The Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland has completed and released its report on the 2019 salmon mortality event at Northern Harvest Sea Farm’s aquaculture sites on the south coast.
The Marine Institute facilitated ‘A Review of the 2019 Newfoundland and Labrador South Coast Cultured Atlantic Salmon Mortality Event’ at the request of the Provincial Government in October, 2019. The review committee consisted of subject-matter experts from the Marine Institute’s Centre for Aquaculture and Seafood Development, the Atlantic Veterinary College of the University of Prince Edward Island, and the University of British Columbia. The full report is available here.
Consistent with the findings of the Aquatic Animal Health Division of Fisheries and Land Resources, the report concludes the cause of the salmon mortality event was an unusual set of natural environmental conditions – including prolonged high water temperatures over consecutive days, and low oxygen levels – and was not consistent with an infectious cause. The report provides a chronicle of factors that contributed to this event, including handling practices by the company that occurred during warm water temperatures. The report supports that the department properly followed and adhered to all required protocols.
The review committee offers recommendations to improve reporting of, and strengthen responses to, future mortality events, and to prevent or mitigate similar events from occurring in future.
The department has already enacted many of these recommendations through its aquaculture policy and regulation reform process, initiated in 2017, such as:
- Enacting strict requirements for companies to publicly report on escapes, mortality events, and incidents, including quarantine or depopulation orders;
- Implementing new policies and procedures requiring companies to submit incident management system information to the department and other agencies for review and approval to ensure effective reporting, hazard analysis and corrective action to prevent incidents; and
- Requiring all finfish operators, by October 2020, to implement extensive, detailed mitigation measures addressing and preventing mortality events including, but not limited to, deeper nets and aeration devices. Additionally, by January 2024 all marine cage systems will be required to be more robust and meet specific standards.
“I thank the external reviewers who participated in this thorough review of an extreme and unprecedented event in the history of our aquaculture industry. I am pleased to report that many of the recommendations outlined have already been adopted, or are currently underway, as part of our ongoing effort to update and strengthen Newfoundland and Labrador’s aquaculture policies and regulations. Our commitment to a strong, sustainable aquaculture industry regulated by the highest standards remains steadfast.”
Honourable Gerry Byrne
Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources
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Fisheries and Land Resources