Tree company blazes foods trail

Weyerhaeuser Company, better known for bringing lumber from the land, is turning more of its attention to bringing food from the water. Since 1972 the 72-year-old renewable-resource company has been an active participant in salmon ranching in Oregon. Now, it is expanding its aquaculture program into Brazil.

There, Weyerhaeuser is financing a major experiment in the raising of freshwater shrimp with an initial investment of $4 million to $6 million. In the long range, this project may involve an overall investment of $30 million, according to William A. Feldt, aquaculture manager.

The Brazilian enterprise is a direct outgrowth of a shrimp- farming program in Homestead, Fla. Even there, it was found, winter temperatures were too cold for successful shrimp raising.

Today, at the town of Macapa in Amapa Territory of Brazil, a 500-acre freshwater pond site is being developed on the Amazon, and company management "is very hopeful and even optimistic" about the future, Mr. Feldt said.

Brazil's Amapa Territory is also the site of shipping magnate Daniel K. Ludwig's multimillion-dollar food and fiber operation on the Jari River.

Mr. Feldt noted that a Brazilian site was chosen for the shrimp venture after various locations around the globe had been studied but passed over. The company is working closely with Brazilian officials and soon will form a joint venture with a Brazilian partner. Formation of the joint venture will mark the start of actual farming operations.

"Shrimp grow rapidly when temperatures are at 80 degrees F.," Mr. Feldt explained, adding that "there is a loss of about eight degrees of growth for each one degree dip in temperature."

Temperature losses should not be too great a problem, if any, at Macapa, which is only a few miles above the equator.

The University of Arizona has been engaged in shrimp raising for a number of years, using what is called the green- house method. Carried on at the university, in Tucson, and at Puerto Penasco, in northwestern Sonora, Mexico, the program has attracted the support of the Coca-Cola Company. As a result, plans have been announced for a full-sale commercial venture in Hawaii, using the Arizona system.

Mr. Feldt also indicated that "somewhere down the road" Weyerhaeuser aquaculturists may turn their attention to lobster farming. A pioneer in that type of farming is Aquaculture Enterprises of Monterey, Calif., which hopes to see positive results by the end of 1980.

Weyerhaeuser's $12 million Oregon salmon ranching effort includes a hatchery in Springfield and salmon release- and-recapture facilities at Newport and Coos Bay on the Pacific Coast. In 1980 some 11 million coho smolts are to be released to grow to maturity in the Pacific.

At the Springfield hatchery, on the McKenzie River, warm water from the company's adjacent paperboard plant is utilized to create the best possible growing conditions for the salmon smolts. For coho salmon the warm water means it only takes 6 months before the young fish can be released, instead of 18 months.

Weyerhaeuser's salmon ranching program developed after legislation was passed in 1971 by the Oregon Legislature making the state the only one on the Pacific Coast where private investment and hatchery operations for profit are allowed. In Washington state, only state hatcheries are permitted, except for Indian tribal operations under their treaty rights with the federal government. These tribal hatcheries, like others in Washington, are solely nonprofit.

In Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs began reservation hatchery operations in 1979.

For Weyerhaeuser's salmon activity the primary goal today is to become self-sufficient in its supply of eggs, the one resource without which there could be no salmon ranching.

Salmon ranching, however, is no American exclusive. On the Pacific Rim, the eastern Soviet Union, South Korea, Japan, as well as British Columbia are active in that field. Finland and Sweden, too, have extensive programs under way.

It is expected that juvenile salmon released from ranching facilities into the North Pacific will increase from 3 billion in 1980 to some 6 billion in 1990 .

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