Land-based steelhead farm could provide up to 100 jobs on Vancouver Island

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Gold River Aquafarms has plans to raise 3,000 tonnes of steelhead each year at the site of a former sawmill on Vancouver Island in Canada.

Once established, the facility could expand to an annual production of 10,000 tonnes, and the company will look to establish a secondary processing facility in Gold River, company CEO Robert Walker said in a recent interview with the Campbell River Mirror.

“The long-term prospects for that site are terrific,” Walker said. “There’s really good infrastructure, there’s great water and we’ve got lots of local support.”

Steelhead was selected, “Because it grows well in closed systems at high densities and demand for it is increasing,” explained Walker.

“It’s a beautiful fish — it grows to the right size, it looks great on the plate and tastes great,” he added.

Gold River Aquafarms has reached a long-term leasing agreement with the owner of the site. The company has also secured financing independent of  regulatory approval.

Early this year, Gold River Aquafarms applied for both provincial and federal approval for construction of the facility. The company is still waiting for a response from the appropriate government agencies.

The project has the potential to help reinvent Gold River, which lost its pulp and paper mill in 1998, by creating 75 to 100 jobs and generating tax revenue, both directly and indirectly, said Mayor Brad Unger.

“To continue offering the services we do today we need economic development, housing, and more businesses to come to town, and to me, this project is a good beginning,” he said. “We need jobs — and this project will not only bring jobs, but help put the fish aquaculture industry on land. It’s a no-brainer to move forward.”