Party leaders ignore hot air from anti-aquaculture activists
An open invitation to party leaders to address the whopping increase in Greenhouse gas Emissions and other environmental challenges that will come from moving ocean-based aquaculture in BC to land-based operations.
By Fabian Dawson
In this federal election that nobody wants, every political party leader is pledging to do something to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions to combat climate change.
Like the rest of the country, polling data from the Angus Reid Institute shows the environment and climate change are a key issue for British Columbian voters, with 45 per cent of those surveyed indicating it’s a priority.
But no party leader is willing to address the elephant in the room when it comes to salmon farming in BC.
Anti-aquaculture activists are spending tens of thousands of dollars in this election campaign to oust salmon farmers from BC waters, insisting with their science-deficit propaganda, that growing fish in their natural environment must be replaced with growing fish in land-based tanks.
They claim, without any credible scientific evidence, that BC’s salmon farmers are endangering wild fish populations and are threatening candidates with a brainwashed voting bloc.
The fact is that there is no credible evidence of salmon aquaculture impacting wild stocks anywhere in the world, let alone BC.
Attesting to this fact are numerous peer reviewed scientific studies that show BC’s sustainable salmon farming operations – which is the provinces’ top seafood export with a total economic output of $1.6 billion supporting nearly 6,500 full time jobs – have less than a minimal impact on wild fish.
Leading the apocalyptic anti-salmon farming rant, is wealthy urbanite Tony Allard, who wrote in a recent election related op-ed that there is strong support in BC for a rapid transition of ocean-based Atlantic salmon fish farms to land-based, closed containment farms.
That part is true because the support comes from years of spreading falsehoods about salmon farming via well-funded campaigns by the likes of Allard, to destroy BC’s most valuable seafood export.
Here are some facts to consider about salmon farming in BC come polling day;
- Should BC 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 . 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. The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Oceans Economy, to which Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a signatory, has said “the largest potential carbon reduction gains for food production lie in the sustainable expansion of marine aquaculture.”
- 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.
- Other challenges to land based grow-out facilities include the global shortage of a trained workforce, pathogens, fish health, brood stock development, stocking densities, and financial risks, according to The State of Salmon Aquaculture Technologies study released in February 2020.
- Collectively since the start of the year, the world’s major land-based farmers, have seen their market caps collapse by nearly $1 billion, leading many analysts to say that these mega farms are mostly about raising money, not raising fish. In B.C. alone, there are many failed attempts to grow either Pacific or Atlantic salmon in land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) over the past 20 years.
- Raising land based salmon costs 12 times more than ocean farming, studies have shown. Tellingly, there is no record of any new investments for large land-based Atlantic salmon grow-out facilities in BC, despite the claims of the activists. However, there is one group linked to the anti-salmon farming activists, which is seeking a million tax dollars to grow fish on land.
- Growing 75,000 MT of salmon (British Columbia’s average production) grown at 18kg/m3 in a 99% RAS operation would require 4.16 billion litres of freshwater just to fill the tanks. The current production in Canada alone would require 28,000 Canadian football fields, 33,719 acres, or 159 square kilometers of land to grow fish in appropriate densities in land-based systems.
- Marine farms have a density of 15 – 25kg of fish per cubic metre at their peak size. Land based farms have a density of 50 – 80kg of fish per cubic metre at their peak size. That makes for really crowded land-based tanks.
- Some small-scale land-based farms are producing fully-grown salmon for niche markets, and the reality is, the largest of these produces only 300MT per year. By comparison, Canada produces on average 108,000MT per year. Land based indoor salmon farms are more than three times as expensive to operate as traditional ocean salmon farms. Increased use of land-based farms would encourage the relocation of production closer to the main markets. This would have a major socio-economic impact on coastal communities around the world.
The anti-salmon farming activists claim they have the support of many election candidates in their myopic quest to immediately transition growing fish in their natural environment to growing fish in land-based tanks.
The central pillar of the anti-salmon farm activists in BC is that any science or reporting that runs counter to their observations, should not be believed because it is bought and paid for by the aquaculture industry.
This claim, like several others made by the same people, have been investigated and found to be false by independent authorities, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In this election campaign, which is grounded in climate-change issues, here is an open invitation to party leaders and candidates from the salmon farming community.
“Tell us how you plan to address the substantial increase in Greenhouse gas Emissions and other environmental challenges that will come from moving ocean-based salmon farms in BC to land-based operations.”
Image L to R Justin Trudeau (Liberal Party of Canada), Erin O’Toole (Conservative Party of Canada), Yves-François Blanchet (Bloc Québécois), Jagmeet Singh (New Democratic Party) and Annamie Paul (Green Party of Canada)