Mowi Canada West has begun to cull 925,000 juvenile salmon at its Big Tree Creek Hatchery and has started laying off employees associated with its Discovery Islands operation, the company confirmed with IntraFish.

Mowi Canada West spokesperson Dean Dobrinsky told IntraFish that Canada Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan's decision to close all existing netpen salmon farms in Discovery Islands by June of next year has left the company with no time to adjust its plans and will force Mowi to halt 30 percent of production.

"We continue to look for opportunities to mitigate job loss," he said. "However, without a modification to the decisions, we expect job loss to be significant over the next year as these sites harvest out."

The culling began this week, and the company has so far laid off three employees in Campbell River who were associated with its hatchery and two farms, he said.

Mowi's Canada operations struggled last year on both coasts. The company reported a fourth quarter EBIT loss of €43.1 million ($52.4 million) -- more than three times the loss in the same quarter the year prior. Based on the harvest volume of just over 12,000 metric tons, Mowi lost €1.13 ($1.4 million) for every kilo of salmon farmed in Canada.

The company said in its Q4 report it expects an overall annual loss in harvest volume of between 10,000 to 12,000 metric tons, and layoffs of up to 200 employees.

"We’re still in the process of trying to adjust our production numbers," Dobrinsky said of current estimates.

"I don't have an exact number, but by taking 30 percent of our production out, by the time all of this is over, it could mean a 30 percent reduction for our workforce."

He said the majority of layoffs could start occurring in May or June if the fisheries minister does not extend the timeline for the closures or reverse her decision.

"We would see the impacts to our processing later in this year. The primary impacts would be directed at our Surrey plant and at our Port Hardy plant," he said.

In total, the company estimates €6.1 million ($7.4 million) in cash outflow for the restructuring.

On Tuesday, the BC Salmon Farmers Association unveiled a new industry study that stated layoffs are already occurring for jobs associated with Discovery Islands, with more than 220 people directly related to salmon farming impacted.

"We have asked the Minister to reconsider the immediacy of her decisions to mitigate the catastrophic impacts," Dobrinsky said.

"We are seeking an inclusive and transparent process that will provide time to complete the production cycle, adjust our future production plans and consult with our local communities to help to minimize the real and immediate damage that her reckless decisions have created."

BC salmon farming companies say they do not have the capacity to decommission the Discovery Islands sites within the next 18, months, which is why they are asking the Fisheries Minister to extend the closure deadline to 54 months.

"What we're asking for is time," Dobrinsky said of the extension request, noting the minister has not even communicated with Mowi about the decision since it was made last December.

Earlier this month the Norway-based producer Mowi said the phaseout of its Discovery Islands operations will result in the loss of 2.6 million fish.