Globe and Mail

Salmon deaths in Newfoundland prompt review of public bodies’ disclosure obligations

Holly McKenzie-Sutter - Canadian Press

Oct 31, 2019
Pink residue is disposed into Fortune Bay in southern Newfoundland as part of a cleanup following salmon deaths at fish farms. Atlantic Salmon Federation/Bill Bryden
Newfoundland and Labrador’s information and privacy commissioner will investigate whether public bodies were obligated to disclose information sooner about a mass die-off of farmed salmon earlier this year.

Northern Harvest Sea Farms says 2.6 million of its fish died in southern Newfoundland sea cages due to a prolonged period of high water temperatures.

The company says it first reported the deaths to government on Sept. 3, but did not publicly address the mass die-off until weeks later.

Fisheries sources Minister Gerry Byrne has maintained that it falls on companies to disclose such incidents, but the incident has sparked questions about the aquaculture industry’s environmental impact, transparency and regulation.

Privacy commissioner Michael Harvey says interpretation of one section in the province’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act could impact what information public bodies are bound to disclose and when.

The investigation announced Thursday will consider what information public bodies knew about the salmon deaths, when that information was acquired, whether there was evidence of harm to the environment or human health, and whether the information was clearly in the public interest.

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