Havmerden, or Ocean Farm 1, is an installation located in Frohavet in Froya municipality in Trondelag, Norway.

  • The cage is designed to be able to produce salmon in more exposed places than traditional cages.
  • It cost around NOK 700 million (€67 million/$80 million), and can hold around 1.6 million salmon in different chambers.
  • It has a height of 69 meters and a diameter of 110 meters.
  • The project was the first to receive so-called development permits, and received eight permits in February 2016. Earlier this year, they were converted to regular permits, as the first and so far only conversion.

Salmar’s offshore sea cage was the first of its kind to receive development permits for salmon farming in Norway, and it sold itself partially on the concept it would minimize escapes. But as of last week it has suffered two such incidents.

On Thursday afternoon, both Salmar and the Directorate of Fisheries announced that a crack had been discovered in a net, and that an unknown number of fish had escaped.

SalMar does not know how the crack occurred, and called the incident “very unfortunate.”

General Manager of SalMar Ocean Olav-Andreas Ervik said the crack occurred in the so-called extraction zone for the cage, and this areas has now been emptied of fish.

The escape came on the same day SalMar presented its second quarter financial results. At the presentation, CEO Gustav Witzoe said the company wanted to build new sea cages if it received more permits. He said nothing about the escape, which is presumed to have happened later in the day.

This is not the first escape from SalMar’s sea cage. In 2018 human error – an operator forgetting to close a hatch, which caused the entire structure to tilt — led to around 16,000 fish escaping.

“It’s embarrassing,” Ervik told DN at the time. “The sea cage is designed to be escape safe. An error has occurred here that we did not envision could happen.”

Paal Mugaas of the river owners’ organization Norske Lakseelver is worried about the escape.

“This is the second escape from SalMar’s sea cage. It clearly shows that the only viable way for further growth in farming is closed cages if we are to get rid of the genetic contamination of the wild salmon strains,” he told DN.

“The fish that have escaped now are around five kilos. If they become sexually mature and go up into the rivers at this time of year and mate, it becomes critical. Most salmon rivers that flow into the Trondheim Fjord have a yellow status for genetic integrity,” says Mugaas.

Ervik declined to comment on Mugaas’ statements.

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