AquaBounty, GMO salmon producer, applies to expand production on P.E.I.

The company that produces genetically-modified salmon wants to ramp up production after getting FDA approval to sell its product as food in the US.

The company wants to to renovate the 38-year-old fish hatchery in Rollo Bay West

A file photo shows farm-raised Atlantic salmon. Salmon producer AquaBounty has applied to expand production in P.E.I. (Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press)

The company that produces genetically-modified salmon has applied to re-purpose a 38-year-old fish hatchery in Rollo Bay West, P.E.I., as it looks to expand its commercial production.

AquaBounty Technologies received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration five months ago to sell its AquAdvantage salmon in the United States. 

According to an environmental impact statement filed with the province, the company isn't able to expand its production at its plant in Bay Fortune, P.E.I., because of the groundwater and electricity needed, so it's requesting permission to use the old Snow Island Sea Smolt plant in Rollo Bay West.

Location of 38-year-old fish hatchery AquaBounty has asked to re-purpose to help scale up commercial production of its genetically-modified salmon, after getting FDA approval five months ago. (AquaBounty )

The report also highlights the bio-security concern of having all of AquaBounty's brood stock at one site. The new plant would have 24-hour security, with a staff member living in an apartment on site. 

No genetically-modified production at new site

According environment officials, no genetically-modified production would happen at the new Rollo Bay West location. AquaBounty would use the new location to raise up to 13,000 conventional adult salmon to provide eggs that would be transferred to its plant in Bay Fortune. 

"There's an existing building [in Rollo Bay West] now they're going to redo over and bring up to standards, and then they're proposing to build another building as well," said Greg Wilson, the environmental impact assessment coordinator with the department. 

AquaBounty's plans, outlined in the report, indicate renovations starting this month, and new construction next month. 

Greg Wilson, environmental impact assessment co-ordinator, says there are a few concerns that AquaBounty has to address before a recommendation is passed on to minister. (CBC)

Wilson said there are a few areas of concern that have to be answered before AquaBounty is given an answer on the proposal, including showing there is enough groundwater for the plant. He said AquaBounty has applied for a groundwater extraction permit. 

Several concerns need to be addressed

"They have a consultant involved and they're now putting together a plan to give us the exact numbers of what they'll require and whether that's available in the groundwater wells that are there," said Wilson.

"But we do believe from the water that's there, the wells, we think there's enough." 

Wilson said the other concerns include ensuring the waste from the fish is collected and doesn't go downstream and affect fish in the waterway that runs by the facility, and making sure there are no escapes.

"It doesn't matter which type of facility it is you want to maintain those fish in the facility on land and not get them into the natural environment," said Wilson. 

The public comment period on AquaBounty's proposal ends April 15, and Wilson said the technical review committee is also expected to finalize its work this week, then information will be weighed and recommendations passed on to the minister.  

Wilson expects a decision could be made on the project as early as April 22.