A unique fish farm proposal, designed to grow commercial volumes of salmon in tanks on land, was given an $800,000 government boost Monday.
"The industry is developing new technologies that will make our country a world leader in aquaculture and create jobs and opportunities here at home," said federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, speaking in Campbell River.
Ashfield handed almost $1 million to four Vancouver Island aquaculture companies and announced the acquisition of six new Vancouver Island-built vessels that will allow the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to monitor fish farms and enforce regulations.
DFO took over regulation of fish farms from the province one year ago.
‘Namgis First Nation, which is about to start construction on the $7-million K’udas closed containment pilot project on reserve land near Port McNeill, was handed the lion’s share of the federal grants.
‘Namgis, working in partnership with Save Our Salmon Marine Conservation Foundation and Tides Canada, is hoping to have the pilot project in operation by fall, Chief Bill Cranmer said.
"We want the facilities ready for the first salmon smolts in September," he said.
The aim is to save wild salmon, Cranmer said.
Debate continues to rage over the effect of open-net salmon pens on wild salmon runs.
"We will be doing Atlantic salmon, mainly because the salmon farmers have been saying they can’t be grown on land because it’s too expensive," Cranmer said.
"We are trying to prove it can be done economically and sustainably."
Other groups are working on closed-containment projects, but this is the only one looking at commercial-scale production, Cranmer said.
The pilot project should produce 260 to 290 tonnes of salmon a year and, once production ramps up, the aim will be about 1,000 tonnes a year, he said.
The salmon might cost a little more than open-net pen fish, Cranmer said.
"But it will be a much better product, with no pollutants and no antibiotics."
K’udas — which means "place of salmon" — will use a system that recirculates 80 per cent of the water, with 20 per cent draining into filtering ponds. Solid waste will be sold as fertilizer.
Other projects receiving grants from DFO’s aquaculture innovation and market access program are:
n Pfizer Animal Health of Saanichton, which gets $32,000 for a sea lice vaccine project.
n Fanny Bay Oyster Company of Union Bay is being handed $63,000 to come up with better technology for crushing large amounts of oyster shells.
n Maplestar Seafood of Nanoose Bay will receive $31,000 to develop a suspended net for culturing geoducks.
Government is committed to responsible growth of aquaculture, Ashfield said.
"The B.C. aquaculture industry currently provides an estimated 6,000 jobs and over $224 million in wages to British Columbians," he said.
Three of the new vessels will be used by DFO staff for auditing and monitoring fish farms. Three will be used for enforcement and compliance inspections.
Two are capable of launching remote underwater vehicles to look at the ocean bottom under fish pens. DFO staff also will do sea-lice audits and fish-health inspections.
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