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Open-pen aquaculture is bad news

On May 28, 2007, the provincial government announced it had approved the sale of Fishery Products International to two other fishing companies, OCI and Highliner. In a news release, government commented:

“This approval comes following months of executing the necessary due diligence and in seeking assurances for the long-term protection of FPI workers, communities and the overall provincial fishing industry. The provincial government has achieved its goal of securing operating commitments for the people and communities that depend on FPI and getting people back to work in a secure and meaningful way.”

It’s now eight years later. Where is that “secure and meaningful” fisheries work on the Burin Peninsula? It’s simply not to be found. Plants closed, plants dismantled, companies gone.

Fast-forward to today. The provincial government announces an agreement with Grieg Seafoods (yes, the same Grieg with all those legal aquaculture issues in Norway) to construct a salmon hatchery at Marystown and to provide 11 aquaculture sites in Placentia Bay (yes, the same bay identified as one of the most likely in Canada to experience an oil spill —  a great place for seafood cages).

To quote from the news release:

“This agreement will create many more direct and indirect employment and business opportunities for our people.”

Well, well, well; I don’t think the people of the Burin Peninsula should count on this blatant election promise.

Not only is history not on their side when it comes to long-term promises from this provincial government, but open-pen aquaculture will soon be a thing of the past. And who will be left holding the bag again then? Certainly not Grieg or the current politicians.

The world is slowly coming to understand that the disadvantages of open-pen aquaculture far outweigh the cheap benefits of farming at sea. These ills include: diseased fish (indeed, this hatchery may even import diseased salmon eggs from Europe), escapees which water down the wild gene pool, waste and excessive antibiotics and chemicals which pollute our pristine bays, lack of monitoring, hazards to marine navigation, questionable feed practices, unacceptable bycatch, and the destruction of our wild salmon and trout. These open-net pens cannot be sustainable as they depend upon excessive government insurance dollars — last count about $40 million of our money.

And yes, I am a salmon angler; but we are not opposed to aquaculture if it is done in a proper manner. Clearly, a successful aquaculture industry would destroy the black market for poached wild Atlantic salmon and our wild stocks would flourish and everyone would be happy. But the aquaculture industry here is not practiced in a proper manner.

Everywhere else in the world they are removing the net pens from the open ocean and growing the fish in closed containment on land, thereby eliminating many of the disadvantages mentioned. The seafood consumer is demanding this. Why can’t we do this? We have lots of land, so why can’t we be like the rest of the world? What is wrong with our government? They need to get on side, but I guess there is just no logic or listening to the people when it comes to this government. God help us. When is that election, anyway?


Rick Maddigan

St. John’s

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