Conservation group urge N.L. authorties to reassess Mowi-owned Indian Head hatchery expansion after mass mortality

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The Atlantic Salmon Federation urge Newfoundland and Labrador Environment Minister Derrick Bragg to restart the environmental assessment process for the hatchery, which aims to boost annual smolt production from 4.5 million to 6.7 million. Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA) Executive director says move “doesn’t make a whole lot of sense”.

In a press release and a news conference on Thursday, conservation group the ASF asked the Minister to reject Mowi’s proposal and require the company to submit a new plan that includes a description of sea-cages that will receive the additional smolt.

Indian Head hatchery
In July 2018, Northern Harvest Smolt, which is owned by Mowi, submitted a proposal to the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment to expand the Indian Head hatchery near Stephenville from an annual production capacity of 4.5 million to 6.7 million smolt.

The Indian Head Hatchery, Stephenville, Newfoundland, Canada, provides smolt to sea cages of the Northern Harvest Sea Farms, which is now owned by Mowi – after it bought the company for USD 248m last year. The company came with its own broodstock, smolt hatchery, farming sites and processing operations

Additional salmon
“Documents show Mowi is planning to add 2.2 million additional salmon into its existing sea-cages on the south coast of Newfoundland,” said Dr. Steve Sutton, ASF Director of Community Engagement. “This means stocking more fish in the same area, even the same cages, affected by the recent mass mortality event, and doing so without any public environmental assessment.”

In the press release and at a news conference, ASF requested that a new project description include information about the location, age, condition, performance, and existing environmental impacts of the sea-cage sites involved.

In September 2018, the Indian Head hatchery expansion was given the green light by then Environment Minister Andrew Parsons.

In April 2019, Ecojustice filed a lawsuit to stop the expansion of the Indian Head Hatchery filing for judicial review in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Greig
“There are so many similarities between the facts of the Mowi case and the Grieg case in Placentia Bay,” said Steve Sutton. ASF’s court challenge of the Greig’s Placentia Bay USD 250 million salmon required the government to prepare an environmental impact statement on the project.

“In the Grieg case it was a requirement for the hatchery and sea cages to be described together, and despite the repeated efforts of the provincial government to avoid a full environmental assessment, the court ordered it, calling it nothing less than ‘a duty owed to the people of the province,’” said Sutton.

“Given the recent mass mortality event and Mowi’s admission that the existing sea cages are obsolete and contributed to the die-off, it is unconscionable that the government and Mowi will go to court and use public money in defence of the Minister’s decision to allow increased stocking of these cages without any environmental assessment”.

“ASF is asking Environment Minister Derrick Bragg and Mowi to do the right thing and press reset on the environmental assessment of this planned expansion before a court hearing scheduled for November 6th,” he added.

Repeat on already approved sites
Executive director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA) Mark Lane attended the conference and told CBC reporters that it the move was unrealistic.

“What I think they’re asking for is a repeat of environmental assessments on already approved sites, which really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’m not sure what you would achieve by doing that,” said Lane. “We need to stand behind the hard-working farmers that we have on the south coast. This is all these communities have,” he added.