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Importance of Rigorous Aquaculture Regs Cannot be Overstated


BLACK: Importance of rigorous regs cannot be overstated
Published August 29, 2014 - 3:51pm

 On July 4, the 143-page draft report by the Doelle-Lahey Independent Aquaculture Regulatory Review Panel was released.

After a period of public consultation, the final report will be submitted in September. The broad direction that it will take is clear.

Key messages include:

1. The panel rejected calls to ban marine-based fin fish (i.e. salmon) facilities, given their economic importance and the ability of regulation to manage risks. It should be permitted only in sites that lend themselves to appropriate risk management.

2. That said, the current regulatory practice came in for considerable criticism for being neither effective nor transparent. The attitude of government officials toward those concerned about the impact of salmon pens is inappropriately dismissive.

3. Likewise, the attitude of some, but not all, opponents was inappropriately dismissive of the economic importance of the industry.

4. It is not ideal that the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture is responsible for both promoting and regulating the industry. But separating it will lead to regulatory complexity and duplication of resources, so a change is not recommended. This is contingent on the Department of Environment becoming independently responsible for environmental monitoring.

5. The report outlines elements of a more rigorous and transparent regulatory regimen. The new requirements would be phased in for existing operations.

A key recommendation of the Ivany report on Building Our New Economy was for the “adoption of the most effective and widely accepted certification standards for sustainable resource use, conservation and responsible harvesting practices.”

The Doelle-Lahey panel worked hard at engaging the diverse perspectives and has set the stage for fulfilling Ivany’s recommendation for a successful and sustainable aquaculture industry. Readers interested in a good example should Google “Faroe Islands Salmon.”

This is an opportunity for the government to show some decisiveness. Shortly after the final report is issued next month, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell should endorse its direction and state that government’s focus is now on how to manage marine salmon farms, not whether they should be permitted.

Second, he should set an ambitious timetable for implementation of new regulations. There is a shared interest in getting this done promptly. For those concerned about existing operations, it hastens the day when they will be more rigorously regulated.

For salmon farmers, it hastens the day when new operations can be launched. Beyond that, good operators in any business prefer a well-regulated environment that keeps other players from giving their industry a bad name.

An equally important third step is required.

As pointed out by Bob Howse in his news analysis on Aug. 23 (“The politics of pollution”), the long delay in fixing the unacceptable pollution from the Northern Pulp mill repeats a historic pattern of tardy or weak enforcement of environmental regulations when jobs are at stake.

Environment Minister Randy Delorey’s announcement the previous day added teeth but did not change the substance of the previous order, giving the company until May 30 to fix the air pollution problem. And no plan is yet in place to deal with the effluent treatment at Boat Harbour.

Last week’s Opinions section also included an eloquent plea by Andy MacGregor for people to understand the economic impact of the mill, and to therefore be tolerant of the time needed to fix the pollution problems.

Many of those opposed to marine aquaculture, fracking and many other resource industries are understandably skeptical about the effectiveness of renewed regulatory regimens, no matter how well-considered, on the grounds that they will not be properly enforced.

As a practical matter, any viable future for Nova Scotia, particularly the rural parts, must include successful resource industries. The Ivany report acknowledges as much. So does the Doelle-Lahey aquaculture report. But rural communities will only provide the social licence necessary for successful resource industries if there are sufficient efforts to engage them, and satisfaction that environmental regulations will be enforced.

The track record of enforcing renewed aquaculture regulations will be very important to the acceptance of developments in other resource industries. Ideally, there will be many sites, both large and small, so that if one has to be shut down for environmental reasons, the impact on the province as a whole will not be as devastating as would be the loss of the Northern Pulp mill.

We cannot have a successful resource economy without credible and effective regulation.