Henry Hicks lives in Nova Scotia, but he likes to salmon fish in this province. He likes it a lot.
Hicks estimates that he’s spent well over $100,000 in this province on fishing trips, particularly on the LaPoile River and the Grey River on the province’s south coast. He’s rented helicopters, taken part in fishing trips with scores of friends and takes a keen interest in the health of this province’s salmon stocks.
So, when he heard that this province was doing a review of the aquaculture industry, he lost no time writing to the provincial government.
“While I wonder at the government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s continuing positive message about the aquaculture business on your south coast, given the outbreaks of infectious salmon anemia there, the closing of the Cooke Aquaculture plant, the escape of tens of thousands of farmed fish and now the necessity of a possible listing of the south coast wild salmon as an endangered species, I congratulate you on your undertaking a review of the aquaculture industry in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he wrote.
Hicks didn’t come to this province last year: “For me, fishing on the south coast of Newfoundland has become morally untenable and I did not return this past summer. I know many others who feel the same.”
Hicks’ message was not much different than many opponents of open-pen aquaculture: the review, he thought, could lead to the provincial government pushing for on-land, closed containment aquaculture: “no escapees, no sewage build up in the ocean and no concentration of sea lice and no adverse effects on wild salmon.”
All in all, it was a thorough, well-though-out letter with several references to the scientific literature on open-pen aquaculture, even if it was in opposition to the province’s current position. Hicks didn’t expect total agreement, although he was willing to talk: he even included his telephone number in case someone wanted to reach him directly.
What he didn’t expect was to be ignored — he didn’t even receive the courtesy of an acknowledgement to his letter.
And he’s not alone in that.
Cabot Martin, a former senior government official, wrote to the provincial government with his concerns about a facet of the Muskrat Falls development, questioning the safety of the soils in the North Spur and enclosing a copy of a report from a Norwegian specialist on landslide formation in certain types of clay.
The expert says he has not directly sampled the clays at the Muskrat Falls site, but says that the type of landslide scars that are already apparent in the region, and the 12 to 13 per cent mean slope gradient, suggest the possibility of large volumes of sliding soil occurring with little to start the slide: “The triggering load effect may then turn out to be astonishingly diminutive — such as a small fill, driving of a few piles, vibratory activity, a minor blasting effect or a light earthquake. For instance, the 600 metres long progressive landslide in Surte — a community just North of Gothenburg in western Sweden — was triggered merely by driving a few concrete piles for a family house in a critical up-slope location.”
Once again, it’s something that the provincial government just might not want to hear; still, Martin expected that he would at least get word from the government that they had seen the study.
“I sent the attached correspondence … and have not yet received a reply or even acknowledgement,” Martin says.
It is a message that you hear more and more about the current provincial government: if you espouse something other than the government line, you are dismissed immediately.
When Tom Marshall became premier, he has said that the government wants to listen: one of the very first things he said after being sworn in was that his government would “listen to the people.”
It could start by answering its mail.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s
editorial page editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A column by Russell Wangersky in the March 11 edition of The Telegram, “Answering their mail,” said that Henry Hicks, an angler from Nova Scotia, had written to the provincial government about his concerns with open-pen aquaculture and had not received a response.
The provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, however, says they did respond to Hicks’ correspondence.
Hicks sent his letter to the province on Dec. 17, 2013; a Fisheries spokesman says a complete response to Hicks’ detailed letter was mailed on Feb. 18.