This letter is in response to the letter to the editor by Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Darin King, which appeared in The Telegram on Aug. 16, headlined “Anti-aquaculture group doing the misleading.
”Firstly, the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) is very pro-aquaculture but we insist that it be done sustainably. The open net pen aquaculture industry is not environmentally sustainable, therefore ASF, in partnership with the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute, is investing in developing the technology to grow salmon in land-based freshwater closed containment facilities.
Mr. King failed to mention that ISA outbreaks have cost Canadian taxpayers close to $100 million in compensation provided to fish farms in Eastern Canada since the first epidemic in 1996 in New Brunswick.
Muddying the waters
Mr. King’s insistence that the strain is not the same strain as that found in N.B. seems to be an attempt to deflect the reader’s attention from the actual point. ISA outbreaks, whatever the strain, are linked to salmon aquaculture operations and not epidemics occurring in the wild.
Outbreaks tend to occur when fish are stressed, conditions that usually occur in aquaculture open net pens due to overcrowding, poor water quality, excessive handling, blood water, introductions from other sites, secondary infections and compromised immune systems.
The minister said the Butter Cove incident of ISA was handled well.
This is disturbing since it took more than a month to remove the farmed salmon from the water — lots of time to spread the virus.
This shows lack of government oversight and lack of emergency planning by industry. The auditor general of Newfoundland pointed out these types of problems in several assessments of salmon aquaculture practices.
The minister actually states that, “The negative environmental impact of land-based fish farming is significantly higher.”
This is not true. The latest technology uses greater than 99 per cent water recirculation and waste reuse, unlike the open net pens where all waste and chemicals go untreated into the surrounding ocean environment.
Land-based salmon farming does not use harsh chemicals, vaccines or antibiotics, and there are no escapes.
Our demonstration project had excellent water quality, no disease or parasites, and the salmon were marketed nine months sooner than net pen industry salmon. Taste tests have received rave reviews from chefs and consumers who recognize the need for product that environmentally aware people are demanding these days.
As far as economic sustainability, we project operational costs to be comparable to the net pen industry and we are working at reducing startup costs.
We believe that the overall cost of doing business will be comparable to net pens, but with a healthier, better-tasting and environmentally sustainable product. Entrepreneurs who are currently getting into the business on a commercial scale of 2,000 to 3,000 metric tonnes will determine the true economics.
No true cost of growing salmon in open net pens exists because hidden costs are not taken into account, including sea lice treatment and research by industry and governments that cost millions annually, disease compensations in the millions, current subsidies by government and taxpayers and the loss in income from other industries, such as tourism, and commercial and recreational fisheries that are negatively impacted by open net pen aquaculture.
Closed containment aquaculture has no such hidden costs.
In October, ASF and the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute will host a workshop in St. Andrews, N.B. on land-based, closed containment salmon farming, focusing on the latest technological advances, government perspectives, and pilot and commercial scale project updates.
I hope that the minister and his staff will attend so they can see and learn first-hand the latest technology and advancements in land based, closed containment salmon farming.
Bill Taylor is president and CEO of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.