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Mowi chief executive Alf-Helge Aarskog.
Mowi chief executive Alf-Helge Aarskog.

Mowi has published a letter of apology written by the company’s chief executive, Alf-Helge Aarskog, to Newfoundland and Labrador premier Dwight Ball and fisheries minister Gerry Byrne.

Aarskog presented the letter when he met with the men in Newfoundland yesterday to explain the circumstances that led to the death of 2.6 million farmed salmon at 10 sites owned by Mowi subsidiary Northern Harvest Sea Farms.

Byrne suspended the licences to operate the 10 farms after Northern Harvest has failed to inform him of the full extent of the die-off, which was caused by unusually high sea temperatures.

Gerry Byrne: Suspended licences.
Gerry Byrne: Suspended licences.

‘I sincerely apologise’

Aarskog wrote that he wanted to begin by acknowledging a mistake Mowi made while responding to a significant, unexpected, and unfortunate climate event this summer that took half its fish in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“In not providing mortality information properly after the mass mortality was first reported in September, we did not live up to both your, and our own expectations. For this, I personally and sincerely apologise as CEO on behalf Mowi ASA,” wrote the CEO.

He then listed steps Mowi was taking to prevent such a die-off happening again, including fitting all current and new sites with nets that have a total minimum depth of 25 metres to ensure salmon have access to optimal water temperatures.

Aarskog also promised an enhanced mass mortality response plan, greater boat capacity and more training for staff.

Access to boats

He added: “Mowi will also work with the Federal Government to secure timely access to boats (well boats, seiners, etc.) that are able to assist with emergencies in the future. As part of this experience we learned there are delays created by regulatory process that can prevent large-scale well boats from entering Canadian waters on short notice, and we now have an opportunity to adapt to this reality and prepare for the future.”

The Mowi boss said it was the first time the company had seen such water temperatures as those that killed the salmon in NL.

“Temperature data that we received while we were contemplating the purchase of Northern Harvest Sea Farms did not indicate that such events were possible,” he added.

He explained that Northern Harvest, which Mowi bought in July 2018, had been operating with nets with a total depth of 15 metres for years, and Mowi didn’t change them because “we had no way of knowing that this climate event would occur”.

Changes must be made

He added: “We have learned that the environment on the south coast is more unpredictable than expected, and we clearly recognise that changes must be made.”

He concluded: “We want to continue to make positive contributions and investments that benefit the industry in this province, provide employment, and contribute to a more robust future for rural families and communities. However, we cannot do this without a predictable and transparent regulatory framework, access to sites, and a clear pathway to be able to stock those sites with smolt.

“It is my hope as CEO of the largest salmon producing company in the world, that you will accept my apology on behalf of Mowi, appreciate our commitment and our capacity to help build a better future, and work with us to create a shared set of expectations about what must be done to move forward in a positive way that creates benefits for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”

Read the full letter here.