Responses to Aquaculture Association Commentary

Recently a commentary appeared in the Telegraph-Journal (Saint John, NB) submitted by the aquaculture association that proposed a massive expansion of the industry. To read this commentary, click here.

Below are some of the responses printed by the TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL

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Globally, only 17 per cent of the population’s average per capita intake of animal protein comes from fish.

If you believe what the salmon aquaculture industry is saying, they are poised to feed the hungry of the world, close the global protein gap, employ legions of workers and save coastal communities from economic oblivion. Nowhere in their feel-good message do they tell the public where the hungry and protein starved of the world live or the likelihood that salmon jerky and fillets will fill their bellies. It’s unlikely salmon will be feeding the 25-35 per cent of people living in Chad, Liberal, Angola, Ethiopia, Zambia, Namibia or Lesotho who, according to the United Nation World Food Program, are undernourished.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hunger (24.8 per centof the population) and Asia has the largest number of hungry people (over 500 million). Farmed salmon, haddock, cod or halibut will not be on their menu anytime soon According to the 2013 Statistical Yearbook of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the world’s hungry (and well-fed) get their protein from plants and animals not fish. Globally, only 17 per cent of the population’s average per capita intake of animal protein comes from fish. China alone produced more than 60 per cent of global aquaculture production (mostly seaweeds and freshwater fish), while Asia as a whole accounted for about 90 per cent. Furthermore, global aquaculture production is dominated by species that are raised in inland tanks, channels or ponds and feed low on the food chain such as carp, tilapias and catfish. As for creating legions of workers, employment statistics show that increased technological efficiencies have resulted in increased production levels without comparable increases in employment. Statistics Canada and DFO report that in 1990, 1,000 people in Atlantic Canada were employed in aquaculture and they produced 15,000 mt of product. In 2008, production had quadrupled (67,000 mt), but the workforce increased by only two and half time to 2,600 workers. The world’s leader in salmon farming, Norway, has increased its production by six times over the past 20 years but it’s workforce has remained at 1990 levels. The salmon aquaculture industry says new legislation will help to make all their promises come true. The industry does need legislation. It needs federal regulations like those imposed on effluent from Canada’s pulp and paper and metal mining industries and municipal sewage facilities. There are no federal or provincial regulations to control the impacts of aquaculture. The open net pen salmon aquaculture industry is in deep trouble in Atlantic Canada. Disease outbreaks in 2013 resulted in the destruction of over a million fish. The industry is desperate to find a poison that will kill the sea lice infesting their farms. Poor environmental performance at some farms means longer wait times before production can begin again. Escaped fish continue to be a problem and, as storms intensify due to climate change, the likelihood of storm damage and escaped fish will only get bigger.

A new federal aquaculture act is not going to fix any of these issues. The simplest way to address all the issues plaguing the industry is to move fish farming onto land. Critics of this method say land-based operations are not economic. Money can be, and is being, made growing fish in land-based facilities. The profits are not as great as growing them at sea where the cost of disposing of waste and compensating for disease is paid by the environment and the public. Fish farming does have a place in the economic mix of communities but it is on land where, as with other industrial operations, the real and total cost of production is paid by the industry and not by the public, environment and traditional fisheries.

Inka Milewski

is a science advisor with the 
Conservation Council of 
New Brunswick


Jan. 4, 2014 - PETER SALONIUS

Salmon farming expansion questioned

The increase in salmon aquaculture recommended by Pamela Parker (“Canada needs a national aquaculture strategy,” Dec. 28) to me is completely unrealistic given the disease and parasite problems faced by the industry at this time.

There are licenced sites that are not even stocked any more because salmon farmers have so little control of sea lice infestations that attack juvenile salmon shortly after they are placed in the salt water sea cages.

The dismal returns of wild salmon to rivers in the southern Maritimes and Maine may well be directly related to the loss of effective chemical controls for sea lice since 2010. Large numbers of sea lice eggs and unattached by infective juveniles, carried by the cold water currents of the Bay of Fundy, attack young wild salmon during their seaward migration. This is likely the primary cause of the devastation of wild salmon populations seen since 2011.

A program of synchronous stocking, grow out, harvesting and fallowing would benefit both the sea cage industry and wild salmon because for six months every two years aquaculture origin sea lice would die out, allowing a fresh start in the spring after all farmed salmon in the area had been harvested in the fall of the previous year.

Peter Salonius
Durham Bridge, NB


Jan. 6, 2014 - JOHN BAGNALL

Give true cost of salmon farming

I was interested in reading the Dec. 27 commentary by Pamela Parker of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association on aquaculture opportunities in Atlantic Canada. The following views are personal and not necessarily those of the New Brunswick Salmon Council.

Aquaculture could help feed the world and provide benefits to humanity. However, Atlantic salmon should not have high priority among the species chosen to do so. Salmon are carnivores, and we are losing energy by feeding animals to animals. Herbivorous fish should have priority for population maintenance.

Pamela Parker is being disingenuous in saying that an expansion of aquaculture in Atlantic Canada would be conducted in order to feed the world’s masses of humanity.

Her unstated agenda is for companies to accrue benefits from the production of a luxury food product that would be sold to the rising middle classes of developing countries. There’s nothing wrong with this if these companies paid their true cost of production.

This cost would include line items such as the loss of wild salmon from the spread of disease, the spread of sea louse infestation from caged to wild fish, the effects of escapes such as the resulting genetic out-breeding among wild populations as well as predator population enhancement with resulting suppression of wild salmon stocks. In addition, government should not compensate producers for fish that have to be destroyed because they have contacted a disease such as infectious salmon anemia.

Where is the incentive to reliably and predictably produce a healthy, healthful product?

It should be a regulatory role of government to ensure that these costs are paid by the producers. I am sure that if producers paid a rate closer to their true cost of production, land-based salmon farming would be much more cost effective than the current practice of open net pen feedlot production.

John Bagnall
President, N.B. Salmon Council (NBSC)


Jan. 7, 2014 - LOWELL DEMOND

Don’t allow open pen salmon lots

I am writing in response to “Canada needs a national aquaculture strategy” (Dec. 27), written by Pamela Parker, executive director, Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association.

In the article Ms. Parker writes, “Our farmers are committed to environmental sustainability, fish health, innovative research and development, and involvement in their communities.” I am of the opinion this statement is totally unbelievable to all those in the know.

In Canada, from 1996 to 2013, more than 11 million sick fish were slaughtered for which our governments paid more than $100 million. These fish were sick and they died from ISA (infectious salmon anemia). During the past year, off the coast of Liverpool, N.S., 240,000 salmon in an open pen feed lot were sick with ISA. They were allowed to be processed at the Cooke Aquaculture plant in New Brunswick. This caused a national outcry. The U.S. would not allow them across their borders. Some grocery stores refused to market them. Many restaurants would not serve them.

Who wants to eat an animal that is dying? Would anyone invite a dinner guests to their home and serve them aquaculture fish which are dying? Surely, Ms. Parker wouldn’t do this, would she?

The answer to solving the many aquaculture problems is to place the pens on dry land. If this were done, doubt would be removed for their edibility, they would not have sea lice, they would not get sick and require antibiotics, their waste could be contained, and their water recycled.

I fear if this present obscene effort is not ended and we continue to pollute our ocean bottoms, and our shore lands, we who live in Nova Scotia will have to discontinue calling our little province “Canada’s Ocean Playground.”

Lowell R. DeMond


Jan. 8, 2014 - C. M. "RIP" CUNNINGHAM

Salmon course isn’t sustainable

Pamela Parker’s commentary on the future potential of aquaculture in Atlantic Canada outlines a desire for a noble venture; feed the world’s starving masses and provide jobs for the coastal communities. The question is if this is really as sustainable as proclaimed and if it will actually do what it indicates.
Would this Atlantic Canada industry be viable without some level of government support? What are the real costs to the wild salmon resource? What are the impacts to communities that have been supported by the sport fishery for wild salmon. How many jobs are lost in the sport fishery for every subsidized job that is created in the aquaculture industry. Those numbers need to be brought forward as they may tell a far different story. As for a product that will feed the starving masses, aquacultured salmon is not it. Those folks who are struggling to get enough protein to survive are hardly the target market for what most label as a “white table cloth product.”
If one truly wants to grow salmon or any other aquacultured fish, they will grow approximately 15% faster in fresh water, since the animal does not have to expend energy in the process of osmoregulation (dealing with the sea water environment). Almost every aspect of the this industry points toward land based operations, except one. The upfront capital costs are higher for land based. It will take either a visionary political action to remove at-sea pens or another game changing economic advantage for shore based operations that will put the at-sea operations out of business.

I agree with Ms. Parker’s suggestion that there should be a visionary plan for the aquaculture industry. Where we disagree is on what that plan should look like. The current course for Atlantic Canada is truly not sustainable.
C. M. “Rip” Cunningham
Fisheries Consultant
Yarmouth, ME


Jan. 9, 2014 - GRAHAM SMITH

Salmon claims challenged

In one of your recent issues, Pam Parker of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers’ Association called for a weaker regulatory process for aquaculture operators. I find this astounding.

Anyone can see what we have had over the past few years, during which Ms. Parker feels that we had excessively tight regulations: repeated outbreaks of infectious salmon anemia, fish escapes, sea lice in the salmon at grocery stores, massive infusions of the taxpayers’ money via the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to pay operators for sick fish, even permitting infected fish to go to market for human consumption, damage to lobster populations from pesticides used against sea lice. The list goes on.

Can Ms. Parker identify a single regulatory action that inhibited the finfish aquaculture industry, except when Cooke Aquaculture pleaded guilty to charges of poisoning thousands of lobsters through illegal use of pesticides?

Ms. Parker’s claim that her industry can feed a hungry world is nonsense. It conflicts with the fact that salmon aquaculture actually takes food fish away from humans, in net terms. Consumers can see the farmed salmon, but they don’t see the sardines and other species that fed the farmed salmon, or the people that would have eaten the sardines that fed the salmon. Canada imports fish to feed penned salmon, fish that could better feed hungry people in Third World nations.

Salmon are the only predators we raise for food. Overall, the more carnivorous fish you produce, the less fish you have. Ms. Parker needs to be challenged on her claims.

Graham Smith
Brookside, N.S.


Jan. 10, 2014 - GEOFF CHISLETT

Salmon isn’t protein answer

Ms. Parker’s article (Canada needs a national aquaculture strategy,” Dec 27) has the same arguments salmon farmers have used for years. One, salmon culture can fill the protein needs of starving millions, and two, “governments must harmonize and streamline the regulatory framework so our industry can truly flourish and achieve its manifest destiny.”

First, the cost of farmed salmon precludes it as a protein source for the destitute millions of our world. Unless, of course, the industry envisages huge government subsidies to them to provide “inexpensive” protein to the starving.

The second point is simply code for “get out of our way government, and let us do what we want.” What Canadians need to do is ask themselves, “Which side of the competing interests of environmental protection versus industrial development has been spectacularly successful since contact?”

Fish, wildlife and other ecosystem attributes are lost daily to the greed of industry with the complicity of governments, and unfortunately to our apparently insatiable appetite for more.

I’m a retired fisheries biologist who worked for many years for the province of British Columbia in fish habitat protection. I have heard all about sustainable development, environmental concern, restoration and compensation, from industry and government. The fact is wild creatures and their habitats are slipping through our fingers.

When DFO was allowed to do its job the net gain or, as was more commonly known, No Net Loss policy was developed, and there was an effort to stem the bleeding. The Harper government has essentially killed DFO and it’s now virtually powerless in preventing habitat destruction or alteration if any jobs and dollars are at stake.

Citizen groups like the Atlantic Salmon Federation, various wildlife federations and others appear to be our best last hope until some balance and environmental ethic returns to our society.

Geoff Chislett
Sidney, B.C.


Jan. 11, 2014 – SUSAN LINKLETTER

Make Salmon farms landbased

I agree with Pamela Parker, the aquaculture industry in Atlantic Canada needs to develop a long-term plan that enables the industry to grasp opportunities and develop into a more sustainable industry.

I also agree with her contention that aquaculture should not be under the control of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

In order to become a more sustainable industry, aquaculture needs to be moved out of the ocean and into land-based tanks. Only then will it be sustainable. Until then, it will continue to take its toll on wild fish populations, and not only salmon.

As a land-based farming system, this industry needs to be under the control of the Department of Agriculture, allowing DFO to do what it is supposed to do, which is to protect wild fish stocks.

Just think of all the regulations and red tape they will be able to avoid once the farmed salmon comes out of the ocean pens and into land based tanks. Since the industry is looking for the opportunity to re-invent itself, they should get at it.

Susan Linkletter