Undercurrent News - UCN

Cooke experiences ‘super chill’ event off Nova Scotia coast

Jason Huffman

Mar 17, 2019
BOSTON, MA - Canada's Cooke confirms that it has lost about 10,000 Atlantic salmon at its Kelly Cove Salmon site off the coast of Coffin Island, in Nova Scotia, due to a “super chill” event.

As reported earlier by Undercurrent News, the water temperatures in Atlantic Canada have lingered dangerously close to the -0.7 degrees Celsius (30.74 degrees Fahrenheit) that causes salmon to freeze to death. Now at least one salmon farmer has experienced a mortality incident, though the deaths at the Kelly Cove site happened to only 2.5% of the 400,000 fish kept there, according to Joel Richardson, Cooke’s vice president of public relations.

Kelly Cove Salmon, a division of Cooke, on March 6, applied with the province to expand the site from 14 to 20 cages and also to add two more farms capable of holding 20 pens each, Richardson told Undercurrent.

Richardson said Cooke has removed all of the dead fish from the Kelly Cove location and sent them to a rendering facility to be composted. He said the company has notified the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture in accordance with the province's aquaculture regulations and will continue to provide it with updates. Cooke also has advised Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Region of Queens Municipality.

The location is closest to the town of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, though the closest city for which the website www.seatemperature.org has seawater temperature data is Lunenberg, which showed seawater temperatures of -0.6 degrees C (31 degrees F) on Saturday.

February and March are the coldest months of the year for seawater temperatures in Atlantic Canada and temperatures can be expected to warm up soon, but salmon farmers have been nervously keeping an eye on their stocks in the meantime.

Super chill events happen every few years in Atlantic Canada with the last major batch of mortalities being experienced in 2014. But Cooke lost thousands of smolts off the coast of the US state of Maine in 2003 and, in early 2015, the company lost thousands of fish at three aquaculture sites off the Nova Scotia coast – in Annapolis Basin, Shelburne Harbour, and Jordan Bay.

Super chill events are “infrequent, but it’s the nature of farming and working in a cold ocean environment,” Richardson said. “And when the weather is unseasonably cold, such as it has been, it has an impact on aquaculture.”

When asked by Lighthouse Now, a Nova Scotia news service, if the incident should be worrisome considering the expansion plans in Liverpool Bay, Richardson answered:

"It's part of doing fish farming and in terms of frequency, it may happen every five years or so that you would have some level of fish loss due to colder than normal temperatures in the ocean environment. The company is fully responsible for the fish loss. It is not something that we want to happen, but, unfortunately, it does."

Contact the author jason.huffman@undercurrentnews.com

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