$93M Paid for Diseased Fish


$93M Paid For Diseased Fish

Health Canada paid $92.7 million to compensate aquaculture firms for diseased fish, the highest figure cited to date. The department's Canadian Food Inspection Agency disclosed that payments dated over three years to salmon farmers in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador.

Authorities previously reported “over $84 million” was paid to industry; the higher figure was cited in Inspection Agency documents tabled in Parliament. All compensation was paid for destruction of fish stock with infectious salmon anemia and infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus.

Companies that received payments were not identified. Three Atlantic facilities operated by Cooke Aquaculture Inc. were quarantined in 2013 following an outbreak of salmon anaemia, a virus lethal to fish species but rated harmless to humans. Some 3700 tonnes of salmon were destroyed at two Cooke facilities in Newfoundland & Labrador, following a similar virus outbreak at the company's salmon farm in Shelburne, N.S.

“The industry has had the outbreaks and was paid more than $90 million,” said MP Malcolm Allen, New Democrat agriculture critic who requested the data. Inspectors said they had no cost-benefit analysis of compensation paid to aquaculture companies “since the decision to order animals destroyed is made on a case-by-case basis”; “When deciding whether an infected population should be ordered destroyed, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency takes into consideration the consequences of not ordering destruction,” the agency wrote. “Consequences could include disease spread from the infected premises to other aquatic animal populations or the establishment of a disease in an area that was free of the federally-reportable disease.”

The agency also reported that effective December 31 it will enact new provisions of its National Aquatic Animal Health Program to track all movements of salmonids and shellfish, including monitoring of their “disease status” by region and province. “I don't see any reason not to do that already,” said Allen, MP for Welland, Ont. “There is no magic about the December 31 date in legislation as far as I am aware.”

Regulators will also monitor the “disease status” of Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters used by fish farmers, and impose “movement controls” in regions deemed at risk: “The East Coast will be declared infected with infectious salmon anemia and the West Coast will be declared infected with infectious hematopoietic necrosis and the disease response to these specific diseases in areas declared to be infected will be changing,” the agency reported to the Commons.

Pamela Parker, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, said members were unaware of the timing: “We had some awareness it was being considered but we had no knowledge the decision had been made,” Parker said.

Bill Taylor, president and CEO of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, said disease monitoring of wild salmon has been in place in British Columbia waters with a similar program proposed for Atlantic fisheries. “Originally this program was supposed to be initiated and underway in 2013, and here we are in 2014 and it's still not underway,” Taylor said. “If you are farming your fish in the open ocean your biosecurity will never be 100 percent.”

The report to the Commons was Inquiry Of Ministry no. 501, dated May 13 but only now tabled in the House.