an opportunity for us to further improve our offering,” said ASC CEO Chris Ninnes.

Farmed salmon has the lowest overall cost to the environment compared to other major animal proteins, says the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) in its latest sustainability report.

Farm-raised salmon has shown to be one of the most eco-efficient forms of protein production, ranking low (9.8) in terms of carbon footprint than any commercially raised food, such as chicken (43.2), pork (56.7) and beef (337.2).

Due to an increase in the use of non-medicinal approaches and sharing of best practices in sea lice management, the use of medicinal sea lice treatments has gone down by 40 percent over the past five years among GSI members, the report said. GSI members comprise 17 salmon farmers around the world, which together account for over 50 percent of the global farmed salmon sector.

The report added that continued innovations in the sourcing and efficiency of feed ingredients have enabled GSI members to reduce their use of fish oil and fishmeal by 16 percent and 15 percent (calculated per forage fish dependency ratio), respectively.

GSI’s sustainability report provides consumers and stakeholders a lens through which they can measure the salmon industry’s performance. It is the fifth year GSI members have released the report since the initiative’s launch in August 2013.

Its 17 members operate in eight countries – Australia, Canada, Chile, Faroe Islands, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom — and over 40 percent of their production is now certified to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standard.

Cooke Aquaculture is boosting its sea-lice management tools with addition of the Thermolicer technology — a Norwegian invention that uses warm-water baths to remove sea lice.

“The Thermolicer exploits a vulnerability of sea lice that we know do not tolerate sudden changes in water temperature. Sea lice are immediately sensitive to sudden temperature changes. By suddenly heating the lice, it will fall off the fish,” said Tore Laastad of Steinsvik, which designed the technology.

Blacks Harbour-based Cooke Aquaculture said trials of the technology last summer proved it to be 98 percent effective at removing the lice without harming the fish. It has since equipped one of its vessels — the Miss Mildred — with the technology and brought it into service recently.

“This is an exciting evolution in sea lice management for us. Thermolicer is a simple and effective treatment that further reduces our need to use chemicals or medicines,” said Joel Richardson, Vice President, Public Relations for Cooke Aquaculture.

He added that it is the first time that the Norwegian technology is being used in Atlantic Canada to combat sea lice.

Canada’s federal government has failed in its management of the country’s $1-billion salmon farming industry, according to an auditor’s report released on Tuesday.

The report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development says Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), which oversees Canada’s fisheries and safeguards its waters, has no national standard for nets and other equipment to prevent escapes, nor has it set limits on the amount of drugs and pesticides fish farms can use to treat diseases.

The report also found the department had not completed risk assessments for major known diseases, was not addressing new and emerging diseases, was not adequately enforcing regulations aimed at minimizing harm to wild fish, and has no requirement to monitor the health of wild salmon or the status of the ocean floor beneath open net pen salmon farms.

The department was also found to be providing better funding for research related to fish farms than it is for research to help monitor their impact.

"The department is at risk of being seen to promote aquaculture over the protection of wild salmon," reports quoted environment commissioner Julie Gelfand as saying after the reports were tabled in Parliament.

Among the report’s recommendations were for the DFO to:

·      Initiate discussions with its counterparts in the Atlantic provinces to address the quality and maintenance of equipment on salmon farms to prevent fish escapes;

·      provide timely public reports with detailed information on companies’ drug and pesticide deposits, and on the health of farmed fish in British Columbia;

·      develop and implement an approach to validate the accuracy of information that aquaculture companies report regarding their drug and pesticide deposits.

The commissioner said it conducted the review because "salmon aquaculture is a growing industry in Canada ... and raising farmed salmon in net pens in the ocean has potential effects on wild fish that need to be understood and addressed, as appropriate."
ADM Animal Nutrition launched at Aquaculture America a new protein source for aquaculture, called PROPLEX T.

Composed of dried fermentation biomass, PROPLEX T provides a consistent source of digestible protein and high levels of essential amino acids for fish and shrimp.

The company says PROPLEX T has proven to be a successful replacement for other protein sources, such as fishmeal, in diets for fish and shrimp.

“PROPLEX T is a cost-effective protein source that can be used in place of expensive or variable protein products,” said Dr John Bowzer, aquaculture research scientist for ADM. “Additionally, PROPLEX T provides feed manufacturers with added flexibility in formulations due to its high protein content and favorable amino acid profile.”

A Washington, DC-based seafood company says it has started marketing salmon containing twice the industry standard for health-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids.

The company, Blue Circle Foods, attributed the 100-percent increase in marine Omega-3 content by feeding farmed salmon a feed called “In the Blue,” which is made with microalgae and cleaned fish trimmings and oil.

It says the farmed salmon fed with the feed also contains one of the lowest levels of marine contaminants in the market and has set a new industry record fish-in, fish-out ratio of .47 to 1.

Blue Circle Foods says the innovation was made possible through its partnership with Norwegian fish farm Kvarøy, and feed producer BioMar. The company does not farm fish itself but distributes the harvest of family fish farms in the Norwegian Arctic under the brand Blue Circle Foods.

Blue Circle Foods' farmed Atlantic salmon is sold fresh and frozen at Whole Foods Market stores around the US.

The Washington Department of Ecology has banned a pesticide that was approved two years ago for oyster growers to kill burrowing shrimp.

The department said it made the decision after a lengthy evaluation of the environmental impacts of the pesticide, imidacloprid. The pesticide belongs to a class of chemicals called the neonicotinoids, which act on the central nervous system of insects.

The state announced Monday that it is too harmful to the ecosystem and decided to deny a request for its approval.

“The science around imidacloprid is rapidly evolving and we can’t ignore it. New findings make it clear that this pesticide is simply too risky and harmful to be used in Washington’s waters and estuaries,” state Ecology Director Maia Bellon said in a press release.

The pesticide in oyster farms causes significant negative impacts to water quality, crustaceans in the area, and affects fish and birds by killing sources of food, the state said earlier.

Marine Harvest CEO Alf-Helge Aarskog and BC environmentalist David Suzuki represented two sides of the salmon farming debate in a Q & A piece in the Vancouver Sun today.

The two men talked about the hot button issue that made headlines in British Columbia in recent weeks — from the impact of salmon farms on wild salmon stocks to land-based aquaculture to the industry’s role in feeding the world’s growing population.

Environmental activists have blamed the fish farming industry for the decline in wild salmon stocks and transfer of diseases from farmed salmon to wild salmon. In the industry’s defence, Aarskog said the decline or increase in salmon stocks is very hard to predict. One has to take into account what happens in the ocean, access to food, overfishing, the effect of global warming and why some (spawning) rivers are doing better than others, he said. “It’s hard to know the impact of farms, but we haven’t found a wild salmon with a disease that came from farmed salmon, yet.”

“We’ve got to stop using the oceans as a garbage can,” said Suzuki, adding that a look at the science tells him that fish farms should not have been in the migratory routes of wild salmon in the first place. He suggested what other activists have espoused for a while now—to move ocean-based fish farms to land.

Aarskog believes a lot more work needs to be done—particularly the technology aspect—to make land-based farming a success. “A lot of money is being put into land-based salmon farming these days. There is one in Miami and a few others in Europe and so far no one has succeeded because the costs are so high. The oldest one is in Denmark and it has been bankrupt three times. Instead, we are looking at technologies for closed systems in the ocean.”

Q & A can be found here.

Two oyster farms implicated in the latest norovirus outbreak have been closed by federal authorities.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says 40 cases of acute gastrointestinal illness have been reported to public health authorities since early March.

In late 2016 and early 2017, 347 norovirus outbreak cases associated with raw or undercooked oysters were reported in BC, Alberta and Ontario. That outbreak was declared over in April 2017.

Tidal Enterprises Ltd, a supplier of aquaculture mooring system components has acquired Northwest Wire Rope Ltd, a supplier of industrial wire ropes.

Executives from the two British Columbia-based companies hailed the move as good news for their aquaculture customer base because it expands their products and services for the industry. Their product range now includes products for lifting, rigging and load securement devices made of chain, rope, and synthetic products.

“This is a very exciting event for both companies, for our employees and our clients. Our greatest assets have always been our people, and by joining forces we have just made a huge increase in the quality of that asset. We are bringing together enhanced experience and expertise in the field of safe overhead lifting, heavy equipment lifting, rigging and mooring/anchoring. Our merger will create a more comprehensive infrastructure with faster response times from our new Nanaimo location,” said Lee Poirier, who co-founded Tidal Enterprises with Allen Reid.

Both companies have worked together frequently over the past five years. The executives said the two companies will continue to operate as two entities.

Stakeholders in the aquaculture industry should be vigilant when hiring staff as this could be a way for activist groups to infiltrate the farm’s operations, according to Hannah Thompson-Weeman Communications Director at the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

At Aquaculture America 2018, Thompson-Weeman said the number of undercover videos from activist groups who paid individuals to gain employment on farms increased in 2017.

Sometimes the activists who are hired at farms have caused the issue they’re filming or failed to prevent an issue from occurring by deviating from farm procedure, she said.

In a contributed piece to Drovers, a beef industry publication, she wrote that farms and companies should review and refresh their hiring procedures by always checking references; reviewing the candidate’s social media postings; and keeping an eye out for red flags, such as whether the candidate’s responses seem overly rehearsed.

More than 50 chefs in British Columbia are calling on the provincial government to end Atlantic salmon farming in the province.

The group outlined its concerns about open net-pens presenting a risk to wild salmon from parasites and disease in a letter to Doug Donaldson, the BC minister of forests, lands, natural-resource operations and rural development, and Lana Popham, the minister of agriculture.

“These farms are making both farmed and wild salmon sick. They need to be shut down or transitioned to sustainable, closed systems as quickly as possible,” said environmentalist David Suzuki, who added his name to the letter.

It is interesting to note, however, that an advisory council that Minister Lana Popham created in 2016 did not reach a consensus on the potential risks associated with salmon aquaculture in BC.

The members of the advisory council included representatives from the aquaculture industry, academia, non-governmental organizations, First Nations and federal and provincial government officials. In their final report released Thursday April 5, the council—called Minister of Agriculture's Advisory Council on Finfish Aquaculture (MAACF) — acknowledged there were “differences within MAACFA on the risk that farms pose.”

“Council members diverge on their views on the level of potential risk that farms pose to wild salmon and as a result views on how to address the overall risk of salmon farming are not uniform,” the report said.

The tenures of 20 open net-pen salmon farms in the BC are up for review and renewal by the BC government in June.

In neigbouring Washington State, a law that would end Atlantic salmon farming in the state when current leases expire in 2022 has been passed.
A report from a provincial advisory council concerning the future of British Columbia's aquaculture operations has, for the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BSCSFA), left a major issue ambiguous.

That issue is the council’s recommendation that fish farms in British Columbia may be required to have agreements in place with the First Nations in the area before the provincial government approves any new or replacement tenures. Twenty fish fam leases are up for renewal in June.

While the association says it agrees in principle with the recommendation, it “will be unworkable in practice without further clarification,” it said in a statement.

“While salmon farmers agree collaborating with local First Nations when working on Crown land is crucial and have a long track record of doing so, as currently drafted the recommendation that would require Crown tenure holders to acquire First Nation agreements as a condition of continuing operations at existing business sites is unclear and would be unworkable in practice.

“The Association cannot support that recommendation as written, but would welcome the opportunity to work with other stakeholders and government to clarify it,” said BCSFA.

BC salmon farmers have agreements with 20 First Nations and many of the 6,600 jobs supported by the province’s salmon farms are held by people of First Nations heritage.

Earlier this year, BCSFA Jeremy Dunn told Aquaculture North America (ANA) that there is currently a required First Nations involvement in the tenure process. “There are a number of consultation requirements that the Crown undertakes and requirements for the companies to participate in those consultations, which our members are more than happy to do.”

How this new requirement would be implemented remains to be seen. BCSFA said it has written to the provincial government offering to consult further on this and other recommendations.

A British Columbia couple who owns a smoked-fish business is worried about the uncertainty surrounding the fate of a number of salmon farms that are up for tenure renewal this year.

The couple, Carol and Bruce Dirom of Port Hardy’s Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish Inc, says shutting down salmon farming will put them and their 75 employees out of work. More than half of their workforce consists of First Nations members.

Roughly 65 percent of the 680,000 kilograms of fish processed by the company every year is farmed salmon, said the couple. “Without the steady, reliable supply of fish from farms, we wouldn’t have the certainty needed to stay in business.”

The Diroms expressed their concerns in a letter to the Times Colonist. They are asking the BC government “to consider the issues in fish farming in a sensible and pragmatic fashion, setting aside politics and hyperbole in favour of science and community interests.”

Salmon tenures in British Columbia became a hot-button issue in October after BC Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham wrote Marine Harvest Canada (MHC) regarding its dispute with local First Nations. The letter appeared to warn MHC, and indeed all who hold tenures with the government, about the importance of collaboration with the First Nations. “As you are aware, government will be reviewing tenures and will make a decision on renewals before the current leases expire,” Popham wrote.

MHC has nine sites that are up for renewal this year. Other companies operating in the area, Grieg and Cermaq, are also subject to five-year terms in the area.

“These are sensitive topics right now, and a lot of people are afraid to stick their necks out in the current environment, but we need to speak up and tell the government it is critical to our business and our larger community that they make rational decisions about salmon farming, and consider the communities where the farming actually happens,” the Diroms wrote.

In neighboring Washington State, salmon farming will no longer be allowed after current tenures expire in 2022.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking public input into a report that will serve as the framework for managing the proposed State Coastal Marine Aquaculture Program.

The public scoping process will guide CDFW in identifying the range of actions analyzed in the report, including environmental effects, methods of assessment, mitigation measures and alternative regulatory management frameworks.

Members of the public, tribes and public agencies are invited to provide comments through April 22. Here’s how you can participate.

A Baltimore, Maryland startup has come up with a novel way of battling Viral Nervous Necrosis (VNN), a disease that affects over 40 aquaculture species worldwide.

Dr Ken Malone, CEO of startup VakSea Inc, says the aquaculture industry’s big problem has not been the absence of effective vaccine, rather, it is in the way those vaccines are delivered.

“Current methods of delivering vaccines to fish involves injecting fish with vaccine one by one, which is expensive, labor intensive, and stressful to the fish,” says Malone.

VakSea grows the vaccine inside insect larvae, grinds up the larvae, mixes it into fish feed, then feeds it directly to the fish. When the fish eats the feed, they become immune to the disease.

The startup’s proprietary vaccine technology was developed at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in the lab of Dr Vik Vakharia beginning in 2014. VakSea filed a provisional patent application in 2016. It is now developing a pellet-based vaccine aimed at protecting European seabass juveniles from VNN and hopes to get it to market over the next 12 to 18 months.

VNN “damages the central nervous system in susceptible fish species and typically affect younger stages of fish (larvae, fry, fingerlings), although older, market-size fish can be affected as well, with losses ranging from 15–100 percent,” according to University of Florida-IFAS Extension researcher Roy P. E. Yanong, in his paper Viral Nervous Necrosis (Betanodavirus) Infections in Fish.

“Infected larvae and juvenile stages often show abnormal swimming behaviour, including vertical positioning and spinning; flexing of the body,” he wrote.

Species susceptible to VNN include red drum, cobia, sea bass, barramundi, gilthead seabream, Pacific bluefin tuna, various grouper species, various flatfish species including halibut and Japanese flounder, and tilapia.

Malone is confident of the potential of VakSea’s proprietary vaccine technology in other species. “We’ve proven it out on the nervous necrosis virus and we know it’s going to work on a large number of species and a large number of other diseases,” he says.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday signed into law a bill that would ban salmon aquaculture in the state.

House Bill 2957 will phase out non-native fish farming in the state by 2025. New leases and permits for farming non-native finfish will be no longer be issued. Canadian company Cooke Aquacuulture is the only fish farming operations currently affected by the new law.

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific’s Vice President of Public Relations, Joel Richardson said: “While our company and our rural sea farming employees are deeply disappointed by the Governor’s decision to ignore the science and sign the bill, we will certainly respect the wishes of the Legislature. Our employees remain our top priority, and Cooke Aquaculture Pacific will continue to take the time we need to fully evaluate our operations and investments in Washington and explore all our available options. We will also continue to work with tribal, state and community partners.”

The Washington Fish Growers Association (WFGA) said it is “deeply disappointed by Governor Inslee’s failure to take science into consideration by signing i nto law HB 2957.Our organization holds the position—supported by leading fisheries scientists—that this law completely lacks any scientific basis,” it said in a statement.
Findings of infectious salmon anemia (ISAv) virus during a routine inspection at a Cooke Aquaculture’s site in Newfoundland, Canada has forced the untimely harvest of salmon at that site.

Cooke Aquaculture says it is harvesting the entire salmon population in that farm. The  discovery of the virus at the site proves that the Province’s surveillance program is effective, it added.

“This proactive approach to harvesting fish immediately following a positive diagnosis has proven to be the most successful method for managing this virus,” said the company.

In October 2017, a Cooke Aquaculture site in the same province also tested positive for ISAv.

ISA is a naturally occurring virus and is not a human health issue or a food safety issue, said the company.  According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), ISAv outbreaks are most common in susceptible farmed finfish reared in sea water. Depending on the virus strain, the disease can potentially kill up to 90 percent of an infected Atlantic Salmon population, representing significant economic losses for aquaculture operations.

Questions over the integrity of British Columbia’s Animal Health Centre (AHC) can now be put to rest after a review panel found no evidence of "dubious data or conflict of interest.”

The lab, based in Abbotsford, BC, is the leading accredited full-service veterinary laboratory in Western Canada, whose tasks include diagnosing farmed fish diseases that are viewed by some as a threat to wild salmon. AHC also conducts testing for private fish farms for a fee, which Agriculture Minister Lana Popham called into question in October.

The review conducted by the independent consulting firm Deloitte and Premier John Horgan’s deputy minister, Don Wright, found no conflict of interest.

“Our independent assessment of the AHC did not identify any evidence of financial or technical conflict of interest regarding the diagnostic activities of the AHC,” said Deloitte.

Don Wright wrote:  “I am impressed with the professionalism, the attention to quality control and the dedication to good science that I observed during my visit. I am satisfied that the Animal Health Centre operates with strong professional, scientific and ethical integrity. My review process found no evidence of ‘dubious data or conflict of interest.’”

Marine Harvest Canada (MHC) says it is introducing a non-medicinal machine called the Hydrolicer in its anti-sea-lice arsenal.

The latest Hydrolicer model can delouse 350 tonnes of salmon per hour but is gentle on the fish.

“We want to make sure that while the system removes sea lice, it is also delicate to our fish. We won’t accept anything less than a quick and safe process that ensures our fish are kept as stress free as possible,” says Gerry Burry, who leads MHC’s R&D for this particular system.

He explained that the system uses water pressure “to carefully get between the sea louse and the salmon’s skin. Once the sea lice are separated from the salmon, we can capture them for disposal.”

MHC says the new tool will help the company continue to effectively manage sea lice levels on its fish, as well as reach its certification targets that include continued reduction of medicine use.

Another tool that the company is introducing to help it combat sea lice is a “fish spa” — a 75-metre vessel with a 3,000-cubic meter freshwater capacity that can provide a freshwater bath for an entire pen (up to 50,000 fish).  Immersion in freshwater is a common practice in the salmon farming industry to improve gill health and to help remove external parasites.

MHC expects the $35-million vessel to arrive in mid-2018.

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