The half-truth aquaculture strategy

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The provincial government wants us to care about sea lice on farmed fish — but they only want us to care so much.

They proudly called a news conference last week to tell they are funding a project to use cunners/connors and lumpfish to help mitigate the infestation of sea lice that thrive on farmed fish.

The “cleaner fish” feed on the parasitic sea lice which can destroy farmed salmon stocks.

Sea lice have become more of a problem in Newfoundland and Labrador aquaculture operations because of warmer water temperatures. It takes a whole host of strong pesticides to rid our cultured salmon of these parasites.

If it works, the “cleaner fish” will be an ecological way to mitigate this industry ill rather than the continued use of pesticides, which obviously has become less and less effective.  

At the same time, ask government about the incidents of sea lice and they will draw down the black curtain in this province known as Bill 29.

Under an access to information request, our office sought the results of all sea lice monitoring for the past five years.

We were told it was “highly confidential” information that needed to be closely guarded. Contrast this with the fact that data on sea lice occurrences in British Columbia is readily available to the public on DFO’s website.

At the same press conference government admits that aquaculture is evolving and they must work collaboratively with the industry.  Not only must government partner with industry, it has to work with other stakeholders to ensure all voices are heard and respected.

For one thing, government must also take its head out of the sand and admit that open-net pen farming is becoming less and less acceptable to people, communities and consumers across the country.

They must soon change course to transition to closed containment, or our industry will not progress. The five recent incidents of infectious salmon anemia this year alone attests to the fact that we must be do it better.

The fact is ,this government must offer more than half the picture if they want to all of us to be true stewards of aquaculture and support an evolving industry.

Perhaps there are “cleaner fish” out there that will help government control its diseased, half-truth aquaculture strategy?

Jim Bennett

Liberal fisheries critic, MHA St. Barbe

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia

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