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Northern Harvest Sea Farms to receive $8.15 Million to expand operations


The Coast of Bays aquaculture industry just received a financial boost.

Aquaculture is big on both coasts, but it appears some wild salmon in British Columbia and a number of farmed Atlantic salmon are testing positive for a lethal virus, according to a professor at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island.

Beginning in October 2011, Dr. Fred Kibenge's lab found that some wild British Columbia salmon and a number of Atlantic farm salmon are testing positive for segments of the Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv), a lethal salmon virus associated with salmon farming worldwide.

Despite Dr. Kibenge's findings, federal and provincial government officials reported that they could not detect the virus in B.C., and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) ordered an audit of Dr. Kibenge's lab. The CIFA later suspended the lab's status.

The virus is still a potential issue, according to the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

"It's been a problem on the east coast for sure," said the ASF's Sue Scott.

"It has certainly been around for a long time, and has devastated the industry in New Brunswick in 1996, and has followed the industry in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland," she said.

The problem is overcrowding in salmon cages, she added.

"Wherever the ISA comes from, it is exasperated in the cages, like flu spreading in a classroom."

There is a better way of growing salmon that's within closed containers, said Scott. There are entrepreneurs that are switching to closed containment for salmon, but she said the method isn't in Newfoundland yet.

(ISAv) is a naturally occurring virus that is sometimes found at salmon aquaculture sites throughout the world, and has been found in some Newfoundland and Labrador sites in the past. But the risk of ISAv is mitigated by using biosecurity measures, according to a spokesperson for the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The department stated ISAv is not harmful to humans. According to department officials, there is no risk to human health through consumption or contact with the fish. When aquaculture operators identify a potential fish health issue, added the spokesperson, they work with their veterinarian to conduct further research and address the situation.

There is a publicly-funded centre at St. Alban's, the $8-million Centre for Aquaculture Health and Development, which focuses on animal health, testing and monitoring.

Northern Harvest Sea Farms is expected to increase the company’s annual production of Atlantic salmon from 12,000 to 16,000 tonnes and increase employment from 145 to 180 jobs thanks in part to a provincial government investment.

The province announced an infusion of $8.15 million through the Provincial Government’s Aquaculture Capital Equity Investment Program toward a $17.6 million expansion during a press conference this morning.

“Our economic impacts study, released in January of this year, clearly indicates the increasingly important role aquaculture is having on our province’s economy with respect to GDP contribution, employment and income,” said Vaughn Granter, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. “The aquaculture industry is helping to grow and diversify rural economies through direct and indirect jobs, and benefits to businesses.”

The funding will go towards capital asset investments in grow-out technology including automatic feeding systems, nets, cages, underwater lighting, mooring and service vessels, a government press release stated. These investments will increase the company’s production of Atlantic salmon, which they intend to process at the Harbour Breton and St. Alban’s plants.

“Aquaculture has transformed the fortunes of many rural communities in our province. There is visible new economic activity created by salmon operations particularly along the Coast of Bays,” said Fortune Bay-Cape LaHune MHA Tracey Perry. “The increased production of Atlantic salmon from this investment will lead to the reopening of the fish plant in Harbour Breton while maintaining employment at the plant in St. Alban’s, so today’s announcement is wonderful news for the entire region.”

Budget 2015 provides $2.8 million toward the project. This is in addition to $2.4 million which was provided to the company in late March. The remaining funding will be provided over the next two fiscal years.

Provincial government investment will be in the form of an equity position in the company through preferred shares which will receive annual dividends until the project is complete and the Provincial Government investment is repaid. Repayment will take place over seven years beginning once the project is completed.

 “This partnership with the Provincial Government will help us to further grow our operations in the Coast of Bays region with a continued focus on environmental sustainability and quality best practice,” said Larry Ingalls, President, Northern Harvest Sea Farms.

 

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