Largely due to public investment, farmed finfish production in our province has exploded. But what does government really know about this industry?
This year we learned of a disease that infected ready-to-market salmon that had to be destroyed. Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) occurs in the wild and kills salmon.
We are told by the provincial government that these fish were infected by wild fish that they were exposed to in the ocean-based cages.
Others claim the strain of ISA is new and more likely came from the farmed fish and now may be released into the wild.
A review concerning the use of ocean-based cages discloses numerous concerns surrounding non-contained aquaculture sites, such as open-pen cages.
This creates notorious breeding grounds for sea lice, which often kills the fish. Also, practices associated with this are detrimental to the environment.
Clearly, the aquaculture industry offers potential for huge benefits to our economy and even more so to our economically depressed rural economies. However, there are enormous ecologic and economic risks.
Without adequate regulation we may be unleashing an ecological disaster from which we may never recover. The Chilean finfish aquaculture industry was devastated by disease.
We do not want that outcome here with the loss of tens of millions of public dollars and the unemployment that would result from such a catastrophe.
Government must take the following actions: immediately freeze any growth in open-cage finfish aquaculture until all risks have been identified and eliminated or mitigated.
As well, we should begin to move the finfish aquaculture industry to contained units so as to reduce or eliminate any risk to fish habitats in our province.
MHA St. Barbe
Liberal fisheries critic