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Cooked Salmon

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Sea lice on salmon. Public domain image.
Sea lice on salmon. Public domain image.

 

Last month Nova Scotia's provincial government announced a $25 million loan to Cooke Aquaculture, a New Brunswick-based fish farming giant, with the promise that the loan will help Cooke expand operations in Nova Scotia and create 400 jobs in the process.

The plan is centred around expanding their open-net pen salmon farms in St. Mary’s Bay, Shelburne and the Eastern Shore, and its announcement comes on the heels of news that Cooke Aquaculture is under investigation due to an outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia at one of their operations in the province.

Open-net pen salmon farming is an extremely controversial practice. One one hand, there is considerable, although not entirely conclusive, scientific evidence that points to open-net pen farming as having a high degree of risk for the local environment and the health of both farmed fish and local wild fish stocks, as well as human health. Keeping large numbers of fish in close quarters for long periods of time can make the spread of disease and parasites a serious problem, especially if said diseases and parasites escape into the ecosystem. Salmon farms also need to be located in areas where the currents can easily carry away the waste produced by the fish, otherwise the accumulation of waste can pose a threat to nearby fish and shellfish populations.

The salmon farming industry argues that with proper procedures and safeguards, these risks can be managed and mitigated. The provincial government seems to agree with this position, and the province's recently-issued aquaculture strategy calls for a review of of existing regulations and policies, but stops well short of the full moratorium on open-net pen farming called for by the Ecology Action Centre and over 100 other groups.

So, who's right? Essentially this question boils to one of risk management. We know that there are plenty of risks and problems with open pen salmon farming, and we know that there are ways to lessen those risks and deal with problems when they arise. What we need to decide is whether the risks involved, and the means necessary to mitigate them, are worth any of the potential benefits. 

The aquaculture industry is booming right now, with 50% of all fish consumed worldwide coming from aquaculture operations, so the economic incentive for places like Nova Scotia is huge. 

 
At the same time, this province's history is full of examples of governments investing large sums of public funds into what where supposed to be great economic generators, only to be left with more public debt, more environmental damage to clean up, and few if any long-term economic benefits.

Based on the evidence I've seen, I much prefer that aquaculture be done in closed pen systems. That being said, if we are going to be farming salmon in open-net pens, there will need to be a serious review of the current applicable regulations, legislation, and monitoring practices. Aquaculture operators, for their part, need to realize that the people voicing their concerns and opposition to open-net pen farming are not just a collection of well-funded agitators, but members of the communities with legitimate concerns that should be addressed.

I want Nova Scotia to have a healthy, productive, and sustainable aquaculture industry. I also believe this goal is possible, but only if community input is valued and respected, and a proper regulatory regime achieved.

 

Orginially posted at: http://novademocratia.blogspot.ca/2012/07/cooked-salmon.html


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Commentaires

Salmon aquaculture

Good piece, Scott.  The truth is that this issue is both simple and complex. There are lots of complex aspects of it, but the eventual conclusion, I think, is simple: this kind of thing doesn't belong in the sea. You might enjoy downloading and looking at my 75-minute documentary on the subject, which you can find at www.salmonwars.com. 

Thanks for the kind words!

Thanks for the kind words!  I've been meaning to make the time to sit down and watch your documentary as I've been reading a lot of praise for it.  I'm curious if the process making Salmon Wars changed your opinion on the issue, or if you went into it without a strong opinion one way or the other?

Open Pen

Not sure where the evidence is that suggests closed containment salmon farming is a) feasible b) any safer than open pen aquaculture. There is one saltwater closed containment farm in Canada and as you can see from this video it is far from successful. Mr. Cameron discusses this farm in his film, however, does not provide this context. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaTvrqA36o8&feature=player_embedded

To be honest, good regulation and a careful and moderate approach to the industry as outlined in the province's aquaculture strategy is the way to go. 

Fair Point

You make a fair point.  Any aquaculture system will have it's faults, and the video you linked to demonstraits how important it is for any aquaculture operation to have strong saftey systems in place to deal with problems.  Although I do think closed-pen systems are the better option, I'd prefer a well monitored and regulated open-pen system to a poorly monitored and regulated closed-pen one.

As and aside, bad weather and strong storms are things Nova Scotia has to deal with on a regular basis, so I'd be courious to know what kinds of safgaurds fish farms operating here have in place.  

Closed Containment

A sustainable seafood policy and direction would be very much focused on improvements and would actively encourage numerous improvements across many species. Unfortunatly this is not happening yet in Nova Scotia; point in case being that the so-called Acquculture Strategy is obeing ne of the most empty documents I have ever read in regard to direction. There is a reason why a troubled company like Cooke is so pleased with this document, however, the vagueness of the document means at the same time that it also allows for a different, sustainable direction.

Closed containment salmon is one of those opportunities that I encourage; the problem is that it hasn't been supported by governmts while their competetion is profiting from non-repayable loans, i.e. subsidies. There is very little of it available on the market now, certainly not enough to supply many stores, especially with the price that customers seek. For example Sobeys is the only retailer in canada selling closed containment sea bream from a supplier in Nova Scotia. in their stores in Atalantic Canada.

We also have to consider the full life cycle impacts of any new alternatives to ensure that no “unintended consequences” occur in comparison to existing practices, however, it is hard to imigine that it could get any worse than the current open pen practises with their devastating consequences for wild salmon and lobster. Therefore, we need to start also supporting closed contaiment acquculture while making sure that the open pen practises get restricted.

Closed Containment

A sustainable seafood policy and direction would be very much focused on improvements and would actively encourage numerous improvements across many species. Unfortunatly this is not happening yet in Nova Scotia; point in case being that the so-called Acquculture Strategy being one of the most empty documents I have ever read in regard to policy direction. There is a reason why a troubled company like Cooke is so pleased with this document, however, the vagueness of the document means at the same time that it also allows for a different, sustainable direction.

Closed containment salmon is one of those opportunities that I encourage because they can filter the seawater they use; the problem is that it hasn't been supported by governmts while their competetion is profiting from "forgiveable loans", i.e. subsidies. There is very little of this available available on the market now, certainly not enough to supply many stores. For example Sobeys is the only retailer in Canada selling closed containment sea bream from a supplier in Nova Scotia in their stores in Atalantic Canada.

We also have to consider the full life cycle impacts of any new alternatives to ensure that no “unintended consequences” occur in comparison to existing practices, however, it is hard to imigine that it could get any worse than the current open pen practises with their devastating consequences for wild salmon and lobster. Therefore, we need to start also supporting closed contaiment acquaculture with the same amount of funds while making sure that the open pen practises get restricted.

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