Tank-raised Atlantic salmon heads to off-Island stores

Kuterra Atlantic salmon raised by the ‘Namgis First Nation in above-ground tanks on northern Vancouver Island are going on sale off-Island in Safeway stores in B.C. and Alberta starting this week.

“It is really, really encouraging to get to this day and know that people are wanting to buy our fish through Safeway and Albion Fisheries, our marketing arm,” ‘Namgis Chief Bill Cranmer said Tuesday.

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The salmon will not be immediately available on Vancouver Island because Safeway recently closed its stores here.

Cranmer said the on-land recirculating tank system near Port McNeill is the start of a growing business for his community and a model that other First Nations will adopt as well.

“It, of course, means a great deal to us because of our work in trying to protect the environment,” he said from Richmond at the Kuterra launch.

Kuterra salmon has a “distinct taste,” Cranmer said. “It tastes more like a trout to me. It’s kind of like a buttery taste.”

Salmon will be harvested every two weeks, Cranmer said.

“Hopefully, we will be able to put in another module which will bring us to probably 1,000 tonnes annually. We’re getting all the bugs out of this first module and we know it will work.”

The fish are branded as Kuterra. “Ku” refers to Kutala, which means salmon in Kwak'wala, and Terra represents the land-raised aspect of the project.

Smolts went into tanks at the $9.5-million ‘Namgis Closed Containment Salmon Farm in March 2013. The ‘Namgis First Nation is striving to be a leader in sustainable, land-based aquaculture.

Albion Fisheries is processing the salmon at its Richmond plant. Kuterra will be offered in 140 Safeway stores, said Safeway spokeswoman Renée Hopfner.

It is being sold in fillets for $3.99 per 100 grams, she said.

The salmon farm is the latest economic initiative by the ‘Namgis First Nation based at Alert Bay on Cormorant Island off northeast Vancouver Island. ‘Namgis lands stretch to Vancouver Island. The ‘Namgis Nation and Brookfield Renewable Power are partners in Kwagis Power, a $200-million Kokish River run-of-river hydroelectric project, near Port McNeill.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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