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Marine Harvest Canada is investing in new net-cleaning technology after discontinuing the use of copper-treated nets at its salmon farms in British Columbia.

This new method of cleaning -- called remote operated net cleaners (RONCs) -- uses high pressure water and scrubbing discs to remove organics that naturally grow on net pens that contain farm-raised salmon.

Since November, the Canadian division of Marine Harvest, based in Bergen, Norway, has purchased twelve RONCs for a total investment of more than CAD 2.1 million and is now purchasing and modifying five boats to add to its existing fleet.

By continuing to push the application of new technologies in net cleaning, Marine Harvest will stay ahead of the strict environmental requirements for its third-party certification programs, including the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s salmon standard, it said, in press release.

“We had been on course to eliminate copper treated nets before we committed to full certification of all farm sites by 2020. The ASC standard reinforces that we were on the right track,” said Dougie Hunter, Marine Harvest Canada’s production director.

The RONCs are housed on a support vessel which moors alongside salmon farm cages to pressure wash nets without having to disturb any fish or infrastructure.

The key piece of technology is a five or seven disc net cleaning head manufactured in Norway by multi pump innovation. This system is operated from a boat mounted control station. The RONC is equipped with two bidirectional rubber tracks, a monochrome/colour pan and tilt camera and LED lights.

The RONC operator sits in the control chair and uses two joysticks to direct the cleaning head over the underwater net, removing algae, seaweed and any other built up organic matter.