We need aquacultural leadership for all

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Premier Tom Marshall delivered his inaugural speech on Jan. 24. I found him to be warm, happy and sincere; he smiled and I was hopeful for a new positive change in this premier.

After over one month in office, like many of the passionate people and outdoor conservationists in our great province say, it is time for him to act on those words. To quote a few powerful ideas from that opening speech:

‰ “I’m ready to give, along with my colleagues in the caucus and in the cabinet, our very best to the people of the province, which we all dearly love.”

‰ “What I will promise is my full attention, best judgment and tireless service.”

The people of this province really need someone to walk their talk, and not just talk about “doing what is for the best interest of the province” as has been overstated in the recent past. There is one immediate growing concern relating to this opening speech that takes real leadership to fix, and it must be fixed now before it is too late.

The scientific research from around the world on the wild Atlantic salmon stocks has stated one common fact: open-sea fish farms for Atlantic salmon aquaculture are detrimental to wild stocks. Period.

In some European countries, wild stocks were completely wiped out due to open-sea fish farming. The solution is quite simple here in Newfoundland and Labrador: remove all open-sea fish farms and put these on land where the system can be controlled, much like the control measures that cattle farmers must ensure with their livestock.

Aquaculture has its place. Many of the people rising up and speaking out against current open-sea aquaculture measures are not saying to ban the entire investment; they are saying put the whole salmon farming industry on land and help save our oceans, our aquatic food chains and our wild Atlantic salmon.

Marshall has delivered five budgets, so as a finance veteran he understands what is happening financially in the aquaculture world. In this province, there is obviously too much money being wasted on open-sea fish farming and the return on investment does not make sense.

Many decision-makers have not done what is right, nor are they doing the right thing in terms of aquaculture in Newfoundland and Labrador. This takes leadership now, not politics.

Politics and finance are in the way of saving such a mystical part of our proud heritage, one that the premier’s father helped fight for as a war veteran. The ironic thing: politics and finance could be an ally when the right decision is made to save our wild Atlantic salmon stocks.

My grandfather and his father were commercial fishermen of Atlantic salmon back in their day. I am 100 per cent certain that they, like the premier’s father, are rolling over in their graves right now, totally disgusted and saddened at the way the decision makers have handled the situation with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Atlantic salmon aquaculture.

The premier’s foundation and his parents’ “foundation in the bedrock of Humber East” contain some of the greatest wild Atlantic salmon fly-fishing and tourism in the world. The mega millions, both directly and indirectly, pumped annually into the Newfoundland and Labrador treasury by the wild Atlantic salmon is quite significant.

Further, the taxes from these commodities combined with the spin-offs to local businesses and the hiring of employees is an economic and cultural part of our province, especially in rural areas. More significant is the intrinsic value of the wild Atlantic salmon.

Value is priceless while the money/finance/economic piece of the salmon equation is only a small portion of real “value.”

Newfoundland and Labrador, being one of the last heavens on Earth, has nature as her ally, offering tourists and residents the same opportunity of serenity, tranquility, clean air, clean water, a place to enjoy our great outdoors, while simultaneously recharging one’s life batteries. It is work-life balance and tourism perfection at its finest.

Marshall states his motto as quoted in Deuteronomy, relating the words of Moses: in setting the highest standards to all who serve in public office, “justice shall you pursue.”

This hopefully means that the premier will give our wild Atlantic salmon stocks the justice they deserve. Someone has to speak up for these fish, the wild Atlantic salmon or “King of the Sea,” as they are called. These wild salmon have no voice amid the destructive open-sea engines of the aquaculture industry that are wreaking havoc in our pristine ocean waters.

I agree with Premier Marshall: “it is impossible not to be passionate when we consider our people and our history and how far we have already come.” These issues combined with the unprecedented amounts of investment, subsidies and compensation given to the aquaculture industry each year, is not the best investment for Newfoundland and Labrador. Our bays, our health, our wild fishery and our ecosystems are too precious to pass over to those people currently in open-sea fish farming who do not care nor understand real value and cultural authenticity.

The scientific research is evident for Premier Marshall to remove open-sea fish farms from our waters completely. Government policy must follow science as stated in the current provincial government’s Blue Book. The federal government cutbacks have muzzled hard core scientific facts and this may be because they have a different agenda for aquaculture and our renewable natural resources in this province.

To dig a little deeper, open-sea salmon farming will not save the economy in rural Newfoundland and Labrador as it currently exists.

Aquaculture adds money to a few businesses that, in turn, provide a few low to medium paying jobs, but open-sea aquaculture destroys real resource value. That value in our oceans cannot be purchased, especially after it has been destroyed. Common sense tells us that the whole food chain is currently being affected and this will soon spiral into other species.

Lobsters, being bottom feeders, for example, are surely eating the byproducts and waste from the farmed fish that ends up on the ocean floor.

It may not be long before this species will also be significantly impacted. There are better solutions for the economy in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. If the money is there for aquaculture bailouts, then this money is better spent with long term thinking in mind: put the open-sea salmon pens/farms on land.

Here are the solutions for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador regarding aquaculture:

‰ Remove all open-sea salmon fish farms/pens completely, from all of our precious bays and Atlantic Ocean, surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador.

‰ Put these fish pens on land to protect our wild Atlantic salmon stocks (and what we have left in this wild fish resource, before it is too late). This is the only win/win/win; a win for the people, a win for the aquaculture industry both short and long term and, most importantly, a win for the future generations yet to come.

In closing, I wish to add one idea from the New Testament as many have lately quoted the ancient book of life philosophy: “The truth shall make us free.”

This truth is backed by science. To date, this truth has been ignored by politics and economics. Now is the time for Marshall and his best possible leadership to get it right and do “justice that must be pursued.”

We owe it to our past and future generations to preserve our wild Atlantic salmon stocks, starting right now.

Paul Michael White lives in St. John’s.

Geographic location: Atlantic Ocean, Newfoundland and Labrador, Humber East

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Recent comments

  • Henry Jefford
    April 15, 2014 - 15:22

    The fish hatchery should be used to hatch fish eggs and when they reach a desired size then release them into protected bays or coves where the can mature and help increase the fish stock! I have a paper called one in a million that told of the survival rate of a cod egg 30 + years ago was one in a Million , This was when the fish stock was strong and large and healthy how low must it be now? The fastest way to increase the fish stock is with the help of a fish hatchery Where fish eggs can be hatched and when the tom cods reach a desired size then release them into protected bays or coves Where they can grow and breed to increase the fish stock

  • paul
    April 07, 2014 - 07:38

    when people say just take salmon farming out of the ocean and put it on land, they make it sound as if that is actually and option that the industry is just to lazy, cheap or corrupt to take...its not a viable alternative at this time. land based farming has been around for a long time and it is a viable option for some species and some life stages of salmon. but its about production cost vs the value of the product. Salmon farming relies on land based to produce smolt (small size) and to hold brood stock (small numbers) but is just not feasible, yet, to produce the tonnage of marketable salmon that is produced in sea cages. land based requires pumping of water in most locations . if and when it is ever feasible to produce salmon for the market in land based tanks, it will be gone forever from the coastal waters of Canada and will be located near airports and major centers in the USA and Europe...the only reason it is in NL is because of the water quality available to produce salmon in sea cages and the size of the market demand needs more sites. To date there have been a number of 'projects' trying out raising salmon to market in land based tanks but there is little or no success to report. As well, they talk abotu the cost of the product in the market place, acknowledging that it would be more expensive to produce salmon in tanks, they speak of increasing the cost of a farmed salmon in the grocery store as it that does not matter...the cost to the consumer does matter. and thats' another point where those calling to take salmon out of the coastal waters are dishonest...they pretend you can just take it out of the cove and put it on the shore somewhere else in NL but if its coming out of the water it will keep on going to someplace close to the markets...and they talk like it won't matter that the end product will be more expensive...when everyone who ever bought food knows that's just not true.

  • Paul
    April 07, 2014 - 07:01

    what an utter pile of bunk from Mr. Michael. nonsense. while salmon farming, like all other human activities has some impact it is limited and is mitigated by natural processess. he refers to research claiming that salmon farming has harmed wild salmon stocks around the world...that is bull. you will find some research that says this but its funded by alaskan wild salmon processors who gain by making farmed salmon look bad. read this article for a good discussion on the junk science that attacks salmon farming, and just who is paying for it. http://fairquestions.typepad.com/rethink_campaigns/did-david-suzuki-prevaricate-about-pcbs-in-farmed-salmon.html people who attack salmon farming like to say that where ever there is salmon farms, wild stocks are in decline. that is just not true. look at Altantic coast....wild salmon stocks are down all over, including many areas were there are no farms. also, the commercial salmon fishery was closed 20 or so years ago when there were hardly any salmon cages in NL...what caused that closure? one thing that is certain is this -where ever there is a fish stock in decline, there is/was a commercial fishery for it. salmon farming is being attacked in the exact same way the seal hunt is...misinformation, half truths and lies wrapped up in emotional rhetoric delivered to people who do not know the difference.

  • Cashin Delaney
    April 06, 2014 - 18:38

    It is all about control for this parasitic provincial government. How to keep people in the dark, yet promising adaptation (we couldn’t adapt Hydro grid to a cold snap nine years post-climate action plan!) is the repeating theme. Panic breeds opportunity for control. This government can only function in panic mode. They can't even have a leadership race without hiring a $10,000 clown (B. Cabana 2011, W. Bennett 2014) to distract everyone from ever asking one real question. The Manolis L does serve a purpose by being left on bottom. It keeps people in panic mode over something done by foreigners in the 80's, instead of questioning the judgement of our Premier RIGHT NOW, who seems to have trouble with the separation of God and State. Tom is hiding behind God. Coward. Muskrat Falls; blame Quebec! Now we get this hubris of war vets turning in their graves and bible-quoting bullshit-justification mixed into salmon farms? This letter has a good main point, but also has a lot of hogwash and government pandering. We must resolve to end provincial government. It is redundant and obsolete. It invites a host of problems ranging from the parasitic theft of the last big scandal {Ed Byrne} to the Next Gigantic Nationally Sanctioned Embezzlement that is Muskrat Falls & Gull Island. The provincial government are subversive, dangerous liars and are following a script produced by a ruling elite too charmed by their own affluence to even bother covering their tracks properly. ”he smiled and I was hopeful for a new positive change in this premier." Dear Jesus. Say hello to the folks back in Buncombe for us! Nine years before #blackoutNL, we had an action plan concerning climate change that referenced establishing mechanisms to comprehensively address adaptation issues arising from climate change and building public awareness. Nine years from now, will you be writing about the smile of some other arsehole in office, and crawling right up his hole, with the salmon industry gone totally frankenfish?

  • Think Research
    April 06, 2014 - 08:24

    The old smash and grab must end. We want stable jobs with stable low impact salmonid production. This can ONLY happen on land. e need to lead instead of follow the old 1970s failed idea. Land based IS the future - whether those that like grinding rotting sick fish to feed their mink realize it or not...or those that can run to Chile when things get though. NOW is the time to act, before the race to land based leaves us and our fragile wild stocks in the dust of the pelletizing plants.

  • Henry Jefford
    April 05, 2014 - 23:23

    30 + years ago I picked up a color paper put out by the Department of Fisheries called "ONE IN A MILLION" that tells of the survival rate of "A COD EGG is ONE IN A MILLION EGGS SURVIVE TO BECOME AN ADULT COD FISH. With the help of a fish hatchery where cod eggs can be hatched and when the small tom cods reach a desired size, then release them into designated protected bays or coves where the survival rate 30+ years ago was one in a million, it may be increased to maybe a couple of hundred thousand surviving to be an adult cod. Man has almost destroyed the fish stock and only man can help rebuild it, whether it be salmon, cod, or any other type of fish.

  • Charles
    April 05, 2014 - 06:32

    To much talk concerning this issue, Just remove the toxic waste completely from our province, Never mind the dollar, think about the people health. Not big business.