For The Record
Aquaculture vs. wild salmon: an inconvenient truth
by Jim Gourlay
As debate on the environmental sustainability of sea cage-based aquaculture rages on, the controversy is boiling down to a we-said, they-said situation. The general public is confused.
So it may be useful to simply deal with established, indisputable facts and tone down the rhetoric a tad. It never hurts to look outside one’s own backyard.
Iceland, where healthy stocks of migrating wild Atlantic salmon are an extremely valuable cash crop via the sport fishery ($12,000 per week per rod on some rivers), has opted to almost completely avoid cage rearing of genetically manipulated domestic salmon in open water. (Incidentally, in another very telling comparison with Canada, Iceland has also carefully managed its cod stocks.)
In Norway (where most of this started), it is an established and accepted scientific fact that unnatural blooms of billions of sea lice larvae, produced as a consequence of rearing millions of caged salmon, absolutely decimated wild stocks of Atlantic salmon and sea-run brown trout by infecting outward migrating wild smolts in the fiords.
In the sea lochs of western Scotland, it is also an established and accepted scientific fact that precisely the same thing happened. Indeed, the Scots have banned sea cages on the east coast for fear the presence of the industry would ravage the world-famous salmon streams that drain into the North Sea.
In Ireland, it was the same story. One 10-year scientific study, headed by pre-eminent British researcher Derek Mills, concluded the following: "The relationships shown in the present study indicate that sea lice from marine salmon farms were a major contributory factor in the … stock collapses observed in aquaculture areas in western Ireland. If recovery of depleted … stocks is to be achieved in this area, it is critical to ensure that ovigerous sea lice levels are maintained at near-zero levels on marine salmon farms over the spring period prior to and during … smolt migration."
The malignant relationship between sea lice infestations attributable to sea-cage rearing and the collapse, within a decade, of wild stocks in proximate rivers, is not disputed in Europe. Yet, in Canada it is.
We are asked to believe that it is nothing more than a coincidence that wild stock collapses on both coasts, pursuant to sea-cage rearing development, in rivers adjacent to those aquaculture sites, is unrelated to the industry that other, ill-defined and poorly understood causes must be at work.
Frankly, it’s a bit of a stretch.
In the inner Bay of Fundy, within a decade of salmon aquaculture development in open cages, wild salmon stocks utterly collapsed in 33 rivers 23 in Nova Scotia and 10 in New Brunswick.
The establishment of salmon aquaculture on the south coast of Newfoundland has already "coincided" with significant reductions in wild salmon returns to at least one adjacent river when non-adjacent rivers remain healthy. With recent sea-cage expansion, more damage is anticipated. Just like Norway, Scotland and Ireland.
These are established facts no spin.
Those same sea lice pose a major problem for the aquaculture industry because penned fish must be chemically deloused. Those chemicals are extremely controversial, to the extent that leading chefs and health experts are cautioning consumers against eating farmed salmon and shellfish interests are complaining of poisonings near salmon cages.
Indeed, the use of antimicrobial agents on food (defined as antibacterial drugs, antiviral agents, antifungal agents and antiparisitic drugs) is viewed with growing apprehension everywhere.
The industry has also suffered from (probably unfair) bad press on the matter of how the flesh of cage-reared salmon is artificially coloured orange to mimic wild fish. (Uncoloured, it’s an unappealing grey.)
It is indisputably true that the aquaculture industry stimulates economic growth in rural parts of Atlantic Canada and British Columbia. For that reason alone, the industry receives significant political and government support.
But as the public debate intensifies, there is a risk to the industry of a devastating full-blown consumer boycott of the product in the United States, similar to the swordfish/mercury situation hence the very aggressive industry spin-doctoring.
Incredibly, the government of Canada engages in the same exercise. That stance, however, has been challenged by the auditors general of Canada, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, and British Columbia.
A solution is at hand.
It appears likely now that the salmon aquaculture industry will be pressured into the use of closed containment facilities (separating caged and wild fish) where chemical dependency, disease risk, parasite risk, escapement risk and storm damage will be mitigated.
As will the threat to wild stocks from parasites, disease and genetic degeneration and habitat competition from escaped aquaculture fish. A major demonstration project is now underway in British Columbia.
Less certain is whether this change will occur in time to avoid the utter devastation of Canada’s wild salmon resources on both coasts. We have learned nothing from the European experience and propose to repeat it.
Jim Gourlay is a past president of the Nova Scotia Salmon Association and a recipient of the Nova Scotia Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Conservation for his work on behalf of wild Atlantic salmon.
Statement to Public Hearing, Re. Elderkin et. al. application, January 17, 2011
Tom Cosman, 9925 Highway 1, Greenwich
I am a farmer, proud to be part of the living agricultural heritage of Greenwich. These fertile lands have been farmed since the Acadians arrived here in 1680, 330 years ago. Every year, for 330 years, a wealth of food products have come from these lands. For 330 years these lands have sustained our farmers, our families, our selves. If this Resolution passes, soon nothing more will be produced here; no one will be sustained the next 330 years.
In the question before Council, two opposing viewpoints are being argued. Will Council accept the recommendation prepared by a consulting firm from the city, hired to help the application to proceed, a recommendation which disregards the Municipality's stated goal to preserve farm land, which has only looked at these lands in isolation from the wider community, and which has belittled the democratic will of the people as demonstrated in two public participation meetings and in the petitions here before you.
Or will Council take its direction from the Municipal Planning Strategy and the good advice it has received and is receiving here this evening from the citizens of Kings? Will Council follow the recommendation in its Community Sustainability Plan which states "The Municipality should continue its policy of preserving agricultural land while strengthening the capacity of the growth centres to accept more intensive development."? 1 Will Council heed the NS Agricultural Land Review Committee which states "the results of its report are sobering" and which recommends that all Class 2, 3, and class 4 farmlands such as we have in Greenwich be "designated for conservation"?2 Will Council take heed of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture who "encourage you to consider the long view on this issue and allow the recommendations of the [Land Review] report to be enacted" 3 Will Council act on the respectful requests of our neighbouring towns and villages? Will Council follow the advice of its own Planning Department who "believe in a regional planning approach" and who have reported to Council they "see an urgent need to assess our infrastructure assets." Staff recommend "forward looking partnerships with Towns and Villages [which] could result in significant cost savings, more sustainable development practices, and economic development opportunities."4
The economic arguments against these amendments are overwhelming. As our Municipal Planning Strategy points out "the County's economic growth is dependent upon the County's natural resource base." Agriculture "has formed the backbone of the economy."5 Preserving agricultural land is the primary reason we have a Municipal Planning Strategy in the first place, and preserving our agricultural productivity and directing growth to our growth centres are its primary goals and objectives. The economic arguments to reject this application go beyond the preservation of our productive natural resources. Society must also guard against wasteful spending of limited economic resources on infrastructures that are expensive to build and maintain when these are already in place in our towns and villages and are largely under-utilized.
I have spoken about these past 330 years, how our industrious ancestors have sustained themselves and created a prosperous community working these farms. For most of these 330 years, equally industrious honeybees have worked along side of us. You may be interested to know that one of the first persons to make a living as a bee farmer in Canada was Phillip Bishop of Greenwich, a relation of the Noggins Corner farmers. Since 1986 my family has carried on this beekeeping tradition in Greenwich, working with our bees to produce honey and providing pollination services to fruit growers here and across Nova Scotia. Incredibly to me, the amendments before Council include this proposed policy, "bee keeping operations shall generally be prohibited".
For months I have been asking why. Three days ago the supposed reasons were posted: "because these areas are in close proximity to the Landmark East School and other intensive residential development in Wolfville and the Hamlet of Greenwich."6 As I have pointed out to council I have a lifetime of experience keeping bees commercially in Kings County, including inside Wolfville and New Minas. I currently have hundreds of beehives in the Hamlet of Greenwich. I note that we began our bee farm many years ago on the property adjacent to Landmark East School with never a problem or complaint. I also note that we are often asked to give tours of our bee farm to groups of school children, whose teachers are trying to educate their students on the important role bees play in our agriculture and eco-systems. I can not help but wonder if the true reason for this policy to prohibit beekeeping is my opposition to this destructive proposal to allow development on prime farmland in my community.
Like the honeybees with whom we share the earth, humans are at our best when working together for the common good. Just as there are strong economic reasons, there is a compelling moral argument to preserve our agricultural resources. Experts are telling us that a global food crisis is upon us and it won't be going away. Foreign Policy magazine reports "Tonight, there will be 219,000 additional mouths to feed at the dinner table, and many of them will be greeted with empty plates. Another 219,000 will join us tomorrow night."7 I believe common sense and human decency dictate that here in Kings County we should use the gifts of Creation, our fertile farmlands, for the common good of all humanity.
As a farmer and citizen I am grateful to the county councillors of the 1970's who envisioned and implemented our Municipal Planning Strategy, one of the first in Canada, designed to protect the agricultural resources that are the major source of our prosperity. All Kings County citizens can be proud of the foresightedness and relative success of this system. You, our Council should be reflecting our pride and our hopes by defending and strengthening the wise policies of your predecessors who instituted our land zoning protections.
Many councillors understand this; and I am very grateful to those who do. I am also grateful to those councillors who are still considering the advice being given them by our citizens. Tonight you must listen, then go home and search your hearts, ask what is best for Kings County?, what is best for our people's future?, what is best for humanity 330 years from now? If you are listening I think you must come to the conclusion expressed so eloquently in the Agricultural Land Review Report, "that the public seems to know in its heart of heartsit is time for Nova Scotia to conserve its agricultural land resources".8
I am afraid it cannot be said that all of our councillors are listening; some seem determined to whittle away at our farmlands, determined to weaken, to wish away the system that protects agricultural land. I hope that after tomorrow's vote all citizens will be able to say once again that we are proud of our county for acting wisely, for defending our zoning laws and our farmland, so that for the next 330 years we may continue to farm in Greenwich producing the necessities of life for our human family.
a letter to the minister
May 1 2010
Honourable Sterling Belliveau, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture
The release of a schedule of public consultations on the State of the Coast Report has raised serious concerns whether community input will actually become a part of the province's Coastal Management Strategy. In Southwestern Nova Scotia, the lobster fishery is the economic underpinning of many coastal communities. May is the busiest month of the year for the fishermen, with their season ending on May 31. Opportunities to attend consultations are scheduled for Bridgewater and Yarmouth, creating problems of location as well as bad timing.
The inshore fishermen in every part of Nova Scotia are the first people to observe changes in the coastal environment resulting from human activity of every kind. There are 4 reasons for their keen eye on coastal issues:
they live on the coast and are
present daily in the coastal environment
We urge the Minister to create additional opportunities for consultation. Cost is not a problem when local facilities such as community halls are used, and catering by local groups is done at reasonable rates. The value of local knowledge and ideas cannot be underestimated. Fishermen know the coastline best. To bypass their information is folly. These are the people who truly understand the concept of sustainability on the most practical level. Please listen to them!
A prompt reply is requested.
Friends of Port Mouton Bay
per Gloria Gilbert
Point Lepreau refurbishment:? Everyone will benefit from its successful completion
By SHAWN GRAHAM, Premier of New Brunswick:
Recently, I travelled to Ottawa
with several members of our team to discuss some challenges facing
CANADIAN JERSEY? GENETICS SCORE REPEATED VICTORIES IN AUSTRALIA!
March 19, 2010
Both the Semex Alliance, with global headquarters in Guelph, Ontario and other genetics from Canada enjoyed unprecedented success at the 2010 rendition of International Dairy Week in Victoria, Australia!! Semex was the company behind a lion share of the broad ribbon winners in the Jersey show. It was also an unquestionable tour-de-force for Canadian Jersey genetics.
Hon. Sterling Belliveau
Nov. 18, 2009
Subject: EAC Opposes Extension of Consultations for Wetland Policy
Dear Minister Belliveau,
The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) is aware that some representatives of the forestry sector are seeking to extend the time period for industry consultations on the draft Wetland Conservation Policy. The EAC feels strongly that such an extension should not be granted. Any delays will prevent will prevent your government from meeting a key deadline as prescribed in the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. The Wetland Conservation policy must be approved by Cabinet in December to fulfill your government's goals to achieve a no-net-loss of wetland policy by 2009.
There is strong public support
for this wetland policy. Groups such as NSEN, Coastal Coalition
of Nov Scotia, Public Lands Coalition and EAC have urged their
members to support this policy.
One issue the forestry industry has opposed is the requirement of an independent wetland assessor for wetland alterations. The EAC feels this is an entirely reasonable measure that will speeds up the process, reduce conflicts and liability, ensure accuracy, and create green jobs. This is what other jurisdictions do, and it works.
There are many concessions to forestry interests in this policy that environmental groups do not support. The EAC feels that cutting trees in a wetland should be considered an alteration, and that roads through shrubs or wooded wetlands should not be exempt from the approval process. We also think an independent assessor should be required on all wetland alteration applications.
NSE has done extensive stakeholder consultation in the past as well as during the development of the wetland policy. Since 2008, NSE wetland specialist has been actively seeking input and feedback from stakeholder groups, including industry, municipalities, environmental groups, students, and business. The transparency and openness of this process are benchmarks by which similar initiatives will be evaluated. Why are forest interests complaining publicly when other sectors feel they had a chance to have their say?
Although the consultation period for draft wetland policy closed November 6th, NSE is still accepting comments on the proponent's guide, which will guide the implementation of the policy.
It is extremely worrying that pressure from industry groups might lead to an extension of the consultation process. Other sectors have been able to review and comment on the policy in the allotted time. It hardly seems fair that one sector might get extra time to pressure government at the expense of other sectors.
We hope you will take these issues into serious consideration and uphold the commitments made under EGSPA , which are supported by all political parties.
Jocelyne Rankin, B.Sc., M.E.S.
(Re: "Give forestry a future," Aug. 15)
There is no question this is a difficult time for Canada's forestry sector. Supporting those who depend on this industry is our government's first priority. Our government's economic action plan builds on the $1 billion Community Development Trust with the $1 billion Community Adjustment Fund. More than $100 million of this new fund is being invested in Atlantic Canada.
But we all know that just getting through the recession is not enough. Our action plan invests $170 million to promote Canadian wood products for now and in the future. We are also upgrading federal laboratories, including $800,000 for Fredericton's Atlantic Forestry Centre. We're also investing in the $1 billion Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program to improve energy efficiency and environmental performance.
Our plan also helps business with difficulties accessing credit. From Jan. 1 to June 15, 2009, EDC provided $7.6 billion in forest industry financing. Last year, the Business Development Bank of Canada provided assistance to some 1,112 small and medium-sized forest industries.
These investments are generating economic activity and jobs now, when we need them most. These investments are also helping to give this sector a future - a future where Canada's forest industry can compete with anyone, anywhere.
HON. LISA RAITT
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
Some years ago I wrote to you in an appeal for better understanding of the environment that family farms of Canada struggle with. You chose to let Chuck Strahl, your Agriculture Minister, to deal with the issue. The problems have escalated to the point where they are critical and now we face extermination of family farms that were and should still be the backbone of our nation's economic security.
Canada is the envy of the world for its ability to put most of the burden of agriculture subsidy on its farmers. In no other country do the farmers subsidize the food system to the extent as in Canada. Farm families work off the farm to support themselves in order that they produce below costs to feed the citizens of this country safe food. Wonderful for everyone but the farmer who struggles to survive global economics, drought, flood, hard winters, hail, grasshoppers, disease and a controlled market. Farm family income has been in a depression for approximately 20 years with spending power ever eroded by rising costs. Farmers who have no spending power cannot support other industries who eventually are hurt by recession. Farms are the "engine" that keeps an economy thriving; they are the consumer who utilizes products the most per capita from ALL industries. A farmer with money makes prosperous markets for all not necessarily the other way around. We recognize that it is more popular to look to the "oil sector" and "automotive and steel" as the "engine".
A strong agriculture sector means prosperity - Third World countries know the value of this and successful rebuilding always starts at grassroots agriculture. Agriculture products have been used too often as a "trade bargaining chip" in marketing other products and has paid a high price-the result for family farms of Canada has been loss of control of market of food supply to large corporate business. Global giants have extracted so large a piece of agriculture that they have convinced a generation that they are the only future and after many years of lobbying and squeezing others, they have numbers on a balance sheet to prove their way is viable, the method by which they arrived there is ignored.
Our present circumstances quite clearly proves this and the NFU's 2005 report, "The Farm Crisis and Corporate Profits". All agribusiness corporations have done record business while all farmers' returns from the market have been negative. The efficiency, productivity and cost cutting of farmers is being exploited by powerful agribusiness in the food chain. Our profits are there but taken by others with market power and greed.
If agribusiness intended to leave a portion of the industry to family farms, they wouldn't use captive supply to suppress the market to the degree they do. The object is to completely eradicate ALL or they would share a portion of profit to continue a supply; they want absolute dominance and control. The focus on export markets is to the benefit of agribusiness and not ordinary family farms. The "check-off" dollars we pay is a tax that benefits those destroying us.
Large packers and captive supply has taken over our livestock industry by 80% and added to the demise of family farms by negatively controlling our markets and giving need for off-farm employment. Farmers working off the farm has become common-place giving a whole generation of Canadians and government the wrong impression and expectation of agriculture. They do not seem to grasp that this activity is not just to acquire televisions, quads, motor-homes, boats or another car but rather to stay in business. Farm families work for others to feed themselves just as every citizen does then in turn impoverish an agriculture system to provide food for an evermore unappreciative nation which allows global giants to take control of 80%. Farmers are insulted with words like "handout" "you have to do something to justify assistance" "get another job" and "get out if you're not making a living".
A slow-down in the economy has drastically reduced off-farm income with additional BSE, several years of drought and now grasshoppers have put livestock producers to the breaking point. Overburdened by debt, bad credit ratings and exhausted, producers have liquidated their herds while some struggle to keep a basic herd. Deferral of monies from herd liquidations are much appreciated but are only a band aid for it doesn't address the cause or need for selling the herds. Livestock numbers have dwindled to the point that a decision must be made, not just by the producer, but also by the government of our country-do we want a livestock industry? Programs to date have many believing that "No", the nation wants a future without a viable safe food supply and wants corporate captive supply supported by imported sources.
In previous discussions with government representatives (bureaucrats, MPs and MLAs), I have been advised that MOM & POP farms have had their day, that it is a world of big business. MOM & POP did just fine until employees (government) started to wheel and deal and allow global giants to beggar the farm.
This is a grassroots assessment of what is really happening at the producer level. We are tired of our hardships being exploited and trivialized by organizations using "check-off" funds who basically don't relate to what is happening to us but are accepted as representing family farms. In truth, they are more closely allied with global giants who control our markets and with no Free Market farmers are trapped in a system with no voice to change. Many producers are members of the National Farmers Union. I am not but have read their reports, funded by their membership, of an extensive study and constructive solutions. Their voice to date is trivialized and ignored. I suggest this government take a closer look at the NFU Farm Crisis series of five reports.
Our pain is real as we face extermination of our livelihood and industry. We need immediate aid-not agristability but real immediate programs for dollars to keep us in business. For livelihood and survival of a nation, not for politics, let it be a time for policymakers to listen to us, the farmers who want to make a living from the farm. If packer monopoly were reduced or eliminated, the control this sector has taken of our markets cannot be called Free Market, our industry would have been better equipped to handle the past and present crisis, programs like Farm Option and Agristability would probably function as intended. Until "free market" exists, the nation will have to accept subsidizing to a larger degree or have a reality of global corporations eventually (near future) controlling their food supply at high cost.
We realize the issue of World Trade challenge but there comes a time for a country to take a firm stand in defending and keeping its citizens safe be it war, food, or economics. Survival of the fittest should mean good health and not extermination of Canadian farmers losing to global giants.
If Canada chooses to have a viable agriculture sector and thereby stimulating the economy, the following suggestions might apply but not necessarily as multiple choice:
In the short term:
(1) Hay and Feed Grain Certificates - Alberta had a Feed Grain Certificate Program in the 1970s.
(2) Trucking Feed Assistance that begins at a minimum of 30 kilometres. Alberta has used this in the past but at higher mileage (costs have changed).
(3) Program for Drought/Grasshopper/Flood based on number of acres owned. Alberta in the past processed for lease and land owned - cultivated, pasture, and natural land. Many producers are so crippled financially by past events that insurance wasn't affordable. Those insured are hurt by the location of weather stations.
In the long term:
We recognize short-term programs are most beneficial if processed with long-term solutions:
(4) Addressing the monopolies of captive supply and thereby helping create "free market" makes all the money spent finding export markets available to ALL producers.
(5) Assist by partially or completely funding the tracking system attached to livestock producers. The burden of tagging and record keeping has fell on producers who, if anything, continue to sell on an eroding market. When stability of system is established this could be reviewed.
(6) Make a credit rating pardon - overlook the credit rating of farmers applying for government-supported repayable loans. All farmers would have the opportunity to stabilize their present circumstances created by crisis. A portion of the repayable perhaps could even be forgiven at the end of the loan term.
(7) Address our banking sector, Bank of Canada, Government of Canada and its relationship with private banks. Debt is crippling all sectors, perhaps Canada should look at its history with Bank of Canada and what role it played in sorting the depression of the 1930s.
We have a problem like a torn-apart jigsaw puzzle created by choices that affect our economy. Our suggestions may look like a wish-list to your government but in reality are pieces of a big picture that has many parts and needs to be put together to realize a solution.
If the Government of Canada continues to stay the course with only existing programs, we as an industry will realize the harsh reality that our voice as citizens was heard, rejected and ignored. We will have to acknowledge that Canada doesn't care. If Canada has decided they do not want a strong Family Farm base, then the government must be honest with its citizens and declare such and not prolong the agony for hard-working farmers. Canadian family farms have had enough betrayal.
cc: Hon. Gerry Ritz
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Last Updated February 23, 2011