N.L. reinstates aquaculture licences after 2019 mass salmon die-off

Pink residue is disposed into Fortune Bay in southern Newfoundland on Oct. 2 as part of a cleanup following salmon deaths at a fish farm last month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Atlantic Salmon Federation

Newfoundland and Labrador has reinstated aquaculture licences at southern Newfoundland sites where 2.6 million salmon died in sea pens last year.

Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne suspended licenses at 10 sites owned by Northern Harvest Sea Farms sites in October after the company failed to disclose full and timely information about the mass mortality event.

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The licenses were reinstated after reviews by Memorial University’s Marine Institute and MAMKA, a marine management partnership between two Newfoundland Indigenous groups.

The Marine Institute concluded that unusual evironmental conditions, including high water temperatures over several days and low oxygen, were responsible for the salmon deaths.

Images of the messy cleanup around the pens and slow public disclosure of information prompted environmental and regulatory concerns about aquaculture in the province.

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READ MORE: Salmon residue still coating environment around sites of N.L. farmed fish deaths

The department says MOWI, which owns Northern Harvest Sea Farms, is preparing for future events by looking into deeper nets, developing contingency plans to improve response times and updating its waste and environment management plans, among other measures.

The provincial government has updated its aquaculture policy to compel companies to publicly disclose disease and abornomal mortality events in a timely manner.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2020.

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