100,000 salmon mortalities at Canada's land-based Sustainable Blue

An equipment failure killed market-ready Atlantic salmon worth $5 million at Sustainable Blue's RAS facility in Nova Scotia. The company will be unable to supply fish to customers until June 2024, according to local media reports.
RAS tanks at Sustainable Blue's facility in Centre Burlington, Nova Scotia, Canada.
RAS tanks at Sustainable Blue's facility in Centre Burlington, Nova Scotia, Canada.Photo: Sustainable Blue.

Land-based salmon farming company Sustainable Blue has had a disastrous November, losing 100,000 of its market-ready fish due to an equipment failure, a CBC News report has revealed.

CBC News says the Nova Scotia salmon farmer has confirmed the fish mortalities, worth a total of $5 million and accounting for 20% of Sustainable Blue's total fish stock. The affected fish weighed between 4 and 8 kilograms each.

The company said it had suffered a "structural collapse" of a carbon dioxide filter for holding tanks at its newest production building (completed in April 2022), leaving Sustainable Blue unable to supply customers until June 2024.

The collapse of the filter, which is a "unique" proprietary technology developed by Sustainable Blue, is still under investigation. CEO Kirk Havercroft said that he believed it was an isolated incident, and due to a construction fault rather the technology itself.

North America's longest-running zero discharge RAS project vows "to get back on our feet"

"This is absolutely a setback. But we will get back on our feet. We will find the cause of the incident," Havercroft told CBC.

The company hopes to conduct repairs and get back to normal production by March next year, he added.

Sustainable Blue is North America's longest-running commercial zero-discharge Recirculating Aquaculture System. Its proprietary system recirculates 100% of its salt water, with zero discharge to local waterways.

"We all believe in this project. We believe that land-based salmon aquaculture will be important not just to Nova Scotia, but to the whole of North America. Our intention is to recover, move forward and implement a solution which means this incident hopefully never happens again," Havercroft told CBC News.

Sustainable Blue partnering with Washington State to identify land-based opportunities

Sustainable Blue's ambitions for land-based salmon farming in North America saw the company signing a partnership with Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz earlier this year.

The "letter of intent", signed in April 2023, tasked the company with identifying potential sites for land-based aquaculture in Washington State-owned lands - specifically "locations that are not reliant on marine or watershed environments". 

“I’m excited to bring this partnership to Washington,” Commissioner Franz said at the time, desribing the move as "an important step toward restoring finfish aquaculture in a sustainable, healthy way that does not pit farmed fish against the native salmon we all work so hard to sustain.” 

Franz announced in November 2022 that commercial net pen aquaculture facilities would no longer be leased on Washington State-owned aquatic lands, leading to an outcry and protests by fish farm workers and companies in the state.

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