THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO Mowi representatives gave a presentation to the Regional District of Mount Waddington last Tuesday.

Mowi reassures RDMW future of aquaculture industry in wake of historic announcement last month

Mowi anticipates a plethora of opportunities in other areas of the North Island for economic growth.

Mowi met with the Regional District of Mount Waddington (RDMW) to reassure the board that, following the phasing out of a number of aquaculture sites in the Broughton Archipelago, there would be no foreseeable impacts on the local economy.

During those discussions at the Jan. 15 RDMW meeting, Mowi noted it plans to continue striding towards exceeding industry standards by obtaining Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certifications.

Employment

The company, formerly called Marine Harvest, anticipates a plethora of opportunities in other areas of the North Island for economic growth, which could mean stable job growth.

“We want to make sure that our people are living here,” Jeremy Dunn, Director of Community Engagement and Public Affairs, said. “I think the corporate direction has changed,” he added in reference to worries of losing local employment.

Over 600 Mowi employees are located along the North Island with over $3.2 of the company’s revenue going directly to payroll. In total, the company has over 13,000 employees worldwide, but locally, Mowi operates out of Campbell River.

No immediate changes to local employment are expected yet.

Due to recent announcements by the province of B.C., many aquaculture sites will be phased out overtime in the Broughton Archipelago. The shutdowns are a result of years of discussion between three First Nations and the provincial government.

What future operations within the Broughton Archipelago “looks like long term is actually quite uncertain,” Dunn said.

Mowi is currently at the table with three Broughton Area First Nations working on implementing the recommendations announced in December.

The company anticipates First Nations to play a significant part in monitoring and independent testing of farmed fish.

While Mowi runs 12 aquaculture sites along the Broughton Archipelago, more than a dozen also operate in Port Hardy, Quatsino and Klemtu, and Campbell River. In light of the recent events, the company is now looking towards any opportunity for business with other local First Nations over the next five years.

The company currently holds 13 agreements with local First Nation band administrations. Many agreements are older than ten years. At least 80 employees identify as having Indigenous heritage.

First Nation governments in agreement with Mowi and First Nation businesses often work together to help monitor sites or run guardian programs.

While there are polarizing views on the aquaculture industry, Dunn noted Mowi will continue to “find common pathways” at the discussion table to ensure a future of the business in the North Island. The company has invested locally, spending over $45 million on two recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) salmon hatchery and nursery facilities near Sayward. Dunn mentioned the two RAS facilities were expected to produce 7.5 million smolt by the end of 2017.

Certification Standards

Mowi, in the last eight years, has worked extensively with ASC, which is an independent non-profit organization which manages certification for responsible aquaculture. The company strives for a “robust, strong standard” in the industry by following ASC regulations, Katherine Dolmage, certification manager at Mowi, noted.

ASC reviews and certifies aquaculture sites and then determines whether the company has followed a stringent set of standards to qualify for what is deemed responsible operations. The central aim of ASC is to minimize any social or environmental impacts of aquaculture.

The ASC has a pass-fail system, but Mowi plans to work heavily with independent auditors to ensure that farms are operated at a higher standard so that they are certified under ASC.

“The ASC certification really is a challenging certification to achieve for the farm,” Dunn said. “It’s done in a way that is transparent and audited so we meet all DFO regulations. DFO publishes all that information of their audits on their website and we have ASC as well.” Independent audits on performance and health of farms are available to the public online.

Dolmage added that the standards developed in the ASC were now in place in over 22 aquaculture sites. The company, however, plans to expand ASC standards to all of their sites by at least 2020.

What the standards look like, Dolmage pointed out, often means “reducing our antibiotic and sea lice treatments” while also following local laws and regulations so that auditors can verify company records, like payroll, human resources, and, most importantly, notifications to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Mowi is currently investing in non-medicinal sea lice treatments

“They (ASC) put a strict cap on the number of treatments per production cycle and then also require over time the volume of antibiotics that we use is reduced,” Dolmage said. This nonmedicinal sea lice treatment is one way to meet ASC regulations.

Mowi will take into account local ecosystems surrounding their aquaculture sites out of a social responsibility, having also noted that local employment and safety of employees while on-site are important to the company as well.

– Thomas Kervin article

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