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LETTER: Open net-pen or recirculating aquaculture systems?

I am writing in response to an important issue discussed in a column titled “Left Behind,” which appeared in Russell Wangersky’s column Dec. 24, 2018. I would like to draw attention to ideas presented in the article regarding Newfoundland’s Atlantic salmon open net-pen aquaculture industry.

Firstly, open net-pen farming may carry some risk to the environment much like other food production sectors. It is proposed native species may be affected by open net-pen aquaculture through disease transfer, however, this has not been proven.

Interbreeding and competition with wild stocks are also primary concerns, but proper site selection to minimize interaction with native species and use of sterile fish are implemented to diminish risk.

Recirculating Aquaculture systems (RAS) are gaining popularity in certain aquaculture markets, but worldwide Atlantic salmon RAS production has yet to reach a fraction of its open net-pen counterpart. RAS are better suited for high-value species due to their high capital costs associated with infrastructure and intensive maintenance; they are not a be-all and end-all solution for Atlantic salmon production. Currently, technology has not progressed enough to make production of Atlantic salmon in RAS economically viable and these systems are best suited to areas with limited coastal resources.

Newfoundland has extensive coastline with access to pristine, seasonally stable waters and is close to market.

Our provincial industry can learn from the past of others and minimize environmental effects through good site selection and animal husbandry techniques.

The promise of job prosperity and economic gain via open net-pen Atlantic salmon farming is on the rise and is not jeopardized by decisions of others with unlike circumstances.

Kylar Frank

St. John’s

Graduate student in aquaculture

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