Just days after Newfoundland Minister of Fisheries and Land Resource Gerry Byrne announced he was suspending 10 farming licenses of Mowi Canada East's Northern Harvest operations after the company's sites were impacted by a"mass salmon mortality," the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) is now calling on Newfoundland and Labrador Environment Minister Derrick Bragg to restart an environmental assessment process for Mowi’s planned salmon aquaculture expansion in the region.

Mowi said this week it has cleaned up 87 percent of what is has now confirmed to be a massive salmon die-off from warm water temperatures in September of 2.6 million salmon, or 5,000 metric tons, at over six sites. The incident in Coast of Bays, Newfoundland will cost Mowi €5 million ($5.5 million) with an impact on harvest volumes of around 1,000 metric tons. Mowi Canada holds in total 59 licenses in Canada East, of which 47 are in Newfoundland and 12 in New Brunswick.

ASF is asking the minister to reject Mowi’s proposal and require the company to submit a new plan that includes a description of sea cages that will receive the additional smolt.

“Documents show Mowi is planning to add 2.2 million additional salmon into its existing sea-cages on the south coast of Newfoundland,” said Steve Sutton, ASF director of Community Engagement. “This means stocking more fish in the same area, even the same cages, affected by the recent mass mortality event, and doing so without any public environmental assessment.”

In July 2018, Northern Harvest Smolt, which is owned by Mowi, submitted a proposal to the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment to expand its Indian Head hatchery near Stephenville from an annual production capacity of 4.5 million to 6.7 million smolt.

In April 2019, six applicants, not including ASF, filed for judicial review in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. Represented by Ecojustice, the applicants are asking the court to set aside the provincial environment minister’s decision and order Mowi to resubmit a project description that includes the marine aspects of their expansion. A court hearing on the matter is set for Nov. 6.

“There are so many similarities between the facts of the Mowi case and the Grieg case in Placentia Bay,” said Sutton, referring to ASF’s successful court challenge of the Placentia Bay aquaculture project which led to a full environmental assessment.

“In the Grieg case it was a requirement for the hatchery and sea cages to be described together, and despite the repeated efforts of the provincial government to avoid a full environmental assessment, the court ordered it, calling it nothing less than ‘a duty owed to the people of the province,’” he said.