Saving our salmon: Issues to watch in 2012

February 17, 2011 eNews

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Saving our salmon: issues to watch in 2012

Photo: Robert Koopmans

Hello wild salmon supporters! As this is our first newsletter of the year, we would like to thank you for your support and contributions in 2011 and hope that you’re excited to keep the momentum going in 2012. We already have a packed agenda as we continue to oppose Mainstream Canada’s Plover Point salmon farm application in the Clayoquot Sound UN Biosphere Reserve, now being reviewed by Transport Canada; we are readying to take action upon the release of the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard which, despite our best (and outnumbered) efforts, will likely allow net-cage salmon farms in Canada to be certified as “organic”; we’re continuing to encourage retailers to demand closed containment-reared farmed salmon and of course all eyes will be on the results of the Cohen Commission’s final report, due in June.

We’ll also continue to oppose the approval of AquaBounty’s genetically modified salmon, a process that has recently been slowed in the US thanks to documents unearthed by CAAR members during Cohen Commission hearings last December. These documents, detailing the presence of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) in AquaBounty salmon, were made public and have resulted in greater pressure on the FDA not to approve this product for consumption in the US:

“On December 19 a coalition of 11 food safety, environmental, consumer and fisheries organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) calling for a halt to its approval of a genetically engineered (GE) salmon after learning that the company’s – AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. – research site was contaminated with a new strain of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA), the deadly fish flu that is devastating fish stocks around the world.” Source

Finally, just one housekeeping note: the Farmed and Dangerous team has decided to consolidate all of our newsletter subscription lists into one. So if you’re used to getting our Wild Salmon Narrows or Spring Cleaning Crew newsletter, all news and action notifications will now be coming from one single source. We apologize in advance if this causes any inconvenience however, you can be sure that the content of this newsletter will cover the same issues you care about when it comes to BC’s wild salmon. If you do not wish to receive this newsletter, please unsubscribe via the email you received.

Thanks for all you do to protect BC’s wild salmon and here’s to a productive and successful 2012!

Draft Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue standard does not protect wild salmon & environment

After seven years of hard work by numerous stakeholders, including the international salmon aquaculture industry the final draft Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue (SAD) standard has been completed. While the standard does push for improved performance in the net-cage salmon aquaculture industry, the standard falls short in a number of significant areas including elimination of disease transmission between farmed and wild fish. Closed containment aquaculture is the only verifiable way to effectively reduce or eliminate the key negative environmental impacts of salmon farming. Therefore, CAAR will remain on the steering committee but will not endorse the final standard. Read our media release.

Clear the Wild Salmon Narrows

It appears that CAAR’s call for the Wild Salmon Narrows to be cleared of open net-cage salmon farms has at least been heard, although not acted upon. As a result of the pressure we’ve brought to bear, the BC Salmon Farmers Association is now posting information about stocking and sea lice levels on the farms in Okisollo and Hoskyn Channels (the Wild Salmon Narrows, but they aren’t calling it that – yet). Unfortunately, this does not constitute increased protection for the wild juvenile salmon passing these farms, but the industry has been forced to take a first step and respond to the growing level of concern.

Numerous wild salmon populations, including juvenile Fraser River sockeye, swim through the Wild Salmon Narrows passing nine open net-cage salmon farms on their way to the open ocean. CAAR began calling for the removal of these specific farms in 2009 and many of you have joined that call. Given the fragility of Fraser sockeye and other wild salmon, it is essential that this one part of their passage be made free of the threat of lice and pathogen transfer from farm to wild salmon. At this time, the farms remain, and six of the nine will be stocked during this year’s out-migration. In this narrow passageway, six fully stocked, open net-cage fish farms are six too many. If we want to ensure the survival of the Fraser and other wild salmon runs, all open net-cage farms must be removed from the path of these intrepid, vulnerable young salmon.

For more information about the Wild Salmon Narrows, see www.georgiastrait.org

CAAR participates in House Standing Committee hearings on closed containment

Just before the holidays in December, several CAAR members participated in the Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Standing Committee hearings concerning closed containment technology. A primary focus of the discussions was around the fact that while closed containment is technically possible, its economic feasibility is still a topic of debate within government.

However, the testimony of CAAR members and supportive businesses made clear that a closed containment aquaculture industry in BC would be a profitable job creator. CAAR’s David Lane noted that current jobs in open-net operations could be immediately transferred to land-based closed containment with two added bonuses. First, it takes more people to run a closed containment operation so more jobs are created. This was verified in a DFO study which found that at least 50% more people are needed to run a closed containment farm. Second, it’s often forgotten that open-net fish farms aren’t actually in communities but often an hour or so away by boat. If closed containment operations were in the local community, employees could work closer to their homes. (See full testimony)

Overwaitea Food Group’s Blendle Scott also provided the committee with a business perspective:

“As we’ve moved down the road of selling fresh, frozen, and closed containment salmon, we’ve actually had no negative feedback from our customers because of the fact that we have less Atlantic penned salmon available for them. They choose the product by quality. They choose it, to some extent, by price. We’ve had very positive outcomes from our choice to sell sustainable seafood.” (See full testimony)

As part of their study, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has announced an upcoming visit to the Freshwater Institute in West Virginia, a leader in research on closed-containment aquaculture systems. Following this visit in February or March, the committee plans to issue recommendations and a report on closed containment technology before the House rises for the summer in late June.

With so many reasons to move away from net-cage salmon farming including environmental impacts, the advanced state of closed containment technology and increasing demand from businesses and consumers for a more sustainable product, the recommendations forthcoming from this Committee could play an essential role in establishing an innovative new aquaculture industry in BC. CAAR hopes the Committee will recommend long-overdue support from DFO and the federal government for the development of a closed containment industry in Canada.

See all Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (FOPO) transcripts.

New BC open net-cage salmon farm map

CAAR member group LIving Oceans Society has just launched a brand new map that provides information on open net-cage salmon farms in BC waters including details on some of the many impacts their operations have on marine health. Be sure to check out the link below the map to see the Google Earth version. Here you can choose layers to show reported marine mammal deaths, by-catch of herring and other small fish, or diseases that the industry has had to publicly acknowledge, then click on any farm. You can also view the licensed production for all the open-net salmon farms on the BC coast. See the map.