Newfoundland Fisheries Minister says he couldn’t publicly disclose mortality numbers because of regulations – which he has now changed

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“They were reluctant to do so to the general public. I can tell you right now, they are not going to have that option any more because I’ve changed the regulations”.

On NTV’s Issues & Answers, NL Fisheries Minster Gerry Byrne said despite being informed on the third of September about the Northern Harvest/Mowi incident, he had didn’t have the authority to publicly disclose the mass mortalities.

2.6 million fish (approximately 5,000 tonnes of salmon) are expected to be removed as mortalities from sites affected by the temperature event by the end of the week in Newfoundland, Eastern Canada, Mowi Canada East Managing Director Jamie Gaskill reported on Saturday.

Recordable disease events
“I didn’t have the authority. There are certain things called the Privacy Act in the country and this province and under the terms and conditions, the licence that was written by the fisheries minister at the time, the disclosure that was required is for recordable disease events,” said Byrne.

He said that as this was a natural environmental mortality so he asked the company to voluntarily disclose everything they could at the time. Bryne said that Northern Harvest did come forward and provide information to mayors and communities in the region as well as the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union but he wanted to to go further. “They (Northern Harvest) were reluctant to do so to the general public. I can tell you right now, they are not going to have that option any more because I’ve changed the regulations”.

Bryne said he had now changed the regulations and procedures to make salmon farmers under a natural mortality event to have to disclose numbers.

“You don’t know what you don’t know”
He added that he pushed Northern Harvest/Mowi but was that “there lots of fish that were still alive in the pens”. Defending, he said that “the company were asked to invent a number, but you don’t know what you don’t know”.

On Friday, NL fisheries minister Gerry Byrne announced that he has suspended all of Mowi-owned Northern Harvest Seafarms’ licences.

He added that Marine Institue Memorial Institute and Environment Canada are going to investigate if there is an environmental impact.

He added that the investigation had to be “based on science” and highlighted that “wild commercial harvests put upwards of 130,000 MT of fish offal into landfills or into the ocean”.

Too many connections
However, National Democratic Party (NDP) politician Jim Dinn for St. John’s Centre, posted that Marine Institue Memorial Institute was not independent enough.

“Again, there are too many connections to the aquaculture industry for the Marine Institute to be considered an independent and arms-length investigator of the die-off. The Minister is not demonstrating the leadership required to handle this debacle. It’s critical that the Premier step in, take action, and restore public trust in government’s ability to protect the marine environment and regulate a sustainable aquaculture industry,” he wrote in a press release.

SalmonBusiness has contacted NL authorities to confirm Bryne’s claim that he changed the province’s regulations and procedures.