Who Speaks for Tourism Amidst Aquaculture Pollution?


Who speaks up for tourism in midst of aquaculture pollution?
Published March 30, 2015 - 1:00am

The so-called super chill that caused substantial mortalities of salmon and questionable disposal methods in the Annapolis Basin, Shelburne Harbour and Jordan Bay has opened the debate over open-pen fish farms once again.

We have been hearing from the aquaculture industry and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and from members of more than 40 organizations who oppose this type of fish farming — but where do Michel Samson, minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, as well the opposition leaders, our MLAs and our tourism associations, stand on this debate?

I am sure tourism operators in Nova Scotia would like to know what our future holds if open-pen fish farms are allowed to expand around the coastline of our province as a result of this government not accepting all the conditions of the Doelle-Lahey report. Does Mr. Samson believe in his own statement mandate?

“Tourism is a $2 billion industry in Nova Scotia. It provides 24,000 jobs that support families in every region of the province. Beyond the economic impact, it helps define Nova Scotia, perhaps more than any other single sector of our economy. Visitors form an impression of the place and the people, and share them with friends and family. This can encourage more people to visit and enhance our reputation worldwide. Tourism can therefore be a source of pride. The impressions and experiences of visitors should matter to Nova Scotians.”

So, I ask, “Who is speaking for tourism?”

According to Mr. Samson, in the past 10 years, visits to Nova Scotia have declined by nine per cent. Has anyone thought what will happen to all our tourism-related businesses and the economy of Nova Scotia when even more tourists stop coming?

Mr. Samson is looking for ways to encourage more new and repeat customers to Nova Scotia and that is a good thing, but perhaps he should first consider what a treasure he already has — Nova Scotia’s natural beauty and charm.

Having been in the tourism industry for more than 50 years, we have heard many comments from our camping friends. Up until now, their biggest concern was avoiding potholes on our secondary roads and not being able to enjoy the view.

But all this was forgiven once they discovered a campground with a campsite overlooking the bay, a relaxing boat tour among our 100 wild islands, a stroll upon a moonlit beach and maybe enjoying a fresh locally caught lobster or a feed of mussels they picked themselves and cooked over an open campfire.

In our comment books, our guests compliment Nova Scotia’s beautiful coastline, pristine waters and quaint little fishing villages. They say things like, “Do you know how lucky you are?” They call it “their little piece of Heaven” and “My Happy Place,” but mostly they say, “Don’t change a thing.”

They like our product (Mother Nature and Nova Scotian hospitality) and they want to keep it that way. Celeste Brash of Lonely Planet, who recognized Murphy’s Camping on the Ocean as one of the best campgrounds in Canada in a 2014 Globe and Mail article, would seem to agree.

Our guests are not here to walk among slime-filled rocks, swim in polluted waters, to smell or see decaying fish or debris on our shores.

These open-pen fish farms are only just the beginning in Nova Scotia. If these big corporations get the approval they want from the federal and provincial governments, it won’t be long before you see fish farms in every bay, cove and harbour throughout the province, which could eventually destroy everything that was good for tourism in Nova Scotia.

So, I ask again, who is speaking for tourism?

For those of you who know little about the practices of open-pen fish farms operators, visit this website: nsapes.ca. It covers many of the special highlights and practices of open-pen fish farm feedlots in Nova Scotia. After you digest all of this, then perhaps we can ask ourselves if any of us have these kinds of privileges.

How many of us can dump toxic chemicals into the ocean? How many of our businesses get compensated by the provincial government or the taxpayer if we have a failed year? How many of us are self-regulated? How many of us are allowed to use our oceans for dumping our waste? How many of us are allowed to cause so much damage to the environment? How many of us get millions of dollars from our provincial government — the taxpayer — for improvement to our businesses?

Premier Stephen McNeil, Michel Samson, minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, leaders of the opposition, MLAs, tourism associations and tourism businesses or Nova Scotians who just like to enjoy nature: “We can no longer stick our heads in the sand. We must speak up now.”

By April, when a Fisheries and Aquaculture Department review of the report is to be released, it will be too late. So, I ask again, who is speaking for tourism?

Support tourism. Support all the conditions of the Doelle-Lahey report. That report validates that the significant environmental and social problems with open-net pen finfish aquaculture are real and need to be dealt with in a strong and comprehensive manner.

Brian Murphy, Murphy’s Camping on the Ocean, Murphy Cove, Eastern Shore