West Coast First Nation Raises Salmon on Land

Environment Chief wants to prove viability of land-based aquaculture

May 1, 2014

CHAMCOOK - A Vancouver Island aboriginal enterprise intends to give East Coast aquaculture companies a run for their money selling, of all things, Atlantic salmon.

On Wednesday, Chief Bill Cranmer of Namgis First Nation addressed a workshop at the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s headquarters outside St. Andrews on land-based, closed-containment aquaculture.

The federation and the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute in West Virginia co -hosted the two - day event, which drew more than 80 people.

The Namgis call their product “Kuterra” based on the Kwakwala word “kutala” for salmon, and the Latin “terra” for land. It was served Tuesday at the Rossmount Inn.

Many environmentalists want the Bay of Fundy aquaculture industry to move onshore to avoid interaction between wild fish and Atlantic salmon growing to market size in floating net pens.

West Coast sea farms raise Atlantic salmon, an exotic species in the Pacific Ocean in floating farms, too.

There are over a hundred Atlantic salmon farms in British Columbia, said Cranmer.

Wild West Coast salmon species headed to their home rivers to spawn must go past these sites, Cranmer said in an interview before his presentation.

“Most of them migrate through the inside passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland and they have to swim by all of these fish farms,” he said in the interview.

“We’re raising Atlantic salmon in a closed-containment recirculating aquaculture system and of course the reason we’re doing that is to prove that you can do it sustainable, environmentally sustainable and be profitable at the same time, he said.

The Bay of Fundy salmon aquaculture industry disputes the claim that its farms pose an environmental threat, and questions the economics of raising fish entirely on land.

The Namgis started building its on-land system in 2012, put the first fish in the water in March, 2013, and harvested the first nine metric tonnes ab out two weeks ago, Cranmer said. Safeway sells them in British Columbia and Alberta, he said.

People will pay a premium price “because as compared to the open-net fish farms, we don’t put therapeutics, any chemicals, on the food. ... And that’s what they want, to know that there is no additives into their feed.”

The $9.5-million capital costs came from various sources, he said.

The enterprise can raise 470 tonnes but adding four more modules could increase this to 2,400 tonnes, he said.

Eric Hobson of Port McNeill, B.C., president of the SOS Marine Conservation Foundation and vice-chairman of Kuterra Limited Partnership, assisted Cranmer with his presentation.

Steven Summerfelt with the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute, spoke on land-based, closed-containment systems at more than half a dozen commercial operations. “The systems we used are designed to prevent escape,” he said in an interview. The workshop included about 30 presentations.