Fish Farms - East meets
Lately we’re hearing lots of fish farm controversy from British Columbia’s Cohen Commission hearings.
On November 6, 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an inquiry into decline of sockeye salmon
in the Fraser River. The Cohen Commission’s evidentiary hearings began in October 2010 and
are scheduled to end on September 28, 2011. A final report is to be submitted on or before June 30, 2012.
The Commission has heard DFO being accused of muzzling some of its own scientists while permitting those who question
the role of fish farms in wild salmon decline to testify. A DFO communications plan pushes aquaculture, and suggests in BC that negative publicity
is related to a biased media. Meanwhile, conflicting scientific testimony has significantly muddied the waters.
Prior to the inquiry, back in February of 2009, the BC Supreme Court ruled that the BC
provincial government does not have the right to regulate salmon farms - the BC regulation of fish farms has become unlawful,
unconstitutional and invalid. Fish inside the farm are now considered a fishery, not agriculture and thus the federal
government Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has exclusive right to regulation. The court suspended the ruling for a period
of 12 months to allow the federal government to bring in proper legislation.
With that water under the bridge, BC fish farm opponents hoped new aquaculture regulations
would finally bring about the necessary industry improvements, but, unfortunately, DFO seems to have no such intent.
So what does this mean to us in Atlantic Canada?
Well, we see many similarities.
We’ve seen the demise of wild Atlantic salmon in Nova Scotia’s inner Bay of Fundy streams coincident with the
spread of fish farms around the Bay. We’ve also learned that chemicals used by fish farms to control
sea lice infestations have killed lobster. DFO gave Nova Scotia the responsibility for aquaculture regulation, legal or not,
as it did in BC. This has created a similar environment for aquaculture industry to gain favor with provincial MLAs in return
for the promise of job creation. And similarly, our federal DFO has no plan for wild salmon recovery. It has no salmon hatcheries.
It has no interest in Nova Scotia’s potential to again become a world-class sportfishing destination as it was only
30 years ago. This despite a DFO study that showed that salmon sport fishing, supported by a provincial salmon hatchery, brought
$2.5 million to Nova Scotia’s Inverness County in 2005.
Instead, our wild Atlantic salmon are being treated as an obstacle to fish farm development.
An important step in getting the province to adopt stiffer guidelines is an appeal
filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court seeking to overturn the operating license approvals the province granted Kelly Cove
Salmon Ltd., a subsidiary of New Brunswick's Blacks Harbour-based Cooke Aquaculture Inc. The filing group is a coalition
of three community groups close to the salmon farm site on Long Island, near Digby on Nova Scotia's Fundy coast, as well
as the Atlantic Salmon Federation and Ecojustice, a Toronto-based advocacy group.
All of this could be resolved on both east and west coasts by a transition from sea-cages to self-contained or land-based
fish farms. This would effectively deal with deadly problems for wild salmon populations like spread of disease, parasites,
predator concentration, genetic interference caused by escapement, and pollution. But the industry continues to resist change
due to added expense.
It’s like the automobile industry saying that it can’t afford to build safe vehicles. It’s
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