Category Archives: Rumours

RIP Agrimarine

We have been hearing some unfortunate rumours this week. Apparently Agrimarine has laid off employees from its Middle Point facility.

We have not been able to find any official company statement confirming this; however we have heard this rumour from several different sources.

This is very unfortunate and we hope that the workers are able to find new jobs with minimal disruption.

We have to say that we’re not surprised, though. After the system was damaged in a spring storm, the stock price entered a tailspin which has now bottomed out around eight cents per share.

Oddly, the environmental groups who were so quick to praise the system as the savior of the aquaculture industry have been silent about Agrimarine since then.

Guess the honeymoon’s over. Or the grant money’s gone.

Can’t say we’re surprised. The floating tank system creates more problems than it solves for the fish inside. The only thing it’s good for is looking “environmentally friendly.”

And it’s not even really that. The floating tank system really does nothing to stop disease and parasite interactions between wild and farmed fish. The tank is open to the ocean at the top and below. The risk still exists to transmit pathogens between wild and farmed fish.

The one positive feature of the floating tank was its waste collection system (although we hear that wasn’t working very well). It’s not a bad idea to try and collect fish waste.

And conventional salmon farmers have been looking at this for years. Many different systems have been tried, none have proven practical to use on a large scale. Yet.

For example, farmers looked at using an uplift system similar to the one used today to collect dead fish. It works, but has no real benefits and may create fish health problems. Not quite ready for prime time.

We are confident that some day soon conventional salmon farmers will hit on a system which can collect fish waste and reduce environmental impacts, while increasing the benefits of farming in the ocean. It’s only a matter of time.

Because people have innovative ideas all the time. Science and technology and innovation are at the heart of aquaculture, and Agrimarine should be commended for trying something new.

But the reality is, as Agrimarine learned, some ideas just don’t work, no matter how hard you try and sell them as the “next big thing.”


More ISA false positives?

Our favourite activist has posted new results from a rotten Vedder River chum she collected for testing a while ago. Apparently the chum showed a very weak positive for ISA.

As we posted in a comment on her blog:

So what we have here is an interesting result which probably doesn’t mean anything.

Because what is being detected here is probably a passive virus, of which there are literally millions in every drop of sea water. If there is actually some sort of virus being detected here, it is probably something which has been in Pacific salmon for a hundred years or more.

As Dr. Are Nylund said last year, remarking on Ms. Morton’s first round of samples that prompted a frenzy over ISA:

“These findings may be a Pacific type of the virus or a totally new type… The test which was used is adapted to the Atlantic ISA viruses and constitutes only a small sequence of the genes of the ISA virus. This also means that a virus having genetic similarities with ISA-virus or something totally different may be picked up by the test.”

Or it’s another false positive.

Either way, the sky is not falling and there is not some grand conspiracy by government and those evil salmon feedlot farmers to kill all our precious wild salmon, as Ms. Morton seems to believe.

For those interested in reading the lab report, Ms. Morton kindly posted it for all to read.

Closed-containment farm fails?

We have been hearing some interesting rumors going through the salmon farming grapevine the last few days. Apparently, the Agrimarine ‘closed containment’ farm near Campbell River suffered some serious damage during intense storms last week.

How serious? Apparently the circular tank is flopping open and closed like a broken hula hoop and Agrimarine has had to put in a net to keep the fish from escaping. With that kind of damage it seems very likely fish escaped through the broken tank wall.

As well, we hear that most of the farm’s 50,000 or so fish have had to be harvested because the tank is too badly damaged to hold them. Judging by when the fish were first entered with much fanfare they would only be at about half their target weight.

That’s unfortunate but technology pilots are prone to failure and this shouldn’t be too surprising.

Except from day one this project has been pitched as the savior of the aquaculture industry, and has been sold as so much better than conventional net pens.

Richard Buchanan, Agrimarine’s president and CEO said as much in an interview when he said:

People have a preconceived idea of farmed fish, and farmed salmon has a negative perception in Western Canada. We are educating the market about sustainability in the industry and have the first mover advantage of leading the industry into positive change. We have strong
environmental support and large North American and European retailers are making commitments towards seafood sustainability. We are well positioned in this regard as the only company that offers solid‐wall closed containment for salmon that can meet stakeholders’
demands for sustainable supplies.

He also said this:

As a former net cage salmon farm operator, we have a deep understanding of fish culture and the issues related to escapes, algae blooms and pollution to the surrounding eco‐systems related to fish farming. Our goal is to prove that salmon farming can be done in a sustainable and cost effective manner.

And this:

AgriMarine has a ‘disruptive’ technology that is poised to become the industry standard.

Perhaps not.

Was DFO notified? Does AgriMarine have to follow the same procedures and meet the same standards as conventional farms? If not, why not?

We wonder what shareholders think? Have they even been notified about the severe damage and escapes? We suspect not, since Agrimarine’s board is trying to extend the expiry date of some of its share warrants by another year. The fact that this was announced on a Saturday seems a bit odd, especially after the rumors we have been hearing.

Is the board trying to lock in its private investors for another year, before they realize the project has failed and their investment is worthless?

Guess we’ll find out after the weekend.

Meanwhile, it’s been interesting to watch this demonstration project. As far as we are concerned, considering none of the conventional salmon farms in BC suffered damage or escapes during the storms, it demonstrates that current net pen technology is the most efficient and sustainable way to grow enough salmon to supply the marketplace.