Top News

Farmed fish free-for-all

['A technician holds a salmon from a fish farm.']
A farmed salmon. — SaltWire Network file photo

It’s certainly not the most reassuring response from regulatory agencies.

Tuesday, the media reported on an escape of farmed salmon from a Hermitage Bay site run by Cooke Aquaculture. At the end of July, between 2,000 and 3,000 salmon weighing between five and six pounds escaped from pens after a rope came loose.

The company is using gill nets to try and recover the escaped fish.

But when CBC tried to find out who is in charge of handling the recapture, things got a little peculiar.

Here’s the tail end of the CBC story: “In an email Tuesday, DFO said fishery officers are monitoring in the Hermitage area to help find escaped fish, and is working with the company and provincial authorities to recapture the salmon.

“It said the provincial Department of Fisheries and Land Resources is responsible for the containment of fish at aquaculture farms.

“The provincial department told CBC News that the salmon pens are in the ocean, which falls under DFO responsibility.”

Should we be reassured by the idea that the provincial government feels that, once the salmon are put in sea cages, it’s all going to be DFO’s responsibility — even though DFO says it isn’t?

Think about that.

This is a provincial government that wants to finance a massive Grieg Aquaculture site in Placentia Bay, but neither it nor the federal government are in charge if things go wrong?

Should we be reassured by the idea that the provincial government feels that, once the salmon are put in sea cages, it’s all going to be DFO’s responsibility — even though DFO says it isn’t?

There are some serious issues here. It’s bad enough that the province wants to be both business partner and regulator in the aquaculture industry, handling, for example, the environmental assessment process that would set the operating standards for businesses like Grieg.

But there seems to be a critical and basic disconnect if neither of the two levels of fisheries departments is willing to accept any responsibility when things are going off the rails.

The provincial government under Danny Williams had no problem stepping into federal jurisdiction, setting up a stronger fisheries enforcement unit to patrol salmon rivers after the provincial government argued the federal government wasn’t doing enough to protect the resource.

The current provincial Fisheries Department, led by Minister Gerry Byrne didn’t have any trouble stepping in or having the minister involve himself in salmon stock discussions, and the province didn’t have a problem arguing it should set its own catch-and-release limits for wild salmon, even though that is clearly a federal responsibility. Nor did they have any issue with launching their own fledgling science program examining whether catch-and-release was harming the numbers of returning salmon in Newfoundland rivers.

But now, it sounds like everyone is intent on passing the buck.

Why are things suddenly so different when there are big business interests involved?

Sort it out, folks. After all, someone has to be in charge.

Recent Stories