Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador
A major winter rain storm just dumped more than 100mm of rain on western Newfoundland. The precipitation lasted less than a day and was combined with unseasonably warm temperatures. That deluge of falling rain and melting snow washed out highways, triggered landslides, and knocked out power. The City of Corner Brook and several smaller communities were forced to issue a state of emergency.
The storm dropped large amounts of rain on Maine, New Brunswick, parts of Nova Scotia, and then western and central Newfoundland.
People with medical needs have been flown out of cut-off areas, and so far, no one has reported serious injuries. We hope every person affected gets the help they need to get back on their feet.
Not surprisingly, this unprecedented and severe weather also has a devastating effect on wild animals, especially salmon and trout living in suddenly raging rivers and streams.
Juvenile fish, swept out of their preferred habitat by spectacular force, will be lucky to survive at all. The silt and sand that turns floodwater brown scours the eyes of fish and damages their gills. Eggs deposited carefully in the fall can be swept away entirely or buried deep under moving rocks and gravel.
Then thereís the loss of ice cover. Headwater streams in Newfoundland should be covered over this time of year, providing salmon eggs a buffer against temperature swings and shade from direct sunlight. With the ice broken and swept away itís likely that far will hatch this spring.
Atlantic salmon as a species survive catastrophic events by spreading out. Last yearís smolts are maturing at sea, meaning some fish will return to spawn in the flooded rivers this year. However, there could be five or more consecutive year classes affected in the fresh water. This includes the 2017 eggs, and at least the four previous years of juvenile fish waiting to make their first ocean migration.
So, the effects of this storm will be felt for years by people in damaged communities, and by the fish that live in our changing rivers. We wish everyone a safe and speedy recovery.
It wasnít a surprise on December 22nd when the Norwegian multi-national Marine Harvest announced they were buying St. George, New Brunswickís Northern Harvest Sea Farm. Industry watchers predicted the outcome , especially after Cooke Aquaculture dropped out of the bidding.
Gray Aqua had site leases and a hatchery in New Brunswick, but no remaining broodstock following the companyís disastrous shutdown . Northern Harvest comes with broodstock and processing facilities, not to mention 45 approved site licenses, giving Marine Harvest the pieces it needs to start production on the East Coast of North America.
Barely 40-years since the first aquaculture salmon were raised in Atlantic Canada, there are just two companies remaining from dozens of initial entrants.
Farmed salmon cage culture has become very concentrated in the hands lof large multi-national companies. Photo Tom Moffatt/ASF
What this sale means for wild salmon and the environment is uncertain. An increase in overall production will put more lice, drugs, and antibiotics in the water. It also increases the risk of escapes by virtue of having more fish in sea-cages. In B.C. Marine Harvest has been hit with fierce protests and threats from government that its site leases may not be renewed.
In Scotland, Marine Harvest has been plagued by mass mortalities , including in 2016 when it had more that 7,600 tonnes of fish die in its care
On the East Coast the damaging nature of the industry, and its inability to contain fish was brought into stark relief in 2016. Thatís when research conducted by Dr. Ian Bradbury found almost every single river tested on Newfoundlandís south coast, where wild salmon populations are in free fall, showed evidence of breeding between wild fish and aquaculture escapees.
However, there are some potential benefits to the change of ownership. Marine Harvest is a publicly traded company so details of its operations will be disclosed, unlike Cooke Aquaculture. and is also the largest producer in British Columbia.
We hope Marine Harvest can bring some improvements to the East Coast industry, where lax regulations have allowed salmon growers to operate secretly and avoid accountability for decades of mismanagement and mistakes.
Last Thursday in St. Johnís the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal heard the latest round of arguments in the Placentia Bay aquaculture case. At the same time arguments were being made in front of the three judges, competing protests were taking place outside, with horns from passing cars heard loud and clear in the courtroom.
A group of people travelled by bus from St. Maryís, where Grieg Seafood would build the hatchery for the project. On the other side were two students, Brendan Kelly and Katie Kennedy, highlighting the threats that open net-pen salmon farms pose to wild fish and the environment.
Brendan Kelly and Katie Kennedy protest at the Court the impacts of NL salmon farming on wild Atlantic salmon, and they support the need for a FULL environmental assessment of the Grieg Placentia Bay Project. Neville Crabbe/ASF
In July 2017, ASF succeeded when a lower court ordered a full environmental assessment of the proposed Placentia Bay aquaculture project. With the latest appeal, the province has now tried three times to avoid assessment of this project.
In the Court of Appeal the province and the company said that all the issues with the project could be ironed out during construction. ASF argued that because of the significant public concern and major risks involved, the only way to proceed is to do a full environmental assessment. This type of study is directed by the government and carried out by the company. It identifies problems and find ways to mitigate them before a project goes ahead.
Inside the courtroom, awaiting the beginning of the Province's Appeal hearing that took place last Thursday. Neville Crabbe/ASF
Despite massive escapes and deadly disease, there has never been a modern environmental assessment of any salmon aquaculture project in Atlantic Canada. ASF has argued that better regulation and control of the industry is desperately needed, and doing an EIS is actually a compromise.
Now we wait for the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal to decide.
If the provinceís appeal is successful, they have indicated they will drop the assessment thatís underway now (thanks to the first court decision) and go straight to building.
by Lewis Hinks, ASF Director for Programs in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
Recently, I was able to coordinate my schedule with that of Kenny Silver of the St. Maryís River Association to tour some of the work they have been conducting as part of a major habitat restoration project on the West Branch of the St. Maryís, in the northeastern area of the NS mainland.
Rene Aucoin and Kenny Silver pointing out a redd in the St. Mary's River in Nov. 2017. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF
It is an amazing project and huge in scope, with 12-14km completed so far. This river had become too wide and shallow with several pools either missing or degraded. Through a carefully designed series of deflectors and rock sills, several pools have been formed and the river channel is now deeper, narrower with a more natural meander.
Work structure in place on the St., Mary's River. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF
Aside from the dramatic changes in river morphology from the work done, there has also been a big increase in the number of fish spawning in the restored channel section.
Restoration work in 2014 and 2016 on the St. Mary's.
When I was there with Kenny and Rene Aucoin, who also joined us from Cheticamp to see the project, we were not only looking at the work done on the river, but also looking for evidence of spawning activity. Rain, a couple of days previous to our visit, caused the river to rise and reduced our ability to spot redds (salmon spawning nests), but we did see a few.
2017 redd in the St. Mary's. See text regarding upsurge in redds this year. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF
What was really exciting was what Kenny told us about his observations earlier in the month and the comparison to previous years. Prior to the work being done, Kenny had seen approximately 25-30 redds in a 7-8km section of the river. After the restoration work, Kenny counted almost 200 redds in the same area, a six-fold increase!
St. Mary's River on Nov. 17, 2017. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF
It really is exciting to see such great improvement and speaks highly to the great work and dedication of our volunteer organizations and affiliates.
by Lewis Hinks, ASF Director for NS and PEI Programs
Recently, I attended a meeting with the Cheticamp River Salmon Association (CRSA) to review the restoration work that had been conducted this past field season.
It is truly an impressive job with channel refiguring, bank protection and pool creation. Several new pools have been created and I was curious as to whether salmon were using this new area for spawning.
Looking for Redds in the Cheticamp River on 2 Nov. 2017 photo Lewis Hinks/ASF
While there for the meeting, I offered to lead some of the CRSA directors on redd survey the next morning. Due to work and other commitments, only Rene Aucoin (CRSA President) and Jimmie Pedersen, one of the CRSA directors, were able to accompany me.
It was a glorious fall day to do field work and the three of us set out exploring to, hopefully, find evidence of salmon spawning activity. Rene and Jimmy did not have a lot of experience identifying salmon redds, but they quickly caught on and became very adept at spotting them.
Rene Aucoin points out a redd in the Cheticamp River on 2 Nov. Lewis Hinks/ASF
We examined 5 pools in about a 1 kilometer stretch of river, and I am thrilled to report that we identified around 26 redds. This bodes well for the future of wild Atlantic salmon in the Cheticamp river and highlights the importance of such restoration work