DFO study affirms viability of closed containment technology for salmon aquaculture

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DFO study affirms viability of closed containment technology for salmon aquaculture

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has released a new report that affirms the economic viability of closed containment technology for salmon aquaculture. The department also recommends building a pilot scale or demonstration system as a next step. CAAR is delighted that the federal government is finally recognizing the potential of closed containment technology as a serious alternative to harmful net-cage operations. (Read our media release.)

Federal regulation of net-cage aquaculture will bring only marginal improvements

CAAR members visited Ottawa during the last week of October to encourage the federal government to invest in closed containment technology as well as to discuss the newly released license conditions for the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations with DFO’s Director General for Aquaculture. It turns out the license conditions will marginally improve aquaculture regulation once the regime comes into effect next month. The new licenses won’t solve the myriad problems of net-cage farming but even minor steps forward are welcome.

The biggest improvement is that DFO has made a commitment to greater transparency when it comes to operational and environmental salmon farming data. Appearing before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in October, Director General Trevor Swerdfager said:

“In 2011, information regarding license terms and conditions, farm-related environmental monitoring data, sea lice levels, disease incidences and responses, fish escapes, and a host of other operational matters will be posted on the DFO website pursuant to the information-related provisions of these regulations.” Source

The biggest problems concerning the new regulations are of course that they allow the continued use of open-net cages for salmon aquaculture. However, within this framework another huge concern is licensing fees and enforcement. According to Director General Swerdfager, license fees for fish farms to operate in BC amount to about $120K per year for the entire industry. However, according to the BC Aquaculture Regulations the annual amount collected from finfish aquaculture license holders appears to be closer to $26,000. Either way, such low fees are at odds with the high environmental impact this unsustainable industry poses to the marine environment such as ‘free’ waste disposal from open net-cage farms. When it comes to violations for things like escapes and over-production, again, the consequences are light. The Fisheries Act limits fines to $1000 per violation, a sum that was imposed decades ago, and mere pocket change to multi-national salmon farming companies today. DFO, with no mechanism to increase fees or penalties, only has two options – they can ticket an offender with a maximum fine of $1000 or they can launch a prosecution for an offence. The latter could result in much higher penalties but only after a lengthy court process.

The bottom line? While it’s positive that federal regulation of the aquaculture industry marginally improves upon previous regulation – thanks in part to public pressure (including submissions made during DFO’s public comment period around the regulations) – net-cages for salmon aquaculture will never be a truly viable option. So help us follow up our meetings in Ottawa and call your MP now while budget discussions are still underway, urging them to recommend investment in closed containment technology in the 2011 federal budget.

CAAR’s work along the Fraser proves that the effects of net-cage fish farming aren’t just a coastal concern

GSA at the BC Wildlife Federation Annual Convention in Prince George. Photo by Will Soltau

Two years ago CAAR decided to expand its outreach inland and up the Fraser River knowing that the impacts of net-cage salmon farming aren’t just a coastal concern. CAAR member group Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA) has been visiting communities all along the Fraser River and what we found was enormous concern and strong support for the removal of net-cage salmon farms from wild salmon migratory routes as well as support for a transition to closed containment aquaculture.

Connecting with a wide range of community organizations and groups including stream keepers, naturalists, sports fishers, environmentalists and even a secondary school, GSA members Ruby Berry and Michelle Young presented in many towns from Chilliwack, Lillooet, Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna and Squamish to Williams Lake, Quesnel, Prince George and Mount Currie.

Central to this work has been the growing list of organizations that have signed on to the Declaration calling for the removal of five open net-cage salmon farms from the Okisollo Channel which now has the support of 44 groups. The area – dubbed the Wild Salmon Narrows by CAAR – is now commonly referenced by supporters as well as the media. Work along the Fraser has also generated increased support for CAAR initiatives such as stopping the organic labeling of farmed salmon and letters to government asking for a transition to closed containment.

So thank you to all of those groups and individuals along the Fraser who have joined our campaign over the past two years! We have expanded our BC network from coastal communities and plan to strengthen and deepen this network as we move forward in order to increase engagement and mobilization for change. Together we can convince the federal government to take their responsibility to wild salmon seriously by removing net-cage salmon farms from wild salmon migratory routes and transitioning the industry to closed containment technology.

Sea lice from salmon farms impacting wider area than previously thought

A paper published in the peer-reviewed Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences earlier this month shows that salmon farms are a major source of sea lice on juvenile salmon migrating through the Discovery Islands. Read the paper.