Nfld. & Labrador

About 400 escaped salmon recaptured in Hermitage Bay

A rate of 15-20 per cent capture "seems pretty good," says DFO.

Estimated 2,000 to 3,000 farmed salmon escaped from Cooke Aquaculture nets

Up to 3,000 farmed salmon escaped from the Cook Aquaculture salmon farm in Hermitage Bay in late July. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Of the 2,000 to 3,000 salmon that escaped from a farm in Newfoundland's Hermitage Bay, around 400 have been recaptured — a pretty good number, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Some time between July 27 and 30, the salmon escaped from the Olive Cove farm operated by Cooke Aquaculture, after net extensions were sewn onto a pen at the site.

Chris Hendry, regional aquaculture coordinator with DFO, says the rate of recapture to date is actually pretty good.

"Our reports so far suggest that about 400 salmon have been recaptured, so for a two- to three-thousand escape, that's about a 15-20 per cent recapture rate," he told CBC's The Broadcast.

The recaptured salmon will need to be destroyed by Cooke Aquaculture. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

"When we had the last large escape incident back in 2013 and there were capture methods deployed, about 10 per cent of those fish were recaptured. So this seems to be a better percentage of success."

Investigation to come

Hendry said the licence to use gillnets for recapturing is set to expire on Friday, but there will be a meeting with DFO, provincial fishery officials and Cooke Aquaculture to assess the recapture process so far and determine if that should be extended.

This week, a humpback whale got snared in those gillnets, and a rescue operation was launched to free the whale, so the use of gillnets was temporarily suspended to ensure no other whale entanglements happened.

Hendry said there will be an investigation into what happened at the Hermitage Bay site, and further discussions once the capture of salmon is completed.

"One of the questions is, in a case of a release of salmon, is there any type of repercussions, and that's something we would discuss with the province as we both co-deliver the code of containment," he said.

"It also requires us to do an analysis of any type escape incident and recommendations on improvements or identifying any deficiencies."

The captured salmon, meanwhile, will need to be destroyed by the company, Hendry said.

"As a condition of the licence, they're required to dispose of them … but we are requiring them to take samples so we can build on an existing database of genetic and scale samples for identification of farm salmon."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The Broadcast