The circular plastic pens are developed from the wooden frames that kicked off the adventure in the 1970s and -80s. Open net pen production is on a theoretical level a cheap way of producing fish. Oxygen is provided through incoming water, and faeces are carried away by the outflowing water. However, linked to this privilege, the open net pen provides little protection. The fish population is at all times exposed to the open environment. Microorganisms (ex: bacteria, virus, amoeba etc.) and parasites (Salmon louse), common in the wild fauna, may enter the farm and potentially infect the fish population. If the farmed fish become diseased, such microorganisms can cause mortality and risk of transferring disease to neighbouring farms and potentially wild salmon residing in farming areas.
Hence, what is a distinctive advantage, - clean water passing through farms, also represents a biological risk.
Successfully, several bacterial and viral diseases are no longer a problem due development of effective vaccines, active immune-stimulating feed ingredients, breeding and good husbandry practices. Norway has also benefited from a strong regulatory system that is flexible and may adapt to hinder the spread of disease. This is why the Norwegian industry can demonstrate extremely low use of antibiotics per tonne produced fish outperforming any intensive livestock production on land.
Fish health and welfare
Apart from the presence/concentration of harmful microorganisms; the health status of the fish i.e. its ability to withstand infection; the amount of pressure and stress we inflict on the stock; and the environment in which we farm fish is very important to the fish welfare.
Hauge Aqua addresses the environment in which we farm fish by re-vamping the production platform. Fundamental to our approach is that mortality can be significantly reduced by taking control over the farming environment. This is the ambition behind in our new technology platform.
From a veterinary point of view, the following can be stated:
Per fish dying, there is at least five fish not feeling well.
Likewise, it is also possible to claim the following:
Between «feeling well» and «being dead» there is an enormous potential for enhanced welfare and performance.
Understanding fish welfare is therefore critical in fish farming. Ability to provide a farming environment that can support the best living conditions for the fish is not only utmost important to the business, but our given responsibility.
Central to fish welfare is the Salmon louse. The main and most successful tool that is in use today is the cleaner fish. Both Wrasse and Lumpfish are used, and they are farmed in large numbers. The cleaner fish live within the pen together with the salmon, and eat salmon lice in high numbers. However, the cleaner fish need shelter (habitat), trained and skilled personnel and tailor-made feed. This represents a high cost and time-consuming part of the production.
Hauge Aqua’s ambition is to provide technology that makes the reproduction and shedding of Salmon louse from salmon farms a non-existing problem.
The visionary goal for the Norwegian Aquaculture industry is to reach five million tonnes by 2050. This is an immense challenge. To reach this goal, the industry must submit to public acceptance and acknowledgement. Current farming practices, especially regarding welfare of the fish, Salmon lice treatments and escapes, are questioned in the eye of the public. Furthermore, criticism, increasingly backed by independent research, are raised towards the industry regarding the negative impact on wild salmonids stemming from the shedding of Salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) and escaped fish ending up in local rivers.
The roadmap to visionary 5 million tonnes harvest per year is clearly linked to regaining public confidence and recognition since both the number of sites, and number of fish per site, will have to increase. Even if we recognise that conditions vary along the coast, scaling up with today’s technology can come at a very high price.
By legislation, any escape or suspicion of escape is to be notified to Directorate of Fisheries. The industry has a zero-escape vision and works systematic to register and communicate learning points across the industry. Legislation has also provided a whole set of new technical requirements for fish farms (Nytek). Certificates are issued per site by third party authorised technical expertise to warrant «ability to perform». Yet, escapes continue to occur. Far too often because of factors all well known. In light of this, it is understandable that considerable increase in production is often questioned.
As much as the industry does not agree in research documenting that escaped fish may cause harm to local salmon stocks, it is not arguable that farmed fish shall remain in the fish pens.
Standard pens need a whole range of extra equipment. Some are added to comply with legislation, environmental reasons and some to support operational needs. Predator nets, skirts, tarps, cameras, cleaner fish, cleaner fish habitat, feed for cleaner fish, extra handling of fish, chemical delousing, boats, cranes, etc. are all part of the scheme. All devices are operated year round in all types of weather by highly skilled and competent staff.
Hauge Aqua believes it is time to realise that the big circular pens no longer are simple but highly complex units to operate. Our ambition is to demonstrate and offer new innovative ways of farming fish for the future.