WWW.KUTERRA.COM PHOTO Kuterra has grown and sold more than 2-million pounds of Atlantic salmon for consumers since 2013.

EDITORIAL: Land-based fish farms are growing because it’s what investors and consumers want

The ‘Namgis founded Kuterra because of concerns about the environmental effects of open netpens.

At Kuterra – the pioneering land-based salmon farm near Port McNeill – we understand that the people who depend on salmon aquaculture worry about the future of the open netpen industry. We also understand that Kuterra is being attacked because of those concerns.

RELATED: Kervin’s Corner: There’s more than one solution to aquaculture, fish farms

The trouble is the attacks are aimed at the wrong target. And they’re misinformed.

First, targetting the land-based industry won’t save open netpen jobs. The opposite can be true, though. Land-based farming can help coastal communities overcome the real threat to salmon aquaculture in BC.

The real threat to current aquaculture jobs and prosperity is what’s happening in BC’s biggest salmon market, the United States, and in the salmon farming industry throughout the world outside BC.

Kuterra was the first and for a while the only land-based salmon farm in North America. Not any more. Now there are others in Canada, and six at last count in the US.

The US is the world’s biggest salmon importer. It buys almost two-thirds of BC’s farmed salmon. Yet, with the US working to become a salmon producer, BC’s biggest market is likely to shrink.

The US is building its own salmon industry using land-based technology. US investors are becoming educated about aquaculture. They’re looking at the track record of Kuterra and the other pioneer commercial pilots, and they’re seeing a strong business case.

So they’re putting their money into land-based farming, investing in $3.5 billion worth of projects in the eastern US alone. One of the US land-based farms under construction in Florida will produce more salmon than all BC’s open netpen farms combined when it’s fully built.

The US is not alone in building a land-based industry. Norway, the world leader in science-based aquaculture, is encouraging the industry by waiving its multi-million dollar licence fees for land-based farms. The Norwegian government and industry are jointly pouring millions of dollars into research for land-based operations. Globally, more than two dozen land-based salmon farms are operating or in the works from Switzerland to China. Meanwhile, open netpen production is stagnant.

Land-based farming is growing because it’s what investors and consumers want.

For investors, the business case offers solid profits based on full operational control and no environmental trouble. For consumers, land-grown salmon meets their growing nutritional and environmental expectations. Added to that, land-based farming avoids fish-welfare issues. A new report from Norway shows massive welfare-related losses in open netpens, while in the US, animal welfare specialists are using land-based farming practices as their standard for fish welfare.

If BC is to compete with the US and the rest of the world, we need to grow our land-based salmon industry. We have a small window in which to do so.

So far there are no US projects on the Pacific Coast. It means BC can start to establish itself as the land-based salmon supplier to all the Pacific Rim, before the US industry has a chance to move further west and try to do the same.

BC has a major headstart over the western US. BC has skilled professionals and industry infrastructure – from fish health professionals to feed producers. It also has the right mix of fresh and salt water, low-cost, GHG-free power, and affordable land. BC also has a strong base of land-based operations expertise, with five land-based fish farms already operating in the province, including Kuterra.

Meanwhile, Kuterra has grown and sold more than 2-million pounds of Atlantic salmon for consumers since 2013. It has pioneered and proven the technology for growing market-sized salmon on land. In the process, it has proven that the technology is good for fish, environmentally safe and uses water, land and power very efficiently.

As a pioneer enterprise, which did R&D on industry-changing technology, Kuterra has exceeded most operational and financial performance expectations. A US investor is currently talking with Kuterra about developing the business beyond its current small-scale commercial pilot.

The ‘Namgis First Nation founded Kuterra because of concerns about the environmental effects of open netpens. ‘Namgis, and most British Columbians, value wild salmon for many reasons and want to protect the coast. BC doesn’t need to set aside large sections of its wild habitat for open netpen farming and risk its wild salmon populations, when the US, BC’s biggest salmon market is turning to land-based farms. BC can build on achievements of the land-based industry, and support the creation of a new, sustainable tax base for coastal communities with aquaculture jobs for the future. It’s what hard-working British Columbians deserve.

Jobs and benefits follow where industry leads, and the aquaculture industry is leading to land. BC can’t afford to be left behind.

Written by Donald Svanvik, Hereditary Chief and Chief Councillor of the ‘Namgis First Nation, and Eric Hobson, Chair, Kuterra GP Inc

* The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Black Press or the North Island Gazette. If you have a different view, we encourage you to write to us to contribute to the discussion.

Just Posted

Port Alice trailer goes up in flames in the early morning hours

The North Island Gazette will continue to update the story with more details as it progresses.

1041 customers without power due to outages in Northern Vancouver Island

Keep following the North Island Gazette for more on the power outages.

VIDEO: Sports Talk with Tyson: North Island Bantam Eagles are ready for provincials

Sports Talk with Tyson is back this week with an indepth look at the North Island Bantam Eagles.

Ferry connecting Port Hardy and Bella Coola expected to set sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

Thunderbird movie films in downtown Port Hardy

A film crew of approximately 30-40 people has shut down part of Market Street in Port Hardy.

Self serve doggy-wash poised to change dog grooming industry

Add money, start spraying to wash dog in the K9000

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Mowi reassures RDMW future of aquaculture industry in wake of historic announcement last month

Mowi anticipates a plethora of opportunities in other areas of the North Island for economic growth.

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

For two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years

Burnaby byelection turmoil sparks debate about identity issues in politics

The Liberals still have not said whether they plan to replace Wang, who stepped aside Wednesday

Most Read