Aquaculture provides oceans of opportunity for Canada

“Canada has provided leadership in the development of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture and can do so in the future” – Dr. Donald Noakes, Dean of Science & Technology at Vancouver Island University

By Fabian Dawson


Canada can easily boost its aquaculture production within a decade with a modern regulatory framework that is specifically designed to govern a responsible and sustainable fish farming industry.

In a paper entitled, Oceans of Opportunity, Dr. Donald Noakes, Dean of Science & Technology at Vancouver Island University, said Ottawa and BC need a commitment to implement the required legislation that will pave the way for an aquaculture development strategy.

Dr Noake’s review, published in Marine Economics and Management, highlights the potential and interest to triple current aquaculture production while fostering greater involvement of First Nation communities.

“Climate change will further challenge our ability to produce substantially more food from agriculture both as a result of rising temperatures as well as increased demand on our limited water resources due to population growth and other competing uses,” stated Dr. Noakes.

“With more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface covered in water, it is clear that the best opportunity to increase food production is likely through increases in fish, shellfish and aquatic plant production and primarily through aquaculture, given the pressures facing wild fish stocks. Indeed, the demand for seafood production is expected to more than double by 2050, an increase that is disproportionately higher than the rate of population growth.”

In addition to food production, Dr. Noakes stated that the aquaculture sector also has substantial social and economic benefits particularly for individuals living in rural communities.

“Globally, approximately one in ten people relied on the fisheries and aquaculture sector for their livelihood in 2014, so it influences the lives of a large segment of the world’s population in a direct way.”

“Canada has a long history in both fisheries and aquaculture and, in particular, providing global leadership in fisheries science and conservation, technological innovation and environmental sustainability,” stated Dr. Noakes, the former director of the Pacific Biological Station and head of aquaculture for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Dr. Noakes also took aim at the anti-fish farm lobby in his paper.

“Despite the lack of any credible scientific evidence to link declines in Pacific salmon stocks at a population level to salmon farming, those opposed to salmon farming and those wishing for a simplistic solution to restore Pacific salmon stocks to historic high levels suggest that removing salmon farms will accomplish that goal which it will not,” he wrote.

“This action will only serve to eliminate or significantly curtail the salmon farming industry in British Columbia which will have significant negative economic and social consequences for coastal communities and in particular First Nation communities involved in aquaculture.”

It will take some time to bring clarity and agreement among stakeholders as to what those expectations are but the direction is clear, said Dr. Noakes.

“To that end, salmon farming companies in British Columbia have been building relationships and agreements with First Nations over the past two decades to the point where today nearly 80 percent of the farmed salmon produced in the province is done so with agreements or partnerships with local First Nations.”

“What is still missing and needed is a modern regulatory framework (national and provincial) that is specifically designed to govern a responsible and sustainable aquaculture industry and a commitment to implement the required legislation and aquaculture development strategy.”

“Canada has provided leadership in the development of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture and can do so in the future,” he concluded.

Dr. Noakes’ paper comes in the wake of a push by Canadian salmon farmers and businesses in Campbell River, BC, earlier this year for a Federal Aquaculture Act.

Campbell River, which prides itself as the Salmon Capital of the World, urged both the B.C. government and Ottawa to provide fair access to long term tenures for the aquaculture industry.

In a policy document the Chamber stated the development of a Federal Aquaculture Act, will establish national environmental standards and clarify industry responsibilities.

“Appropriate legislation would recognize in law the long-standing reality of aquaculture as a legitimate caretaker of Canada’s aquatic resources, the Chamber said.

“It would support efforts to ensure a modern industry and build on an already impressive record of safety and sustainability.

“The introduction of this legislation could help facilitate the currently ad hoc regulatory changes coming forward from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and would enable Canada to realize its full potential, creating new jobs and expanding opportunity in an industry that can be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable,” the Chamber said.



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