Moratorium on Ocean-based Fish Farms


Salmon virus policy riles fishermen
January 31, 2013 - 7:27am BY JOHN DEMONT STAFF REPORTER

ASF wants moratorium on ocean-based fish farms

Confusion over the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s stance on dealing with the infectious salmon anemia virus has caused a prominent angling organization to renew its call for a moratorium on new sea-based salmon farms.

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the agency had allowed hundreds of thousands of infected salmon to continue growing in cages near Liverpool.

The decision, according to media reports, signalled that the agency had given up trying to stamp out the disease, which is lethal to fish but not humans.

Last summer, salmon farming giant Cooke Aquaculture Inc. killed several thousand fish after the disease was discovered at a Shelburne Harbour farm. The New Brunswick company also killed another 40,000 at a smaller farm in waters near Liverpool for the same reason.

However, Cooke was allowed to transport about 240,000 infected fish from the farm near Liverpool to a fish processing plant in New Brunswick under new inspection protocols.

The CBC quoted an agency official this week as saying “We’ve shifted gears to preventing the spread of the disease and no longer consider eradication an option.”

But the agency later issued a statement on its website saying that its policy of allowing infected fish to be processed and sold to humans is not new.

“Since infectious salmon anemia poses no risk to people, the CFIA allows fish from an affected facility to be processed under a CFIA-issued licence,” the release stated.

“As an added precaution, all fish destined for human consumption are inspected in accordance with the Fish Inspection Regulations. Fish that are not fit for human consumption are not permitted for processing.”

That did little to appease the St. Andrews, N.B.-based Atlantic Salmon Federation, which called Wednesday for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and provincial governments to place a moratorium on more ocean-based salmon farms in the Atlantic region.

Federation president Bill Taylor said in an interview that letting infected farm salmon grow in ocean farms could infect endangered wild Atlantic salmon leaving and entering rivers.

He reiterated his organization’s view that salmon should grow in land-based closed-containment systems that keep them away from wild fish populations. At last count, Nova Scotia has more than 20 land-based fish farm sites.

Big aquaculture companies like Cooke say that on-land farms just don’t work for large-scale production.

For his part, Sterling Belliveau, Nova Scotia’s fisheries minister, said the province isn’t considering a moratorium on open-pen salmon farms in light of conflicting signals from the federal inspection agency.

“As CFIA themselves have clarified, they haven’t changed their tack with regard to handling ISA. They remain focused on containing the disease, as do we,” Belliveau said in an email.

“Our government has in place a strong approval and monitoring process to ensure that marine-based aquaculture is done in a sustainable way.”

He stressed that the provincial government isn’t taking sides in the on-shore versus sea-based farm debate.

Nova Scotia has commissioned a feasibility study of land-based closed-containment Atlantic salmon farming, which is expected to be complete by mid-spring.

Moving the farms inshore, however, would be a tough blow for the province’s coastal communities.

“Salmon farming has the potential to be a game-changer for us,” said Roger Taylor, warden of the Municipality of the District of Shelburne. “It could go a long way towards revitalizing this whole community.”

Aquaculture is a $57-million-a-year industry in Nova Scotia, according to the provincial government.