Commissioner Franz Partners with Sustainable Blue to Identify Opportunities for On-Land Aquaculture for State Lands
April 11, 2023
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz signed today a partnership agreement with Nova Scotia-based Sustainable Blue, a zero discharge, land-based salmon farming company, to identify opportunities for siting sustainable finfish aquaculture in Washington State.
“I’m excited to bring this partnership to Washington,” said Commissioner Franz. “This agreement represents an important step toward restoring finfish aquaculture in a sustainable, healthy way that does not pit farmed fish against the native salmon we all work so hard to sustain.”
The letter of intent launches an exploration of land-based sites managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that would be suitable for closed-containment aquaculture on state-owned lands. DNR manages 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands on behalf of the people of Washington, along with 2.1 million acres of upland public lands.
The 2017 collapse of finfish aquaculture net pens off Cypress Island made clear the dangers that open water commercial finfish aquaculture facilities pose to native salmon and their habitat. Citing this event and other operational and maintenance issues that have been documented from the four open water net pen aquaculture facilities in Washington’s waters, Commissioner Franz last year announced such commercial facilities would no longer be leased on state-owned aquatic lands.
Sustainable Blue is the longest-running commercial zero-discharge Recirculating Aquaculture System (zRASTM) in North America. The Sustainable Blue zRAS recirculates 100% of its salt water, creates zero discharge to local waterways and communities, eliminates any potential for escapes, and offers a value-added proven model for aquaculture.
“This is a different path forward, and we’re thrilled to have the State of Washington on board to chart this new path in the United States,” says Kirk Havercroft, CEO of Sustainable Blue. “What we know is that all RAS systems are not created equal; Sustainable Blue offers a proven, long-running, zero discharge system that provides food security and economic stimulation, as well as consistency in product and market supply.”
With this letter of intent, Commissioner Franz and DNR signal their continued commitment to sustainable, market-based solutions that benefit the citizens of Washington while protecting the state’s natural capital. The agreement also represents the first step in a long-term partnership to explore multiple facility locations that are not reliant on marine or watershed environments.
Commissioner Franz plans to begin site exploration later this spring. “We know finfish aquaculture can be a great source of food and employment. But we have to balance those benefits with protecting our significant investments in restoring salmon and their habitat,” said Commissioner Franz. “I’m excited by this opportunity to do both.”
About Sustainable Blue
Founded in 2007 in Nova Scotia, Canada, Sustainable Blue is the longest-running commercial zero-discharge Recirculating Aquaculture System (zRAS) in North America. Through nearly 30 years of extensive research and development, Sustainable Blue has eliminated the need that is typical in a traditional RAS to discharge wastewater back into the ocean, making it the only land-based saltwater aquaculture facility in the world to do so. Waste solids are instead separated and used to generate electricity (with additional use cases currently being researched and developed). The wastewater is cleaned and returned back to the facility, all resulting in zero discharge back into the environment. The company’s proprietary aquaculture model was created by Dr. Jeremy Lee and is designed to mirror nature’s complex ecosystem found in oceans and waterways, but on land, protecting wild salmon populations from both disease and overfishing. Because Sustainable Blue’s system is fully self-contained, the salmon are free of sea lice and other fish diseases, meaning they require no antibiotics. Led by CEO Kirk Havercroft and Chief Sustainability Officer David Roberts, Sustainable Blue has been raising and processing salmon at its Nova Scotia headquarters for the past 15 years, supplying to the region’s restaurants, fishmongers and retailers.
Washington State DNR
Deputy Communications Director