Grieg Seafood begins 1st commercial harvest of farmed salmon from Placentia Bay

Grieg Seafood has begun harvesting an estimated 5,000 tonnes of farmed salmon from its aquaculture sites in Placentia Bay, and shipping that fish to Bay de Verde for processing.

Company says it hopes to harvest up to 5,000 tonnes of fish this year; no problems with sea lice

A photo of a farmed salmon, on ice, in a white tray.
Grieg Seafood announced Monday that it has commenced its first commercial harvest of farmed salmon from its aquaculture site in Placentia Bay. The fish are being processed and packaged at newly established production line in Bay de Verde by Quinlan Brothers. (Submitted by Grief Seafood)

After nearly a decade of development, Grieg Seafood has announced it has commenced its first commercial harvest of farmed salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the coming weeks, roughly 5,000 tonnes of salmon will be taken from sea cages at the company's Red Island farm in Placentia Bay. The sea cages are located off Marasheen Island, near Southern Harbour.

The fish are being transported to a newly established production line at the Quinlan Brothers seafood processing plant in Bay de Verde.

"Harvesting the first generation of fish in Newfoundland marks an important milestone for Grieg Seafood," CEO Andreas Kvame stated in a press release.

"I am pleased to see that the fish has good welfare and that biological control has been strong."

Robin Quinlan, president of Quinlan Brothers, said this first harvest "represents the beginning of new opportunities for stability, employment and growth in our region and beyond into international markets."

North American market is booming, says Grieg CEO

The harvest is expected to continue until mid-winter, with the processed salmon destined for markets throughout North America.

"This first, successful generation shows what enormous potential Placentia Bay in Newfoundland holds for sustainable salmon farming," added Kvame.

three workers wearing safety gear stand on the edge of a sea cage filled with farmed salmon in Placentia Bay.
Within three years, Grieg Seafood plans to increase its annual farmed salmon production in Placentia Bay to 15,000 tonnes. (Submitted by Grieg Seafood)

Kvame said the North American market for farmed salmon is "booming" because consumers are demanding "local, healthy and climate-friendly food. We will continue to develop our production in Newfoundland gradually and responsibly during the years to come."

Grieg is a Norwegian-based company that began developing its Placentia Bay aquaculture project in 2014. It operates a hatchery, nursery and smolt unit in Marystown, as well as five marine farms in Placentia Bay. The company is currently approved for 14 licences.

The fish now being harvested were transferred to two ocean farms in Placentia Bay in 2022.

The fish grow to commercial size in deep pens that prevent escapes, the company said, with "no need for treatments of any form."

High survival rates, and no sea lice

Fish farms often suffer from infestations of sea lice that attach to and feed off the salmon, and sometimes make them unmarketable. But Grieg said there were no parasite problems at its Placentia Bay sites.

The company said the annual survival rate of all the fish in the ocean farms is currently 96 per cent.

"I am pleased with the biological performance of the first generation, including the survival rate as well as strong sea lice control," said Knut Skeidsvoll, managing director of Grieg Seafood Newfoundland.

"We will keep developing our Newfoundland region step by step, and create jobs and value for the communities where we operate for years to come."

As of last spring, Grieg had invested more than $150 million into its Newfoundland operations, with $5 million of that as a loan from the provincial government.

The company also announced in July that it's resuming work on its massive post-smolt aquaculture building in Marystown. The building is crucial to the company's efforts to grow much larger salmon on land, thereby reducing the amount of time they spend in ocean cages.

Construction on the building was halted three years ago during the pandemic.

This past summer, Grieg transferred a second generation of fish into three new ocean farms in Placentia Bay. These fish are scheduled to be harvested next year.

Within three years, the company has said it plans to grow annual production to 15,000 tonnes of fish.

Download our free CBC News app to sign up for push alerts for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to visit our landing page.