Aquaculture Proposal Could Destroy Threatened Wild Atlantic Salmon in Newfoundland

Media Release/Communiqué de presse
Aquaculture Proposal Could Destroy Threatened Wild Atlantic Salmon in Newfoundland
For Immediate Release
Mar. 16, 2016

ST. ANDREWS – The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador (SCNL) are calling for a full Environmental Impact Statement on a proposal by Grieg NL Seafarms to establish a massive sea cage salmon farming operation in Placentia Bay that threatens the existence of wild Atlantic salmon. Public comments on this proposal are due to Newfoundland‘s Minister of Environment and Conservation by March 26, 2016.
Don Hutchens, President of SCNL, said, “Contrary to the claims of Grieg, the proposed sea cage development in Placentia Bay poses a significant threat to wild salmon populations through genetic interaction when fish escape, the spread of disease, and sea lice infestation. Salmon populations along the south coast of Newfoundland have been designated as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and are now being assessed for listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). These populations are not likely to cope very well with the impacts of this project.”
ASF has reviewed Grieg’s proposal and concludes that their claim that it will have insignificant impacts on wild salmon cannot be justified by the information presented by the proponent or by the scientific literature.
Grieg’s claim that interactions between wild and farmed salmon will be eliminated by using sterile (triploid) salmon is not accurate. Grieg’s proposed process to sterilize farmed salmon to prevent interbreeding with wild salmon is not 100% effective, meaning that thousands of fertile aquaculture salmon are likely to be produced and put into sea cages every year. These fertile salmon have the potential to escape into local salmon rivers. There is documentation of numerous escaped farmed salmon entering salmon rivers along the south coast, from Conne River to Garnish River. There is also evidence of interbreeding between wild and farmed salmon in areas where salmon aquaculture already occurs along the south coast.
Don Ivany, ASF’s Director of Programs in Newfoundland and Labrador, said, “Furthermore, Grieg plans to use a foreign strain of salmon imported from Europe, which will result in significant genetic and biological damage to native wild salmon if these foreign-strain-salmon escape into nearby wild salmon rivers and breed with wild fish.”
The Grieg proposal provides inadequate information about how escapes will be prevented or recaptured. The proponent claims that the operation will meet Newfoundland and Norwegian standards for preventing escapes. Mr. Ivany continued, “This is of little comfort as both jurisdictions continue to experience problems with escapes, which indicates that the standards are not effective.”
Of significant concern is that the proponent has not provided sufficient information on the methods they will use to control disease and parasites. Outbreaks of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) have occurred at aquaculture sites located along the migratory corridor of wild Atlantic salmon, which led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon in Newfoundland in 2012 and 2013. ISA is a highly contagious disease that is lethal to Atlantic salmon and is spread in the marine environment among sea cage sites.
Mr. Ivany said, “The fact that Grieg’s proposal does not mention Infectious Salmon Anemia and how they will prevent or deal with outbreaks in their sea cage operations is very concerning”.
Grieg is proposing to locate all of the Placentia Bay sea cage sites along the migratory routes and/or near the mouths of salmon rivers with no acknowledgement of the risks to wild Atlantic salmon from escapes, spread of disease and sea lice infestation.
Both Mr. Ivany and Mr. Hutchens indicated that all the impacts on wild Atlantic salmon would be eliminated if the Provincial Government required Grieg NL Seafarms to establish land-based operations rather than sea cages in the ocean.
Mr. Hutchens concluded “The hatchery component of the project will be a fully land-based closed containment system that will grow fish up to three pounds in freshwater before they are transferred to sea cages. The ability to grow salmon to that size in land-based facilities represents a significant transfer of new technology to Newfoundland. We believe the future of aquaculture in Newfoundland would be better served if they were to invest in land-based facilities to grow the fish all the way to market size rather than transferring the salmon to outdated and environmentally destructive sea cages.”
For a full description of Grieg’s proposed project see:
http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/env_assessment/projects/Y2016/1834/1834_reg_doc_hatchery_copy.pdf
The Environmental Assessment for this proposal is open for public comment until March 26th, 2016.
Submissions to the Minister of Environment and Conservation can be e-mailed to: EAprojectcomments@gov.nl.ca
(Quote EA registration #1834)
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Contact information:      
Don Ivany,
ASF Director, Newfoundland & Labrador Programs,
(709) 632-5100 (office)   (709) 632-1155 (cell)
divany@asf.ca

Don Hutchens
President, Salmonid Council, Newfoundland and Labrador
Morning: (709) 722-9300
Afternoon/evening (709) 753-4968
don.hutchens@gmail.com

Press Release is available online at: http://asf.ca/aquaculture-proposal-could-destroy-threatened-wild-atlantic.html
BACKGROUNDER - Assessment of the risks to wild Atlantic salmon posed by the Grieg NL Seafarms plan for salmon aquaculture development in Placentia Bay
Summary
This document outlines the concerns held by the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador (SCNL) regarding the impacts of the Placentia Bay aquaculture proposal on wild Atlantic salmon. The proponent claims that the project will have no significant impacts on wild salmon. ASF/SCNL have investigated this claim and determined that it cannot be justified by the information presented by the proponent or by the scientific literature. We have identified four major issues with the proponent’s claim:
1.    The claim that genetic interactions between wild and farmed salmon will be eliminated by using sterile female fish is misleading. The process to make fish sterile is only 96-99.9% effective. Grieg has proposed to produce 7,000,000 European strain smolt annually. If only 0.1% of the fish are fertile (able to spawn), then there could be 7,000 European strain female salmon capable of becoming sexually mature placed into sea cages in Placentia Bay every year. There are likely about 7,000 wild Atlantic salmon returning to Placentia Bay Rivers annually, so the potential for genetic pollution by escapees could be large even if only a small fraction or escapes are sexually mature. The use of European strain (instead of local strain) salmon multiplies the risk because these fish are genetically distinct from our own local wild salmon.
2.    Inadequate information has been provided about how escapes will be prevented or recaptured. The proponent claims they will meet Newfoundland and Norwegian standards for preventing escapes, but both jurisdictions continue to experience problems with escapes, indicating that the standards are not highly effective.  For instance, in 2015, more than 150 escaped farmed salmon were collected by DFO from three different Fortune Bay rivers. These fish came from an escape event that had not been reported by industry. In Norway about 160,000 farmed salmon escapes were reported in 2015. The proponent has not explained the specific practices they will use to prevent salmon from escaping or how escaped salmon will be recaptured, nor have they sufficiently demonstrated that their proposed containment methods are an improvement on ineffective methods currently used in Newfoundland.
3.    The proponent has not provided sufficient information on initiatives to control disease and parasites. The proponent has indicated that lumpfish will be used to control sea lice, but has not explained how effective this is or how it helps eliminate impacts of sea lice on wild salmon. The proponent has also failed to discuss issues associated with Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) and other diseases, the potential for new diseases to be imported with salmon eggs from Europe, or how the spread of diseases to wild salmon will be prevented.
4.    Inappropriate siting of sea-cage sites near salmon rivers and migratory routes. All of the sea cage sites will be located near the mouths of salmon rivers or along likely salmon migratory routes. This will amplify all of the risks identified above. The proponent has provide no indication that they understand or have considered the ways in which wild salmon use and migrate through Placentia Bay, no justification for locating sea-cage sites near salmon rivers and migratory routes, and no evaluation of other sites that might reduce the risks to wild salmon.

For these reasons, ASF and SCNL reject the proponent’s claim that the project will pose no significant risk to wild salmon in Placentia Bay. We believe that the proposed project will pose significant risk to threatened wild salmon populations, and that these risks need to be investigated further and fully considered in decisions about the acceptability and viability of this project.
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