A high-ranking delegation from Marine Harvest Canada (MHC) received a VIP welcome from councillors Dec. 8.
“Marine Harvest is the biggest public sector employer on the North Island now,” said Port Hardy Mayor Bev Parnham while introducing MHC Managing Director Vincent Erenst.
“It’s very nice to tell you about our activities and how we’re minimizing the impact on the environment,” said Erenst.
“Marine Harvest is the largest salmon farming company in the world, with operations in Norway, Canada, Scotland, Chile and more,” said Erenst. “We are integrated, which means we do it all.”
In response to a question, Erenst said demand for farmed fish far outstrips supply. “It’s a growing market … we would have no problem selling more salmon at a good price,” he confirmed.
“On the West Coast, the company has two processing plants, one on the far side of the bay where 150 people work and one in Klemtu where 25 people work,” Erenst added.
The company has 41 fish farm spots but usually only has 30 operating at once, said Erenst, which allows fallow time at each. Overall, Erenst said the company employs 550 people, has a monthly payroll of $3 million and sends 70 per cent of its product to the U.S., 25 per cent to Canada and five per cent to Asia.
Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish is a big customer for Marine Harvest, Erenst said, which adds significant spin-off employment locally.
Mayor Parnham agreed with that. “Value added like Hardy Buoys are very important,” she said.
In response to another question, Erenst said the company picked Atlantic salmon because they are “very efficient converters of feed, better than pigs and poultry.”
On the question of sea lice, Erenst said “over the last few years we tried to reduce sea lice at our fish farms during the out migration and we’ve succeeded in doing that.”
After Erenst said Marine Harvest wants to stay in B.C., Coun. Stan McLennan said “we’re not worried about B.C., we want you to stay in Port Hardy.”
Erenst added that was very likely because the company has a processing plant close to good fish farms. “We want to do more value-added, which means more jobs here in Port Hardy,” said Erenst.
McLennan suggested the company should produce its boxes in Port Hardy, rather than bringing them from down Island, but Erenst rejected that. “We have a good supplier in Campbell River and would not like it.”