In the Offshore Value workshop held recently in Narvik it was intended to showcase the technology and digitalisation opportunities associated with the fish farming industry. As has been mentioned previously , it is projected that fish farming will have passed petroleum and shipping as Norway’s most important export industry. Unfortunately, an algal bloom in Northern Norway started the week before and has decimated the fish farms, meaning that all associated with that industry are fully occupied with dealing with this crisis and were unable to attend to give presentations.

The extent of the losses have not been finally determined, but it is estimated to be of the order of 13 200 tonne of young salmon, representing 54 000 tonne of salmon lost from the market, and a lost value of up to 330 million euro (x) . It is caused by a sudden growth (bloom) of a naturally occurring algae (Chrysochromulina leadbeateri). Under certain combinations of temperature, light, weather and salinity this can demonstrate sudden growth and be transported by ocean currents. Wild fish are able to move to greater depths to avoid it, but fish farm pens are not deep enough to enable the captive salmon to avoid the bloom. The algae blocks the gills and causes the fish to suffocate. One solution could be to make it possible to sink the fish farm, and a concept for this is already being trialled . This potentially also can help with the problem of lice infestations, which also occur predominantly near the surface.

There is also a need to be able to predict the occurrence of algae blooms, to enable evasive action. This is difficult, as there are many different types of algae, not all of which cause toxic blooms, and the identification and quantification requires the use of microscope studies. The previous toxic algal bloom affecting fish farming occurred in 1991, this type of infrequent event is difficult to maintain motivation for surveillance. A researcher at SINTEF published a blog article in September 2018 that warned that other algae attacks could occur, and another article details what researchers are currently doing with respect to algae surveillance. This includes a model for predicting spreading with ocean currents, and development of sensors and new analysis methods.
FUNN, an IT company based in Narvik provide digital solutions to the fish farming industry and can be a contact point for companies with concepts for new sensors that could assist with this challenge currently facing the fish farming industry.

(x) This is based on a current fish weight of 1,1 kg, harvest fish weight of 4,5 kg and harvest price of 6,15 €/kg.

Ross Wakelin
Northern Research Institute Narvik A.S.
(47) 99 252 485

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