Nfld. & Labrador

Harsh weather linked to die-off at Newfoundland salmon farm

The Atlantic salmon died in cages at Cooke Aquaculture's operation near Baie d'Espoir.

The fish died in cages at a Cooke Aquaculture operation near Baie d'Espoir

Cooke Aquaculture says salmon died in two of the eight cages at a Cold Ocean Salmon farm in southern Newfoundland. (CBC)

There's been another large salmon die-off at a fish farm on Newfoundland's south coast — this time at a Cooke Aquaculture operation near Baie d'Espoir.

In a statement, the company said the farm has a total of about 550,000 fish, and estimates about 14 per cent of them died off, which would put the number at about 77,000 fish.

The company's statement blames the higher than expected number of deaths on "severe winter storm events experienced over the past month."

Cooke said they think the deaths happened in two of eight cages on the farm, which is run by Cold Ocean Salmon Inc., a subsidiary of New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture.

New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture owns Cold Ocean Salmon. (CBC)

The company says it's cleaning out the dead fish from the affected cages, and disposing of them. 

It's also harvesting fish from the two cages, along with some from the other six.

Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne told reporters government is following the situation very closely, continuously prodding the company for updated information. 

"This kind of incident may very well happen again in the future. This is part of the aquaculture industry, which of course does occur," he said, citing a similar incident which happened in 2014.

Other mass deaths

This latest incident comes about six months after a massive die-off at a Northern Harvest Sea Farms operation in Fortune Bay.

Millions of fish died in September due to what Northern Harvest — a subsidiary of the Norwegian aquaculture giant Mowi — said was warmer than normal water temperatures, which lowered oxygen levels in the pens.

The company reported it to government, but it was weeks before the information was made public and the company admitted that 2.6 million fish were dead.

Byrne said at the time he had no authority to publicly disclose the deaths.

Organic material from a massive salmon die-off at a Northern Harvest operation is pumped out of fish cages and into open water in the Fortune Bay area in October. (Chris O'Neill-Yates/CBC)

Since then the province has made changes to the law, including requiring public reporting of incidents like deaths or disease at fish farms.

"The system is in part working in that they disclosed once a relatively high number [of deaths] was realized," Byrne said about the Cooke Aquaculture situation. 

Part of Cooke Aquaculture's statement says, "The company has taken all the responsible steps under the oversight of the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Fisheries and Land Resources and is following government approved regulations to protect fish health."

A spokesperson for the company said the fish have not tested positive for reportable diseases. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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