Following Smolts To Sea
Freshwater, saltwater. Saltwater, freshwater.
Salmon farmers have a strong connection with the fish they farm as they grow from smolts in fresh water to full sized salmon in saltwater farms.
Throughout the process, Mowi farmers learn how fish behave in different situations. This accumulated knowledge makes them better able to optimize their care for the fish, including determining the right times to feed them and monitoring unusual behaviour, which usually indicates a change in water conditions. Observing them in both environments and monitoring their growth and progress along the journey has helped improve the entire salmon farming process.
Quatsino Production Manager Gerry Burry has long been an advocate of the benefits of getting to know fish populations in advance. He has encouraged staff to visit their fish in hatcheries prior to being shipped out to the saltwater sites, which gives them an opportunity to find out about feeding and other aspects of the growth cycle.
“Sharing knowledge between departments can often lead to improved ways of doing things,” Gerry observes. “We are all one Mowi at the end of the day, and we all want happy, healthy fish.”
Michelle Bluhm, Manager of Quatsino’s Monday Rock site, recently visited her incoming population of fish at Dalrymple Hatchery before they arrived.
“It’s important for us to see our soon to be smolts up close in their fresh water environment, and during vaccination is a great opportunity,” Michelle notes. “We (the Monday Rock team) find our tours of the Dalrymple Hatchery very interesting, in particular the Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS). It’s an opportunity for staff to share knowledge and ask questions.”
She adds that discussing the KPIs with Dalrymple Manager Lance Page is crucial.
“The current feeding regime, number of visits, percentage of body weight/day fed out and feed size, average weight, and mortality is also discussed,” she says. “This information allows us to program the smolt cyclical feeding plan on site. We try to mimic the feeding from the hatchery, and the smolts will receive 1,000 plus visits per day per pen, giving them every opportunity to feed.”
Michelle points out that vaccination takes place fairly close to smoltification and ship-out which allows them to see the next crop of fish they’ll be receiving.
“This is the second crop where we have exchanged visits,” she says. “I know Monday Rock looks forward to having the Dalrymple team visit and see their smolts at sea.”
Another benefit of getting to know the fish population so well is that when they leave to go to a new site, you can keep track of how they’re growing.
Lance took a group of his employees out to Monday Rock recently to visit the fish.
“This was the second visit from some of the Dalrymple Hatchery staff to Monday Rock. Our staff take great care of the fish for the one year that they look after them at Dalrymple and they have really enjoyed seeing the same levels of care being taken of the fish now they are at a sea site. The fish face different challenges at sea than they do at the hatchery but the levels of care and attention are just the same.
There has been an additional benefit to this information sharing. We are going to install similar equipment in our feeding system to that which is already in use at Monday Rock, so it has been a great opportunity for our team to learn from the experience of the Monday Rock team.”
There’s a lot more going on with the fish before staff gets them at the ocean sites. Many employees would never see what was going on, so they’ve been encouraged to go to the hatchery before they receive the fish. Knowing what takes place in the process from egg to plate gives a greater appreciation of the entire process.
Freshwater staff visiting saltwater, and vice versa, is helping that immensely.