Risley, Co-Founder of Clearwater Seafoods, Calls for Stop Expansion of Salmon Farming in Eastern Canada

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John Risley, co-founder and current board member of Canadian seafood company Clearwater Seafoods, believes salmon farming as currently practiced in Canada is not sustainable, and he calls for stopping the expansion of the industry in eastern Canada.

Risley, in a column published Tuesday in Atlantic Business Magazine, argues that parkland salmon farming threatens the survival of wild salmon runs in eastern Canada and relies on the use of wild fish to feed farmed salmon.

“I am increasingly aware that members of the scientific community in our government are concerned about the environmental costs of salmon farming as it is currently practiced on the south coast of Newfoundland (and indeed the south coast). (west of Nova Scotia and the south coast of Nova Scotia (Brunswick), “wrote Risley.

“Of particular concern are plans to expand the industry into areas west of where they currently operate, where currently pristine rivers support healthy populations of wild fish. How can this be reconciled with the federal government’s new blue economy strategy? “

More problems for Canada’s salmon farms

Risley’s indictment against salmon farming comes at a time when international salmon farming companies are battling growing opposition from NGOs and politicians in Canada.

Biological challenges on Canada’s east coast and major changes the government has made to its operations in British Columbia are leading salmon aquaculture giant Mowi, for example, to rethink growth plans for both regions of Canada.

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Its Canadian operations reported fourth quarter earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of 43.1 million euros ($ 52.4 million), more than three times the loss for the same quarter of the previous year .

Mowi’s board of directors has approved a plan that it says will bring the region back to profitability and “make Mowi Canada East a lean business unit at the appropriate scale.”

The potential for volume growth in Eastern Canada remains significant, ”the company said.

The company’s operations in British Columbia are not doing much better. The Canadian government’s decision to phase out salmon aquaculture licenses in Discovery Islands, British Columbia, by June 30, 2022, impacts 30 percent of the company’s total annual harvest volumes in the region.

Norwegian salmon farmer Grieg Seafood is also looking to expand into Canada. Along with Norway, Canada’s east and west coasts are the pillars of Grieg’s production growth plans, which include an investment of NOK 2.6 billion (€ 241.5 million / € 286.6 million dollars) aimed at increasing volumes to 130,000 tonnes by 2025.

In 2020, Grieg acquired Grieg Newfoundland, Canada, with a long-term annual harvest potential of 30,000 to 45,000 metric tonnes of Atlantic salmon.

Canada’s Cooke Aquaculture has been operating in Eastern Canada since 1985 when it established Kelly Cove Salmon.

Cooke is looking to expand his Kelly Cove Salmon operation in Nova Scotia. The plan includes the first new open pen salmon farm in Nova Scotia since a moratorium was imposed in 2013 and lifted three years later.

Last year, the company got approval to renew its license and leases for marine aquaculture in Liverpool Bay, in the province. The company is currently seeking approval to allow Cooke to add 46 pens and increase capacity to 1.8 million salmon in Liverpool Bay.

It is looking to increase production to 30,000 metric tonnes in the province, after Mitsubishi-owned salmon giant Cermaq scrapped plans in the area. Cooke is investing C $ 112 million ($ 80 million / € 74 million) in Nova Scotia.

Glenn Cooke, CEO of Cooke Aquaculture. The company once mingled with Clearwater for control of the harvesting group.

Bad blood with Cooke?

Although Risley has not directly criticized any of the companies seeking to expand in the region, Cooke is the largest and most powerful salmon farming group in the Maritimes. Additionally, Risley and Clearwater have mingled with Cooke in the past.

In 2011, Cooke attempted to increase its stake in Clearwater Seafoods Income Fund.

Risley and Clearwater co-founder Colin MacDonald said at the time that they had no interest in selling their shares after Cooke made a non-binding proposal to buy the fishing company for C $ 159 million ( 111.9 million euros / 160.7 million dollars).

Cooke’s offer was ultimately rejected.

In January, Premium Brands and a coalition of Mi’kmaq First Nations completed the acquisition of Clearwater

In the editorial, Risley calls for an “open and informed” debate on the expansion of salmon farming in the region.

“If the outcome of the debate is to allow further expansion of the industry, then at least we have had the discussion and we understand the consequences,” he wrote. “But no extensions should be allowed until this debate has taken place.”

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Tanya S. Norvell