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$13M for Cooke Aquaculture after infected salmon

$13M for Cooke Aquaculture after infected salmon

Jan 8 2014 CBC News

$13M for Cooke Aquaculture after infected salmon

About 1 million salmon destroyed

A fishing boat heads past fish farm cages in Shelburne Harbour on Nova Scotia's South Shore on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2011. Cooke Aquaculture announced that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is testing fish samples from the company's operation in Shelburne Harbour for infectious salmon anemia. (The Canadian Press)

Cooke Aquaculture has received $13 million in federal compensation after it was forced to slaughter a million salmon at a Nova Scotia fish-farming operation because of a virus outbreak, according to Freedom of Information documents.

The New Brunswick-based company got the money back in 2012 after an infectious salmon anemia (ISA) outbreak at the company's farms in Shelburne County.

Cooke received the money in June and December of 2012 but the amount was only made public recently within a Freedom of Information request to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The company wouldn't confirm the amount when contacted by CBC News, except to say it's no different than any other compensation farmers receive for damaged crops.

A spokesperson pointed to a $2.3-million aid package the provincial and federal governments have offered to strawberry farmers after a virus destroyed their crops.


Jan 10 2014 Nova News Now

Editorial: Secrecy not an option on fish farm compensation

Greg Bennett


What’s the big secret?

Last year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency gave out $13-million in compensation to Cooke Aquaculture when it was forced to kill salmon from its Shelburne fish farms.

The outbreak of infectious salmon anemia spread amongst the pens in 2012.  The outbreak of the untreatable fish disease led to the culling of three salmon cages totaling around one million salmon.

At the time, the federal government would not reveal the exact amount of compensation given out.

It took a Freedom of Information request from the CBC to reveal that Cooke Aquaculture was compensated $13-million for its losses.

The money recouped a portion of the company’s losses through “an established program available to all farmers” noted company officials.

Our problem isn’t necessarily with the fact that Cooke Aquaculture was compensated for its losses or even with the amount involved  –you can argue that the farming compensation program does apply here. And the company says the federal compensation package only partially covered its losses.

The company also argues that they continue to grow, harvest and market fish from Nova Scotia and are continuing to work on its expansion plans.

And while we’re not entirely sure you can compare growing fish to raising cattle or chickens, we’ll leave that philosophical argument for a later day.

Our main problem is largely with the fact the government is not readily willing to share the amounts given out in compensation.

It’s our money dammit. We may not have any real say on how it's spent but we should at least be told where it's going.

Cooke’s received the $13-million in two installments in 2012 but it wasn’t until almost two years later after filing for the information through the Freedom of Information Act that that number became public.

We understand that there is controversy surrounding open pen fish farms in Nova Scotia …but this isn’t about aquaculture.

If it was a chicken farmer or a strawberry farmer involved here, we’d still want to know the amounts handed out.

We think the public deserves that information too, without having to resort to freedom of information requests to get it.

Private companies might like to keep their finances private but when it comes to government funds, secrecy should not an option.

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