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Behind closed doors

Behind closed doors

New federal initiative will weaken aquaculture regulations, group fears

Photo: Robert Devet

New regulations will allow fish feedlots to dump pesticides, drugs, fishfood and waste into local harbours without a license or environmental assessment, protesters fear.

K'JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – Proposed changes in federal aquaculture pesticide regulations should be discussed in public, not behind closed doors.

That's the message about thirty angry residents of Nova Scotia's coastal communities delivered to federal Fisheries and Oceans bureaucrats who were meeting at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography yesterday.

"These new regulations may well allow a greater use of pesticides in open pen fish farms," Wendy Watson Smith told the Halifax Media Co-op. "In time this could have a negative impact on lobsters, which is a backbone industry in our communities."

Watson Smith is a member of Coastal Community Advocates and the President of the Association for the Preservation of the Eastern Shore.

The protesters are afraid that the proposed federal regulatory changes to the Fisheries Act will allow fish feedlots to dump pesticides, drugs, fishfood and waste into local harbours without a license or environmental assessment.

"It's a dirty industry, it pollutes and it doesn't create jobs," Watson Smith said. "We don't want to see our harbours turn into toilets."

The federal government and the province share jurisdiction when it comes to regulating open pen fish farms. How compliance with the various regulations is enforced is covered by a Memorandum of Understanding between the two jurisdictions.

"When it comes to putting pesticides in the marine environment the responsility lies with the feds," Karen Traversy, who traveled from Clam Bay to attend the rally, explained.

"My concern is that the federal government relies on the province to do the monitoring and enforcement. I don't have confidence that there are adequate resources to do that," Traversy said. "In the past the province has frequently decided to not do anything when non-compliance occurrred."

Here in Nova Scotia the so-called Doelle-Lahey panel recently released a draft report on aquaculture practices. The panel recommends more robust regulation of the industry, and a move away from the use of pesticides.

But whether those recommendations will ever become law remains to be seen, Watson Smith said. Her organization endorses the report's recommendations, but would have preferred a total ban of open pen finfish farms.

Among the protesters was Silver Donald Cameron, driving force behind of the green interview. He is also the writer and producer of Salmon Wars, a video documentary about the fight of Nova Scotia's coastal communities against the open pen salmon farms.

Cameron thinks that the federal pesticide regulations are another example of a fundamental problem that affects both levels of government.

"Both at the provincial and federal level the relevant departments are supposed to both regulate and promote the aquaculture industry," Cameron said  "The federal report sets out to weaken the regulations, to make it easier to use pesticides, and to pave the way for more irresponsibilty on the part of the industry."

"It's scandalous and deplorable that we have the two levels of regulatory agencies that are basically in the pocket of the industry," said Cameron.

And he doesn't believe the often-heard claim that open pen fish farms bring much needed jobs to rural Nova Scotia.

"I have come to think that any time a public figure talks about jobs there is a scam afoot, Cameron said. "Nobody ever looks at whether those jobs actually materialize, or at what kind of jobs they are, or at what jobs they are displacing."

"If you wind up knocking out half a dozen lobster boats in a small harbour like Port Mouton, in order to provide half a dozen terrible fish farm jobs, than what was that all about?"

Nightmare in the Making - Lessons Learned the Morning After

Stewart Lamont´s Summary of the DFO Meeting at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography on Sep 9th

 I cannot pretend I was not warned .  I acknowledge that openly ….

Inka Milewski and Maria Recchia separately advised months ago that there was some bad stuff happening Federally .
I listened of course , but I might not have truly heard them . I heard them yesterday clearly . The current Federal government has an AGENDA that is relentless :
Open net pen fish farms must be facilitated . The ends justify the means necessary .  End of Community Story .

As long as we can understand that threatening aspect, we can move on accordingly .

Here are Ten Lessons/Questions we should quickly ponder :

1) Correct me if I am mistaken , but this is the FIRST Federal Aquaculture Response since the Cohen Commission .
Cohen was a call to Federal Action , a massive critique of resource management . And this is what they come up with ?  What does Mr. Justice Cohen have to say about it I am asking   ?

2) Chair Eric Gilbert and his colleague Cindy Webster acknowledge that this is not a perfect document . It only had five years and
massive input before it came to fruition yesterday . Monsieur Webster suggested that 5 years was actually a short gestation period from a Federal perspective . The wheels of justice grind incredibly slowly …. I say again :  after so much thought and supposed effort ,  this is what they came up with ?   We could have drafted this stuff on the back of a cigarette pack .  And equally toxic ..

3) Doelle Lahey moves in one direction :  massive overhaul to achieve greater transparency , accountability and enforcement . These proposed new Federal regs move in another . Reliance upon fish companies to take all supposed steps necessary , and then yearly reporting . With their track record ?  Are you kidding me ? Even our Provincial Government acknowledged fish farms to be “ juvenile delinquents . “  And that was when they were giving them                  $ 25,000,000 .

4) The press was not included in the Table Sessions this week . They have been banned throughout Canada apparently . They will be briefed separately .
Meanwhile , the real information comes from the exchanges between panelists and DFO after the 54 point power presentation that lasts 2 hours minimum  . The reason for media exclusion ostensibly ?   “ We don’t want a circus “ .   What a way to run a railroad or a Government !!  It should be condemned widely .  

5) The Chair said the lawyers have been busy vetting everything . They are even grappling over the fish definition . It occurred to me if they have any extra time whatsoever , could they please define ‘ reckless abandon ‘  ?   I know a fish when I see it , but this stuff is a mystery to me  ….however it stinks to high heaven

6)  The Chair took great offence to my suggestion that this initiative is the by-product of a massive Feedlot Lobby . “ Talk to me about anything, he suggested with vigour . But don’t talk to me about lobbying …. “    If the shoe fits Mr. Chair , don’t be reluctant to wear it . The Fish Farmers complained all winter that they were OVER regulated . They want to feed the world after all , and the onerous provisions are holding back their business model . I say this document is the result of their focused whining … if it means we must focus on the lobbying , well so be it … we’ve put it on the table squarely  .

7)  We dared suggest this is an Alice in Wonderland situation . The morning after , I owe a massive apology . It was not fair or right to make such a wide sweeping statement . Alice in Wonderland clearly had a far better handle on reality …. I will be much more judicious going forward .

8)  They don’t talk about pesticides . They talk about pest control . My guess is that this has been surveyed to death and found much more palatable … We need to get rid of the pests Mr. and Mrs. Consumer . That sounds much better than we must lace your supper with pesticides … it will be fascinating to see what Health Canada now says is legal for fish farm usage … Health Canada will be obliged to use the technical references . That discounts polling to some extent …

9) The chair said that so many issues are ones of ‘ siting ‘ . Place an open net pen fish farm in the wrong location and bad things happen . It’s purely a coincidence that siting is a provincial preoccupation . NOT federal . Passing the buck , and obscuring responsibility is a key ingredient of Federal And Provincial Policy . Is there a soul in this country who truly knows and understands the jurisdictional minutiae ?  Do us all a favour and in the next twenty years make that aspect just a bit accessible …

      10 )  Stocking Density . This was truly the show stopper . Tim Lambert relentlessly but respectfully  pursued this question :  if stocking densities currently grossly exceed the oxic limits how  could stakeholders ever have faith in a new system ?  The question of the day in many  respects. Repeated twice on separate occasions so there would be no misunderstanding by  Government . Eric Gilbert responded , and I think this is what he said essentially : “  As cynical  as you might be, you should have greater faith in these fish companies , why would they ever  stock more fish than can live successfully ?  When someone dared suggest that perhaps  because of CFIA compensation tendencies, the fish are worth just as much dead or alive so to  speak …. so then the Chair further responded :“  But that’s only in the last three years . What  about before that  ?  Explain that to me …. “

 At the risk of saying one more time the patently obvious, you could not ever make this stuff up .  It’s lunacy in public policy . No transparency . No real monitoring . No enforcement capacity unless they hire 10,000 inspection officials . The Chair confirmed quite firmly that none of the cost of this would be borne by Feedlot operators . The cost would entirely be borne by TAXPAYERS ….. so very reassuring .

 My only conclusion :  it is time to put the Band back together . For  limited engagements only . 116 Associations and members under ACAR .
All pledged to :  1) support Doelle Lahey and its complete implementation without any cherry picking and 2) throw this FEDERAL REGS initiative under the bus immediately  ….

 Fracking policy in Nova Scotia has demonstrated that numbers count . Especially numbers revealed by POLLING . And you can rest assured that polling underpins everything undertaken  .

 More than anything we require the critical support of the Fishing and Dealing and Processing and  Exporting sections of the Seafood Sector .
There is a shocking amount to lose if we do not voice CONCERN .
I am hopeful the seafood sector will quickly see the urgency ……

Stewart Lamont                                                       
Managing Director
Tangier Lobster Company
Tangier, Nova Scotia, Canada

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