More Problems for Cooke Aquaculture


More troubles for Cooke Aqua: Product recall, "Do not buy" notice for farmed salmon, loan demands

March 1, 2016 - 08:06 Timothy Gillespie

 New Brunswick-based multi-national farmed salmon producer Cooke Aquaculture had nothing but bad news during the past month, including yet another product recall from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), a voluable complaint from the mayor of the town housing Cooke's Nova Scotia headquarters and a notice to consumers to avoid eating Cooke's primary product, Atlantic salmon grown in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

Government product recalls

In late January, CFIA issues a recall notice for salmon products produced by subsidiary True North Salmon, based on evidence that the fish might contain particles of a foreign substance. In 2012, CFIA issues a recall warning when Cooke distributed framed mussels which were alleged to contain marine biotoxins. Also in 2012, three Cooke executives - including CEO and founder Glenn Cooke - faced federal felony charges for dumping gallons of deadly insecticides near their salmon cages in the Bay of Fundy.  

Avoid this salmon

The most recent issue of the Seafood Watch consumer guide cited farmed Atlantic salmon grown by Cooke and others in "feedlot" conditions in open net pen cages as food to avoid. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program creates science-based recommendations that help consumers and businesses make ocean-friendly seafood choices. More than 1,000 businesses across North America use Seafood Watch's science to inform their purchasing decisions, the organization says.

The Seafood Watch report breaks down its seafood rankings into three categories: best choice, good alternative and avoid.

The "red" label - or "avoid" -  from Seafood Watch means it recommends consumers shouldn't buy a product because it's caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment. Susanna Fuller, marine coordinator for Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, said Atlantic Canadian fish farms use far too many chemicals and antibiotics on their fish and there's a risk that farmed fish will escape and pass diseases to wild salmon. Cooke Aquaculture owns and operates the majority of salmon farms in the Atlantic Region and has feedlot farms in Maine, Chile and Scotland.

Cooke salmon farms in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Chile have had many instances of sea lice epidemics and virulent outbreaks of infectious salmon anemia (ISA), resulting in the enforced slaughter of millions of market-ready salmon.   

Show us the money

This week, Cooke was also in the news throughout Nova Scotia and in international fish business journals as a result of the mayor and Council in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, pushing the province to spend millions originally intended to fund Cooke Aquaculture's new processing plant for economic development. The headquarters for Cooke operations in Nova Scotia are in Shelburne. Nova Scotia The minister of Business for the province said recently, that the province would be calling in an $18 million loan to Cooke due to the firm's failure to perform its obligations under the loan agreement.

The province had committed to making $25 million available to the company to build the plant that would have employed more than 300 people, but the company said in January that it was abandoning those plans. The council said it wanted to see some of that money stay in Shelburne to create more jobs.