On the Waterfront – May 2020

DFO Permits Fishing Without At-Sea Observers

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has issued a Fisheries Management Order (FMO 2020-01), under section 9.1 of the Fisheries Act, which requires that all authorized fishing activities be carried out, on a temporary basis, without any at-sea observer coverage.

Under this Fisheries Management Order, the following requirements are imposed:

All fishing activities authorized under the Fisheries Act must be carried out without any at-sea observer being onboard fishing vessels.

Any person authorized to carry out fishing activities under the Fisheries Act is required to not authorize any at-sea observer to come onboard any fishing vessel.

This Fisheries Management Order prevails over any regulations made under the Fisheries Act, any orders issued under those regulations, and over any conditions of any lease or licence issued under that Act.

This Fisheries Management Order took effect on the day on which it was signed (April 2, 2020) and will remain in effect for a period of 45 days.

Fish and Seafood Classified as Essential Services

The Fisheries Council of Canada (FCC) and the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) commended the federal government for its collaborative hard work to support the fish and seafood sector, especially in light of the April 2 recognition of the Canadian fish and seafood industries as essential services as announced by the latest COVID-19 guidance.

“Our wild and farmed fish and seafood sector has been working closely with other food organizations, together with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other departments to address the COVID-19 challenge,” said Paul Lansbergen, President of the FCC.

“It is critical that our members, as important contributors to the food supply chain, maintain their ability to operate and fill grocery store shelves during this crisis.”

“The federal government has now announced numerous programs that will help our essential workers and businesses to continue to operate and supply Canadians and the global community with Canadian seafood,” said Timothy Kennedy, President and CEO, CAIA.

“Wage supports and essential worker definitions are critical programs to support — both financially and morally — our Canadian fish and seafood workers. Our members are committed to maintaining our high-quality standards for Canadians during this challenging time.”

In addition to supporting the food supply chain, our members in Canadian fish and seafood — both wild and farmed — promote a healthy resource and work to develop an economically sound, market-driven, competitively-structured industry. Continued operations will help to secure the livelihoods of over 80,000 Canadians, mainly in coastal and rural communities, as harvesters, seafood farmers, employees and processors. FCC and CAIA are staying engaged with government partners to address issues as the pandemic, and its economic impact, evolves.

“Our thoughts are with our communities, including those of our Indigenous partners, as they work to keep their people safe and healthy in these uncertain times. We look forward to continuing our work together to adjust and respond where necessary. Our sector is applying current COVID-19 guidance to our existing health and safety requirements to ensure the protection of both our employees and the public,” the organizations stated in a press release.

MI Releases Report on South Coast Salmon Mortality

The Marine Institute recently 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.

Consistent with the findings of the Aquatic Animal Health Division of Fisheries and Land Resources, the report concluded 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 the 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.

Lobster Quality Research and Innovation Centre To Help Fishery

Nova Scotia’s lobster fishery supports rural communities across the province, growing its exports to $1.2 billion in 2019.

A newly announced $2.5-million lobster quality and innovation centre will find new ways to further advance the quality and export value of lobster.

“We want Nova Scotia to provide the world with the highest quality lobsters available, so we are proud to fund this research centre to help work toward that goal for our growing seafood industry,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

“This centre will help strengthen the role of the province’s lobsters as a sustainable, renewable, natural resource in domestic and international markets.”

The province and Université Sainte-Anne are working together to develop a facility for cutting-edge research. The Lobster Quality Research and Innovation Centre based at Université Sainte-Anne in Church Point, Digby County will attract a world-class research team.

It will work closely with the university’s Marine Research Centre located in Petit-de-Grat, Richmond Co., to support innovation in the lobster industry.

Areas of focus will include live lobster quality, handling and holding practices, storage and shipping and new technologies for grading. It will be guided by an advisory committee.

It is under construction and is expected to be ready for operation by summer.

The three-year budget of about $2.5 million will be used for personnel ($525,000 — research lead and laboratory technicians), lab equipment ($1.6 million) and operating costs ($282,000). The funding comes from the province’s Building Tomorrow Fund which helps fisheries and agriculture companies working to create new products, access new markets and add value to existing products.

Study Demonstrates Significant Impacts of Nunavut Fishing Industry

The Nunavut Fisheries Association (NFA) recently released the results of an independent economic analysis entitled the Economic Impact of the Nunavut Fisheries Association’s Members.

Completed in January 2020 by OMX Data Analytics, a Canadian company that specializes in completing sectoral/corporate economic impact analyses, the results demonstrate the significant economic contribution of NFA members.

Lootie Toomasie, Chair of NFA, stated “We are pleased to be able to release the study results, which demonstrate the substantial contributions of our members in terms of: gross domestic product (GDP) impact, jobs sustained, direct employment, including Inuit employment and the various benefits to member communities, the territory of Nunavut and the Canadian economy. A total of 40 per cent of our direct employees are now Inuit, coming from 12 different hamlets in Nunavut. This is in large part attributable to the major investments we have been making in training Inuit since 2005 through the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium (NFMTC).”

Toomasie added that “OMX estimates that increasing our share of adjacent resources from the current 52 per cent to 90 per cent would result in an additional $62.7-million per annum impact on GDP and an additional 528 jobs sustained.”

NFA’s Secretary-Treasurer, Sakiasie Sowdlooapik, said “To date our members have developed their fishing capacity with minimal financial support from the federal government, unlike many other Indigenous fisheries that have benefited from hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding. DFO support for NFA’s annual research program has also been lacking and the recent cancellation of the 2020 multi-species survey is unacceptable.”

“The federal government needs to come to the table and provide the same type and level of support that other Indigenous groups have been enjoying for decades, supporting capital acquisitions, license and allocation purchases, and a greater focus on science and research in the north. We have the ability to further develop our fishery as a major economic driver for the Nunavut economy, providing Inuit with important employment opportunities, in a region with some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and supporting the needs of our member communities,” Sowdlooapik added.

The NFA is a not-for-profit corporation established to present a united voice for Nunavut’s commercial fishing industry to stakeholders and the public at the territorial and federal levels. NFA also supports fisheries and ecosystem science and research activities in the Eastern Arctic, working collaboratively with stakeholders and conducting its own annual research program, all in support of sustainable fisheries development in the north.

The current membership consists of four Inuit-owned companies which hold 100 per cent of the commercial allocations of Greenland halibut (turbot) and shrimp managed through the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board.

The NFA currently consists of the following companies: the Arctic Fishery Alliance (AFA), Baffin Fisheries (BF), Pangnirtung Fisheries/Cumberland Sound Fisheries Partnership (PFL/CSFL) and Qikiqtaaluk Corporation (QC). All companies are owned by the HTOs, communities and/or Inuit of the Qikiqtani region of Nunavut.

Grieg NL Officially Joins the Grieg Seafood Family

Grieg Newfoundland Salmon Ltd (Grieg NL) has been officially acquired by Grieg Seafood ASA.

The Placentia Bay aquaculture project of Grieg NL has made significant progress and is soon ready for the first eggs to be released into the new freshwater facility, the company stated in a press release.

“With almost 30 years of experience from freshwater, post-smolt and seawater production of salmon in similar conditions to Placentia Bay, Grieg Seafood will bring world-class expertise to complete the next phase of the project.”

Grieg Seafood is the world’s seventh largest salmon farming company with production in the North and South of Norway, Scotland in the U.K. and British Columbia. This year, the company will harvest 100,000 tonnes of salmon globally.

Grieg Seafood said it will make significant investments into the Newfoundland region in the coming years to develop state-of-the-art salmon farms and ensure responsible farming practices.

“Grieg Seafood is in a strong position to bring stable and sustainable jobs to the coastal communities of Placentia Bay for years to come. All of Grieg NL’s development plans and agreements with local companies or governmental authorities will be honoured and continued. Plans for service and processing are unchanged. Newfoundland processing company Ocean Choice International will remain a valued local partner in the project.”

The Placentia Bay aquaculture project will, at completion, contribute at least 37 direct jobs on land and 101 direct marine jobs.

Capelin Assessment Fails to Capture Predation Data — FFAW

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) latest stock assessment for capelin in 2J3KL, predicting slight declines in the 2020 season, failed to include natural mortality from predation, said the FFAW-Unifor.

The union representing harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador said DFO Science suggests that the amount of mature capelin will likely be reduced somewhat in the 2020 season. But harvesters remain concerned that biomass measured in the spring acoustic survey may not reflect what is seen in the fishery.

“Because there is no estimate of biomass during the fishery, harvesters’ observations of widespread abundance are not being captured with the existing DFO data. Natural mortality continues to be the driver of this stock’s health — something that DFO has failed to fully understand due to a lack of science on seal populations,” explains FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.

“Harvesters saw an abundance of capelin the last two years. The aggregations were larger and more frequent, and as a result we caught more capelin with considerably less effort the last two seasons. But that information isn’t formally taken into account by DFO Science,” says Inshore Council member Dennis Chaulk, who represented harvesters in his area at the science assessment meeting.

While the capelin stock assessment did acknowledge that removals from the fishery are small in comparison to predation, predation levels are likely underestimated, with seal, whale and seabird predation not included in overall predation estimates.

The union said additional research is needed on predation within the ecosystem and the relationship seals have on capelin and Northern cod stocks.

“Harvesters are deeply frustrated with the lack of consideration for seals on predation for important species like capelin and Northern cod. DFO has dragged their feet on conducting science on seals but as harvesters we know seals are more abundant and widespread than ever before and we know that predation is a significant factor for the health of these fish,” says Eldred Woodford, Inshore Council member from Herring Neck.

Atlantic Seal Science Task Team Announced

Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan recently announced the names of the members of the Atlantic seal science task team and confirmed they will soon begin their work.

The Atlantic seal science task team was established to gather fishing industry and stakeholder input on the department’s current science activities on Atlantic seals, relating to seal predation on commercial fish stocks.

The task team will serve for a maximum of one year and will provide:

  • input on the priorities of the department’s Atlantic seal science program
  • input on how to increase the involvement of the fishing industry in seal science projects
  • advice on how the department could better communicate its scientific findings to the fishing industry and other stakeholders

The task team will serve for a maximum of one year and will be co-chaired by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Glenn Blackwood, Fisheries and Marine Institute at Memorial University.

Members include:

  • Bill Taylor, Atlantic Salmon Federation
  • Laura Ramsey, PEI Fishermen’s Association
  • Ginny Boudreau, Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association
  • Jamie Snook, Torngat Joint Fisheries Board
  • Kris Vascotto, Atlantic Groundfish Council
  • Robert Hardy, Seafood Consultant
  • Jocelyn Thériault, Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels des Îles-de-la-Madeleine

The Task Team may invite input from external advisors as required to fulfill their objectives.


Clearwater Seafoods Mulling Possible Sale

Clearwater Seafoods has initiated a strategic review, which means the company could be moving towards a sale.

“Strategic options may include, but are not limited to, a sale of all or a material portion of Clearwater’s assets, either in one transaction or in a series of transactions, the outright sale of Clearwater, a merger or other transaction involving Clearwater and a third party, joint ventures, licensing arrangements, various financing alternatives or other significant transaction,” the company said in a press release.

The decision to enter the review process stems from the company receiving interest from several potential buyers.

“Clearwater’s board of directors has determined it is timely, prudent and in the best interests of the Company and its stakeholders to commence the Strategic Review in light of the Company having recently received several expressions of interest,” the company said.

In order to move forward with the strategic review, the company formed a special committee of independent directors to evaluate the potential sale. Members of the committee include chair Brendan Paddick and members Jane Craighead, Vicki McKibbon, Karl Smith and Jim Dickson.

The special committee has chosen RBC Capital Markets as its financial advisor in connection with the review and Stewart McKelvey will serve as its legal advisor.

No set schedule has been made to complete its “identification, examination and consideration of strategic alternatives.” Plus, there is no guarantee a sale is made.

“Clearwater cautions that there are no assurances or guarantees that the strategic review will result in a transaction or, if a transaction is undertaken, the terms or timing of such a transaction.”


Whale Protections Step in Right Direction but More Action Needed

Conservation Group Oceana Canada said it was encouraged by Canada’s new measures to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale species, but it said more steps need to be taken to ensure they survive.

The group noted that the new measures will limit the whales from human activity, which can reduce deaths in Canadian waters.

“It is good to see the government is continuing to implement measures to protect North Atlantic right whales from the threats of ship strikes and entanglements in fishing gear that are adaptive based on the location of the whales as they return to Canadian waters,” Oceana Canada’s campaign director, Kim Elmslie said.

“However, the success of these measures depends on surveillance. Fishing zone closures and speed requirements for vessels are triggered based on whale sightings, so we strongly urge the government to step up surveillance.”

In regard to fisheries protection measures, Oceana welcomed the temporary fishing area closures, including a larger area around the Bay of Fundy. Plus, it supported DFO’s decision for season-long closure areas when more than one right whale is spotted.

The group praised the government’s decision of continuing aerial surveillance and adding acoustic detections using hydrophones to help detect where whales are in federal waters.

Oceana was partly pleased about the 10-knot large vessel speed restriction in the Cabot Strait. Since the restriction is voluntary, Oceana argued that it still poses a risk as whales use that area to enter and exit the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“What is notably missing in the announcement is an emergency response plan in the event of a right whale death in Canadian waters this year. With only about 400 of these animals left and fewer than 100 reproductive females, the death of any right whale is one too many. Their survival depends on us,” Oceana said in a statement.


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