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.’”

A business accelerator program in is set to accept applicants from aquaculture companies for the first time. The Maine Centre for Entrepreneur (MCE) Top Gun program is a 15-week entrepreneurial boot camp, designed to support Maine entrepreneurship and to help companies grow. This spring will see aquaculture-focused sessions in Brunswick, Maine.

“We never themed Top Gun around any particular industry, but we decided this year that we would launch a Top Gun cohort that was specifically themed around aquaculture,” says MCE Executive Director Tom Rainey.

John Pavan, program coordinator and subject matter expert for the program, says the aquaculture program was developed in partnership with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Pavan is currently helping to secure participants and industry experts that will give presentations.

“I want to ensure a good cross section of participants,” says Pavan. “The participants learn from one another, so we’re trying to make sure they represent as many parts of the industry as possible. The goal is not to grow a handful of companies, but to grow an industry.”

The Top Gun program ends with a pitch-off competition, where the two finalists come to an annual showcase event in May or June to compete for the cash prize of $25,000. In addition, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute has also promised to give a $5,000 prize to each of the top two finalists from the aquaculture sector. The institute is also offering a $200 scholarship to each company that participates to help offset the $500 Top Gun entry fee.

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.

Supporters of salmon farming in the State of Washington are urging Governor Jay Inslee to veto the bill that would ban salmon aquaculture in the state.

HB 2957, which the state legislature passed on Friday with a vote of 31-16, will end state leases and permits for Atlantic salmon operations when current leases expire in 2022.

The Washington Fish Growers Association (WFGA) called the decision “Ill-conceived and politically motivated rather than based on the best available science.”

The bill now awaits Gov Inslee’s signature, who earlier has expressed support for the bill.

“We are appealing to Governor Inslee, a strong believer in science, to use his veto powers to put this nonsensical, punitive legislation to rest,” said Dan Swecker, Executive Director of the WFGA.

Canadian company Cooke Aquaculture, which has hired a number of lobbyists to help campaign against the bill, is threatening to sue the state under the North American Free Trade Agreement to recover its $76 million investment in Washington should the bill pass.

Joel Richardson, vice president for public relations at Cooke said earlier that “Cooke, as a Canadian foreign investor, has a credible claim for mandatory arbitration under NAFTA, which would compensate Cooke for our $70-plus million investment in Washington state, plus damages.”
The Washington State Legislature on Friday voted to pass HB 2957, which would end state leases and permits for Atlantic salmon operations when current leases expire in 2022.

The Senate passed the bill on a 31-16 vote and it now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee for signing, who earlier expressed his support for the bill.

The bill’s passage signals defeat for Cooke Aquaculture, which has fought hard against it. ““We are deeply disappointed in the action taken by the Legislature today and the potential impact it could have on Washington’s 30-year salmon-farming industry and the more than 600 rural workers and their families that rely upon salmon farming for their livelihoods. Our employees remain our top priority, and we wish to extend our thanks and appreciation to the many lawmakers who have consistently advocated on their behalf during this process,” said the company’s Vice President of Public Relations, Joel Richardson.

He said that as an immediate next step, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific will take the time it needs to fully evaluate its operations and investments in Washington and explore all options available to it.

Earlier, several concerned scientists wrote an Open Letter to the Washington Legislature asking for the opportunity to provide a science briefing prior to a vote on House Bill 2957. Aquaculture industry officials have also urged lawmakers to base their decision facts rather than anti-farming propaganda and misinformation.
Difficulty in securing permits in federal waters is holding back mariculture development, according to Dr Jerry Schubel, the president and CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.

Schubel, who spoke at Aquaculture America 2018 in Las Vegas on Tuesday, says the United States is the leader in seafood sustainability, “with fisheries management, seafood safety, workers rights, tools and techniques to make aquaculture sustainable” yet it ranks only 17th in world aquaculture production.

In his view, the costly and time-consuming permitting process is a major barrier to industry growth, but he says there is a bill now working its way through the US Congress to give the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) a legislative mandate to handle the process.

Dr Michael Rubino, director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture, acknowledged that “our nation has some duplicative hoops in the regulatory process right now.”

“We want to ensure quality, not by reducing the regulations, but by improving the efficiency of the process for seafood farmers to help industry reach its growth potential. For example, filling out one form, instead of five," Rubino told Aquaculture North America (ANA).

Like Schubel, Rubino also believes the potential for offshore aquaculture is tremendous, but he says the United States will need other seafood farming technologies to supply growing local demand.

“Because our federal nutrition guidelines are asking us to eat twice as much seafood, but because majority of our seafood is imported, if we’re going to come anywhere near those guidelines from a nutrition and health perspective — to go from one meal a week to two meals a week is another 6 million tonnes of seafood — where is that going to come from? We’re going to need all these technologies — on-shore, recirculating technology, pond production, coastal production, offshore production — and we need for all those to be done responsibly and sustainably if we’re going to go anywhere near this demand for seafood. But we’re making progress,” he tells ANA.

An algal bloom detected in December has forced the shutdown of all but four shellfish aquaculture operations along the south coast of Maine.

The area between Dyer Point in Cape Elizabeth and Basin Point in Harpswell has been impacted by amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP).

Only those with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department are allowed to sell their product during a closure,” says Jeff Nichols, Director of Communications for the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Only four operators have an MOU with the department, he says.

The MOU requires intensive testing of product from the farms. Samples showing domoic acid levels of 20 parts per million in shellfish meat tissue are declared unsafe for consumption and cannot be sold.Domoic acid is the toxin that causes ASP.

Nichols says the impact from this closure is less significant than the 2016 closure, wherein dealers throughout the supply chain had to destroy 58,080 lbs of mussels harvested in the Frenchman Bay area.

The cause or causes of these algal blooms are a major question for the scientific community, says Nichols.

“While the phytoplankton associated with ASP has been detected in Maine waters for many years, 2017 was only the second year in which domoic acid reached levels that triggered closures,” says Nichols. “So scientists are still trying to determine what causes cell concentrations of the phytoplankton Pseudo-nitzschia to increase and become toxic.”

As a result of the 2016 closures, Nichols says the DMR has begun testing for domoic acid when cell counts of Pseudo-nitzschia were lower in phytoplankton samples. If the test showed domoic acid, the department would begin testing shellfish immediately, as opposed to waiting a week as had been the standard based on past experiences with red tide.

“DMR also began to monitor for different species groups of Pseudo-nitzschia in order to determine more closely when the different species become toxic,” says Nichols. That research will be considered as Maine works to improve its ability to predict toxicity and avoid recalls.

A team of researchers at the Universities of Connecticut and New Hampshire have authored a kelp growing manual that provides a practical application of the decades of research on kelp production from those two schools.

The “New England Seaweed Culture Handbook, Nursery Systems” was published by Connecticut Sea Grant with the objective of supporting the expansion of seaweed production along North American coast lines.

Led by Dr Charles Yarish at UConn and Dr Christopher Neefus, U. of New Hampshire, the handbook outlines nursery production and production techniques for four economically and ecologically valuable seaweeds of New England - the locally occurring species of Saccharina (sugar kelp), Gracilaria (red seaweed), Porphyra (Nori) and Chondrus (Irish Moss).

Developing seed techniques is the first hurdle for growing kelp and the manual addresses that need. Yarish and other team members have developed growout techniques together with New England growers.  

Connecticut-based cooperative Green aims to expand kelp farming and it is developing “3-D Ocean Farming,” which is perfecting co-culture techniques using shellfish and kelp together on the same site.

There is room for growth as FAO figures show that in 2014, only 54,000 tons of seaweed were cultivated in the Americas and Europe with an annual value of $51 million. That is less than the $67 million value of seaweed products that the US imported from Korea that same year.

The Executive Director of Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (PCSGA), Margaret Barrette, sees the tide-to-table trend strengthening in the shellfish industry.

“The oyster bar experience and being able to sample a variety of oysters from different locations is becoming extremely popular,” she says.

The trend has boosted half-shell sales. Several oyster companies have moved into the restaurant market and are able to control production from farm to plate. Washington’s Taylor Shellfish has four restaurants in Washington State and one in Vancouver BC, while Hog Island has led the industry in California for several years with three off-site oyster bars.

“It really gives companies direct control over the quality of product that is delivered to the consumer,” says Barrette. “I think we will see more of it, although it certainly requires a different skill set than farming.”  

Barrette also sees the adoption of IMTA techniques by the industry as one trend that could also strengthen. IMTA, or Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, is a process of combining the culture of a fed species (i.e. salmon) with other, extractive species such as shellfish and seaweed, or invertebrates such as sea cucumbers. In the shellfish industry, Barrette sees the co-cultivation of species such as oysters and kelp as being an important direction.

Innovative partnerships are also trending up. I’m really interested to watch the innovative partnerships that several harbor districts are initiating,” says Barrette. She is referring to ventures and programs that a number of ports in the United States have initiated in recent years aimed at advancing aquaculture.

For instance, the Humboldt Bay Harbour District in California plans to go through the permitting process for aquaculture plots and then lease the “pre-permitted” property to farmers with the goal of encouraging future aquaculture production in the Bay.

“Permitting is a huge issue for our members as people are still reluctant to allow this use of the land,” says Barrette. “It’s a long, complicated and costly process.”

The Port of San Diego champions water-dependent businesses such as aquaculture and has established the Aquaculture and Blue Tech Program in 2016 to support them. Portland, Maine Redevelopment meanwhile has launched a plan that seeks to transform the municipal pier into incubator for aquaculture enterprises.

“You wouldn’t think of a port as getting into the shellfish business but they have so much infrastructure already in place,” says Barrette, “Its really exciting.”

Offshore farming is one direction that she sees strengthening as well. Catalina Sea Ranch is the first offshore shellfish farm permitted in United States federal waters.

Legislation that would ban Atlantic salmon farming in the state of Washington did not pass the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific applauded the demise of SB 6086 and says it will seek to amend HB 2957 in Senate to protect salmon farming’s rural workforce. It believes SB 6086’s demise “effectively dooms the bill for the legislative session.”

“We thank the members of the committee for their wisdom in not advancing this job-killing measure, and we want to thank the committee chair, Rep. Brian Blake, in particular,” said Joel Richardson, vice president of public relations for Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, the sole operator of Atlantic salmon farms in Washington after purchasing the state’s 30-year farming facilities in 2016.

“Banning the state’s 30-year salmon farming industry because of the regrettable accident at Cypress Island last summer would eliminate the hundreds or rural jobs directly and indirectly supported by these farms and would do so without scientific justification. As the Department of Fish & Wildlife has concluded, the escaped fish pose no threat to wild salmon and banning farmed salmon would not add a single wild salmon back in Puget Sound – but it would needlessly terminate the livelihood of hundreds of Washington rural families.

In testimony before the committee yesterday, Richardson explained that the fish escapement at Cypress Island was not larger than several other previous escapements that occurred when Washington’s salmon farms were held under domestic ownership – none of which resulted in attempts to ban the industry or cancel the farms’ leases. Similarly, previous pipeline explosions, refinery accidents, oil spills or floods of raw sewage that occurred within Washington also did not prompt efforts to ban the domestic companies responsible, even though those incidents resulted in demonstrable harm to fish and/or humans.

“For these reasons, Cooke, as a Canadian foreign investor, has a credible claim for mandatory arbitration under NAFTA, which would compensate Cooke for our $70-plus million investment in Washington state, plus damages,” said Richardson.

After successfully halting the progress of SB 6086, Richardson said Cooke will now take this message to the Senate as it considers House Bill 2957, which is substantially similar to SB 6086. Richardson said the company will seek to address concerns about the potential for farmed salmon to interbreed with native salmon by offering an amendment that restricts salmon farms to raising single-sex female fish.

“Our amendment would completely mitigate the already low risk of interbreeding and colonization between farmed and wild salmon, while preserving our industry and the 600 direct and indirect jobs our industry supports,” Richardson said. “We believe this is a win-win solution, and we are hopeful that a majority of the Senate will find this solution to be a sensible one, not just for Cooke but for all agriculture and marine-based industries in Washington.

Aquaculture industry players are urging lawmakers deciding on the fate of salmon farming in Washington State to base their decision on facts rather than anti-farming propaganda and misinformation.

At the sidelines of Aquaculture America 2018 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Jim Parsons, the president of the National Aquaculture Association, told Aquaculture North America (ANA) that the occurrences in the legislature are driven by emotion rather than science.”

“That’s not something we want to see. From NAA’s standpoint it has to be driven by science, and misinformation and emotion can be problematic,” Parsons said, adding that escapes have happened before and numerous studies have been done on them that show no ill effect from an ecological standpoint.

The Washington Fish Growers Association (WFGA) is calling on lawmakers to vote down any bans on the farming of Atlantic salmon in Washington state waters.

“Given the significant importance of the aquaculture industry to Washington’s rural communities, lawmakers must ensure that both science and economic benefit are front and center,” said Dan Swecker, WFGA’s Executive Director.

Swecker noted many proven science facts that have also been reinforced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

1.       Atlantic salmon do not inter-breed with Pacific salmon.

2.       Scientists have never observed any Atlantic salmon escapees spawning on the West Coast of North America.

3.       If Atlantic salmon escape from net pens, they do not eat other fish or their natural foods. When their stomachs are examined, they are empty and they perish.

4.       Salmon are raised in a disease-free quarantined hatchery, vaccinated against saltwater diseases, and certified disease-free before they are shipped to net pens. No example of the transfer of disease from farmed salmon to wild fish has ever been documented by a regulatory agency in Washington.

Swecker, a former state senator from Rochester, and one of the pioneers in salmon aquaculture in Washington, also asked members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee at a February 19 hearing in Olympia to understand the significant benefit of aquaculture to the state’s economy.

The Association of Washington Business (AWB) shared those views. Mary Catherine McAleer of AWB told legislators to consider the impact of these family wage rural jobs in high poverty areas before they cast a vote to ban the farming of Atlantic salmon.

Tony Schuur, chairman of the board of the California Aquaculture Association, believes Cooke Aquaculture, the company at the center of the fiasco, didnt do their job but he also believes the regulators didnt do their job. The whole event is a manufactured debacle. And those people that are responsible, I am certain under law are responsible, should be held accountable. As for the new legislation required, I dont see that it is (required), its regulatory overkill, Schuur told ANA.

Salmon and trout producer Cermaq says the survival rate for its fish for the full year 2017 ranged from 94 percent to 96 percent in its farms in Norway, Chile and Canada. In fish health performance, none of the fish harvested in Norway in the last quarter of 2017 had received antibiotic treatment, it said. In Chile and Canada, the use of antibiotics was reduced from the same quarter last year. The company said it aims to further reduce its use of antibiotics. Cermaq also reported it had no escapes in the last quarter of 2017, neither so far in 2018. In terms of Occupational Health and Safety, the company said performance remains strong, with a global absence rate of 2.2 percent. Cermaq started publishing quarterly sustainability results in early 2016.
Japan’s biggest trading house Mitsubishi Corp expects to post its first record profit in 10 years due mainly to the rebound in prices for resources and also to its active management of its subsidiaries like Cermaq. Company president Takehiko Kakiuchi, who assumed the role in April 2016, believes in active involvement in Mitsubishi’s subsidiaries that are expected to help raise Mitsubishi's corporate value. For instance, after acquiring the Norwegian salmon farmer for $1.4 billion in 2014, Mitsubishi sent a chairman and a project development representative to manage the company, reported Nikkei Asian Review. Since 2016, it has had another six officers there, including a sales executive. Cermaq logged a deficit of $65.16 million (7.2 billion yen) in the fiscal year through March 2016, but it more than recovered the following fiscal year with a $136.66 million (15.1 billion yen) surplus the following fiscal year, said the paper. Th

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