Fishy fear mongering dominates new anti-salmon farm campaign
“Our salmon production is totally dependent upon a healthy ocean environment and we are on the seas constantly monitoring the waters we work in…not in some downtown Vancouver office creating fear mongering propaganda so that the activists can get a paycheck.”
By Fabian Dawson
Fearing science will drown out their fear mongering, BC’s anti-salmon farm activists are launching a new campaign to decimate the province’s aquaculture industry, a world leader in sustainable seafood production.
Using a litany of false assertions, the group has roped in the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC (WTABC) saying the lack of definitive action to remove the open-net fish farms is putting the long term economic viability of the province’s multi-billion-dollar tourism industry at risk.
The science deficit campaign literature, primarily funded by urban big-money, does not provide any factual evidence to back-up its claims.
Nor does it address the fact that there is no credible scientific evidence to link declines in Pacific salmon stocks at a population level to salmon farming on B.C.’s coasts.
“It’s another campaign by the activists to create and perpetuate a climate of public skepticism and opposition to our sustainable salmon farming operations,” said an industry official.
“Our production is totally dependent upon a healthy ocean environment and we are on the seas constantly monitoring the waters we work in…not in some downtown Vancouver office creating fear-mongering propaganda so that the activists can get a paycheck,” he said.
“They don’t know what they are talking about.”
Tellingly, the new campaign, developed by a Vancouver-based marketing company and funded by a Victoria-based foundation that has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in overseas grants and contributions, has no one listed with any experience or scientific knowledge in salmon aquaculture.
The so-called ‘Belly-Up’ campaign launch coincides with a judicial review of a decision by former Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to remove salmon farms from the Discovery Islands area by next July.
Jordan, bowing to demands from the anti-salmon farming lobby group, ignored her own scientists, who found that the Discovery Island farms posed less than a minimal threat to wild stocks, and rebuffed her deputy minister, Timothy Sargent, who recommended a more coordinated approach for the decommission of salmon farms in the area.
In its entirety, Jordan’s unexpected Discovery Islands’ decision will see BC losing almost $390 million in annual economic output with $87 million less in annual salaries and benefits, and 1,535 fewer jobs, mainly in coastal communities of BC.
The fish farmers have applied for a judicial review of the former minister’s decision after being unable to get any clarity on a series of follow-up policy changes ordered up by Jordan. The review is scheduled to begin this week.
“The only evidence before me is that today, salmon aquaculture in B.C. poses no more than a minimal risk to wild salmon” Federal Court Judge, Mr. Justice Panagiotis Pamel ruled last April, when granting an injunction to allow the affected BC salmon farmers to continue stocking their pens in the Discovery islands.
Prior to the Discovery islands decision, nine-peer reviewed scientific studies by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS), also concluded the same.
Jordan herself has said her decision has little to do with science and is more to do with social licence for the salmon farmers.
Another inference by the new campaign blames the maritime aquaculture operations in BC to the apparent dwindling stocks of Chinook salmon prey for killer whales in the Salish Sea.
But that theory, like many others trotted out by the activists, was debunked by a new study led by scientists at the University of British Columbia, that was released last week.
In a paper published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, researchers report that the numbers of Chinook salmon in the Salish Sea in summertime are four to six times more abundant for southern resident killer whales than northern resident killer whales.
The new campaign is urging politicians in Ottawa and BC to remove all open-net fish farms and replace them with growing fish in land-based tanks at a time when countries around the world from America to Australia, Ireland to India and China all have plans to boost their marine aquaculture output.
A government study has shown transitioning all open-net fish farms in British Columbia to land-based salmon farms operations requires the use of large amounts of land, water, and power, and thus has a significant environmental footprint, in particular greenhouse gas emissions.
Currently, B.C. ocean-based salmon farms emit only 2.2 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of edible fish produced. That is less than half of any animal raised on land, including 5.1 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of chicken, 6.4 kilograms for pork, and 37.2 kilograms for beef.
Should British Columbia succumb to the demands of anti-fish farm activists to move all ocean-based salmon farms to land based operations, the province will see a whopping increase of 22,881,000 kilograms of Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions said an independent study by RIAS Inc.
Translated, that number amounts to the energy per year needed to power a population of 52,200, or a city the size of North Vancouver.
Raising land based salmon also costs 12 times more than ocean farming, studies have shown.
BC salmon farmers are now developing new land-based systems that will allow them to raise juvenile farmed salmon to larger, more robust sizes before transferring them to ocean-based grow-out systems. This will significantly lower the length of time that the salmon spend in the ocean, thus effectively reducing production and potential interactions with wild salmon stocks.
Farmed Atlantic salmon is BC’s top seafood export with a total economic output of $1.6 billion. The industry currently supports nearly 6,500 full time jobs that pay 30% higher than BC’s median income.
But any science or reporting that contradicts their claims, is dismissed without evidence by the activists, as being bought and paid for.
As a result of this, senior judges in BC have described some of the anti-salmon farming activists, including those linked with the new campaign launched today as, “zealots” and “Irrational” using “untested hearsay evidence, containing improper opinion evidence under the guise of being factual evidence.”
One of the key BC activists has even written to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans admitting she and others don’t know “what the extinction drivers are” for the dwindling returns of wild salmon, that has been documented for generations by scientists and First Nations and well before ocean-based salmon farming came to BC.
(Image courtesy of BC Salmon Farmers Association shows two Vancouver-area chefs being given a tour of a salmon farm to get the facts about salmon aquaculture in BC )