Once again, Jim Bennett is providing misleading information to the public in his commentary in the Jan. 7 paper (“Rolling the dice on aquaculture”), perhaps for political expediency?
Yes, the government has invested in important infrastructure to support the development of sustainable aquaculture in this province.
This is no different than investments made for mining, forestry, fisheries, tourism or other sectors of the provincial economy. Aquaculture is developing at a moderate and well-planned pace in our province.
Mr. Bennett is fully aware that the public purse has contributed important equity loans to companies, loans that have been repaid or are being repaid over the past six to seven years of growth.
These public investments, as they are referred to by Mr. Bennett, are important for leveraging private capital, and while the province may have loaned millions of dollars over the past few years to farmers, the loans have leveraged over $300 million in expenditures by the fish farmers and in total they represent less than 10 per cent of the cost of production.
Newfoundland and Labrador fish farmers are all family-owned businesses, have contributed to gainful employment for over 1,000 men and women in our rural communities, not to mention their contributions to a secure tax base for communities and provincial coffers that far exceed the loans.
Mr. Bennett’s suggestion to put farms on land is ill informed; this is not their natural environment, they will be raised at unnaturally high densities and the environmental costs will be very much greater than net pen culture.
Net pens are already contained environments where fish are reared in their natural environment, at very low densities, and fed all natural foods. Moreover, land-based salmon farms will not prevent wild fish from being exposed to the main challenges to their recovery, including natural diseases, predation, uncontrolled poaching, climate change, river barriers, pollution, at-sea mortality, etc.
Lastly, farmed fish are available locally, fresh all year. They are an excellent natural source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D and E, not to mention a low fat protein that tastes great. Salmon are part of a balanced diet and Health Canada recommends two servings per week of such fish.