New fish carrier spearheading Bakkafrost Scotland’s fightback

Salmon producer Bakkafrost says the arrival of a new wellboat last year is playing a key role in helping it to get on top of biological problems in Scotland.

While issues remain, the company is now confident that the Scotland recovery operation will meet with success.

Bakkafrost said in its 2022 final quarter report that the 4,000m3 live fish carrier Ronja Star, which is equipped with a freshwater treatment capacity as well as an innovative in-line freshwater-based sea lice removal system, has been efficiently carrying out treatments for gill-related issues as well as sea lice removal in a single operation.

The report adds: “The operation has proven to be efficient and Bakkafrost has decided to implement the same systems on the second live fish carrier in Scotland as well as on the Bakkafossur, the new live fish carrier in the Faroe Islands.”

The Bakkafrost report was in positive mood about the turnaround adding: “In Scotland, farming conditions in Q4 2022 have followed the normal seasonal pattern with more biological challenges compared to the first half of the year in particular.

“However, the biological situation improved considerably in the second half of Q4, and Bakkafrost decided to slow down harvest to let the fish continue growing and gain weight.

“This reduced the harvest volume in Q4 2022 but will increase value with harvesting larger fish in Q1 2023. Overall, the mortality in Q4 2022 was lower than the year before, and from the beginning of December 2022, mortality levels have been at the same level as normally found in the first half of the year.”

The report concludes: “The biological risk in Scotland is still higher than in the Faroe Islands but is expected to be transformed with the implementation of Bakkafrost’s large-smolt strategy.

“As demonstrated in the Faroe Islands, large high-quality and robust smolt will have a lower risk exposure in the marine environment due to shorter production cycles in the sea.

“This is expected to significantly reduce the biological risk in Scotland and is fundamental to the turnaround of the farming operation. Therefore, it is Bakkafrost’s topmost priority in Scotland to build new modern hatcheries.”

Bakkafrost also said the ongoing expansion of the Applecross hatchery is progressing well, and the Applecross 4 expansion is expected to be operational with fish in the tanks in March.

The first batch of large smolt delivered from Applecross 4 is planned for Q2 2023 and will contribute to increasing the mean weights and quality of the smolt stocked in Scotland in 2023.

In mid-2024 operations at the Applecross hatchery will reach full capacity, including the next expansions, bringing overall annual production for Applecross to around 10 million high-quality smolts of around 500g.

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