BC’s net pen ban doesn’t necessarily mean it will be transitioned onto land, says Kuterra

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Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party announced if re-elected, it would move Pacific Canada’s salmon farms to closed containment systems by 2025. The CEO of land-based salmon farmer Kuterra said he believes it could give the RAS industry the boost it needs.

Last week, on page 36 from its manifesto, the Liberal party wrote, in just four lines, how it planned to end salmon farming: “In British Columbia, we will work with the province to develop a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal waters to closed containment systems by 2025”.

Egg concept
However, Garry Ullstrom CEO of Kuterra, a land-based salmon farm owned by the ‘Namgis First Nation in the Broughton Archipelago region of the North Island, wrote in an email to SalmonBusiness, that closed containment technology can take several forms, including containers that float in the ocean like MOWI’s egg concept.

Garry Ullstrom SCREENSHOT: Vancouver Island Economic Alliance

“These types of systems are commonly referred to as “semi-closed” closed containment systems. Land-based RAS is another closed containment technology and is what I am familiar with through my work with Kuterra,” said Ullstrom. The six-year-old 250-tonne-a year facility recently harvested its first crop of 3 kg-fish after a 13-month hiatus.

Ullstrom explained that he had been working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) who have been working with key federal departments and provincial governments to continue to explore potential technology approaches, including closed containment.

Alternative Production Technologies Technical Working Group

“In August 2019 the federal government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans convened an Alternative Production Technologies Technical Working Group, in which I participate. The mandate of the Technical Working Group is to investigate and to provide recommendations that will support the development of alternative aquaculture production technologies which, as stated above, includes various types of closed containment technology. Cermaq, for example, has indicated that they would like to trial a semi-closed system in British Columbia. So the announcement does not necessarily mean that the net pen industry will be transitioned onto land,” wrote Ullstrom.

Despite the Liberal party promising to complete the transition in just over five years, Ullstrom said that authorities were not unsure how it would proceed.

“It is not clear to me whether the federal and provincial governments will develop a plan by 2025 to transition the net pen industry, or whether the transition will be completed by 2025. If the former, then until the plan is finalized, it will not be clear as to how or when the transition will take place,” he wrote.

Ullstrom added that Kuterra was created to prove “the technical, biological and economic feasibility of raising Atlantic salmon on land to market size using RAS technology”. In May, he told Aquaculture North America that the original plan always was to build another four modules on its pilot site, so it could move from 250 tonnes 1,500 or 2,000 tonnes of production a year.

Support will increase
“Our goal is to help foster the development of a scaled-up land-based Atlantic salmon farming industry in British Columbia. To do this, several years ago five individuals who are involved in the land-based RAS industry formed a company called BC LandAqua Ventures Inc.

“Since then we have worked to convince both the provincial and federal government that BC, with its existing aquaculture ecosystem, is well-positioned to become a major land-based Atlantic salmon production region serving the US West Coast. As President of LandAqua, I am encouraged that given this announcement, it is likely that support from the federal government to develop and grow the land-based salmon farming industry in BC will increase. Both regulatory changes and financial incentives to reduce the risk-return profile for early adopters are required,” added Ullstrom.