salmon

The salmon farming flip-flop by the Liberals in four years

Legislating the removal of salmon aquaculture from Canada’s oceans represents an excessive approach to resolving environmental issues that are already being managed through robust, science-based federal and provincial regulations.” – Liberal Govt. 2016

Commentary
By Fabian Dawson

Justin Trudeau has been accused of being two-faced.

But we already knew that, since he donned a brown face to a party some years ago.

It’s his about-face on sustainable salmon farming in Canada that needs to be of concern now.

Four years ago, the Trudeau-led Liberal party armed with a huge majority in Parliament, decreed there is no reason to shut down open-net salmon farming in Canada.

“Legislating the removal of salmon aquaculture from Canada’s oceans represents an excessive approach to resolving environmental issues that are already being managed through robust, science-based federal and provincial regulations,” it said.

“In British Columbia, the only province under federal regulation where reporting has been taking place for the past five years, evidence is available that demonstrates that the degree of impact does not warrant the removal of an entire industry from the marine environment, particularly when the socio-economic implications of such a removal are considered.

Removing salmon aquaculture from the marine environment would threaten thousands of jobs, most of them located in rural, remote and coastal areas hard-hit by downturns in other resource industries.”

This was in response to a petition by the anti-ocean salmon farming lobby which was presented in Parliament by Nova Scotia MP, Bernadette Jordan, who is now Canada’s new Minister of Fisheries.

Four years later, the same Trudeau-led Liberal party, this time desperate for votes to shore up its falling popularity in B.C.’s urban areas, reversed its decree and made an election campaign pledge to phase out ocean net pen salmon farming in British Columbia by 2025.

Feeling threatened by a well-funded anti-salmon farming group, that targeted its MP candidates, the Liberal party abandoned its vows to over 7,000 livelihoods in BC’s salmon farming communities.

The collective data used by the Liberals for their 2016 decision remains true until today – 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 and the consensus tells us that done responsibly, salmon farming does not have a negative impact on wild salmon populations.

Jordan, the new Fisheries Minister, has yet to say anything publicly about her new mandate.

But her predecessor, Jonathan Wilkinson managed this – “the campaign promise reflects a precautionary approach to a divisive issue in B.C…”

Translated, science be damned because the naysayers are promising more votes.

It is obvious that the Liberal-switch on aquaculture is a victory for the public relations and activist fear-mongering campaigns and not for the sustainable harvest of our oceans for a planet in need.

Money that flowed from serial entrepreneurs seeking new ways to make more profits with government handouts, was used to create and perpetuate a climate of public skepticism and opposition to salmon farming in B.C. oceans.

Digital assets, like twitter-bot accounts with Arabic sounding names repeating discredited anti-aquaculture tropes, were built to push the “precautionary principle” in the political realm.

The Trudeau-led Liberals fell for this sham.

You should not.

As we enter a new decade, read the below and you will see why the about-face by the Trudeau-led Liberals is all about votes first, not about science first.

RESPONSE TO PETITION NO.: 421-00589
DATE: SEPTEMBER 22, 2016
Serge Cormier
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

The Government of Canada agrees that aquaculture must be conducted in a sustainable manner, reducing environmental impacts, mitigating the impacts that do occur, and minimizing interactions with wild populations and their habitat as much as possible.

However, the Government of Canada is not prepared to legislate the removal of caged salmon from our oceans at this time.

The Canadian aquaculture industry operates under some of the strictest regulations in the world, implemented federally and provincially, to minimize risk to the environment. All aquaculture operations are subject to frequent monitoring to ensure high standards of environmental performance.

Canada’s regulatory regime in the aquaculture sector, much like that of terrestrial farming, is underpinned by the best scientific research and analysis available to provide assurance that the environmental effects of aquaculture can be well managed and the industry conducted in a sustainable manner.

In addition to regulation, the Canadian aquaculture sector is required to report to federal and provincial governments regarding its activities. Under the federal Aquaculture Activities Regulations (AAR), for example, industry has numerous reporting requirements, including notifying Fisheries and Oceans Canada prior to any drug or pesticide treatments as well as any mortality events that might have occurred in wild populations following these treatments, and annual reporting on reasons for and use of these therapeutants. Aquaculture operators are also required to conduct benthic monitoring to assess impact on the environment, and report on mitigation measures they have undertaken to reduce serious harm to wild populations and their habitats.

All aquaculture operators must implement high standards for escape prevention and report any escapes that have occurred.

In British Columbia, the only province under federal regulation where reporting has been taking place for the past five years, evidence is available that demonstrates that the degree of impact does not warrant the removal of an entire industry from the marine environment, particularly when the socio-economic implications of such a removal are considered.

Removing salmon aquaculture from the marine environment would threaten thousands of jobs, most of them located in rural, remote and coastal areas hard-hit by downturns in other resource industries.

More than 50 First Nations are involved in aquaculture, providing stable, full-time employment for Indigenous youth which enables them to stay in their communities.

Moreover, numerous studies conducted in Canada and elsewhere have shown that land-based recirculating systems have very limited and uncertain operational and financial viability. Higher costs associated with infrastructure, energy and labour costs greatly compromise any benefits and threaten the long-term viability of land-based operations when faced with external shocks, such as depressed salmon values or increased costs for energy and feed.

The marginal economic nature of land-based aquaculture production systems would render operators unable to compete with the lower production costs of salmon reared in net pens in Norway, Chile, Scotland and elsewhere.

The objective of the Government of Canada is to establish a rigorous regulatory regime that supports aquaculture development and protects the aquatic ecosystem. When it comes to how salmon are produced, the Government of Canada establishes environmental standards that must be met by all technologies and will not prescribe the best technological approach as that would stifle innovation.

The Government of Canada’s technology-neutral stance fosters the evolution of a broad spectrum of innovative technologies and approaches to fulfil the strict standards set out in robust, science-based regulations.

This approach is critical in maintaining our competitiveness on international markets, preserving and expanding employment in Canada, and further enhancing the sustainable development of an important food-producing sector for the benefit of all Canadians.

Legislating the removal of salmon aquaculture from Canada’s oceans represents an excessive approach to resolving environmental issues that are already being managed through robust, science-based federal and provincial regulations.

Photo illustration by SeaWestNews

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