Proposed Aquacutlure Regs Could Set Back Ocean Protection by Decades


Proposed aquaculture regs could set back ocean protection by decades
February 17, 2015 - 10:57 — Timothy Gillespie

Environmental protection will be set back "decades"

Business leaders, commercial and recreational fishing associations, scientists, lawyers and environmentalists called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to halt the implementation of the proposed Aquaculture Activities Regulations, fearing that the new rules will permit aquaculture firms to put thousands of litres of deadly pesticides into coastal waters surrounding salmon farms in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

The changes, says the group,  will exempt the aquaculture industry from the Fisheries Act provisions that “prohibit the release of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish.” Despite broad based opposition since the beginning of the regulatory change process, which started in 2011, the government of Canada has moved ahead in implementing these changes.

As an example of the deadly nature of chemicals can be found in the 2011 felony charges against Cooke Aquaculture CEO Glenn Cooke and two other executives for illegally dumping the dealy cypermethrin pesticide into the waters surrounding Cooke Aquaculture industrial fish farms on coastal New Brunswick. In a plea deal part way through a 2013 trial, the trio pleaded guilty to the charges and were fined close to $500,000.   

    “These regulations will set back Canadian aquatic environmental protection measures several decades,” states Bill Ernst, a retired Environment Canada toxicologist. “They will eliminate Environment Canada’s role in enforcing the law with respect to aquaculture and hand responsibility over to Health Canada who do not have an undivided environmental protection mandate.”

The 120 signatories of an open letter sent today, contend that the proposed changes will lead to increased environmental risk through the discharge of increasingly powerful pesticides, and other potentially damaging substances into the aquatic ecosystem, significantly reduce government regulatory oversight, and damage Canada’s commercial interests as a provider of untainted seafood.

“We have been fishing along side the aquaculture industry for decades and we know the impacts open-pen salmon farms can have on the traditional fishery. When the salmon aquaculture industry is poorly regulated it places our industry and livelihoods in jeopardy. We have grave concerns about the contents of the Aquaculture Activities Regulations, particularly the emphasis on aquaculture industry self-monitoring and regulation, and the capacity of DFO to enforce the proposed regulations,” says Maria Recchia, Executive Director of Fundy North Fisherman’s Association based in Southwestern New Brunswick.

    “The value of our industry is based on a pristine, non-polluted marine environment,” says Stewart Lamont, owner of Tangier Lobster in Nova Scotia. “We have already dealt with the impacts of pesticides, and see federal fines levied on something that would now become legal. To have DFO authorize pollution from a coastal industry is simply baffling.”

A newly released scientific study by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the impacts of two pesticides used to treat sea lice, Salmonsan and Alphamax, shows that there are lethal effects on lobster and the risk from one of those, Alphamax, exists up to ten kilometres from sites of use and concludes that there is a general lack of data on pesticide impacts on a wide variety of other marine species.

“We already know that our oceans and coastal ecosystems are suffering from far too much pollution. With these proposed regulatory changes, we are actively allowing further pollution of our coastal waters. Our coastal industries, particularly those that rely on a healthy marine environment will be put at risk,” says Dr. Susanna Fuller, Marine Conservation Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre.” In addition, our international reputation on environmental protection will be impacted – something we can’t afford, particularly given the importance of the export markets to our fisheries.”