File photo of a fish farm.

File photo of a fish farm.

Union Bay resident advocates open ocean ranching of salmon

Michael Thurber of Union Bay is proposing a new industry in salmon farming commercially that he claims will out-produce net pen (sea cage) feedlots. Open ocean ranching of salmon, he says, is environmentally positive and is the “proper way to raise salmon on the Pacific coast.”

His business would create a new run of salmon, alongside a stream bed. By setting up corrals in intertidal and non-tidal waters, he would release fish to run with the wild stock, and thereby have a greater chance of survival.

“My fish are going to be conditioned to come back to me,” said Thurber, who works at Baynes Sound Oysters. “I’m going to open my gate just like a sheep farmer, and my sheep are going to be coming in. My fish are worth more to me for the eggs than they are for the meat.”

Thurber would like to introduce salmon farming in Baynes Sound, but has other sites picked out along the coast, having conducted surveys the last 20 years.

“This is going to be a new industry because I’m releasing billions of fish into the water that are going to be coming back. There is going to be commercial fishing on my fish.”

He said it’s a new way of thinking of environment protection and salmon on a commercial level. He added that government-sponsored hatcheries are not towing the line.

Thurber hopes to operate locally, but his business idea requires about $400 million. He is borrowing $30 million from an associate in New York City.

“Funding is on its way,” said Thurber, who appealed for money for an oyster hatchery business in a 2014 episode of the Dragons’ Den. The dragons, however, turned him down.

“The farm design is one of my patent applications,” he said. “Nobody’s ever thought of farming salmon this way. This is the proper way to farm salmon. Doing it this way protects the wild stocks without introducing outside genetics.”

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