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Indian Head Hatchery seeks to expand

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

STEPHENVILLE — On Thursday evening, Apr. 20, Northern Harvest Smolt Inc. (Mowi Canada East Inc.) held a public information session at Days Inn in Stephenville, as part of the environmental assessment regarding the Indian Head Hatchery Expansion Project. The meet and greet was set up to help attendees understand the different aspects of the proposed project, any activities involved with it, and to provide information and address concerns the public may have about the project. While a formal presentation was not offered, Mowi had numerous representatives present to answer any questions, and there were numerous displays set up outlining important information regarding their operations. The expansion of the Indian Head Hatchery in Stephenville would provide smolts to the licensed sea cages that belong to Northern Harvest Sea Farms and would improve production capacity and quality of salmon smolts. The expansion was originally registered in July 2018, and the project was released with conditions later that September. Work was underway when the decision was made to overturn the approval to move forward with the expansion, pending further review. It wasn’t until July of 2021 that the Minister determined an Environmental Preview Report (EPR), would be required, and the EPR guidelines were issued by the appointed Environmental Assessment Committee on Dec. 16, 2021. The blow may have been significant, but it didn’t deter Mowi from their goals. “While delays to a previously approved project have been disappointing and costly, our company will of course comply with Newfoundland legislation that directs these processes,” said Ian Roberts, Director of Communications, Mowi (Scotland, Ireland, Canada). “We are committed to supporting the province’s vision for the long-term growth of the aquaculture sector and the expansion of the Indian Head Hatchery in Stephenville is a critical part of this plan. An increase in salmon smolt produced within the province is a key component of our goal to consistently supply growing demand for seafood year-round.” The benefits of the project are expected to be significant. “The hatchery expansion project is an important step in creating a self-sustaining business in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador that utilizes our current seawater production capacity to supply fresh salmon to domestic and international markets throughout the year. Updated recirculating aquaculture technology will also improve the environmental performance of the hatchery,” said Roberts. If approved, the project will include the installation of the following:

  1. New modular recirculating aquaculture system (“RAS”) smolt production facility

  2. New wastewater treatment building and deep-water outfall

  3. New wells and water treatment building

  4. New fish transfer system

  5. New egg incubation system

  6. New vaccination/grading system

Mowi is at the stage of preparing the documentation requested by the provincial government. “We are currently preparing an Environmental Preview Report for submission to Newfoundland government this summer, which will include input from public engagement sessions,” shared Roberts. As the largest salmon aquaculture company in the world, Mowi has over 11,000 experts working in all areas of their operation, ‘from feed to fork’. “All our efforts are focused on one single goal, to lead a blue revolution that provides a growing world population with healthy and nutritious food from the ocean, in a way that respects our planet and allows local communities to flourish,” said Roberts. Mowi’s freshwater systems are designed to recirculate water and reduce the amount of freshwater used in the entire process. “Salmon naturally start their life in freshwater, so we look to replicate these conditions the best we can at our land-based hatcheries for the first year of their life, whether it be the type of bedding that provides the tiny eggs a gravel-like feel to the first feeding that floats like a dead bug in a river,” explained Roberts. “In modern hatcheries, often referred to as recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), we can control the salmon’s environment to provide the best growing conditions for the fish, such as water quality and flow, fish densities, lighting and water temperature. We are also able to capture, clean and recycle the water to minimize freshwater use.” Environmental consciousness and sustainability are at the forefront of Mowi’s operations. “We are fortunate to raise an animal that is inherently sustainable, being most efficient at turning feed into edible protein, however, we don’t rest on these sustainability attributes alone and continue to adapt our business to ensure our activities have a small environmental footprint,” said Roberts. “Our sustainability strategy, titled ‘Leading the Blue Revolution Plan’, aligns closely with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, with focus on greenhouse gas reductions, plastics use, freshwater use, responsible feed ingredients and third-party certification of all salmon to market. Our efforts have been rewarded with our company ranked the most sustainable protein producer in the world by the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index for the fourth year in a row.” While a set timeline for the project completion is hard to estimate before any determinations are made regarding the EPR that will be submitted in the coming months, Mowi is positive they have a good foundation in place. “We feel confident that this project meets the high expectations of the province and local stakeholders and will create a long-term sustainable business in Newfoundland that will provide many jobs within the province as we responsibly grow our capacity to meet future demand for salmon domestically and worldwide.”

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