Salmon Conservation Groups Call For Greater Scrutiny of Newfoundland Fish Farm Proposal

The Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) are renewing their demand for a full environmental impact assessment of a proposed salmon farm in Placentia Bay.

The project being advanced by Grieg NL Seafarms, a division of Norway’s Grieg Seafood ASA, would see up to 11 salmon farm sites, each containing 10 or more cage sites, placed off the south east coast of Newfoundland. The company is proposing to grow an imported strain of European Atlantic salmon in sea cages, a first in Canadian waters.

The imported salmon would be treated at the egg stage, adding an extra chromosome, and rendering the adult fish infertile. This process creates so-called triploid eggs.

“The issues identified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) clearly refute Grieg’s claim that the project poses no significant risk to threatened wild salmon,” said Don Ivany, ASF’s Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador. “Contrary to giving the project a green light as has been claimed by the proponent, the DFO review provides strong support for our earlier call for a full environmental impact statement.”

DFO’s review identified several risks posed by the aquaculture project including:

  • Uncertainty about triploid fish disease resistance and the potential spread of pathogens to wild fish populations.
  • A recognition that triploid egg treatments are not 100 percent effective, meaning that fertile European salmon could escape from sea cages and interbreed with native salmon populations, weakening the gene pool for wild fish.
  • A lack of knowledge about native Atlantic salmon in Placentia Bay, which have been designated as a threatened species.
  • Inadequate separation of cage sites from wild salmon rivers, and potential threats to the general environment of the area.

“DFO has made it clear that significant work needs to be done before the risks of the project to wild salmon can by fully understood,” said Don Hutchens, President of the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador. “The only appropriate way to do this is to require the proponent to prepare a comprehensive environmental impact statement,” said Hutchens.

DFO’s review did make a number of recommendations that should be addressed before any decision is made on whether to approve Grieg’s proposal. The federal regulator wants the company to develop tracking programs to monitor the impact of escaped fish on wild populations and allow the fish to be traced back to their original cage site. DFO also wants programs in place to determine the effectiveness of the cage designs at keeping fish inside.

Although conservation groups are pleased with DFO’s review, Hutchens says it was narrow in scope, and leaves many other issues unaddressed. DFO was only asked to review the potential impact of importing European eggs.

Currently Grieg’s proposal has been filed with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Environment and Conservation. The provincial minister must decide to approve the project, refer it to a less rigorous environmental preview process, or order a full environmental impact statement.

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