Genetically-engineered-salmon farm awaits eggs wb state electricity board recruitment


As the fish grow in size and move to larger tanks, they encounter a number of screens, filters, gates, grates and cages to prevent an escape into the wild — the chances of which Stotish says are zero. But even if a breakout occurred, the fish couldn’t breed, he went on, because they’re all sterilized females.

Stotish, who was able to watch on closed-circuit television a Star Press photographer and reporter drive up to the security gate, joked that the security fence "is not to keep the fish in; it’s to keep people out. It’s like airport security. We don’t like it but it’s necessary."

After being piped into grow-out tanks ranging in size from 23,775 gallons to 68,684 gallons, the fish will spend their last week at the Albany facility in "purge tanks" before going to market. The fish are not fed in the purge tanks, so there is no feces in the water or unused feed.

"It literally cleans them out" said Pablo Bernal, the facility manager. If the salmon aren’t purged of geosmins, or very small metabolites, some consumers can detect an earthy or muddy flavor in the fish — similar, Stotish said, to "boar taint," an offensive odor or taste (to some people) associated with pork from a non-castrated pig

AquaBounty bought the Albany facility, originally built to raise yellow perch, last year for $14.2 million. It has invested another $4 million in infrastructure improvements, including new pumps, filters and containment barriers as well as state-of-the-art wastewater treatment renovations.

It has no fish yet, but the facility is employing 10 people to prepare for production. When fish arrive, Stotish said, employment will increase to 24, and that number is likely to grow. There is room to increase production from 1,200 metric tons per year (2,645,547 pounds) to 6,000 metric tons (13,227,736 pounds).

"We think this is good for the county, good for the state, and we certainly hope it will be good for our shareholders and AquaBounty (net loss of $2.4 million in the first quarter of 2018)," Stotish said. "This is our first U.S.-based production site, and we hope it will be one of many."

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, which "helps consumers and businesses make choices for a healthy ocean," a "Best Choice" in the Atlantic salmon category is salmon farmed worldwide in indoor recirculating tanks, which often have "less effluent, diseases, escapes and habitat impacts than other aquaculture systems. Currently, only 0.1% of farmed Atlantic salmon is produced by this method."

Atlantic salmon farmed in low-intensity marine net pens by the Salten Aqua Group in Norway is another "Best Choice," while "Good Alternatives" are Atlantic salmon farmed in British Columbia, Maine, Scotland’s Orkney Islands, Verlasso (Chile) Sixty South (Chile), and Blue Circle Foods (Norway). However, chemical use in British Columbia, Maine and Verlasso-branded salmon production and escape of farmed salmon in Scotland’s Orkney Islands are rated "high concerns."

Atlantic salmon farmed in Canada’s Atlantic, Chile (excluding Verlasso and Sixty South brands), Norway (excluding Blue Circle Foods brand) and Scotland’s mainland, Shetland Islands and Western isles is on the "Avoid" list, due to chemicals, especially in Chile, as well as escapes in Norway and Scotland risking the genetic composition and fitness of wild, native salmon populations.

"Our land-based fish can go to markets by truck, not by air or by ship, which reduces cost," Stotish said. "Depending on the price of jet fuel, it can be $1 or $2 per kilo. We can ship to Pittsburgh or Chicago, by comparison, for 10 cents per kilo, and it’s fresher, because it’s harvested, processed and shipped, not sitting in a terminal, not flying 3,200 nautical miles, not sitting in customs. Those fish are a week old or more before they even get to the distribution point."

Referring to his education and career, Stotish calls himself "a product of the pharmaceutical industry," having worked in a variety of positions at Merck, American Cyanamid, and American Home Products, which became Wyeth, which was purchased by Pfizer, for about 30 years before entering the biotech industry.

He joined AquaBounty in 2006. "They wanted someone who had experience in developing products and gaining registration in regulatory authorities," Stotish said. "I have registered hundreds of products around the world, basically animal drugs. I took this job because this was the challenge: There were no GE animals that were approved. There wasn’t even a regulatory pathway for them."

"Once people realize this is the same food they’ve always eaten, identical to traditional food, and that a lot of concern is overstated … things will become much less interesting and view us as one more food they purchase and enjoy," Stotish said.

Asked to explain the genetic engineering involved in AquAdvantage Salmon and the involvement of the ocean pout, Stotish said, "It’s a salmon growth hormone. People get all wired about the promoter from the ocean pout. That’s just a tiny little sequence that tells the gene to be transcribed into messenger RNA to make protein for the growth hormone.

"If, for instance, most people are familiar with dwarfs, people of short stature, those are growth hormone deficiencies, usually pituitary deficiencies, and they can be treated by administering growth hormones, which in all vertebrates regulate the growth of skeletal, muscle and bone to achieve normal body size. In all species, if you augment that GH level, you can increase the growth rate …"