Marine Harvest rebrands as Mowi on Jan. 1, 2019.

Marine Harvest to rebrand as Mowi – but relatives of the company’s namesake are unhappy about the move

Name change comes ahead of Mowi-branded product launch

The salmon farming giant Marine Harvest is rebranding as Mowi, a name that pays homage to Thor Mowinckel, one of the company’s founders.

But relatives of the company’s namesake objected to the name change on Tuesday, raising criticisms of open-net pen aquaculture.

The new moniker comes into effect as of Jan. 1, 2019, according to Jeremy Dunn, the director of public affairs for the company’s Canadian subsidiary.

Shareholders approved the switch at a special assembly that took place on Tuesday in Bergen, Norway, where the multinational seafood company is based.

The rebranding effort applies to all worldwide business units of the Marine Harvest Group, which describes itself as the “world’s largest producer of farmed salmon, both by volume and revenue.”

It comes as the company prepares to launch a new line of Mowi-branded products. A statement from the company in November said the Mowi brand will “communicate our integrated value-chain from feed to the consumer’s plate.”

READ MORE: Feds say $105-million fish fund will support wild salmon, innovation in B.C. fisheries

READ MORE: Tofino, Ucluelet, Swiftsure facing likely fishing closures in 2019

The Marine Harvest brand has been present in B.C. for more than a decade, Dunn said. In 2006, the company was taken over by Pan Fish, and it rebranded as Marine Harvest the following year.

The new brand is based on the surname of Thor Mowinckel, one of the founders of the company.

“Thor Mowinckel was a pioneer in salmon smolt production in the late 60s and was a founder of Mowi,” said Dunn. “The name was so significant that we also named the high-quality salmon breed our business was built on after it, the distinctive Mowi breed of salmon.”

Mowinckel served as the company’s CEO after entrepreneur and product developer Johan Lærum experimented with fish farming in Norway in the 1960s, according to the company’s 2017 annual report.

The name change was met with controversy on Tuesday, as a relative of Thor Mowinckel raised objections about the industry.

Frederik W. Mowinckel said on Twitter that members of the Mowinckel family were at the company’s assembly – called an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) – to protest the name change.

“Members of the Mowinckel family have at the EGM today voted against Marine Harvest’s plans to change its name to MOWI,” he said. “We do not wish be associated with what we consider an unsustainable way of farming salmon.”

He also called for a transition to closed containment salmon farming, saying that “[c]ompletely closed farms is the only way forward.”

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