Province must launch independent investigation into massive fish die-off: NDP



For immediate release

October 9, 2019

Province must launch independent investigation into massive fish die-off: NDP


“It’s time for Minister Byrne to show real leadership in light of the massive fish die-off in the aquaculture project on the province’s South Coast,” said Jim Dinn, NDP Critic for Fisheries and the Environment. “Recent comments by the Minister and a willingness to invite BC aquaculture to NL has caused a loss of trust.”


In a letter to Minister Byrne today, Dinn calls on the Minister to immediately launch an independent investigation into the massive salmon die-off at the MOWI/Northern Harvest sea pens on the South Coast. The NDP Caucus proposes that the investigation be carried out by Environment and Climate Change Canada or an arms-length environmental consulting firm paid for by MOWI/Northern Harvest.


“The enormity of the disaster, the long delay by the company and the Minister in reporting it, and the lack of information demand clear answers and measures to ensure this catastrophe is not repeated,” said Jim Dinn. “It has become painfully clear that the provincial government and MOWI/Northern Harvest cannot be trusted to be good stewards of farmed salmon or our marine environment.”


The independent investigation would be tasked with investigating all operational and environmental factors contributing to the die-off; assessing the veracity of the company’s claim that it was simply related to water temperature; establishing a timeline of events, including when the die-off began, who was informed and when, and what actions were taken and when; carrying out an analysis of the impact of this event on the marine environment, wild Atlantic salmon, and other species; assessing the economic impact on plant workers and wild fish harvesters; and making recommendations to prevent such an event from happening again, including options for transitioning to closed containment operations.


Dinn says he would like to see the results of this investigation feed into a comprehensive review and overhaul of the legislation, regulations, and codes governing aquaculture, as called for by the NDP Caucus in a recent news release.


Until this investigation is completed and changes are made, the NDP insists that MOWI/Northern Harvest should not be permitted to restock the affected cages, and until an independent review and updating of aquaculture legislation is completed, there should be no further expansion of open sea pen finfish aquaculture in the coastal waters of Newfoundland and Labrador.


“It is important that the province demonstrate leadership and due diligence in strengthening its aquaculture legislation and enforcement, or risk having the federal government do it for us,” Dinn said.


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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.



Here is a copy of the letter sent to the Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources by MHA Jim Dinn:


Hon. Gerry Byrne

Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources

Petten Building, P.O. Box 8700

St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6 Oct. 9, 2019


Oct. 9, 2019


Dear Minister Byrne:


In light of the massive fish die-off at the MOWI/Northern Harvest Aquaculture cages on the South Coast, we call on you to immediately launch an independent investigation into this environmental disaster.


We propose that the investigation be carried out by Environment and Climate Change Canada or an arms-length environmental consulting firm paid for by MOWI/Northern Harvest.


Recent events have shaken public confidence in the environmental sustainability of open-net salmon aquaculture and the ability of the provincial government and the operators to manage it.

The delay in reporting the event, the fact that it came from the President of the FFAW rather than you as the Minister responsible, or from MOWI/Northern Harvest, and the fact that so many questions remain unanswered, are evidence that such an investigation is essential if we are to restore public trust and ensure the sustainability of the industry.


We would like this independent investigation to do the following:

  • Investigate all operational and environmental factors contributing to the die-off;

  • Assess the veracity of the company’s claim that it was simply related to water temperature;

  • Establish a timeline of events, including when the die-off began, who was informed and when, and what actions were taken and when;

  • Carry out an analysis of the impact of this event on the marine environment, wild Atlantic salmon, and other species;

  • Assess the economic impact on plant workers and wild fish harvesters; and

  • Make recommendations to prevent such an event from happening again, including options for transitioning to closed containment operations.

In addition, we would like to see the results of this investigation feed into a comprehensive review and overhaul of the legislation, regulations, and codes governing aquaculture to ensure that the industry is environmentally and economically sustainable and fully accountable to the public. We have recently called for such a comprehensive review.


Given that all four federal political parties have recently acknowledged the serious environmental impacts associated with open net pen finfish aquaculture, and the need for quick and decisive action to address those impacts, it is important that the Province demonstrate leadership and due diligence in strengthening its aquaculture legislation and enforcement, or risk having the federal government do it for us.


Until the above noted investigation is completed and changes are made, MOWI/Northern Harvest should not be permitted to restock the affected cages.


Furthermore, until an independent review and updating of aquaculture legislation and enforcement is completed, there should be no further expansion of open sea pen finfish aquaculture in the coastal waters of Newfoundland and Labrador.


It is crucial for the Province, and the Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, to demonstrate clear leadership in protecting the marine environment, wild Atlantic salmon populations, and wild commercial fisheries in our province.


I look forward to your response. I would also like to meet with you at your convenience to discuss this letter and other matters related to this important topic.


Sincerely,







James Dinn, M.H.A., St. John’s Centre

cc. Hon. Derrick Bragg, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment

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