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Catastrophic Infrastructure Failure Releases Thousands of Fish - Could It Have Been Prevented?

Sam Macdonald   |   September 8, 2017

After thousands of salmon escape into the Pacific caused by a catastrophic infrastructure failure, we take a look at how regular inspection and maintenance could have prevented an issue like this.

Salmon Escape into the Pacific

In August, near Cypress Island in Washington State - a massive pen collapsed at an aquaculture farm causing the release of thousands of Atlantic Salmon into the Pacific Ocean. Originally estimated at 4,000-5,000 escapees, the recent cleanup activity of the First Nation Lummi's, indicate that the number could be significantly higher than early predictions. Exact causes of the collapse have not been released, but it begs the question, with current subsea inspection technology, are these types of events preventable?

Regular Inspections using Affordable Underwater Drones


Now more than ever before, systematic inspections of net pens can be easily conducted using cost effective remote operated vehicles (ROVs) also known as underwater drones. For less than $5,000 USD there is an effective method to conduct regular inspections for preventative maintenance - a small cost that far outweighs the financial, environmental and social costs that can be avoided with regular subsurface asset observation.

Sustainable Food Source

As wild stocks diminish, farmed fish have become an important source of the world’s protein. In order for aquaculture sites to continue to be viable, sustainable, and environmentally healthy global food sources, strict inspection regimens will need to implemented and adhered too, and the risk of infrastructure failure minimized.

Marine Harvest Canada, located in British Columbia, Canada, currently operates a fleet of Deep Trekker ROVs, to conduct imperative subsurface checks. Since 90% of a farm is completely under the water, the only way to ensure that the site is intact is either by diving or by underwater robotic inspection.

aquaculture escape prevention

Sending commercial divers below the surface is inherently dangerous and conducting human inspections can be a costly endeavor. In order to systematically ensure the inspection of key assets, Marine Harvest is deploying their ROVs on a regular basis; to verify the health of fish stocks, detect potential infrastructure failures early, and schedule required maintenance in a timely and cost effective fashion.

Aqua-Cage Canada, an aquaculture farm located in Parry Sound, Ontario is utilizing a Deep Trekker DTG2 Smart ROV to conduct regular and ongoing inspections. Kana Upton, the on-site biologist and manager advised, "some of the tasks we use the ROV for have included - routinely checking the fish nets for holes, monitoring fish behavior and health, visual inspections of mooring lines and anchors, monitoring feeding, and checking cage depths – as we want to ensure we are never touching the bottom".

Aquaculture Industry Standard for Inspections

Deep Trekker ROV’s are becoming the industry standard in aquaculture for regular and crucial inspections and maintenance related tasks in a timely and cost effective fashion. The results of this kind of constant monitoring have helped keep farms in compliance with government regulations around the world, have proven to reduce fishery escapes, and have assisted in negating potential catastrophic events like the unfortunate salmon escape at Cooke Aquaculture.

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