The Norwegian land-based salmon farmer Atlantic Sapphire announced Sunday that it has experienced a significant mortality event at its in Hvide Sande, Denmark, land-based Atlantic salmon facility, saying it lost about 227,000 fish the day before.
“Preliminary analysis, subject to further verification over the next days, indicates higher nitrogen levels than desired as the cause of the event, which has been addressed in a design modification,” the company said in a statement, though it thus far remains unclear what caused the nitrogen levels to spike.
The incident will push the next harvest opportunity out about four months, the company said, adding that “the value of the biomass represented by the affected fish is insured”. But Atlantic Sapphire said it’s “still assessing the complete financial impact of the event”.
Atlantic Sapphire has been receiving considerable publicity around its recirculating aquaculture system under construction in Homestead, Florida, and plans to hold its first major harvest of Atlantic salmon there this coming summer. Upon completion of phase one of its US facility, the company said it hopes to maintain an annual output of 10,000 metric tons of head on gutted salmon per year, limiting risk to 15% of its total output by maintaining six independent grow-out systems within the facility.
Saturday’s disaster is the second major loss of fish at Atlantic Sapphire’s Denmark facility. It experienced the loss of about 250 metric tons of fish in June 2017 due to a hydrogen sulphide poisoning event. The cause was anoxic conditions blamed on decomposing organic materials and not uncommon for a mass mortality on fish farms, the company said at the time.
Atlantic Sapphire put a positive note at the end of its press release on Sunday.
“This incident demonstrates the importance and challenges of finishing commissioning of all Bluehouse systems while already in operation as well as the value of having multiple independent systems for biological risk diversification reasons,” the company said, adding: “At the same time, the company’s strategy to have its Danish pilot farm as R&D facility proves immensely valuable in testing designs and identifying issues in this first and largest ever land-based, RAS salmon farm in the world.”