NDP questions if privacy legislation actually prevented Minister from releasing information



For immediate release

October 25, 2019

NDP questions if privacy legislation actually prevented Minister from releasing information on salmon die-off


“So many questions around the salmon die-off at the Northern Harvest/Mowi farms on the south coast remain unanswered,” said NDP Critic for Fisheries and the Environment Jim Dinn, “and we don’t appear to be any nearer to the truth as to what happened.”


“It’s become very difficult to have trust in those who are supposed to regulate the industry,” Dinn went on to say. Dinn says that mistrust starts with Minister Byrne, who said nothing to the public about the die-off for three weeks after he was first made aware of the disaster, and then only because the President of the FFAW took the initiative to inform the public.


On the October 13, 2019 episode of NTV’s Issues and Answers, Minister Byrne stated:


“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 license that was written by the fisheries minister at the time, the disclosure that was required is for recordable disease events.”


Dinn has written a letter to the Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael Harvey asking him to verify whether or not Minister Byrne was prevented by privacy legislation from publicly reporting the die-off.


“I’ve written to the Commissioner to inquire if there is anything in the ATIPPA that would have legitimately prevented Minister Byrne from proactively releasing such information,” said Dinn. “We also seek clarification on whether or not the Minister had a responsibility to report the event under the Privacy Act.”


Dinn says rather than preventing the Minister from disclosing, he is of the view that ATIPPA section 9.(3) may have obligated the Minister to disclose the die-off given the environmental and potentially economic seriousness of the incident.


“If we are going to restore trust in the province’s aquaculture industry and make it truly environmentally sustainable, then we need to get to the truth, and that starts with Minister Byrne – the person responsible for looking after the interests of the people of our province,” said Dinn.


Dinn’s letter to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is attached.


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For further information, contact Zaren Healey White, Director of Communications, NDP Caucus at 729-2137 (office), 693-9172 (cell), or zarenhealeywhite@gov.nl.ca.



Michael Harvey

Information and Privacy Commissioner

P.O. Box 13004, Station “A”

St. John’s, NL


October 24, 2019


Dear Commissioner Harvey,


I am requesting assistance from your Office so that I can better understand and assess certain comments recently made by Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne in relation to the massive salmon mortality or die-off at the Northern Harvest/ MOWI sea pens on the South Coast of Newfoundland.


On the October 13, 2019, episode of NTV’s Issues and Answers, interviewer Michael Connors asked the Minister why he didn’t publicly report or acknowledge the event until after the FFAW made it public on September 23rd, despite being informed of the die-off by the company on September 3, 2019. In his reply, Minister Byrne stated:


“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 license that was written by the fisheries minister at the time, the disclosure that was required is for recordable disease events.”


Minister Byrne further claimed that since, in his opinion, it was a ‘natural environmental mortality’ he was prevented from reporting the incident and as such, ultimately asked the company to do so voluntarily.


I hope you will provide answers to the following questions:


  • Is Minister Byrne correct in asserting that our “Privacy Act” (ATIPPA) prevented him from releasing information related to this die-off?

  • Is there anything in the ATIPPA that would have legitimately prevented Minister Byrne from proactively releasing such information (note: as long as personally protected information was not also inadvertently released)?

  • With regard to the ATIPPA section 9.(3), was the Minister actually obligated to disclose this die-off information to the public, given the environmental and potentially economic seriousness of the incident? Was the Minister obligated to comply with the s.9.(3) provision?

  • Are you aware of any other legislation that may have prevented the Minister from disclosing this die-off information, and if yes, am I correct in understanding that the s.9.(3) provision—if it applies in this instance—would “trump” other limits present in other Acts regardless?


Thank you for your attention to and assistance with this matter. I look forward to your reply. If you need clarification or have questions about this request, please do not hesitate to contact me. As well, please find enclosed a number of recent media articles that will help you to understand the nature of this salmon die-off incident.


Sincerely,







James Dinn, M.H.A.

District of St. John’s Centre


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