AquaBounty Technologies says it expects to start commercial production of its AquAdvantage genetically modified salmon in early 2019.

A $1.52-million loan (C$2 million) it secured from the Province of Prince Edward Island, Canada will help it complete the construction of a 250-metric-ton production facility on its Rollo Bay site, where the GM salmon will be raised. The site includes an R&D hatchery and a broodstock facility.

“This loan should enable us to complete construction of the growout facility at Rollo Bay by the end of this year and to commence commercial production of our innovative AquAdvantage Salmon in early 2019,” said Ronald Stotish,  AquaBounty CEO. “This facility will demonstrate the superior economics that AquAdvantage brings to land-based recirculating aquaculture systems.  We are very grateful for the support we have received and continue to receive from the Province of Prince Edward Island.”

Roughly 20-30 technical jobs will be created once the facility is in operation, the company said.
China ranks first in farmed fish output thus its efforts toward aquaculture sustainability can be seen as good news for consumers around the world.

China has produced more farmed fish than the rest of the world combined since 1991. But “in recent years China aquaculture aimed for production increase to satisfy the market demand, and didn’t pay much attention on aquaculture regulating and governance, water-resources saving and environment protection,” acknowledged Dr Xinhua Yuan, a senior aquaculture officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The country’s strategies to improve efficiency and sustainability in the sector could mean a large reduction in growth for its aquaculture industry but also enhanced seafood quality for consumers.

The policy changes, laid out in its Five-Year Plan (2016 - 2020), “will enhance consumer confidence on aquaculture products from China, as more and more fish will be produced in ecological and environment friendly models,” Dr Yuan tells Aquaculture North America (ANA).

“Green” farmed fish will be offered at higher prices because of the higher costs of producing them, but “consumers are willing to pay the increased prices, because the awareness on ecological and environmental issues is improving worldwide,” he says.

While these efforts could significantly curtail the growth of China’s aquaculture industry, Dr Yuan believes these will not challenge the general fish supply in domestic and international markets. “China has huge fish production, and the adoption of new policy on greener aquaculture and new technology are carried out step by step,” he says.

Modernization, professionalization, and the emergence of intensive and semi-intensive farms made the crustacean sector the fastest growing aquaculture segment from 2010 to 2016, according to RaboResearch, citing FAO statistics.

Between 2010 and 2016, the global aquaculture industry nearly doubled its value, increasing by $100 billion. Crustaceans represented 28 percent of the total industry value growth over the period. Beyhan de Jong, Associate Analyst Animal Protein, says that shrimp has been a key driver of that growth.

“Major changes to farm design, nurseries, water processing ponds, using better genetics and many other improvements are done to prevent EMS outbreaks,” she said.

De Jong notes that while other regions have suffered from disease outbreaks, India and Ecuador became the main producers and exporters of shrimp and many farmers in those regions have shifted from extensive farming to intensive farming.

For the growth to continue, de Jong says the industry should look at digitalization, which could help reduce costs, improve real-time business and apply more strategy in supply planning, purchases and sales. It will also improve traceability, which is important to consumers. The application of next-generation genetic enhancements will help. Recirculating aquaculture systems could also become a major player in the future, she said.

Another potential issue, de Jong says, is supply and demand. The supply currently exceeds demand, and with lower prices and tight margins, it may be challenging to attract investment. However, this could be an opportunity for processors to create new products and to work on innovation and value creation.
The ability to adapt and innovate is crucial in ensuring the future of the marine ingredients industry, said IFFO’s President Eduardo Goycoolea at the opening of IFFO’s 58th Annual Conference in Rome on Monday.

Goycoolea speaks amidst renewed pressure for the industry to embrace more sustainable practices, and the push for aquaculture to reduce its reliance on marine-derived fish feed ingredients.

“As an industry you have adapted your products to ensure the success of the aquaculture industry, but as resources continue to become scarcer, more innovation will be needed. There are huge opportunities in producing further new marine ingredients from our oceans, your future is in your hands, be true to your name,” he told participants.

Dr George Chamberlain, President, Global Aquaculture Alliance, said marine ingredients are “the gold standard”  but agreed with Goycoolea  that “supply needs to increase through by-products and the development of new innovative sources.”

The IFFO conference wraps up Wednesday.
Canada’s new federal minister responsible for regulating the aquaculture industry on Thursday indicated radical change is coming in the way Canada manages Atlantic salmon farming.

In 2010, management of aquaculture became the responsibility of the federal government as per a Supreme Court decision (Morton v. British Columbia) in 2009. The significance of that decision was that it declared that fish (and shellfish) farming was in fact a “fishery” and gave exclusive authority to the Government of Canada for the management of that "fishery." Prior to 2010 provinces were responsible for managing most to all of aspects of the industry, including licensing and regulating the industry around production, animal health, compliance and enforcement.

At the launch of the International Year of the Salmon in Vancouver, BC on Thursday, Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said that is about to change. He said the government is looking at area-based management of the industry, which will include “tenuring decisions” on farm sites in the province of British Columbia.

“This is a new departure with respect to how we are actually addressing aquaculture going forward. It is also an area where expect to work collaboratively with our partners in the province and with First Nations communities because it is obviously a critical issue for many of them,” Wilkinson said.

BC Premier John Horgan said the area-based tenuring that Minister Wilkinson is advocating is a “sea change in how we look at issuing tenures in our oceans.”

“From the provincial perspective we have a modest responsibility for anchoring tenures. About 10 percent of the activity is the responsibility of the province, (but) the remainder of what happens in the water column, the fish, the animals, what they eat, what medicines they require, are a federal responsibility.

“Minister Wilkinson and I are working cooperatively on two orders of government to ensure that when we’re talking to communities, when we’re working face to face, nation to nation with indigenous peoples as well as with industry, that we’re very candid with what we’d like to see with the industry, we’re harmonizing the tenures now between federal and provincial governments. These are very positive steps forward but we’ve got a lot more work to do,” he said.

Wilkinson has not indicated how the new management approach will look like as discussions are still in progress.

Salmon faming is a contentious issue in some First Nation communities in BC. Beginning June 2022, applications for new or renewal of fish farm licences in the province will have to meet two new criteria before the province approves them: consent from local First Nations that own the territories, and a stipulation from the federal Fisheries Department that the farm won’t endanger BC wild salmon.

Bob Chamberlain, the elected chief councillor of Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation in the Broughton Archipelago said his council “is now getting closer to finalizing a set of recommendations” for a transition plan for the industry in the Broughton archipelago.

He said they have been exploring “a transition plan for the industry that is not going to further impact the wild salmon, but at the same time is respectful of the overall operations.”

“We feel confident that with the support of the provincial government and the federal government that we’ll be able to arrive at a set of recommendations for an agreed-upon transition plan for the industry,” he said.

UK retailer Marks & Spencer has launched an interactive website that answers one of the questions often asked by today’s consumers: where is my food sourced?

On the site, consumers can find out where the seafood it sells comes from; the farming or capture method used and other sustainability-related information for every farm or fishery.

The retailer offers a wide range of products -- from fish fillets to pre-made salads, sandwiches and ready meals – that feature 11 farmed species from eight countries. Ninety-seven percent of the suppliers are third-party certified.  The type of farming method they used is also indicted, for instance net pen farming or suspended rope grown, and each type is explained to the consumer.

For wild catch, the website lists 47 marine species across 71 fisheries, accounting for every kind of seafood that M&S uses in its product lines.

“Transparency is an important part of the trust that our customers and stakeholders put in us - that’s why we’ve published this smart tool which lays bare our whole fish supply chain, wherever it is in the world, and however it is fished or farmed,” said Hannah Macintyre, the company’s marine biologist.
The Provincial Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is investing around $500,000 (C$588,000) to boost employment opportunities in the province’s aquaculture industry.

The fund, which was disbursed to the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA), will be used to develop “labor market information tools and products.”

“The development of labor market tools specific to aquaculture will further help build the industry and create the jobs needed to support a bright future for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” said Al Hawkins, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour, who announced the grant at NAIA’s Cold Harvest Conference and Trade Show in St John’s on September 26.

The funding comes at a time when the Canadian aquaculture industry is suffering from a labor shortage. Latest data from the Canadian Agriculture Human Resources Council indicates that there is an 11-percent vacancy rate in the industry and millions of dollars in lost revenue because of the labor shortage.

The initiative builds on over $396,000 provided to NAIA to support the development of an Aquaculture Recruitment and Retention Strategy.

“Through this initiative with the provincial government we will be positioned to succeed in providing additional year-round employment to dedicated farmers of the sea in rural coastal communities,” said Mark Lane, Executive Director, NAIA.
Growing more of seafood locally and growing the jobs and food security that come with it are critical to “chip away” at the United States’ $15-billion seafood trade deficit, according to Chris Oliver, head of NOAA Fisheries.

“It’s the perfect time to highlight NOAA’s larger ‘Blue Economy’ initiative as an important guiding force for our seafood future,” Oliver wrote on NOAA’s website, in celebration of October as National Seafood Month.

“Despite the historic success of our wild-capture fisheries, we import almost 90 percent of the seafood we consume, at least half of which is farmed. We would like to shift that dynamic and farm more seafood here in the United States,” he said.

He said aquaculture is a growing priority for the agency and for Congress and both are actively promoting and expanding marine aquaculture.

He cited a number of actions that support the advancement of seafood farming in the US, including NOAA’s work with US Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) for the introduction of  the "AQUAA Act" legislation (short for Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture). The legislation, if passed, is expected to streamline the permitting process in aquaculture and fund industry R&D efforts.
Aquaculture development in the waters of Gulf of Mexico will have to wait further after a federal judge in New Orleans ruled that NOAA does not have regulatory authority to regulate aquaculture in the area. NOAA said it is considering whether to appeal the ruling.

“It is important to note that this ruling is not a prohibition on marine aquaculture, either nationally or in the Gulf of Mexico, and we will continue to work with stakeholders through existing policies and legislation to increase aquaculture permitting efficiency and predictability,” said Jennie Lyons, NOAA Public Affairs Deputy Director.

But uncertainty and lawsuits around who’s in charge has kept businesses from applying for permits. It will be three years this January 2019 since NOAA opened the federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico to fish farming. It will allow up to 20 industrial facilities and collectively 64 million pounds of fish to be produced each year in giant net cages in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Given conflicting court decisions and the desire for regulatory certainty, NOAA supports congressional efforts to clarify the agency’s statutory authority to regulate aquaculture,” said Lyons.

The newly elected chief of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation in Campbell River, British Columbia is noncommittal about the future of salmon farms operating in his people’s traditional territories but signalled his openness to dialogue with the industry.

Chris Roberts, who was elected as Chief Councillor in April, told members of the BC Salmon Farmers Association at the Seafood West Summit on Friday that there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of engagement.

“Dialogue is required and that’s going to happen under my leadership with my council. “We’re certainly willing to engage and sit down when we can. It’s a highly politically contentious issue in my community and being an elected community leader I want to assure my people that I’ve got their best interest. But I’m open minded,” he said.

Beginning June 2022, British Columbia will only grant tenures to fish farm companies that have agreements in place with the First Nation territories they operate in or propose to operate in, and who have satisfied Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that their operations will not impact wild salmon.

Roberts said he was glad to find out from a wild salmon summit he attended the previous week that wild salmon face “a myriad of things,” such as changing ocean conditions, upstream developments, sewage seepage. “It was reassuring to see that that conversation includes other things and not just the salmon farming industry being the ‘culprit’,” he said.  

He acknowledged he will need some time to educate himself on the science and practices that have improved within the aquaculture industry. He also said he is confident the industry will continue on this path of improvement. “But our First Nations people, some of them firmly believe that the impacts of your sector are significant.

“Let’s walk down a pathway together to either validate or dispel, to move forward based on facts of what’s happening in the ocean… We are pleased to sit down with the industry operating in our territories, their agencies such as the BCSFA to explore what it is that needs to be done to achieve a common ground and how we would all work together,” he said.
2019 has been declared the International Year of the Salmon.

Launched by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission and the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO), the project sets out to protect salmon by bringing countries together to share knowledge, raise public awareness and take action.

An expedition aboard a Russian ship from Vladivostok to Dutch Harbor is one of the project's highlights.  Dr Dick Beamish, Emeritus Scientist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, told participants Friday at the conclusion of Seafood West Summit 2018 in Campbell River, BC that the expedition could result in new research that will make the discoveries scientists need to actively forecast salmon abundance. “The expedition will make discoveries that will impact how we do salmon research in the future,” he said.

Beamish will be joined by 17 other scientists in the privately-funded exhibition.

An initiative designed to give local communities a powerful say in the sustainable development of the farmed salmon industry has been launched by the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA).

As part of the program, the association conducted a series of dialogues this past winter in partnership with the Headwaters Strategy Group, where community members voiced their support, their concerns and vision for the industry’s future. Those sentiments are captured in the newly launched website, www.sharing

“We realized early on that any success in developing greater literacy and awareness comes from the values in communities. What holds communities together has the prospect of creating common ground. We found a way to determine what those values are,” said Stewart Muir of Headwaters.

Through community engagement, Muir and colleague Vanessa Scott discovered that the people’s top three values were ecological sustainability and ocean stewardship; Science and academic research; and way of life continuity for future generations. The team also found that people recognize that the salmon aquaculture industry offers opportunities for advancing the cause of wild salmon. “We discovered that as we asked people if they will be part of our salmon protectors program they were more than willing to,” but “this is not what the public is hearing,” Muir said.

Everyone now has the opportunity to add their voice to the conversation and share their stories via the Sharing Salmon website and other social media channels. “We’re on Facebook, Twitter, we’re responding to the questions, building it brick by brick based on the values of the community. It will take more time, but we’re succeeding,”says Muir.

The Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA) is not too happy about the news that circulated on Sunday and Monday in both mainstream and trade media (not this publication) about “new proof” that fish farm escapees interbreed with wild salmon. When Aquaculture North America approached NAIA executive director Mark Lane to comment on the story first published by CBC News, Lane blasted the CBC News for irresponsible journalism, and the Atlantic Salmon Federation for fear mongering. In response to our questions, Lane provided to us the following statement:

It was with great interest and concern that I read an article in the CBC News written by Leigh Ann Power, Host of the Central Morning Show in Newfoundland and Labrador, titled “New proof that fish farm escapees interbreed with wild salmon: DFO” dated September 23, 2018.

When I opened my browser I initially thought there was new research released that which I was unaware. At second glance though I realized that this was not “new news” but rather “old news” that was reported by the same media outlet in September 2016.

Let me be clear, as an industry we are concerned with any accidental escapes of farmed salmon into the environment. We invest millions of dollars to continually improve technology, innovation and farm practices to prevent escapes. To determine the interaction of escaped farm salmon on the environment we have fully collaborated with the researchers on this particular study and others conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) by providing fish and DNA material.

All suspected and confirmed escapes are reported to the regulatory authorities immediately; namely the provincial Department of Fisheries and Land Resources (FLR) and federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). At a recent Code of Containment Committee meeting, comprised of industry, regulatory agencies, salmon conservation groups and First Nations we voluntarily reduced the threshold of reporting from 100 fish to one.

At a recent Pan-Atlantic Code of Containment meeting held in New Brunswick, following a cross jurisdictional analysis, an independent consultant concluded that this province has one of the most prescriptive and thorough Codes of Containment in Canada. Even then we as an industry continually work with stakeholders to improve this Code based on facts, science, latest technology and evolution of the industry.

In today’s world of the Internet of Things content and reports from media travel far and wide quickly. The story written by Leigh Ann Power, Host of the Central Morning Show in Newfoundland and Labrador titled “New proof that fish farm escapees interbreed with wild salmon: DFO” dated September 23, 2018, is almost two years old; this exact study was first reported on September 21, 2016 by CBC reporter Mark Quinn.

There is absolutely nothing new or newsworthy in this article. This is simply a repeat of information, some of which is stated inaccurately by the DFO Scientist and Mr. Steve Sutton.

Not surprising, Steve Sutton of the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) capitalized on this non-news-worthy story, knowing full well that this study is not new as he was also featured in the September 21, 2016 story by Mark Quinn. Mr. Sutton should be ashamed of himself by preying on the unsuspecting public, spewing his and his association’s rhetoric, mistruths and fear mongering.

There is a Journalist Code of Ethics that requires efforts to verify all facts for accuracy. According to the Canadian Association of Journalists, “Accuracy is the moral imperative of journalists and news organizations, and should not be compromised, even by pressing deadlines of the 24-hour news cycle”.

Fairness by respecting the rights of all people in the news is also identified as a pillar of the Code of Ethics. According to the Canadian Association of Journalists media must “…give people, companies or organizations that are publicly accused or criticized opportunity to respond before we publish those criticisms or accusations. [The media] must make a genuine and reasonable effort to contact them, and if they decline to comment, we say so”.

Prior to the release of CBC News story, no one from the news outlet reached out to industry for comment or to confirm this as “new proof.” For the record, I am always available by phone 709-689-8536, by email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.

I am not arguing that escapes and interbreeding is not of concern to industry; it absolutely is. Escapes should never happen. However, when they do or developments arise related to industry then industry should be consulted to ensure balance as a requirement of the Journalist Code of Ethics.

There are many developments in the aquaculture industry that are current and news worthy; the acquisition of the former Kiewit ship yard in Marystown that will see a dormant facility revitalized as an aquaculture service centre as well as the recently approved Grieg NL project; both will provide year round jobs to the Burin Peninsula. Just today it was announced that Akva Group is entering into a supply and sales contract with Grieg NL Seafarms Ltd, the marine based operations of Grieg NL. According to Intrafish “Under the contract, Akva group, through its wholly owned Canadian subsidiary Akva Group North America Inc, will become exclusive supplier of feed systems and feed barges up to 2026”. All of which are due to be built locally. As well last week, a $50-million private expansion was announced for the Northern Harvest Smolt hatchery in Stephenville resulting in 24 full time employment opportunities.

NAIA is celebrating 25 years and this week will host its largest Cold Harvest Conference and Trade Show in history with more than 400 international delegates and 50 exhibitors. There will be many current newsworthy stories that will develop over the next several days and we would love the opportunity to share with the media and their audiences. If media are interested in attending Cold Harvest 2018 complimentary media passes are available.

Cermaq says it has transferred smolt into its new closed containment system in Horsvågen, Norway, which features a strong and flexible fabric that “gives security against fish escape.”

The fabric, the Biobrane Aqua 2050, has been in the use by a salmon producer in Norway since 2014, but it is “new to us,” said Cermaq.

In this particular closed farming technology, “water will be pumped into the pen from 13 meters depth, preventing sea lice from entering the pen. The tarp wall is made of strong and flexible composite, which minimizes escape risk. This is the world’s largest closed cage using flexible walls,” it said. The closed containment system in Horsvågen has a production capacity of 400 tons.

“There are still a lot of things we don’t know about closed containment systems. We see that closed containment systems in the ocean can play an important role in the aquaculture industry in the future, but it still requires further development,” says Harald Takle, R&D Manager Farming Technology in Cermaq Group.
Aquaponics requires a significant amount of initial investment but it is also lucrative when done right. Green Relief of Flamborough, Ontario invested $12.5 million in the construction of its building and the state-of-the-art aquaponic system it houses. It was an essential investment that’s starting to pay off for the cannabis producer.

“We spent a lot of money upfront, but because we did that we actually, right away, got a very inexpensive cost of sale,” CEO Warren Bravo says. Green Relief’s cost of producing cannabis is currently at $1.42 per gram, and the average sale price is $9.05 cents per gram, according to Bravo.

A variety of factors can reduce production costs, including using LED lights, which saves to company between 35 to 40 percent on hydro bills. The company also does not use any outside inputs such as fertilizers or pesticides for its plants owing to the sustainability of the aquaponic system, i.e. nutrients from fish waste fertilize the crop, Bravo says.

Despite the expanding cannabis industry in Canada as legalization takes effect this October, Bravo believes consolidation will continue to take place and the market will calm down.

“There is going to be a reconciliation in the industry where the business is going to be like all other businesses,” he says. “You’ve got to have a low cost of goods sold and a very high quality product going out the door on a regular basis. If you can achieve that, I think you’ll be standing when the dust settles.”

Today, a big chunk of Green Relief’s capital goes into research and development. Earlier this year, the company has received its licence to produce and sell cannabis oil. The company has already spent $2 million building its extraction laboratory and upgrading its existing production systems.

While most licensed producers are seemingly in a race to get the lion’s share of the recreational cannabis market, the tilapia-growing cannabis producer is in no hurry to burst into this new market.

For now, it’s focused on continuously improving and providing its medical cannabis customers with the highest quality product, Bravo says. “It’s about helping people and improving the quality of life for our patients. There is so much more to do with the R&D and the science of what makes this plant so effective as medicine.”

He adds, however, that it’s not closing its doors to the recreational market.

“It will be foolish to say we’ll never take advantage of the rec market; we’ll see. It’s not in our plans right now, but I never say never,” he says.

The Canadian recreational marijuana market may not be high on Green Relief’s list of conquests at the moment, but the global market is. The company recently signed a joint venture deal with Swiss companies Ai Fame GmbH and Ai Lab Swiss AG to develop a new line of cannabis products that will be sold across Europe and Canada.

Green Relief is also cultivating another business opportunity with its aquaponics supplier Nelson and Pade. Bravo explains building an aquaponic system specifically for growing cannabis requires a great deal of customization to ensure all components are working as they should be. The result was an aquaponic system, developed with Nelson and Pade, that’s optimized for cannabis cultivation. Green Relief has acquired the rights to distribute the system across North America. Green Relief is also the exclusive distributor of Nelson and Pade aquaponic systems for vegetable growers in Canada.

Another business opportunity is swimming in Bravo’s mind.

“In the additional building that we just started we’re going to have 50,000 tilapia. There will always be a component of our fish being donated to charitable organizations, but what I would like to do with our fish is use our CO2 supercritical extraction technology to extract Omega 3 from our fish and blend them with cannabis oil extract and put out something new and different to the nutraceutical world,” Bravo says.

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