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Failing worse: legacies of extractive resource frontiers on Newfoundland’s south coast

Authors: Daniel Banoub*, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Christine Knott, Memorial University
Topics: Economic Geography, Environment, Canada
Keywords: Political ecology, aquaculture, political economy, frontiers
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In September of 2019, 2.6 million farmed Atlantic salmon suffocated and died in net-pens off of Newfoundland’s south coast. Reports surfaced of ‘pink residue’ being pumped into Fortune Bay, of nearby shorelines covered in decomposed salmon debris and fat, and of an unknown amount of fish escaping from the nets weighed down with dead fish. Northern Harvest Sea Farms, owned by global aquaculture giant Mowi ASA, blamed the die-off on unusually high ocean temperatures, but on-going investigations are raising important questions about aquaculture practices in the region. This event marks yet another significant failure that has plagued salmon aquaculture development in this region.

Using archival and secondary sources, this paper situates this particular failure in the long history of failed extractive resource frontiers on Newfoundland’s south coast. We will demonstrate empirically how the aquaculture industry emerged because of previous failed resource projects beginning with the offshore bank fishery in the nineteenth century, and continuing into pulp and paper, hydroelectric, and agriculture development in the early-twentieth century. We highlight not only the historical significance of previous resource industries and their infrastructure ruin in opening up space for newer resource frontiers, but also the significant ramifications for the communities and ecosystems. This paper frames failure as an important analytic for the emergent literature on resource/commodity frontiers.

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