Data collected at Grieg’s B.C. farms will be merged with public ocean and weather data. (Grieg photo)

New blended data platform at Grieg fish farms help forecast oceanic events

On-site data combined with public oceanography and meteorology will be shared with stakeholders

Grieg has partnered with an ocean science firm to develop a real-time picture of the ocean at their 22 B.C. fish farms. The platform collates data from the myriad sensors at Grieg farms and blends that data with publicly available ocean and weather data.

Having all this information together will allow Grieg, and the ocean science firm Scoot Science, to forecast local ocean events, such as plankton blooms, allowing Grieg to mitigate exposure at their farms.

Every day Grieg farmers are collecting data on salinity, temperature, plankton types and oxygen levels in the water. Over the years, that information has been manually entered into various systems.

Now for the first time they are being collated and blended with high level ocean observations from satellites and weather stations.

“All this happens every day, so much data is collected, that we wanted to put it in one portal that could analyze and look for spacial trends,” said Dean Trethewey, director of ocean production, regulatory and certification at Grieg.

The platform is already helping to predict harmful plankton blooms, so Grieg can take action to protect fish in their open nets.

There are about 13 plankton species that can be harmful to salmon in B.C. waters, and Grieg has various responses depending on which species is blooming. Diatom plankton are a “mechanical irritant” to salmon by lodging in their gills. Salmon will try to flush them out by producing mucus, but that creates a respiratory issue.

So, knowing that the plankton tend to live in the upper levels of water, Grieg will push air 20 meters down into bubble disks, which pushes deep water up to the surface, physically displacing the plankton as the bubbles rise.

Another option is simply to not feed salmon the day before an anoxic event where oxygen levels are low.

“Having a full stomach when a stressor comes along, you will see increased mortality because of that,” Trethewey said.

They’re currently getting up to three days notice thanks to this new data platform. Harmful plankton can affect farmed fish up to 20 per cent of the calendar year in some places, so this information has big implications for productivity.

Trethewey is keen on what this synthesized data can do for ocean knowledge in general.

He wants to share the data with other stakeholders in the area, like universities, local First Nations and non-profit groups.

”Our hope is that we can open this up globally. The waters are connected all around the world, so why not connect the people in those waters as well?”

They don’t know exactly what that data sharing will look like at this point, but Trethewey said they have been in talks with organizations such as the Pacific Salmon Foundation to share plankton data. Jonathan LaRiviere, CEO at Scoot said there’s a push within this system — called the SeaState Dashboard, owned by Scoot but developed in deep consultation with Grieg as an early customer — towards data transparency.

“We are going to be set up with Grieg to really efficiently work with sea lice data and share it with people who need it,” LaRiviere said.

Regarding sea lice, Trethewey said more data from wild salmon is needed.

“Sea lice has a lot to do with salinity. We get sea lice from the wild fish. What we don’t know is year over year what are the natural changes on the wild fish.”

RELATED: DFO says sea lice levels fine, but fish farm data shows otherwise

RELATED: B.C. salmon farmers donate 60,000 pounds of canned salmon to food banks

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


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