On the Waterfront – June 2020

ISA Outbreak at Northern Harvest Smolt Facility

Northern Harvest Smolt Limited (NHSL) recently announced that the suspect detection of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) at its hatchery located in Stephenville, N.L. has been confirmed.

Follow-up sampling at the facility identified eight fish as positive for pathogenic ISA and six fish as positive for non-pathogenic ISA.

In response to this confirmation and in keeping with best practice, NHSL is culling all 450,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon that were raised with these positive fish. The investigation is continuing with further sampling.

The company said that should further fish be confirmed ISA positive through sampling, additional measures may be announced. All culled fish will be transported to a facility within the province that will convert these fish into biofuel. Post-cull, the facility will undergo a disinfecting process to ensure any presence of ISA is eradicated.

“An enhanced program of additional testing and monitoring will continue at the facility with the involvement of regulatory authorities after the cull. The facility will remain in a state of quarantine until the quarantine is lifted by regulatory authorities. The cull, disinfecting process and continued monitoring activity will be conducted per standard operating procedures approved by regulators,” NHSL explained.

“As noted previously, the suspect positive result was identified through our compliance with continuous testing protocols led by regulators. Per regulation, the suspect positive discovery was disclosed within 24 hours of detection, and in keeping with the industry’s focus on public disclosure, NHSL is now publicly announcing the ISA confirmation and our response. We remind that ISA is not a human health issue or a food safety issue.”

P.E.I. Shellfish Season Delayed to May 18

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has announced that the shellfish season on Prince Edward Island will not open now until May 18.

The shellfish season on P.E.I., which includes oysters, quahaugs and softshell clams, was scheduled to start on May 1.

The P.E.I. Shellfish Association said fishermen requested the delay because the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertain markets for luxury seafood products, with restaurants across North America closed.

DFO also recently announced that the lobster season (LFAs 23, 24 and 26) would be delayed in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence — scheduled to start now on May 15.

Alaska Sets New COVID-19 Requirements for Commercial Fishing Vessels

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy recently came out with strict requirements for commercial fishing vessels to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Crew members and captains fishing in Alaska will have to wear masks while traveling and go immediately to their quarantine location for two weeks. The new mandate also requires twice-a-day temperature checks once they are in Alaska.

Many fishermen will quarantine on their boat in the harbour. They also must fly a Lima black and yellow flag, to let others know the boat is in quarantine and limit interactions with other vessels, whether fishing or in port.

The order applies to fishing vessels and tenders who are not under a fleet-wide plan that has been submitted to the state by a processor.

Crew members are allowed to quarantine on board, though they are still allowed to fish as long as they restrict contact with other boats and people on shore as much as possible. Local crew can return home between delivery and the boat going back out, but crew who do not live in the community cannot leave the boat except for essential activities.

A violation of a State COVID-19 Mandate may subject a business or organization to an order to cease operations and/or a civil fine of up to $1,000 per violation. Additionally, a person may be fined up to $25,000 for a class A misdemeanor and a business organization may be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding the greatest of $2,500,000 for a misdemeanor offense that results in death, or $500,000 for a class A misdemeanor offense that does not result in death.

Canada Bans Retention of Shortfin Mako Sharks

Conservationists are welcoming a recent, science-based decision by the Canadian government to end all retention of endangered shortfin mako sharks in Atlantic fisheries.

With this action, Canada becomes the first North Atlantic country to heed a long-standing recommendation from International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) scientists to prohibit retention of shortfin makos from the region.

Canada recently ranked fifth among ICCAT Parties for North Atlantic shortfin mako landings.

“We applaud the Canadian government for stepping up to protect one of the Atlantic’s most threatened sharks, the shortfin mako,” said Shannon Arnold, marine program coordinator for Ecology Action Centre.

“The action represents a milestone in Canada’s remarkable emergence as a leader in global shark conservation, and one of the most significant steps to date in an urgent effort to save this exceptionally imperiled mako population.”

“Shortfin makos are particularly valuable sharks, sought for meat, fins and sport. Slow growth makes them exceptionally susceptible to overfishing. Makos are fished by many nations around the globe yet not subject to international fishing quotas. ICCAT scientists have reported serious North Atlantic shortfin mako declines and have recommended a ban on retention, in addition to other measures, since 2017. They estimate that rebuilding will likely take more than 50 years, even if mako fishing stops.”

At the November 2019 ICCAT meeting, Canada joined Senegal and 14 other countries in urging international adoption of scientific advice for makos. Competing, lenient proposals from the U.S. and E.U. prevented consensus, thereby postponing decisions on international remedies to 2020.

Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global 2020 Edition Cancelled

In Mid-April, Diversified Communications, organizer of Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global, the world’s largest seafood event, announced that the continued and expanding magnitude of the public health and safety issues caused by COVID-19 worldwide required the cancellation of the 2020 edition of Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global.

The event had previously been postponed due to COVID-19.

Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global was originally scheduled for April 21–23, 2020 at the Brussels Expo in Belgium.

“When we announced the postponement of the 2020 event, we hoped to reschedule to later this year,” said Liz Plizga, group vice president, Diversified Communications.

Given the recent announcement that the limitation on large gatherings in Brussels has been extended through August 31, 2020 and the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, including global travel restrictions and the broad need to practice physical distancing, Diversified Communications concluded it was impossible to hold the event.

“The complexities of organizing a safe, global, seafood event drawing seafood professionals from more than 158 countries in the midst of a pandemic pose too many insurmountable hurdles. We are disappointed to concede that hosting a 2020 edition of the event is infeasible,” added Plizga.

“While we all continue to navigate this difficult situation, the Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global team is engaged in intensive planning for the next edition, scheduled for April 27–29, 2021, in our beautiful new location, Fira Barcelona Gran Via, in Barcelona, Spain,” commented Plizga.

Diversified Communications also recently announced new dates for Boston’s Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America that was postponed earlier this year due to COVID-19. The 2020 expo will take place at the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center this September, with an exhibit hall open on September 23 and 24 and a conference program that will start on September 22.

New Measures for Ferries and Commercial Passenger Vessels

In early April, Transport Canada announced new measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on commercial passenger vessels and ferries.

As of April 6, the new measures with mandatory requirements include:

  • Prohibit all commercial marine vessels with a capacity of more than 12 passengers from engaging in non-essential activities, such as tourism or recreation. These measures will remain in place until at least June 30.
  • Prevent any Canadian cruise ship from mooring, navigating or transiting in Canadian Arctic waters (including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador Coast). Should any foreign passenger vessel seek to enter Arctic waters, they would need to give the Minister of Transport 60 days notice and be subject to any conditions the Minister determines necessary to ensure the protection of marine personnel and local communities. These measures will remain in place until October 31, 2020.
  • Require ferries and essential passenger vessel operators to immediately reduce by 50 per cent the maximum number of passengers that may be carried on board (conduct half-load voyages) to support the two-metre physical distancing rule; or implement alternative practices to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 (consistent with Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines) among passengers on board their vessels, such as keeping people in their vehicles, when feasible or enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures.

In addition to these measures, Transport Canada issued guidelines to ferry operators respecting health screening for all passengers before boarding to better protect their employees and passengers. These guidelines are based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The new measures preventing vessel activity do not apply to:

  • essential passenger vessels such as ferries, water taxis and medical-use vessels;
  • cargo vessels, barges, work boats, fishing vessels and other commercial vessels who operate to support resupply operations and the movement of goods through Canada’s supply chain;
  • Canadian commercial passenger vessels, without passengers, moving for repairs or repositioning;
  • Canadian commercial passenger vessels that are not in service and
  • Pleasure craft (e.g. non-commercial vessels).

N.L. Department Cleared by Privacy Commissioner

A recent report by Newfoundland and Labrador’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Michael Harvey, has vindicated Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne in relation to a 2019 massive salmon die-off on the south coast of the province.

In the late summer and early fall of 2019, a significant salmon mass mortality event occurred at several fish farm locations on the south coast of Newfoundland.

This event attracted considerable media attention as well as questions about the timing of Byrne providing information to the public on the potential impact of this event, as well as subsequent clean-up operations, on the local environment and/or the health of people in the area.

“On October 30, 2019, this Office commenced an own motion investigation into whether section 9(3) (Public Interest) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2015 applied and whether the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources was obligated to make public disclosure of information about this mass mortality event. The Commissioner’s investigation concluded that the Department did not have information in its possession about a risk of significant harm to the environment or to the health or safety of the public which it would have been obliged to disclose,” Harvey stated.

As industry stakeholders gathered in St. John’s for their annual convention and trade show in late September, news broke of an extensive Atlantic salmon die-off on Newfoundland’s south coast.

Northern Harvest Sea Farms reported that it had experienced a significant die-off of salmon at several of its facilities in Fortune Bay. The company, which is owned by international aquaculture giant Mowi, said the salmon pens were exposed to high water temperatures over an 11- to 13-day period, causing low oxygen conditions that resulted in an estimated 2.6 million fish dying. The affected sites were located in the vicinity of the Coast of Bays/Fortune Bay.

MSC Offers Six-Month Pause on Assessment and Certification

Fisheries are being offered a six-month extension on the usual timeline for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessments and certifications.

It is the first time in the MSC’s 22-year history such a step has been taken, reflecting the enormous challenges the COVID-19 pandemic is posing to the global seafood industry.

The decision means timelines for fisheries assessments, including audits, delivery on conditions and certifications will receive an automatic six-month extension.

However, fishery partners who wish to go ahead with remote audits and existing timelines, can do so if this is feasible and agreed with Conformity Assessment Bodies.

For supply chain businesses with an MSC Chain of Custody certificate, audits can still be conducted remotely. But if this is not possible due to the impacts of COVID-19, then a six-month extension can be requested.

This latest move is in response to the massive disruption facing the industry. It builds on MSC’s previous decision that fisheries and Chain of Custody certificate holders can be audited remotely, as travel restrictions and public health advice have made it increasingly difficult to carry out on-site visits.

Details of the temporary changes to assessment and certification processes are on the MSC website. The MSC team will be contacting fisheries, conformity assessment bodies and partners in the sustainable seafood supply chain with further information in the coming days. Other MSC activities, such as the licensing of products, will carry on as normal.

Rupert Howes, chief executive of MSC said “This is an extraordinary moment in history, unprecedented in modern times. MSC is acutely aware that many of our partners are facing enormous challenges and uncertainty. For some it may be a question of survival. While the regional situation varies, supply chains have been disrupted, in some cases broken, plants have been closed and vessels tied up. Management is — quite rightly — focusing on responding to the crisis. It is for this reason that we have implemented these new measures. MSC wants to do what it can to support our partners through these exceptionally challenging times.”

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