Nordic Aquafarms: Addressing fish farm concerns

There are many opinions and approaches to fish farming. Nordic Aquafarms is proposing a land-based facility at the Samoa peninsula in Humboldt County. Nordic’s fully contained design fortunately eliminates many issues and concerns associated with traditional fish farming.

Neither the farm nor the discharge will attract sea lice that can affect wild fish Scientists have repeatedly confirmed that effluent from facilities like the one proposed by Nordic will not cause any significant increase in risk of sea lice to wild salmon populations. 

Sea lice require hosts to survive and any sea lice near the facility, if any, will already exist. Sea lice are poor swimmers and can only sustain directional swimming over a few meters during their infectious stage. Adult salmon typically enter freshwater very rapidly and salmon smolts typically enter the ocean in a very short window in the spring and migrate through the estuary in a few hours. Unless the discharge outlets are near this salmon migration corridor, the risk of lice aggregation in this area is highly unlikely.

Fish will not be able to escape from the proposed Nordic Aquafarms facility

At Nordic´s proposed facility in Humboldt, the fish are hatched, live and are harvested inside buildings that are more than 200 feet from the water. There are nine distinct barriers between these fish and the ocean, including drum filters with 20-micron mesh filters (which is less than a strand of hair). Because there are multiple barriers, even if one fails, multiple additional (physical) barriers would prevent fish escape. The facility and fish access are also strictly controlled to prevent unauthorized removal of fish from the facility.

The facility is also designed to withstand major earthquakes and tsunamis and multiple design features will ensure fish remain in the tanks if these events occur. Results from site specific seismic and tsunami studies will be submitted as part of the permit application later this fall and results will be presented to the general public as part of the permitting process.

Many measures are in place to prevent fish die-offs –and tank cleaning/disinfection will not result in toxic cleaning agents being released into the environment. Farming fish involves careful attention to fish welfare and stringent bio-security measures to avoid potential disease and die-offs. Nordic has very strict bio-security measures and waste-water treatment technology in addition to a technically sophisticated system and experienced staff. Nordic has never had any disease outbreaks at any of its facilities and has implemented multiple measures to prevent future outbreaks, including:

• Employing ultra-filtration, UV and ozone at the intake to prevent pathogens and parasites from entering the facility.

• Using 0.04-micron membrane bio reactors (MBRs) in the wastewater treatment building 

Following ultrafiltration via MBR, the effluent will also be treated with a 300mJ ELL UV dose before discharge.

• Employing a highly developed fish welfare program that includes utilizing a breed stock facility/egg source confirmed as free of disease for at least two years (required under California law) and testing and disinfecting every batch of eggs prior to shipment. Upon receipt of eggs

Nordic will also disinfect and quarantine eggs to confirm they are free of pathogens before entering the hatchery.

• Fish are vaccinated against a variety of potential pathogens common to the area.

• Nordic uses accredited veterinarians to inspect both fish and facilities on a regular basis.

• Nordic employees are trained to regularly evaluate fish health and identify signs, symptoms and behavior of potential concern. Fish exhibiting potential issues are pulled and sent immediately for lab analysis. Any subsequent course of action is dictated by Nordic’s veterinarian and reported to the proper authorities.

• Any chemical used to clean the tanks will be either treated at our wastewater treatment facility or deposed according to California regulations. No harmful or toxic chemicals will ever be discharged from the facility.

• A monitoring program will ensure Nordic is compliant with the Clean Water Act as part of a discharge permit.

Once in full operation the facility will employ approximately 150 people in Humboldt, most of whom we plan to recruit locally

Nordic wants to become a serious local employer that attracts and retains a high-quality workforce. In order to retain people at the facility, Nordic will offer competitive compensation, training and development programs and develop a company where both fish and people thrive. Nordic is already working with College of the Redwoods to relaunch their Aquaculture program and plans to work closely with Humboldt State University on internships, research and recruitment.

In addition to an anticipated 150 permanent jobs, Nordic anticipates that there will be 250 to 300 people employed during the construction period, and there will be many more local, ancillary jobs created as a result of Nordic’s Humboldt County project.

Nordic Aquafarms representatives are available to meet with community members discuss the project and address questions and concerns. 

To set up a meeting, please contact Community Liaison Lynette Mullen at [email protected] or call (707) 845-0467.

Marianne Naess is executive vice president, Commercial Nordic Aquafarms Inc. 


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