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N.L. aquaculture industry working to reduce farmed salmon escapes

Norwegian company bringing its 'escape-proof' technology to Placentia Bay farm

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The provincial aquaculture association says it has 'full faith' in the DFO study confirming that escapee farmed salmon are breeding with their wild counterparts. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

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"Escape-proof" cages and continued collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are two of the ways the province's aquaculture industry plans on mitigating concerns about farmed salmon escaping on Newfoundland's south coast.

"Absolutely, we are concerned. What we are most concerned about is to... reduce the number of escapes," said Mark Lane, the executive director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association on CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

​Lane's comment comes on the heels of Tuesday's report from DFO scientists, documenting evidence in 17 rivers in the Fortune Bay and Bay d 'Espoir areas where escaped salmon have interbred with their wild counterparts.

Lane called the study "an eye opener, for sure," although he noted the association has been collaborating with DFO's research into interbreeding and had "been aware of this for quite some time."

"The last thing a farmer wants to happen is to lose animals, it's their product." - Mark Lane

He said the association has pledged to continue working closely with DFO scientists, and is also independently trying to reduce escapees.

"We've invested heavily in technology and innovation and design to prevent that. The last thing a farmer wants to happen is to lose animals, it's their product."

Norwegian technology in Placentia Bay

A source of controversy over Grieg NL Seafarm's planned aquaculture megaproject in Placentia Bay has been the potential for escapees from its 11 proposed sea cage sites.

But Aqualine, the Norwegian company hired by Grieg to produce those sea cages, promises they'll be built according to its patented design, claimed to be escape-proof.

"By doing model testing and testing also in the sea afterwards, we believe we have created the best escape-proof system," said Aqualine Technical Director Martin Soreide.

Soreide said that technology has been in use in about 600 other aquaculture sites since 2013, without a single recorded escape.

"It's 100 per cent escape-proof, if the customer is using it the right way," he said, adding sea conditions in Placentia Bay do not differ significantly from other client sites, such as Iceland, Norway and Scotland.

Soreide said his team will be on hand in Placentia Bay to make sure the cages are operated correctly once the project is off the ground, although the project is still in the midst of the regulatory process and is far from becoming a reality.

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