Aquabounty Plans Pose Negative Risk

THE GUARDIAN - Charlottetown

GUEST OPINION: Plans pose negative risks


 It makes no sense for ACOA, Finance P.E.I. to help when company owned by billionaires

Published on May 22, 2017

The site, just a few hundred meters from our home, has four high capacity wells, a stream for effluent discharge into Rollo Bay, acreage for expansion, and seclusion from the worlds’ eye.

With all due respect to Ms. Braden’s support for AquaBounty, it’s obvious she didn’t do in-depth research into this project as a whole. Local opposition researched thousands of pages of scientific, legal, government and financial documents.

We’re proud when our area has growth and innovation but AquaBounty’s plans pose serious negative risks to our local water, our environment, our fisheries and the public’s finances. On paper, their plans went from a small conventional Atlantic salmon hatchery to a large-scale, GMO salmon egg to grow-out facility, literally in one day.

AquaBounty applied for an Environmental Impact Assessment on April 12/17; on the same day an amended statement (EIS) was released. The document outlines they consulted these new plans with two provincial and three federal government departments in one single day. This is one example of the countless irregularities in the 89 pg. EIS.

AquaBounty’s recirculating water system (RAS) looks good on paper but the quantity of water required to fill the tanks in the massive buildings will total five million liters. They were granted a Groundwater Extraction Permit to pump 9 million L/day with peak pumping of 13 million L in 24 hr. periods in the event the RAS “goes down for any length of time.” There is no equipment known to man that operates 100 per cent perfectly, all the time.

The EIS doesn’t address the impact the effluent will have as it flows down the Rollo Bay stream, into the Lower Rollo Bay estuary, the clam beds, fishing grounds and beyond. Clear water does not mean good water.

AquaBounty claims their fish are all female and sterile. However, in 2013, AquaBounty supplied DFO a 95 per cent sterility rate. Other scientific documents point out that no containment measures are 100 per cent effective and there have been questions raised to their claim of rendering of all females. These fish are engineered to grow twice as fast, so one can imagine the consequences if they establish themselves in the natural environment. We feel it’s a not a matter of “if.” it’s a matter of when.

AquaBounty has had constant legal challenges. They’ve also had numerous violations of environmental law for their operations in Panama. One would be hopeful they would follow environmental rules here on P.E.I., but in early May, an official from the Dept. of Environment advised them to stop unapproved site-work at the Rollo Bay site until the environmental process is complete.

AquaBounty’s board admits they are a financial risk in their public 2016 year-end financial statement. “We may never achieve or maintain profitability.” They have a deficit of $99.3 million, an unpaid $3 million loan from ACOA since 2009 but yet in 2016 ACOA gave them another $337,000 to help buy the Rollo Bay site, with 0 per cent interest and the timing of repayment is “uncertain.” Finance P.E.I. also gave AquaBounty a loan for over $700,000 in 2016 to help purchase the Rollo Bay site.

Originally, it was thought their funding for this project would be supplied by their billionaire-owned parent company, Intrexon. However, AquaBounty states on their application this project will cost $13 million with funds requested from ACOA and Finance P.E.I. Ms. Braden stated in her letter AquaBounty’s operations will support our economy, but it appears our economy will be supporting them.

It makes no sense for ACOA and Finance P.E.I. to help AquaBounty when it is owned by billionaire executives and the board admits they may never be profitable. There are people in crisis in our province who need immediate help; funds given to and requested by AquaBounty should instead go directly to helping P.E.I. citizens.

We’ve said many times that the U.S. board of CEO’s and executives could build this facility in their own backyard and pay for it themselves. AquaBounty has always been under worldwide scrutiny; we hope our government is mindful of that when they are deciding to approve or deny AquaBounty’s proposal.

- Dawn and Stephen Carter, Bear River, P.E.I. live a few hundred meters from where AquaBounty proposes to build North America’s first and only GMO salmon operation. They have a keen interest in protection of their local water, the fisheries and the environment.