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.