Time for the government to sit up and take notice

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The people of our province have spoken about the aquaculture industry and their views were summarized and shared with the public recently in a government document called “What We Heard.” The most outstanding insight coming out of these very limited consultations is that the fin-fish aquaculture on the south coast has much deeper issues than the slick public relations campaign by the industry can ever hope to gloss over.

In that document, 80 per cent of the respondents labelled the salmonid aquaculture industry as performing “poorly.” Indeed, fully 50 per cent thought the aquaculture industry performed “very poorly.” Premier Tom Marshall, Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley — are you listening?

Many of us have been trying to tell the government for years about the negatives of fin-fish aquaculture, but they have chosen to let our concerns fall by the wayside. Well, what about now?

These concerns are well known — pesticide use (legal and illegal) to treat the proliferation of sea lice; the numerous outbreaks of infectious salmon anemia and its repercussions; the near-annihilation of our wild salmon; the slaughter of predators; escapees which will dilute the wild gene pool; the pollution of our waters through untreated effluent and feces; and finally, the ungodly amounts of  investments, subsidies and compensation insurance paid out to the industry each year.

Now, the provincial government has argued that all of this is needed to ensure the sustainability of the industry; but if all of these ills comprise what is known as sustainability, it is a no-win situation for taxpayers, the environment, our wild fish — indeed, even our own health.

The aquaculture industry is the only winner here, as there is no accountability on their part to ensure that they do it right.

This is not sustainability by any account.

What government heard from its citizens should now kick-start a new era in our aquaculture

industry. One of the suggestions expressed by many was that government should explore the new closed-containment option which it has steadfastly ignored up to now. Sure, it’s more expensive, but just imagine how far ahead we would be now if the $35 million government has already paid in insurance to these companies had been put into land-based pens instead. We would now be a world-leader in environmentally sustainable aquaculture. And it’s coming, so let’s get onboard.

So head’s up to the aquaculture industry — if the government won't bring you to your senses, there's a growing groundswell of people who will.

Our bays, our wild fisheries, our ecosystems and our own health are far too precious to just pass over to those companies who do not treat them with the respect they deserve. So either develop your industry sustainably for future generations — or perish.

Rick Maddigan is a former president of the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland and vice-president of the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Organizations: Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland, Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • paul
    March 19, 2014 - 14:24

    the attacks on teh salmon farming industry in NL, BC and elsewhere is based on emotion and junk science. they take half truths and exagerate them, and promote past poor practices and poor site pracices that do not reflect the industry in any wide scale, and say that this is how is it done...when by and large it does not do any significant or lasting damage to the environment or wild stocks. As for human health, the hype around PCBs in farmed salmon is nonsense. Some farmed salmon have higher than some wild, and some wild have higher than some farmed, but all are way below the food safety guidelines. anyone interested should read this article " Did david suzuki prevaricate about pcb's in farmed salmon'...it reveiws the junk science and just who pays for it...as in the wild salmon processors from alaska pay lobbyists to produce reports that make farmed salmon look bad in the market place...read it. the antisalmon farming lobby works exactly the same way that PETA does...using misinformation and emotionalized hype to present a false message...

  • Addie Hollingsworth
    March 17, 2014 - 19:16

    Wonderful article-stay strong peeps! take back your eco-systems!! "So head’s up to the aquaculture industry — if the government won't bring you to your senses, there's a growing groundswell of people who will." (my favourite line) Wishing you every success! Don't give up!

  • C
    March 17, 2014 - 17:04

    Nice article Rick.

  • Alexandra Morton
    March 17, 2014 - 11:10

    We on the west coast, in BC, feel the same way. You need to contact the Senate Standing Committee on aquaculture regulation. DFO is telling them they want to remove the prohibition against release of deleterious substances, section 36 of the Fisheries Act, so the industry can use more de-lousing drugs. This is a direct threat to your lobster fishery. Most of this senate committee appears to be from the east coast. alexandramorton.ca

  • Alexandra Morton
    March 17, 2014 - 11:01

    We on the west coast, in BC, feel the same way. You need to contact the Senate Standing Committee on aquaculture regulation. DFO is telling them they want to remove the prohibition against release of deleterious substances, section 36 of the Fisheries Act, so the industry can use more de-lousing drugs. This is a direct threat to your lobster fishery. Most of this senate committee appears to be from the east coast. alexandramorton.ca

  • Unsustainable in the Ocean
    March 16, 2014 - 19:51

    Folks; This is ecology 101. Putting 50,000 migratory salmon in a confining ocean net pen for 18 months is a recipe for parasites and diseases to run rampant and cause harm to wild stocks. The company with the highest profits in 2013 while maintaining average productions costs was LAND BASED. Let's get in on this SUSTAINABLE market...WE have the natural clean salmon food RIGHT HERE.

  • Unsustainable in the Ocean
    March 16, 2014 - 19:45

    Folks; This is ecology 101. Putting 50,000 migratory salmon in a confining ocean net pen for 18 months is a recipe for parasites and diseases to run rampant and cause harm to wild stocks. The company with the highest profits while maintaining average productions costs was LAND BASED. Let's get in on this SUSTAINABLE market...WE have the natural clean salmon food RIGHT HERE.

  • Avid angler
    March 16, 2014 - 19:31

    John Q: you obviously are not educated in catch and release practices. This has been common place on our salmon rivers for decades with no harmful effects to population. The aquacultural industry's effect of ecosystems are new to this province. Now, all of a sudden, the wild salmon stocks are in trouble. There's only one factor in this equation that's different and I don't have to say what it is. I'd advise you to educate yourself in the recreational fishery before you make such ignorant comments. Catch and release has been tried, tested and is proven to be harmless to fish if done correctly. I know your comments are because of an invested interest and you choose to ignore the harmful effects of this industry. An industry that has been proven to be a pollution to our waters but because of money, the government decides it's better to ignore and hide reports of disease outbreaks and contamination. Thank you Bill 29. Thanks Rick for writing this article. The more people that are educated in this damaging industry the better. For all of you that are skeptical, research the BC fish farming industry and the effects on the wild salmon population. It's disgusting.

  • John Q Public
    March 16, 2014 - 11:06

    While I do not have a whole lot of respect for the Aquaculture industry I have even less for the salmonid clique. They blame the sorry state of salmon on anything and everything except themselves. They promote catch and release which is the most blatant form or "animal" cruelty in our society today. They promote hooking a salmon, tiring it out, removing it from its natural habitat and forcing it to breath a foreign substance and all for what? All for a few laughs and to pose for a photograph with an exhausted salmon that was on its way to spawn. Shameful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Brian
    March 16, 2014 - 10:55

    C'mon Rick bye, you know that government will continue to support this sea-based aquaculture industry (if you want to call it an industry) - for one primary reason - jobs. Regardless of the environmental destruction and production of a product that will never pass these lips (or my children's), the reality is that it sustains some smaller rural communities with jobs (as temporary as they may be). Anyone with even a small measure of common sense would see the logic in moving to land-based operations, but I suspect it may all come down to jobs. Without having done much research, it appears that land-based operations (once built and launched) may be less labor-intensive than sea-based operations, which could potentially mean fewer jobs. And further, once you move to land-based operations, there will likely be many more options to locate those businesses in less rural sites, closer to major transportation links to eventual markets. At the end of the day, the environment and the protection of our wild fishery will likely take a back seat to jobs - as history has illustrated.