Canada’s “most technologically advanced” aquaculture wellboat docked in Victoria Feb. 9 after a long journey from Norway.
Grieg Seafood’s newest vessel, the Ronja Islander, completed construction in Norway in late 2019, and was custom built by Sølvtrans to address some of B.C.’s salmon farming challenges, including sea lice and safe fish handling during live transfers to farms.
“We designed the Ronja Islander using input from our stakeholders and Indigenous partners. We heard some of their concerns around salmon farming in BC and turned those concerns into solutions when we built the vessel,” Dean Trethewey, Seawater Production Director at Grieg Seafood BC, said in a press release. Trethewey led the wellboat project.
“The transfer of sea lice from wild fish to farmed fish is an ongoing issue for our industry and for British Columbians who are concerned for wild salmon migrating by our farms, and this wellboat is here to help with that,” Trethewey said. “In addition to its state-of-the-art removal treatments for sea lice, the process features 100 per cent capture of the detached lice which will be disposed on land. This is important to us and to wild salmon.”
The vessel’s arrival comes on the heels of last week’s announcement out of Norway that Greig BC’s parent company, Grieg Seafood ASA, is growing its Canadian operations to now include the province of Newfoundland & Labrador.
“It’s exciting to see Grieg Seafood ASA investing in both the west and east coasts of Canada, with this wellboat the latest investment in our B.C. operations,” says Trethewey. “This just shows how confident Grieg Seafood is in the growth of our company and the growth of aquaculture in Canada.”
The CAN $40 million wellboat will operate on both coasts of Vancouver Island, servicing 16 of Grieg Seafood’s salmon farms.
The Ronja Islander features what the company is calling “the world’s most advanced fish-handling technology” during both treatments and live transfers to reduce stress for the salmon. New technology also ensures that in the rare event that any wild fish are captured during fish transfers, they will be separated from the farmed salmon and safely released back into the ocean.
“Sea lice treatment is a critical feature of the Ronja Islander, but the overall improvement in salmon welfare for both farmed and wild fish that the boat handles is just as important,” Trethewey says. “We are always looking for ways to do and be better, and this vessel is not only the result of new technological advances in aquaculture – it’s the result of listening to the concerns of our partners and those who call B.C.’s coast home.”
This spring, the artwork of Kwakwaka’wakw artist Patrick Hunt will be installed on the bow and stack of the Ronja Islander. The Salmon Princess was designed specifically for the vessel, inspired by a combination of the company’s Norwegian roots and the importance of salmon to B.C.’s coast.
“Including Indigenous culture in the design of the vessel was important to us, and we are grateful to collaborate with Patrick Hunt in this process,” said Marilyn Hutchinson, Director of Indigenous & Community Relations at Grieg. “The Ronja Islander will be working in the traditional territories of many coastal Nations, and we hope this art initiative can convey how much Grieg respects the inclusion of First Nations in our operations.”
The Ronja Islander left Victoria last week to begin operations on Grieg’s west coast farms. One of its first duties will be to work at Grieg’s first Aquaculture Stewardship Council-certified farms in Nootka Sound.