Liza Mayer

Liza Mayer

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Global harvest volumes for farmed salmon will see moderate growth this year, with supply from traditional and non-conventional sources including land-based salmon farming contributing to that growth, says an analyst.
Researchers at Auburn University are ready to field-test a vaccine against the deadly columnaris disease that can affect nearly all freshwater fish species and causes millions of dollars in annual losses in catfish aquaculture alone.

Lab trials over the past seven years have shown the Auburn vaccine has outperformed the only vaccine currently available on the market, the researchers said. It also targets the two types of bacteria that cause columnaris disease, Type I and the more destructive and more prevalent Type II. Currently available vaccine on the market addresses only Type I.

In vaccine trials of Nile tilapia and catfish, the vaccine increased survival rates by 66 and 17 percent, respectively, over the currently available vaccine, reported the Auburn University College of Agriculture paper.

Field-testing of the vaccine is funded by a $321,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture. It will take place in 400 acres of Auburn University ponds.

“At this point in our research, we need data on a larger scale to successfully commercialize the vaccine,” research team leader Cova Arias told the Alabama Newscenter. “We will use this most recent grant to fulfill our gap of information.”

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific employees in Washington State on Tuesday testified before a state Senate committee against a bill that would ban Washington’s long-standing salmon farming industry and effectively terminate their employment.

Senate Bill 6086, sponsored by Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker, calls for a ban on any new leases for net pen aquaculture in the state, leading to a total phase-out by 2025.

“This bill will immediately cease the issuance of permits necessary to conduct normal operations at each of the four salmon farms in Washington,” said Troy Nichols, lobbyist representing Cooke Aquaculture Pacific. “The bill will kill dozens of rural, family-wage jobs were it to pass, and it acknowledges as much.”

Tom Glaspie, the site manager of Cooke’s Hope Island Fish Farm near Anacortes, was one of several employees who addressed the committee at the public hearing. He expressed the sentiments of his colleagues: “We’re worried about our jobs… I’ve been doing this my whole adult life. I invite all of you to come out and look at what we do before you judge it, and you’ll see how sustainable it is.”

Cooke said it currently employs over 80 individuals directly and supports 100 workers on harvesting boats and in processing plants, representing an investment valued at more than $70 million into Washington’s economy.

The company is urging lawmakers to make their decision based on the best available science and not on unfounded fears regarding the impact of Atlantic salmon on the health of native stocks.

A Los Angeles-based private equity firm specializing in the food sector says it has acquired Pacifico Aquaculture based in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.

The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 2010, Pacifico Aquaculture is permitted to grow several types of species on their farm site but the company has found its niche in the "true" striped bass (non-hybrid) — Morone saxitallis — for markets in the United States and the Americas.

The investment firm is Butterfly Equity, which its website says specializes in the food sector “spanning the entire food value chain from ‘seed to fork’ via four target verticals: agriculture & aquaculture, food & beverage products, food distribution and foodservice.”

"This is an exciting new chapter for Pacifico and we look forward to our partnership with the Butterfly team," said Omar Alfi and Daniel Farag, Co-CEOs of Pacifico. "Butterfly understands our business well and shares our vision for the future, and we are excited to have a partner with deep industry expertise in the food sector."

"The future for sustainable ocean-raised aquaculture is extraordinarily bright and we are excited to back the Pacifico team to help expand their reach throughout North America and around the world," said Adam Waglay, who co-founded Butterfly alongside Dustin Beck.

Cooke Aquaculture is making sure its voice is heard at a public hearing January 9 that will discuss a bill calling for a ban on any new leases for net pen aquaculture in Washington State.

Senate Bill 6086, sponsored by Sen Kevin Ranker, would effectively end the operations of Cooke Aquaculture in the Puget Sound. The company is the only commercial salmon farming company permitted to operate in the area.

Ranker’s proposal stems from the salmon escape incident at a Cooke Aquaculture farm in Washington State in August. Major concerns over such incidents include the spread of parasites and pathogens to wild stocks.

But Joel Richardson, Vice President of Public Relations for Cooke Aquaculture, is urging legislators to make decisions based on best available science and not on unfounded fears. “We acknowledge that the fish escapement prompted some understandable fears and concerns about the impact of Atlantic salmon on the health of native stocks, but we are urging lawmakers to recognize that these fears are not borne out by the history or the best available science.”

He emphasized that banning a legal operation such as Cooke’s “would be a draconian response and a very unfortunate mistake.”

Cooke, he said, has been providing  “sustainable and affordable source of locally-grown protein, represents tens of millions of dollars of investment in the state and has provided good, family-wage jobs in rural Puget Sound for over 30 years.”

He added that Cooke is taking responsibility for the "regrettable incident" and is addressing it.  For instance, Cooke is supportive of other legislative approaches to the issue, which include a review of all existing aquaculture regulations, regular inspections of net-pen facilities, and a local academic study of net-pen aquaculture and its impacts on the ecology.
“We are prepared to put forth suggestions for best regulatory practices that have worked in other states like Maine and in locations all around the world,” said Richardson. “Cooke has offered to help fund a scientific review of net pen aquaculture and the impacts of accidental escapes.  And Cooke is willing to explore ways to help the State improve native fish runs and augment state and tribal hatchery operations. We’ve been in Washington state for a little over a year now, but our company is one of the best in the world when it comes to both, and we want to share our experience and expertise to ensure that Puget Sound waters continue to have fish for tribes and commercial fisheries to fish for generations to come.”
Richardson said banning Cooke’s ability to continue its operations forecloses these possibilities.
Cooke Aquaculture Pacific is suing the Department of Natural Resources for terminating the company’s longstanding lease to operate a salmon farm in Port Angeles, Washington.

Cooke’s lawsuit contends that the decision to terminate the lease, which was made by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, is not supported by the facts and will unnecessarily result in the loss of scarce rural jobs.  

The company filed the lawsuit on January 4 in Clallam County Superior Court. It said DNR’s lease termination, announced in a “surprise filing” during the late afternoon hours on Friday, December 15, “was based on erroneous and outdated information about the condition of the facility.”

“DNR’s decision to terminate Cooke’s lease came as surprise to Cooke in part because DNR approved the transfer of the lease to Cooke in 2016 knowing that the mooring lines extended outside of the lease area and without notifying Cooke that this might constitute grounds for termination,” the company said in a statement.

“Cooke Aquaculture Pacific acquired the Washington salmon farms when it purchased Icicle Seafoods in 2016”, explained Joel Richardson, Vice President for Public Relations at Cooke Aquaculture. “The Department of Natural Resources, then led by Commissioner Franz’s predecessor, approved the transfer of those farm leases at that time and raised no concerns or objections to the manner in which Cooke’s predecessor company was managing the leased aquatic area. We can only assume that the recent decision to terminate the Port Angeles lease is based upon misinformation or a misunderstanding of the facts and history related to this site.”

Cooke representatives are hoping to meet with Commissioner Hillary Franz later this month to discuss the basis for DNR’s decision to terminate its Port Angeles lease and to further address or answer questions the Commissioner may have about Cooke’s operations.

“While we regret the need to file suit before meeting with the Commissioner, we were required to do so in order to protect the company’s legal rights,” Richardson said. “Nonetheless, Cooke believes that a fulsome dialogue with DNR, which it regards as a long-standing partner in its recently acquired Washington aquaculture program, can likely resolve any legitimate, substantive factual issues between the parties. If those issues cannot be amicably resolved by dialogue with the Commissioner then we are prepared to assert our legal rights by way of the judicial system.”

The company said that in addition to the direct impact the proposed lease termination will have on Cooke, the lease termination will also cause hardworking people to lose their jobs and face the financial uncertainty resulting from unemployment. The lease termination will also negatively impact efforts to create greater economic opportunity for those living in the Port Angeles/Port Townsend area.

Officials in Suffolk County, New York, implementing agencies and leaseholders in the county’s aquaculture lease program are facing a lawsuit from a yacht club in the area over oyster farms in Gardiner's Bay off Amagansett.

The Devon Yacht Club, which has 326 member families, claims the aquaculture lease board did not consider its user group, the recreational boaters of Devon, before it granted leases in July.

The club cited vested property rights, historical access, and navigability in its complaint, among other issues. It said roughly 120 acres “are in the heart of the area used for Devon’s members and the kids it teaches at sailing camp,” reported The East Hampton Star.

It filed a lawsuit in the State Supreme Court seeking to bar the leaseholders near the club from undertaking or continuing any action related to oyster farming at lease sites granted by the county’s aquaculture lease board in July, or engaging in any other activity that would interfere with sailing on Gardiner’s Bay, said the report.

The parcels are leased for private, commercial shellfish cultivation.

During public meetings held last fall the county’s director of sustainability,
Dorian Dale, said the aquaculture lease program “holds great promise in terms of improved water quality and revival of a shellfish industry that once provided considerable economic benefits, not to mention very tasty appetizers.”

A bitcoin mining operation in Manitoba is helping nurture plants and fish growing in an aquaponics system in Manitoba, Canada.
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 eat the feed, they become immune to the disease.

The startup’s proprietary vaccine technology was developed at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) 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 behavior, 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, as well as tilapia.

Malone is confident of the potential of Vaksea’s proprietary vaccine technology with 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.

A tool that could make one labour-intensive task in shellfish farming a thing of the past has been invented by three engineering students in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The invention flips oyster cages mechanically, which shellfish farmers currently do manually. The floating shellfish cages need to be flipped often to expose parasites like barnacles, algae and mussels to sunlight and kill them.

“Currently the cages are all flipped manually, usually by two or three guys and (the cages) weigh about 200 or 300 pounds,” one of the students, Dylan MacIssac, told The Chronicle Herald. They also work right up until the ice forms. They’re basically doing 200-pound dead lifts for 10 to 12 hours a day.”

The students have since formed a company, called Island AquaTech, to further develop their invention. To date, the young company has raised $55,000 in non-equity funding with $20,000 from Springboard Atlantic and $25,000 from Innovation P.E.I.’s Ignition Fund. The co-founders plan to use the funds to help produce their prototype, says the report.

Aquaculture feed additive developer Bentoli Inc identified four trends coming to aquaculture in 2018 and beyond.
The BC Supreme Court has granted an injunction against a number of anti-fish farm activists who trespassed on Marine Harvest Canada (MHC)’s property in recent months.
Plans to transform the city-owned Portland Street Pier in Portland, Maine into an incubator for aquaculture enterprises in Casco Bay are advancing.

City officials are beginning with a feasibility study — in cooperation with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute — that will gauge interest in an improved working waterfront.

“We need to be very sure of the interest that exists now and the demand that might exist in the future,” Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny told Press Herald.

Preliminary report identified six state-licensed commercial aquaculture leases within 10 miles of the pier, in addition to the 50 experimental or limited-purpose aquaculture sites.

The resulting pier master plan, including a needs assessment for aquaculture and fisheries by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, is expected to be completed in June.

Marine Harvest has announced it has entered into a share purchase agreement to purchase Northern Harvest, a salmon farmer on the East Coast of Canada.

Marine Harvest says Northern Harvest is “fully integrated with its own broodstock, smolt/hatchery, farming sites and processing operations.”

“The potential acquisition supports Marine Harvest's long term strategy of being a world leading and integrated producer of seafood proteins,” it added.

The acquisition price on a cash and debt free basis is roughly $248 million (C$ 315 million).

Northern Harvest is expected to harvest 19,000 tonnes of salmon in 2018. I has currently 45 farming licenses in Newfoundland and New Brunswick and has applied for additional 13 farming licenses.

The transaction is subject to approval by relevant competition authorities and customary closing conditions.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations is funding a project that will look at improving the wellbeing of the most valuable asset in aquaculture — the workforce.
New research released by the federal government says the risks of viral disease transferring from Atlantic salmon farms located in the Discovery Islands area of British Columbia to wild sockeye making their way to the Fraser River is low.
Salmon producer Cooke Aquaculture has acquired feed producer Omega Protein Corporation for $500 million.

The purchase marks the largest acquisition made by Cooke in its 32-year history, said Cooke CEO Glenn Cooke. He said the move will help further diversify the supply side of Cooke Aquaculture's business.

NYSE-listed Omega Protein produces dietary supplements and animal feeds. It is headquartered in Houston, Texas and has seven manufacturing facilities in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Cooke Aquaculture says the cancellation of the lease on its Atlantic salmon farm in Port Angeles, Washington came as a surprise and “likely a result of miscommunication” with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The company said it received the termination notice from the DNR on December 15 but prior to that Cooke Aquaculture “had already addressed and completed – or was addressing – each of the inspection items” the department cited as the basis for its decision to terminate the lease.

“We do not believe DNR understood that we were aware of and in the process of addressing these items and we do not believe the facts support DNR’s decision to terminate the lease,” Cooke Aquaculture said.

It itemized the issues that it has already addressed. “We look forward to discussing the notice of default with DNR officials to ensure that they are fully aware of all the work completed prior to their notice, as well as the enhancements we have scheduled. DNR has acted punitively without fully understanding the facts or reaching out to us for constructive dialogue,” said the company.

Joel Richardson, vice president public relations, told Aquaculture North America (ANA) that Cooke plans to “spend significant amounts of capital over the next few years” to upgrade all Cooke’s facilities in Washington.

Cooke Aquaculture purchased in June 2016 the salmon farm facilities in Washington State from Icicle Seafoods and said it is in the process of upgrading them to meet the company’s high standards.

“Cooke Aquaculture Pacific is continuing to collaborate with Washington state and federal agencies and our tribal partners, and we’ll also be sharing concepts from our experience in other regulatory environments throughout the world with lawmakers and regulators to enhance and strengthen the state’s regulatory framework for net-pen aquaculture,” added Richardson.
Marine Harvest Canada (MHC) and Cermaq have filed requests for injunction against fish farm protesters after requests for them not to enter the farms were ignored and efforts for constructive dialogue failed.
Cooke Aquaculture’s Atlantic salmon farm in Port Angeles, Washington has been ordered to shut down after government inspections revealed “risks to the public and the environment.”

The farm, which comprises one large pen with 14 cages and a smaller pen with six cages, is outside the boundaries of its lease with the department and causing a navigation hazard, Hilary Franz, state commissioner of public lands, who terminated Cooke’s lease, was quoted as saying by The Seattle Times.

Franz said her decision is final.

The farm holds nearly 700,000 Atlantic salmon.

Earlier, the company was fined $8,000 by the Department of Ecology for "repeated" water-quality violations.

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