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Groups call for end to public bailouts for open-pen salmon feedlots

by Ecology Action Centre

Halifax, NS - Communities and conservation organizations are alarmed at the significant public dollars that have been spent on subsidizing poor fish farming practices in Atlantic Canada. In the last two decades, almost $139 million taxpayer dollars have been spent on “compensating” open-net pen fish farms in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland for fish infected with ISA or infectious salmon anemia.

“Our government has been handing over millions of dollars of our taxpayer’s money to “compensate” these companies for entirely predictable disease outbreaks which are endemic to their industry model. We can’t help but imagine what coastal communities could have achieved had this money been invested instead in sustainable industries that do not threaten our wild fisheries or environment,” says Raymond Plourde of the Ecology Action Centre.

The compensation is now provided to the aquaculture industry by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In early 2013, for the first time in Canada’s history, the CFIA no longer required destruction of the infected fish and allowed fish to be grown out and sold without any labeling indicating that the fish were diseased.

“This is completely irresponsible,” says Fundy Baykeeper Matthew Abbott. “We have no idea of the impacts on wild fish species, and it sends a complicated message. On one hand many millions have been spent to pay for fish eradication and compensation and then suddenly it is just fine to have these fish in the water and to sell them to unsuspecting consumers.”

A full review of the public funding both to research and development, subsidization of businesses and bail outs from poor farming practices is requested. A recent report from the Auditor General of Nova Scotia questioned the investment of the Nova Scotia government in Cooke Aquaculture as there was little accountability for the 25 million dollars and no conditions ensuring that the funds be used to benefit Nova Scotians. 

“With few conditions placed on the use of public funds, there is little incentive for the salmon feedlot industry to improve their poor practices,” says Scott Nightingale, acting president of the Salmonind Council of Newfoundland and Labrador. “This is simply unacceptable to Canadian taxpayers. Continuing to support the open net pen salmon feedlot industry through these subsidies is also counter-productive to the restoration of wild salmon populations. If the government wishes to invest in salmon aquaculture on behalf of Canadian taxpayers, then it should re-direct these so-called “compensation” millions towards research and development of closed-containment systems which would effectively eliminate the many problems associated with the deeply flawed open net pen model.”

The Nova Scotia government is currently hosting an arm’s length regulatory review that is expected to be completed in December 2014.


For more information contact:

Matthew Abbott

Fundy Baykeeper


(506) 529-8838 (work)

(506 321-0429 (cell)


Raymond Plourde

Wilderness Coordinator

Ecology Action Centre


(902) 442-5008 (work)

(902) 478-5400 (cell)


Scott Nightingale

Acting President

Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador





Supporting groups:

Ecology Action Centre – http://www.ecoloyaction.ca

Fundy Baykeeper /Conservation Council of New Brunswick – http://www.conservationcouncil.ca

Friends of Shelburne Harbour - http://friendsofshelburneharbour.org/

Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador



See: http://0101.nccdn.net/1_5/269/230/3ba/compensation-isa-jan-2014.pdf for complete overview of disease outbreak and compensation history.

 Examples of Costs of ISA outbreak 1996-2013 in Atlantic Canada

< >NB: 1996-1997: a combined federal and provincial total of $40.5 million was paid to the aquaculture industry following the first kill of salmon as a result of ISA detection.NB: 1999: Federal government and provincial governments contributed a total of $25 million dollars under the terms of the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements.NB: 2006: Following two years of ‘negotiations’ with the province, DFO finally contributed another $10 million to cover losses as a result of ISA.2007: Compensation unknown, estimated at $7 million.NS: 2013: ISA compensation of $13.2 million following outbreak. CFIA decides to stop eradication plans, and allows for diseased fish to be grown out in Liverpool area.NL: 2013: $43.2 million paid out as a result of ISA infection.


Total: $138,900,000 of public dollars for compensation for disease outbreaks over 20 year period.

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