Tag Archives: technology

Recycling your old iPhones… with salmon semen

This story was too weird to pass up:

“Japanese scientists have discovered that salmon semen from industrial fish farms could help to recycle rare earth metals.

Researchers led by Yoshio Takahashi from the University of Tokyo, found that salmon semen, known as milt, can be used in a process to extract certain rare earth elements that are used in products such as catalysts, alloys, magnets, optics, lasers and notably mobile phones.”

Only from Japan: salmon semen can help recycle electronics. Apparently.
Only from Japan: salmon semen can help recycle electronics. Apparently.

Apparently the semen, known as milt, “has the capacity to bind to positively charged ion material” making it a potential replacement for many caustic and dangerous chemicals currently used in the electronics recycling process.

The craziest part about this story is that there is a huge source of material available.

According to the paper, “More than 10,000 tonnes per year of milt from salmon, trout and others have been discarded as industrial wastes from fishery industries in Hokkaido, Japan.”

Again that’s


BC salmon farms only raise about 70,000 tonnes of fish per year. There’s no way that there’s that much milt being used, let alone discarded, in BC. Japan doesn’t farm salmon on any significant scale, certainly not enough to produce that much milt.

This milt must be leftover from Japan’s massive “salmon ranching” aquaculture enhancement projects, which release more than 1 billion Pacific salmon from Hokkaido Island (referred to in this study) each year.

Cooke Aquaculture gets sued for alleged patent infringement

Cooke Aquaculture, which raises farmed Atlantic salmon on Canada’s east coast, is getting sued by MariCal Inc and Europharma for allegedly violating patents.

There isn’t a whole lot of information available right now, but the Bangor Daily News in Maine has a report:

“MariCal granted a license to Cooke Aquaculture to use processes under four MariCal patents, but the contract between the two companies expired in 2008, according to the lawsuit.

Each of the four legal counts — one for each patent — alleges that Cooke Aquaculture and its affiliated businesses have been and continue to infringe on the claims of the patents.

Europharma AS is the exclusive licensee of the rights to the four patents, according to the lawsuit, and Europharma Inc. is a sublicensee of those rights.”

We’ll be watching to see how this turns out.

Consortium plans to turn carbon dioxide emissions into aquaculture feed

Carbon dioxide emissions from oil refineries in Mongstad will be used to grow algae for fish feed
Carbon dioxide emissions from oil refineries in Mongstad will be used to grow algae for fish feed

By next year, a prototype facility should be operating in Norway which will use carbon dioxide from oil refineries to grow algae for fish feed.

The facility will be built by the CO2BIO consortium of companies, which includes feed manufacturers, salmon farmers, universities and investors.

The Norwegian government has also committed funds to the project.

Algae is a growing source of protein for fish feed manufacturers, who have drastically reduced the amount of protein from wild fisheries in their feed diets during the past decade.

Algae growing in pipes fed by carbon dioxide.
Algae growing in pipes fed by carbon dioxide.

NEWS SOURCE: Undercurrent News

No Fukushima radiation health risk from Canadian fish

The dangers of radiation from the Fukushima disaster have been greatly overblown thanks to things such as this image, which have wrongfully been used to represent radiation from Japan.
The dangers of radiation from the Fukushima disaster have been greatly overblown thanks to things such as this image, which have wrongfully been used to represent radiation from Japan.

A new study published this spring shows that there is no radioactive material from Fukushima in salmon and groundfish.

None of the fish samples analysed in this study contained any detectable levels of 134Cs and 137Cs under given experimental setting with a detection limit of ∼2 Bq kg−1. Fish (such as salmon and groundfish) from the Canadian west coast are of no health concern for both radiation contaminants and naturally occurring radionuclides.

As simulations predicted, in the near future, the radioactive water plume could reach the areas where these fish are rearing(1). Even in this case, it is expected that levels of radioactive contaminants in fish will remain well below Health Canada guidelines for food and likely still below the detection limit of a few Bq kg−1. Nonetheless, further monitoring of 134Cs and 137Cs, especially the long-lived 137Cs, in ocean water and seafood will help confirm these assessments and ensure public safety.

It’s safe to assume that farmed fish grown in the same waters also pose no health concern when it comes to Fukushima radiation.

Read the full study here.


In the ridiculous apologetics activists and their supporters use to explain why they are right in claiming ISA virus is in BC, one particularly odious claim keeps popping up.

This screed from Twyla Roscovich, Alexandra Morton’s new fiction writer and propagandist, lays out the claim:

Nearly every lab that doesn’t have direct ties with industry and the government seems to be able to find at least segments of the virus, while every lab that has a vested interest in not finding the virus can’t seem to detect it. It’s easy not to find this virus if you don’t want to.

Sorry, but this is bullshit. And like true propaganda, Twyla and Morton are banking on the hopes that you, dear readers, are not well-versed enough in science for your bullshitometers to be going off the charts whenever they talk.

We think you’re smart enough to think for yourselves, and do a little research, which shows that CFIA’s lab has found ISA virus 10 times already this year. Clearly CFIA has no problems testing for this virus, finding the virus and verifying suspected findings of the virus. If the lab can find the virus in Eastern Canada, there’s no reason why it couldn’t find it in BC.

But wait, they’ve got an explanation for that too. It’s some convoluted conspiracy theory about protecting trade. Which is stupid, because the East Coast salmon farming industry is almost as big as BC; the East Coast industry is ISA-positive; and the East Coast industry has no problems selling fish to the USA. And let’s not forget that ISA virus poses an even greater threat to wild salmon stocks on the East Coast than it ever would here, because wild Atlantic stocks on the East Coast have been so badly overfished they are endangered.

Showing their ignorance

Beyond conspiracy theories, Twyla attempts to peddle Morton’s weak scientific explanation.

In order for the CFIA to officially “confirm” ISA in B.C., it requires a high standard of proof called “virus isolation”. This means catching the virus alive and culturing it in a petri dish.


No. That’s not how it works. You cannot culture a virus. If a lab gets a positive result in the initial virus test, what they do to confirm it is put the suspected virus in a cell culture. If the virus kills the cells, then you’ve got something. Alternatively, the lab can try and see if they can detect the entire sequence of the suspected virus to see if it actually is the one they think it is.

This is the same standard every lab testing for ISA in the world follows to confirm whether or not the virus is actually present. It’s called responsible science.

Twyla continues with a false statement.

The only way this requirement of proof has ever been fulfilled is during an active disease outbreak on a farm where the fresh sample of a dying Atlantic salmon could be rushed to a lab very quickly. It has never been successful with wild fish anywhere in the world.

False, false, false. Learn to Google, Twyla. While it is difficult to find wild fish infected with ISA virus, because a fish that gets sick would likely die and disappear, it has been done. In this study, 142 sea trout and wild Atlantic salmon were collected over four years from five Norwegian rivers and one fjord, and tested for ISA. The rate of infection ranged from 13 to 100 per cent, depending on the year and collection river.

The study shows that there is very likely a natural reservoir of ISA virus in the ocean, since there were no active farms near the collection rivers during several years of sampling.

As well, the study makes a most interesting statement:

“None of the fish showed any clinical signs of ISA.”

That’s right. None of the ISA virus-positive wild fish collected were sick with the ISA disease.

That doesn’t mean wild fish don’t get sick and die from this virus. But it does mean that wild fish can carry this virus without getting sick. Which takes a lot away from the hysterical apocalypse Twyla and Morton are trying to sell us.

Virus testing basics

Twyla continues with statements showing she and Morton understand nothing about virus testing.

If you use a PCR test that only reports an exact match as a “positive”, you could easily miss the virus, since even a slight change will make it “invisible” to a probe that is looking for an exact sequence. Kibenge’s lab was using a technique that was reading the sequences of the virus, rather than just using a probe that only reports an exact match of a very specific sequence. So he was able to pick up on viral sequences that contained slight variations of the virus, as well as fragments.

No. That’s not how it works. Kibenge’s lab is not more special than other labs testing for this virus. His testing methods and techniques were pretty much the same as everyone else’s.

PCR virus testing basically works by taking a probe (an artificially-created segment of RNA or DNA), running it over a sample and trying to get related segments of virus to “stick” to it. If you can make this happen, your sample might just contain the virus you’re looking for.

Different labs may use different probes, and may search for different segments of virus. But the entire point of PCR testing is that you look for sequences of virus that are specific to the virus. RNA sequences can be shared between different viruses. Looking for segments which are not specific to the virus you are looking for is pointless. “Slight variations” and “fragments” of the virus are meaningless, if you have no idea whether or not they are common to some of the trillions of other viruses out there that no one tests for.

As well, the testing machine runs cycles, replicating the material in the original sample, creating more and more of the virus RNA to “stick” to the probe. The more cycles you have to run to get a positive hit, the weaker the result. All of the test results Twyla and Morton claim as “positive” proof of the virus came after many cycles, and could not be replicated. None of the scientists who did the tests will claim these results are proof of anything, other than that perhaps they have detected something with similarities to the ISA virus.

Twyla makes a particular ridiculous claim, which appears elsewhere in Morton’s comments, which makes no sense to anyone who actually does PCR testing for a living.

The problem is with detecting ISA virus is as soon as a fish dies, the virus begins to “shatter”. Often only segments of the viral sequence can be detected by the time a sample gets shipped to a lab. Probes that the CFIA labs are using will only detect exact matches for certain sequences.

No. In poor-quality samples (such as all of the samples Morton has submitted for testing), the virus may have degraded in quality, but it’s not like it breaks into pieces and disappears. If a fish is truly infected with ISA virus, even in low levels, it’s highly unlikely that only the segments you are looking for will be undetectable. However, if you have a poor-quality sample (as all of Morton’s samples have been), the chances of the probe picking up degraded bits of the wrong segments of virus are higher, which results in false positives.

And again, ALL PCR probes work like that: they look for a match for a certain sequence of virus. That’s the whole point.

Follow-up is essential

Neanderthal or human? You’re not likely going to know just by sequencing the DNA, since human and Neanderthal DNA is 99.7 per cent identical. Follow-up tests and contextual information are critical.

Even if you get a positive in PCR testing, unless it is exceptionally strong, more testing is required to confirm it. For example, Neanderthals and modern humans have DNA that is 99.7 per cent identical. However, they are very different species. If you found a piece of old bone and tested it, and found that it was 99.7 per cent identical to Neanderthal DNA, you could not definitively state you had found evidence of a Neanderthal until you did more research. Where was the bone found? How old is it? Could it have been contaminated? Humans and Neanderthals have different bone structure, does this show evidence of those differences? Is there any supporting evidence near where the bone was found?

Science isn’t an easy-bake oven, as Twyla and Morton seem to think. You don’t just pop in your sample, and bing, out comes your fully-cooked proof of ISA virus. That’s why the follow-up tests, which they scorn, are so important.

“So why don’t you just give good quality samples to Morton to test, if you’ve got nothing to hide?”

We’re not the BCSFA and can’t speak for them. But why would we give our fish to people who have made it their life mission to shut down our farms? They have shown no scientific integrity. They have misrepresented the truth, been caught in lies, and shown they will say anything to advance their agendas.

If you’ve got a neighbour who complains constantly about your dog, even though the bylaw officer has investigated and found no problems, would you leave your dog with that neighbour while you go on vacation?

DFO takes thousands of samples from fish which die in pens each year and tests them for ISA. This has been done since 2003. None of these samples have ever shown evidence of ISA. But that’s not good enough for Twyla and Morton. That’s why they have to concoct ridiculous conspiracy theories to explain why no one but them can “find” the virus.

Let’s apply an ancient scientific principle here: Occam’s Razor. Since Twyla and Morton and their friends are the only ones claiming they have “found” ISA virus in BC, and since they have to resort to ludicrous explanations as to why, it is highly probable that they are simply wrong, but just can’t admit it.

Their apologetics, poor-quality data, lies, manipulation of data and conspiracy theories take them out of the realm of science and integrity. Believe their claims at your own risk.

Salmon aquaculture in 2050: We can do better than today

Aquaculture in the ocean is going to be a big part of feeding people 37 years from now, and while it’s made a lot of positive improvements, there’s room to do better.

That’s the conclusion which came out of a 2011 workshop involving expert scientists in fisheries, aquaculture and microbiology. The scientists, from Canada, the USA, the Netherlands and the United Nations, published their conclusions in a paper this year titled “Responsible Aquaculture in 2050: Valuing Local Conditions and Human Innovations Will Be Key to Success.”

Its conclusions are clear.

As aquaculture production expands, we must avoid mistakes made during increasing intensification of agriculture. Understanding environmental impacts and measures to mitigate them is important for designing responsible aquaculture production systems.

There are four realistic goals that can make future aquaculture operations more sustainable and productive:

  1. improvement of management practices to create more efficient and diverse systems at every production level;
  2. emphasis on local decisionmaking, human capacity development, and collective action to generate productive aquaculture systems that fit into societal constraints and demands;
  3. development of risk management efforts for all systems that reduce disease problems, eliminate antibiotic and drug abuse, and prevent exotic organism introduction into local waters; and
  4. creation of systems to better identify more sustainably grown aquaculture products in the market and promote them to individual consumers.

By 2050, seafood will be predominantly sourced through aquaculture, including not only finfish and invertebrates but also seaweeds.

Aquaculture is here to stay, and we have the unique opportunity and foresight to get it as “right” as we possibly can.

And sorry, “just putting it on land” is probably not the best solution. The scientists warn that there are environmental consequences of “closed” land-based systems, such as increased energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

In their LCA [Life Cycle Analysis] of alternative aquaculture technologies, Ayer and Tyedmers (2009) warned that we could be shifting—not alleviating—environmental impacts by reducing local impacts but increasing material and energy demands. This shift may result in significantly increased contributions to several environmental impacts of global concern, including global warming, nonrenewable resource depletion, and acidification.

They also point out that there is limited land for expansion of agriculture in general, which would make it difficult to find suitable places for large-scale on-land fish farms. They make it clear that expanding aquaculture in coastal and inland waters is going to be a key part of the future.

IMTA system
Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture Systems could someday be the standard for salmon farming, reducing environmental impacts while also producing other seafood species.

And the scientists acknowledge that some of today’s fish farmers are already ahead of the game, working to improve their practices in significant ways.

Many of the environmental impacts of aquaculture are being effectively addressed by improvements in management. For example, the reliance on fish meal in feeds has been reduced to 15% for many carnivorous species by replacement with plant-based proteins or other feed sources (Naylor et al. 2009)—a change made in response to environmental and economic concerns.

This has been driven largely by salmon farmers worldwide, who have committed to continually reducing the amount of fishmeal and oil in feed over the past decade. And their reliance on wild fish for feed continues to drop.

Of course, there are many ways all fish farmers can improve, and the scientists in this paper offer hope that it is feasible and practical to have aquaculture worldwide by 2050 that is sustainable while playing a crucial role in feeding the world.

Sockeye farm makes a splash

A farmer in Langley has managed to raise sockeye in tanks to 1.5 kilograms and plans to sell them in local stores.

Way back in the early days of salmon farming in B.C. farmers experimented with growing practically every kind of fish.

During the first salmon farming “gold rush” in the 1970s and 1980s, hundreds of people saw dollar signs and thought they could make a fortune by throwing some fish in an old fishing net and tossing feed at them. There were some successes, but there were a lot more failures, as the old-timers will tell you.

One big set of failures were the attempts to grow sockeye to market size in net pens.

It didn’t work out very well; sockeye are highly susceptible to disease. This is simply a fact farmers and enhancement facilities have encountered when they have tried to culture sockeye. In salmon enhancement facilities in Alaska, where they raise hundreds of millions of sockeye to smolt size and then release them, nearly half of the cultured fish routinely died from IHN virus and other diseases in the 1990s, before hatcheries were finally able to get a better handle on biosecurity.

Other attempts to grow sockeye bigger than smolt size have met with dismal failure.

Today, only Atlantic salmon and some Chinook salmon are raised in ocean pens, because of the farming expertise that has been developed for those species as well as the high-quality broodstock that has been developed to pass on farm-friendly genetics from generation to generation.

Because it’s the dominant salmon in the marketplace, many people have tried (and failed) to grow Atlantic salmon in tanks to market size.

But not everyone’s given up on sockeye.

One farmer in Langley has managed to raise sockeye in tanks to 1.5 kilograms and has the capacity to produce 25 tonnes of sockeye and trout per year. This is very interesting and encouraging and any good news story about salmon farming is good for all salmon farmers. There is a photo gallery posted with the story that gives a good look at his farm and his fish.

There is one small problem with the story, however.

This is not the “world’s first land-based” sockeye farm.

Way back even before salmon farming caught on, back in 1974, J.R. Brett at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo did extensive experiments with growing sockeye salmon in tanks. His research showed something that all salmon farmers have to struggle with — the bigger the fish get, the slower they grow and the more feed they eat. This is something all salmon farmers, in the sea and on land, still have to deal with.

We will be watching this Langley farm with interest and wish Don Read all the best as he works to make this a viable business.