Employees at work in Mowi's value-added products plant in Surrey, Metro Vancouver, which is to close as a direct result of the federal government's closure of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in British Columbia. Photo: Mowi Canada West.

80 jobs go as BC farm closures force Mowi to shut processing plant

Mowi Canada West has announced that it is to permanently close its fish processing plant in Surrey, in the Metro Vancouver region of British Columbia (BC). It said the closure was a direct result of the Liberal-run Canadian government’s decision on December 17, 2020, to cancel salmon farming licences in the Discovery Islands in BC.

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In a press release, Mowi said that former federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan stated that her decision only impacts the Discovery Islands, but that in reality her decision to remove 30% of Mowi’s production volume created significant business uncertainty and has forced the company to close its Surrey plant.

“This is devasting news to the employees and families who have relied on this operation for their livelihood,” said Dean Dobrinsky, spokesperson for Mowi Canada West.

Incredibly damaging decision

“It is clear that the decision of the former minister has lasting implications. Her decision is far reaching and continues to be incredibly damaging to the communities where we operate.

“It has been more than a year and we have yet to hear from either the former minister or the new minister Joyce Murray.” Murray is MP for Vancouver Quadra, a constituency in the heart of Vancouver that is just a few miles northwest of Surrey.

Rupinder Dadwan: "This is what happens when politics overrides science-based evidence."

Mowi’s 23,000 square foot value-added processing (VAP) plant began operations in December 2017, and currently employs approximately 80 people.

The plant’s human resources manager, Rupinder Dadwan, said: “This is what happens when politics overrides science-based evidence. At the beginning of the (Covid) pandemic we were deemed an essential service providing our country affordable and healthy food, and now we’re forced to close our doors. Our Federal Government doesn’t have to do this - it can choose fairness and engagement over divisiveness and exclusion.”

Moving business to US

Mowi said that until business certainty is restored in BC, it will supply its customers’ orders for value-added seafoods through its facilities located in the United States. The Surrey plant is expected to close in late March 2022. Mowi will continue to primary process all salmon grown in BC at its plant in Port Hardy in the province.

A recent economic report found that the companies operating within Surrey that are part of BC’s farm-raised salmon supply chain generate more than $363 million in revenues and create jobs for 1,189 workers earning almost $65m in salaries.

Mowi's VAP plant in Surrey will close with the loss of 80 jobs. The work will go to the US. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Mowi.

‘No government action’

“The Surrey Board of Trade is devastated that 80 jobs have been lost in Surrey and moreover that these jobs are moving to the US,” said Anita Huberman, president chief executive of Surrey Board of Trade.

“There has been no government action, by any level, to help save these jobs in the salmon farming industry, an industry that is an important economic ingredient to Canada and to our food security systems.”

Former fisheries minister Jordan, who lost her seat in last year’s general election, announced the closure of 19 salmon farms in the Discovery Islands – the majority operated by Mowi – after consultation with First Nations in whose territories the farms were situated. The Nations blamed the farms for falling numbers of wild salmon, despite nine separate scientific studies concluding that they posed no more than a minimal risk.

Hatchery closure

In October last year, Mowi announced that its Dalrymple hatchery near Sayward, BC, will be closed by May this year with the loss of 17 jobs as a direct result of the Discovery Islands decision.

The hatchery, one of three Mowi operates in BC, will be mothballed with a plan to reopen it when production requirements allow.

The company is hoping a recent judicial review of the Discovery Island closures will result in a judgement allowing it to continue farming in the area.