A jointly funded pilot project by Marine Harvest and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to test alternative salmon cage nets will be underway near Port Hardy in October.
The trial at Shelter Bay was approved through DFO’s Aquaculture and Innovation and Market Access Program (AIMAP). This site was chosen specifically because of its consistently high currents and strong wave action. Total cost for the project, including the Marine Harvest portion, is approximately $2,000,000.00.
The project involves eight cages and five test nets with a variety of coatings, including some from Norway. The nets will be equally exposed to conditions and the data gathered on biofouling rates, etc. will be compared and contrasted at the conclusion of the project next spring. The alternative nets will be tested in a controlled study using nylon nets as the control, a first for British Columbia.
There are three objectives for the testing, explained Engineer Jeff King. The first is to improve the environmental sustainability of the industry by reducing the use of copper treated nets. Also important is to increase farm productivity, possibly by several percent, by maximizing both water flow and dissolved oxygen flow through the nets. Another focus is to develop a proven system of cages and nets suitable for more extreme weather conditions.
“This project lays the foundation for possible site expansion into areas with harsher conditions than we have now. If we know our equipment can withstand extreme weather we can more comfortably look towards high energy off-shore sites in the future,” said Jeff.
As part of this initiative, Marine Harvest will gather a large body of data regarding biofouling rates on the various nets. Courtney Edwards, a University of Victoria grad student working with the Coastal Aquaculture Research and Training program (CART) will be analyzing the data collected at Shelter Bay via underwater camera.
Jeff and Keith Petrie, Purchasing Supervisor, travelled to Badinotti’s factory in Slovakia. They met with net experts to discuss net design prior to the building of 12 nets manufactured specifically for Marine Harvest and this project. Two custommade nets will be arriving shortly. In addition, we discussed innovative net designs, including a new stronger net material called Dyneema, said Jeff. One net utilizing this Dyneema technology will be used in the AIMAP project.
The installation of the nets is scheduled for October. Although the final report is due to DFO in April, testing of the nets will continue through until 2012, when the fish currently on site are scheduled for harvest.
By Gina Forsyth