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Aquaculture industry blowing smoke

Aquaculture industry blowing smoke

June 2 2014      Chronicle Herald

Aquaculture industry blowing smoke

“The aquaculture industry has a knack for portraying the sector as a victim of too many regulations. Yet, like every other food and livestock industry in Canada, it is subject to the same Health Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations designed to protect public health,” writes Inka Milewski. (ADRIEN VECZAN / Staff)
Canada’s aquaculture industry is suffering from legislation envy. It wants its own Aquaculture Act.
Apparently, the existing laws and regulations that govern the industry don’t have a central theme or vision and lack consistency and coherency. According to the industry, it is burdened by too many regulations.
The Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is holding hearings and studying the regulation of aquaculture in Canada. Representatives of the aquaculture industry alliance have appeared before the committee twice. Their message is consistent. The industry is on the cusp of greatness if only it could get out from under all those regulations and get its own Aquaculture Act.
The industry has a knack for portraying the sector as a victim of too many regulations. Yet, like every other food and livestock industry in Canada, it is subject to the same Health Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations designed to protect public health.
And, like every other industrial activity that takes place in marine waters, the aquaculture industry has to follow Transport Canada, Environment Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans regulations designed to protect habitat, wild fisheries and species.
Apparently, dealing with these departments and their regulations is a problem for the industry. Having to deal with provincial labour, safety and environmental regulations also sticks in their craw.
It’s surprising that no one on the Senate committee has called them out on their claim of over-regulation. Every industrial enterprise in Canada, whether in the agriculture, chemical, food-processing, mining, oil and gas, or forestry sector is, rightly, subject to regulatory scrutiny and control equal to or greater than the aquaculture industry.
The industry been successful in perpetuating the myth of over-regulation because it has bundled in a decade-long stagnation in the industry with a phantom regulatory gridlock. Plus, advocates have blown smoke as to the growth potential in their industry and the need for protein to feed the hungry of the world.
The claims of industry and their key promoter, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, about Canada’s aquaculture and its economic, food and job potential nationally and in the world rings hollow once data are examined.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Association 2012 statistics show that Canada’s contribution to aquaculture production in the world is 0.003 per cent (no, that is not a typo) and, on average, less than 10 per cent of the protein in people’s diet comes from seafood. Vegetable and meat are by far the largest sources (85 per cent) of dietary protein on all continents.
According to Industry Canada statistics, Canada’s cookie, cracker and pasta exports, as well as soap, cleaning, and toilet chemical sectors have larger export value than aquaculture products.
Canada is a tiny global player and farmed salmon is a minuscule source of protein supply for the world’s population. An Aquaculture Act is not going to change those facts.
What about the aquaculture industry’s claim of job-creation benefits? According to DFO and Industry Canada, between 2000 and 2012, aquaculture production in Canada increased 32 per cent, but salary and wages increased only 13 per cent.
This sector has a notoriously poor record for job creation as the drive for increasing profits has led to technological efficiencies that have stripped jobs from the industry.
Norway, the world’s leading producer of farmed salmon, raises 10 times the farmed salmon as Canada does, with one-third of the Canadian farmed-salmon workforce.
In its lament over regulatory burdens, the aquaculture industry has been consistently silent on the fact that waste from open-net pen operations is not regulated.
Unlike the pulp and paper industry and sewage plants, which are required to treat their waste, salmon farms release thousands of tonnes of waste each year into coastal waters — untreated and unregulated.
For every 500 tonnes of salmon produced in open-net pens, 100 tonnes of waste is released. In 2012, 108,000 tonnes of farmed salmon were produced. The math is simple. However, the industry is not asking for that deficiency in the regulations to be addressed.
The aquaculture industry doesn’t need a special act any more than the pasta or toilet chemical industry need their own act. What is needed is for regulators and politicians to stop fawning over this industry and see beyond its smoke and mirrors.
They need to step up and make the open-net pen industry accountable for the waste they produce by finally introducing legislation that will put controls on one of the largest sources of pollution to coastal waters in Canada.
Inka Milewski is a marine biologist and science adviser with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.

May 29, 2014      Chronicle Herald

Fishing for aquacultural policy

Federal legislation needed if industry is to reach potential, panel told

Representatives of some of the province’s largest fish farming companies told a Senate committee that the industry needs clearer legislation and regulations in order to grow. (ADRIEN VECZAN/Staff)
Federal legislation is critical to growing aquaculture in Nova Scotia, says Bryan Bosien, vice-president of Snow Island, a salmon farm on the Eastern Shore.
“We don’t have clear legislation,” he said in an interview Thursday after appearing before the Senate committee in Halifax. The committee is studying aquaculture regulation.
“Anything to bring clarity to operators and stakeholders is welcome.”
Bosien was part of a panel of industry witnesses that included Pamela Parker, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association; Peter Corey, president of the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia; and Nell Halse, vice-president of communications with Cooke Aquaculture of New Brunswick, the region’s largest fish farming company.
In his remarks to the committee, which included Sen. Tom McInnis from Nova Scotia and Sen. Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia, Bosien said Canada is the only farmed seafood-producing country without national legislation specifically designed to govern its aquaculture industry.
“Modernizing the regulatory and policy framework will allow our industry to realize its full potential,” he said.
Parker, who claimed salmon is more popular than beef, said the existing “patchwork” regulatory system is overly complex and called for a national strategy under an aquaculture act.
Corey said streamlining the regulatory environment would enable investment and expansion of the industry.
“There is little doubt that aquaculture is the food production sector in Nova Scotia with the greatest potential for expansion.”
Bosien’s company has encountered opposition from local groups who say aquaculture threatens the wild marine environment. Those concerns led in part to a provincial moratorium on issuing new aquaculture licences pending a yet-to-be-completed government review that has left Snow Island in a holding pattern.
“Currently, we have no fish in the water,” he said. “We are waiting to apply for licences.”
Bosien said there has been a great deal of misinformation about aquaculture spread by a small group of industry opponents.
“I worked as a commercial diver for 15 years in the industry, and the pictures that I’ve seen posted on the Net about what it looks like underneath a salmon farm — I’m sorry, but that’s not my view of aquaculture.”
Raine asked whether the industry has considered zoning to address concerns about aquaculture from people who have spent a lot of money to buy ocean frontage for retirement or recreational uses.
Halse noted that the Atlantic region has a historic culture of working waterfronts, while Bosien said most farms are located some distance from shore.
“That’s definitely a consideration we take when we’re looking at farms,” he said.
McInnis called the industry’s public engagement in Nova Scotia “terribly flawed,” but Halse said public opinion polls commissioned by Cooke show support for further development of the industry in the province.
“A strong majority of Nova Scotians offer some level of support for the creation of a national aquaculture act.”
Rob Johnson, sustainable seafood co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, attributed the stagnation of the salmon farming industry in Atlantic Canada to the negative environmental impacts of using the “flawed and outdated” technology of open-net pens.
“The real question should be, in fact, if it is effectively regulated, which could be measured by the current state of the industry,” he said in an email Thursday.
“The reality of massive disease outbreaks and fish kills, community opposition, parasite infestations and toxic pesticide use, mass escapes of farmed fish into the wild and discharge of untreated and unregulated waste into the marine and coastal environment clearly show that net pen salmon farming is not effectively regulated.
“Waste from open-net pen salmon farms is untreated and unregulated. The salmon farming industry is not asking for this egregious deficiency in the regulations to be addressed. Clearly, there is a need for legislation to control unabated pollution, as in other industries such as the pulp and paper industry and sewage plants, which are required to treat their waste.”
Johnson alleged the salmon farming industry is calling for an aquaculture act that would allow increased use of more toxic pesticides in the marine environment that may have negative effects on other species, such as lobsters.
The Senate committee plans to table a report with recommendations to the federal government by June 30, 2015.

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