Mowi Canada West has announced the temporary closure of operations at its Dalrymple salmon hatchery near Sayward, British Columbia, Canada.

The company cited a 2020 decision by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans calling for all existing salmon farming facilities in the Discovery Islands to be closed within 18 months. That decision “blindsided” multiple B.C. communities and companies when announced by former Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan – who recently lost her reelection bid and has since been replaced by Joyce Murray.

“The decision of the former minister continues to challenge our company and has lasting implications,” Mowi Canada West Spokesperson Dean Dobrinsky said. “It is clearly evident her decision is far-reaching, incredibly damaging to the communities where we operate, and could have been mitigated had the ministry engaged with our company to fully understand the impact on coastal communities who depend on this sector.”

Just months after Jordan’s initial announcement, Mowi and other salmon farmers in the area called for leeway on the 18-month deadline in order to avoid culling millions of fish. Mowi Canada West appealed to the Federal Court of Canada, which granted it an injunction in April allowing it to transfer 600,000 smolt to the company’s Phillips Arm farm and 582,000 fish to its Hardwicke farm.

Canada Federal Court Justice Peter Pamel wrote in his 5 April decision the transfer of the salmon was a “low-risk” to local wild salmon populations.

“The only evidence before me is that today, salmon aquaculture in B.C. poses ‘no more than a minimal risk’ to wild salmon,” Pamel said.

Prior to the approved transfer, Mowi had already culled 900,000 “healthy juvenile fish,” the company said. Cermaq Canada, in contrast, was not granted an injunction, and the company said the denial forced it to cull 1.5 million salmon.

“As an organization, we are perplexed by the decision from [former] Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Minister Bernadette Jordan, as salmon farming itself is in support of so many of both her and Prime Minister Trudeau’s goals for the country,” Cermaq Canada Managing Director David Kiemele said. “We are also surprised to see that the minister has ignored her department’s advice in favor of what we can only assume is a politically driven agenda.”

Soon after the December 2020 decision, Mowi Canada West submitted an application for judicial review to the Canadian Federal Court. Multiple hearings on the case have been held in October, with new information submitted by Mowi Canada West claiming that Jordan made the decision without the input of farms or even other members of the department, SeaWestNews reported.

“DFO itself was unaware the minister was considering a ban on fish transfers and a prospective refusal of all aquaculture licenses from June 2022 until mere days before the minister’s decision,” said a submission to the court by Mowi Canada West.

Earlier court documents from Mowi’s initial request to transfer smolts also indicate that Jordan “did not concur with the recommendations” made by a memorandum prepared by DFO Deputy Minister Timothy Sargent.

Regardless of the mechanisms of the decision, Mowi said in the meantime it has been forced to close its Dalrymple hatchery, affecting 17 employees.

“Our heart goes out to those employees who built their career with Mowi and whose families relied on this hatchery for their livelihood,” Dobrinsky said. “We look forward to reopening the facility when production needs require it.”  

Image courtesy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada/Bernadette Jordan

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