Mainstream Canada applies for new farm tenure, CAAR calls for moratorium

May 27, 2011 eNews

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Mainstream Canada applies for new farm tenure, CAAR calls for moratorium

Clayoquot Sound

Mainstream Canada has submitted a tenure application to the provincial government for a new open net-cage salmon farm located in Clayoquot Sound. If approved, and then licensed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the site would add about 600,000 more farmed salmon to the area that is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Mainstream Canada, or any other salmon farming company applying to build a new net-cage farm in 2011, is stuck in the past. A lot has changed since 2001, when newly elected Premier Gordon Campbell revealed his intention to “expand the net-cage industry ten-fold by 2011.” In fact, expansion has been largely thwarted by CAAR and others’ work in exposing the negative impacts of net-cage salmon farming and by organizing widespread opposition to these unsustainable practices in B.C.

A more sustainable alternative to net-cage salmon farming is available and the retail and consumer demand for closed containment farmed salmon is growing rapidly. Salmon farming companies that continue to try to expand their destructive net-cage industry are disconnected with the citizens of British Columbia who want a sustainable aquaculture industry, with retailers and shoppers who want to buy sustainable seafood, and with the technological advances taking place within their own industry.

With outdated and disconnected salmon farming companies – especially one willing to put an internationally recognized Biosphere Reserve at increased risk – it’s clear we need our government to step in on behalf of wild salmon and the health of the Pacific Ocean. The time is long overdue to stop the expansion of net-cages and demand that the aquaculture industry adopt better practices.

Join us in calling on the provincial government to deny Mainstream Canada’s tenure application for a new net-cage salmon farm and to place a permanent moratorium on net-cage tenures in BC once and for all. Sign our petition directed at Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the department responsible for approving the tenure application. The petition will also be cc’d to Premier Clark and MLA Scott Fraser, Alberni Pacific Rim.

Citizens or businesses concerned they may be affected by a new salmon farm in the Fortune Channel/Meares Island area are free to submit comments to The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations by June 18, 2011 at WestCoast.LandReferrals@gov.bc.ca and cc your MLA. (Find your MLA here.)

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations has stated that an open house will be held this summer to gather public comment on the tenure application. We will be sure to post time and location information on the meeting when it becomes available.

Read our media release and backgrounder on Mainstream Canada’s tenure application.

Say no to weak “organic” farmed salmon standards

The Canadian General Standards Board is developing organic aquaculture standards that include net-cage farmed salmon, likely to be certified as ‘organic’. The first draft was released for public comment last summer. At this time CAAR and many of our supporters weighed in asking the standards reflect true organic principles.
The second draft has now been released and the standards still don’t measure up. CAAR and over 50 businesses, conservation groups and fishermen submitted a joint letter to CGSB and Department of Fisheries and Oceans opposing the organic farmed fish standard. View the letter and media release here.

The Canadian General Standards Board is developing organic aquaculture standards that include net-cage farmed salmon, to be likely certified as ‘organic’. The first draft was released for public comment last summer. At this time CAAR and many of our supporters weighed in asking the standards reflect true organic principles. The second draft has now been released and the standards still don’t measure up. CAAR and over 50 businesses, conservation groups and fishermen submitted a joint letter to CGSB and Department of Fisheries and Oceans opposing the organic farmed fish standard. View the letter and press release here.

The proposed organic standards would allow farmed salmon that has been treated with pesticides and fed completely non-organic feed, including potentially unsustainable wild fish, to be eligible for organic certification. This is simply not what most people expect of organically produced foods and we fear such a low bar will undermine consumer confidence in the Canadian organic label overall. Canada and the U.S. also currently have an equivalency agreement for organic standards and there is concern that Canadian aquaculture standards that set a low bar will put downward pressure on U.S. standards as they go through the final approval process with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The public comment period is open until May 31, 2011 and we are urging residents of Canada and consumers in the United States to take action and oppose the organic certification of net-cage salmon farms. The US remains the largest market for Canadian farmed salmon and until US organic aquaculture standards are passed into regulation, Canadian “organic” salmon could be sold on American shelves and menus.

This will be the FINAL public comment period and our last chance to have a say on these standards. Make sure your voice is heard!

Second and final Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue draft out for public comment

On May 16th the second draft of the Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue (SAD) standards for salmon aquaculture were released for a 30-day public comment period ending June 14, 2011. This second round of public comment is an important stage in determining the final quality of these standards as there are unresolved issues and not all parts of the draft represent consensus agreement among the diverse members in the dialogue.

CAAR urges anyone concerned about salmon farming to review the standards document and submit comments that will help to ensure the standards provide the highest possible level of environmental protection. CAAR’s own submission will be available on the website later this month.

The member groups of CAAR engaged in this multi-stakeholder process to try to ensure that whatever standards were developed were as rigorous as they could be considering the wide range of interests represented in the dialogue (from industry to social justice to environmental protection). CAAR felt that it was necessary to have a strong voice at the table to push for greater environmental protection than might otherwise have been achieved in our absence, and to support the call for more rigorous social standards.

The Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue standards are expected to be finalized by the end of 2011. CAAR will continually assess how far the standards are going in achieving the coalition’s goals. Ultimately, this will determine CAAR’s support for the final standards.

CAAR visits the impressive AgriMarine floating tank salmon farm

In early May, CAAR members visited the AgriMarine floating tank Chinook salmon farm located north of Campbell River. An impressive site, the tank holds 55,000 fish, is 24 metres in diameter and floats just 200 metres from shore. With a quick boat ride, the group “boarded” the farm for a closer look. Protected by netting above and the solid walls of the tank below, the 130 gram fish swim actively through a current generated by pumped seawater. Supplemental oxygen is also added to the water through diffusers on the tank floor. Feed is manually showered over the water surface, and the silver fish swarm quickly to snag a pellet.

The farm represents an exciting step forward for commercial-scale aquaculture in BC as it demonstrates how salmon can be farmed more sustainably. Due to its construction, the tank greatly reduces marine pollution as solid waste from the farm is filtered out of the tank and shipped offsite to be composted. The tanks virtually eliminate the risk of escapes and lethal marine mammal interactions. Chemical treatment for sea lice is also unlikely: the farm draws its water from a depth where pathogens are less likely to thrive and the Chinook salmon being farmed have a higher resistance to sea lice than Atlantic salmon.

AgriMarine Vice President Rob Walker provided the tour and mentioned that he has played tour-guide a lot lately. Interest in the operation has attracted visitors from environmental groups and retailers to net-cage salmon farming companies.

This tank, installed in January 2011, is the first of four planned for the site. The fish will be harvested in the summer of 2012 once they reach market size at about four kilograms.

AgriMarine is working on the installation of their second tank which will be larger at 30 metres in diameter and will grow 100,000 Chinook salmon. The larger enclosures are expected to match the scale and efficiencies of net-pens while providing benefits for the fish and the environment. We will be sure to keep you updated on AgriMarine’s activities as the company continues to help forge a path towards better farmed salmon in British Columbia.

Read Dan MacLennan’s article on CAAR’s tour in the Courier Islander