Three hatcheries north of Campbell River are set to cull 8.3 million fish at an estimated revenue loss of $195 million for aquaculture company Mowi Canada West.
Fry and smolts that were being raised at Big Tree Creek, Dalrymple and Ocean Falls hatcheries were to supply Mowi’s Discovery Island fish farms. But now the fish will have to be culled as there are no other production sites to move them to, said Dean Dobrinksky, Mowi human resources, safety and communications manager.
“Aquaculture industry works on a five year cycle and fish are at different stages in the cycle. We had salmon that was slated to go to the Discovery Island farms this spring, but as per the Dec. 17 federal decision operators are not allowed to add any new stocks in these sites,” Dobrinsky said.
In December, Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 Discovery Islands fish farms by 2022 after consultation with seven First Nations that hold title in the area.
For years, several Indigenous groups and wild salmon advocates had been calling for the removal of fish farms from B.C.’s waters, arguing that they threaten the health of wild salmon.
Operators have been given an 18-month grace period to harvest close to three million salmon that are already in these pens.
While the decision impacted three major aquaculture companies based out of Campbell River – Mowi Canada West, Grieg Seafood BC, and Cermaq – Mowi took the biggest hit with 30 per cent of their overall production in B.C. concentrated in the Discovery Islands farms. A day before the minister’s announcement, fish from the hatcheries were scheduled to be transferred to the farms in Discovery Islands, said Dobrinksky.
The 18-month period is too short a notice to sort out operational logistics, according to Dobrinksy, who said that it disrupted the five year cycle under which the company operates.
“It’s going to be an awful experience for the farmers at the hatcheries who were taking care of the fish, feeding them and making sure that they are healthy,” said Dobrinsky, and added, “and now we’re going to be asking those same employees to kill them.”