Despite a slow 4th quarter in salmon sales for parent company Grieg Seafoods — the company said COVID 19 has been a factor in slower sales and lower prices — the Marystown operation is on track to have fish in the water in Placentia Bay by this summer.
Perry Power, director of human resources and communications at Grieg Seafood Newfoundland, told SaltWire a second building at the land-based hatchery site has been constructed to hold salmon for the ‘smoltification’ stage of their life, where they go through physiological changes to help them adapt from fresh water to salt water.
Workers are now busy commissioning the building, installing and testing the fish tanks and related equipment, to prepare for transfer of salmon from the hatchery next month.
About 80 people are involved in the completion of that building, said Power, working with contractors and subcontractors.
Meanwhile, about 65 people are employed by Grieg NL in the hatchery, tending to the fish as they transform from egg to baby salmon.
“The fish will be ready to move from the hatchery to the smoltification building by next month,” he said.
Sea cages are also being built, said Power, and nearly a dozen employees are being trained for that part of the operation. Those cages will be in the water by this summer.
A post-smolt building, where the young fish go next, was also planned for the site, but the company decided to put that build on hiatus last year as the COVID pandemic ramped up around the world.
That building, when finished, will contain salt-water pools, enabling the juvenile salmon to grow a little bigger before being transferred to open water pens in the bay.
Resumption of construction of the post-smolt building will depend on several factors, including market demand for farmed salmon.
In its fourth quarter report this week, Grieg Seafoods reported a 12 per cent drop in salmon production, to 20,271 tonnes for the quarter compared to 23,010 tonnes in the same period in 2019.
A decline in production, combined with lower salmon prices in 2020, resulted in a 20 per cent drop in revenues for the company fourth quarter to fourth quarter.
Farming cost during the period (total cost related to fish harvested this quarter) also increased compared to the same quarter last year primarily due to biological challenges in Finnmark and to some extent by decreased survival in Rogaland.
Commenting on the Group’s performance, CEO Andreas Kvame, said, “As expected, the last quarter of 2020 was also characterized by the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns in Europe, shifting demand from hotels and restaurants to retail, impacted salmon prices significantly.”
Overall, he said, 2020 has been a challenging year.
“We did not deliver on our ambitions, not only because of Covid-19 but also due to biological challenges in several regions.
“We have taken important steps to remedy the situation. We have strengthened our operational capabilities with a new and more farming-oriented organizational set-up, and with a potential sale of our Shetland operations, we are narrowing our focus to Norway and Canada as strong production regions. We have also started our journey to take a stronger market position with a new and integrated sales and marketing organization.
Kvame said, the company is “starting to see the light in the end of the tunnel.”
The company said it expects to harvest 10,700 tonnes of salmon in the first quarter of 2021, from its sites in Rogaland (4,300 tonnes), Finnmark (6300 tonnes) and British Columbia (600 tonnes).
Their long-term harvest volume target is 130,000 tonnes by 2025.
Grieg plans to have its first harvest of salmon from the Placentia Bay sites in 2022, with a target harvest of 15,000 tonnes annually from those sites by 2025, to feed markets on the East Coast of the United States.