Newfoundland and Labrador’s outfitters say the province’s aquaculture industry is decimating its industry.
“There’s a number of issues,” said Tony Tuck, chairman of the Outfitters Association’s fishing committee, who presented his concerns at a senate hearing on aquaculture earlier this week in Gander. “Probably the one that’s escalating the most here lately is escapees. They’re showing up a lot in a lot of our south coast rivers, and probably going to show up farther away as time goes on, because obviously they’re not restricted. They can swim wherever they like.”
Tuck’s concerned about what interbreeding between wild and farmed salmon will do to the strength of wild stock, as well as the effect of the competition for food.
“Then there’s an issue with disease in sea cages, which can be passed through to the wild fish as they swim past the cages,” he said. “That seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. … There’s huge numbers of fish that have to be destroyed.”
Aquaculture producers are compensated for fish that need to be destroyed, said Tuck. As previously reported by The Telegram, the federal government has paid $33.1 million to two companies, Gray Aqua and Cooke Aquaculture, for five outbreaks dating back to July 2012.
“That should be everybody’s concern, not just people who are concerned about wild fish, but just the waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Tuck says the provincial government isn’t doing enough to protect wild salmon stocks.
“They have no idea of the impact and they’ve done no science to see just exactly what the relationship is,” he said.
Not so, says provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Hutchings, who points to containment practices the province began implementing in 2000.
“Prior to 2000, we had about 568,000, I think, salmon in the water,” he said. “When you look at today, we have almost 15 million. Look at the percentage of escapes — I think out of that 15 million today, we see something like around 28,000. So since we brought in the Code of Containment, we see really good success in terms of release of wild salmon into the wild.”
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans plays a big part in regulating the interaction between wild and farmed salmon, said Hutchings.
“They’ve done significant work in that and found no significant evidence to date in regards to issues in that interaction,” he said.
“We’re always concerned about all industries — certainly the wild fishery and the farmed, we want to see both be successful and continue to be sustainable and profitable for all concerned.”