The ‘Namgis First Nation has received $800,000 in federal funding to development a first-in-BC, land-based, closed-pen aquaculture facility.
The pilot project, five kilometres south of Port McNeill, will test the commercial viability of on-shore, closed containment farming.
It was announced in Campbell River Monday by Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield as part of a package of federal initiatives to enhance shellfish and finfish farming on the coast.
Ashfied said, “We can’t underplay the fact that we are producing salmon in our oceans and that has been the tradition thus far. But, land based? Who knows? It might work.”
‘Namgis Chief Bill Cranmer says the first crop of land-locked farmed salmon will be harvested in September 2013. The Namgis state that one of the benefits of the project will be avoiding “the controversy and negative public opinion currently associated with open pen fish farms.”
But, the minister said the decision to fund the ‘Namgis project has nothing to do with intense pressure from the environmental lobby. “No … it is not designed for that purpose at all. They are going to set up a closed, land-based system to see if it is successful and see if they can produce cost-effectively.
“It’s a pilot project … and this one is sound. It looks like it can work. Whether it will replace in-water (farming) who knows? I doubt it very much. But I think there is an opportunity here.”
Chief Cranmer said: “We are very anxious to prove that this is an alternative to the open net fish farms that we believe are killing our (wild) salmon.
The chief said it has always been claimed that land-based closed containment fish farming is too expensive. “But when we get the pilot project in operation, after a year we will be able to say definitely that it can be profitable commercially.”
Chief Cranmer says the pilot project will be developed in an enclosed building and will use brackish underground water rather than sea water.
Ashfield also announced a $63,000 grant for the Fanny Bay Oyster Company to develop its shell crushing technology; a $32,000 grant to Pfizer Animal Health in Saanichton to continue its work on a sea lice vaccine; and, a $31,000 grant to Maplestar Seafood in Nanoose Bay to develop geoduck culturing.