Disturbed by the incomplete press coverage of the meeting on Monday, Feb. 6, 2012 in Sheet Harbour, I decided to do a summary of it.
Here it is.
The director of the NS Aquaculture Association introduced the applicants: owner of Snow Island Salmon Aquaculture, a New Brunswick company; and partner, President of Loch Duart, a Scottish salmon aquaculture company.
On February 6th there was a meeting at the Sheet Harbour Legion about the proposal to install salmon aquaculture along the Eastern Shore.
The hall was completely packed; obviously this is a matter that is very important to everyone. Also present were 20-30 representatives of the Nova Scotia Aquaculture industry, and officials from DFO, Navigable Waters, Licensing, Water Quality Control, and the provincial licensing bureau. A hired moderator ran the meeting.
The bureaucrat in charge of provincial licensing explained that an application was in process, depending on input from federal agencies, the applicants, the public and stakeholders.
The applicants each made a power-point presentation. Snow Island claimed experience in New Brunswick with very dense pens, disease and chemicals. He assured us that the rest of his family fished lobster in the same area with no adverse affects on their catch. Snow Island has already established one pen at Owls Head on the Eastern Shore; they suffered setbacks due to breakage and escapes, but had no sea lice to date. Loch Duart’s president informed us that they attempt to farm salmon with less density in Scotland but do suffer from sea lice so must administer chemicals. They have also had many escapes. But they command higher prices for their fish because it tastes better than other aquaculture salmon. Both believe that they can farm salmon in low density on the Eastern Shore without the risk of sea lice and therefore without chemicals. They wish to begin operations this spring and hire approximately 20 workers initially, potentially raising that figure to 100. When asked about salaries and location of the processing plant, their answers were vague.
Local lobster fishermen asked if they could guarantee there would be no sea lice, chemicals, or destruction of lobster and other fin fish in the area due to sulphites from salmon faecal matter. They wanted to know why, if the decision had not yet been made, equipment was already in the area. They suggested that the proposed depths of the pens and water were 20 feet too shallow according to Norwegian stipulations. The representatives of the aquaculture industry replied that they hoped but could not prove conclusively that there would be no risk from salmon aquaculture to lobsters. The lobster fishermen also asked what was to stop the companies from installing a higher density of pens or selling out to another less scrupulous company. The Ecology Action Center specialist for aquaculture, Rob Johnson, clarified that there is no requirement under current regulations for a public hearing or reapplication in such cases. The lobster fishermen were passionately adamant that the risk to their sustainable industry, the main source of the economy and employment for generations on the Eastern Shore, was too great. They were opposed to the implantation of aquaculture on their shores. The audience response was solidly in favour of the fishermen.
Representatives of the group trying to reinstate wild salmon in the rivers of the Eastern Shore argued that it has been shown conclusively that farmed salmon and wild salmon cannot coexist without infecting the wild salmon genetically and medically. The Ecology Action Center confirmed this. Wild salmon are returning. The anglers argue that the potential for tourism, recreation, and environmental sustainability is great but would be destroyed by salmon farms in the vicinity. They asked the representative from DFO if any application for salmon farming had ever been refused. She answered “No”. “Did she not think DFO was in a conflict of interest to be simultaneously responsible for the survival of wild fish species and regulating the aquaculture industry?” “Yes.” The salmon farmers said they have applied for funding from ACOA and the province. The anglers replied that they have spent over $1M of private funds plus much volunteer work to restore the wild Atlantic salmon. The public responded enthusiastically in favour of wild salmon restoration.
Jenn Graham, specialist in coastal issues for EAC, asked the government water quality specialist about the frequency of monitoring water quality, the criteria of testing, the distribution of results, and the actions taken with those results. He replied that they try to test at least once a year; that they test for chemicals and sulphites (faecal levels); that they fell down on the job of distribution of results; and that they did not really have a plan of action in case of dangerous results. The public was not reassured that the risk to water quality would be well-managed.
Residents and tourism operators asked if the economic benefits of aquaculture on this coast were really worth the destruction of view planes, pollution of recreational waters, depression of real estate values, and harmful effects on tourism which markets the pristine beauty of the shore and its waters. Their interventions were laced with emotion which resonated with those in attendance.
Several suggested that they were not against aquaculture for the Eastern Shore, but that it should be in closed pens, on shore. Representatives of the aquaculture industry said that salmon required too much oxygen for closed pen farming, driving up the costs beyond economic viability.
Twice, the audience asked that a vote be held, for or against. The moderator refused to do this before closing the meeting. Many questioners did not get to speak. A petition of 670 signatures against the implantation of fish farms on the Eastern Shore was presented.
Sid Prest, NDP MLA for the Eastern Shore west of Tangier, said that he would not support fish farming if the community was against it. Jim Boudreau, NDP MLA for this riding, refused to take a position, saying he had come to listen.
The community is very worried that fish farming will be implanted
on the Eastern Shore by the NDP government against their wishes.
From the Ecology Action Center
The size and scale of the current and proposed salmon farm expansions in Nova Scotia are enormous in the context of the historical small-scale sustainable shellfish, seaweed, and finfish farming operations we've had in the province up until now.
The negative impacts of waste pollution, disease and parasite transfer (and resulting toxic chemical use), as well as escapes and impacts on wild Atlantic salmon populations, are surely to have widespread detrimental effects on Nova Scotia's coastal areas, as they have in NB, BC, Norway, Scotland, Chile, and anywhere this form of salmon farming has been practiced. Closed containment salmon farms, either land-based or marine-based are able to deal with these key negative impacts by creating a barrier between the farmed fish environment and the natural marine environment.
They are able to treat their waste, and land-based operations can contribute to sustainable economic development through payment of municipal taxes, something the open net pen salmon farms do not pay.
The amount of untreated waste for example discharged directly into St. Mary's Bay from the Salmon Farm expansion sites there exceeds the amount of waste produced by the entire population of Digby county. No other industry has this type of free reign on waste dumping, and in this case, directly into the marine environment for which coastal communities, fisheries and tourism depend.
The two large open net pen salmon farm provincially approved expansions in Shelburne and St. Mary's Bay are both being challenged with legal appeals to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, and serious criminal charges have recently been laid for multiple instances of the use of illegal pesticides resulting in hundreds of lobster deaths in the Bay of Fundy.
We've seen existing open net pen salmon farms in Nova Scotia repeatedly exceed their allowable sulphide levels with no regulatory enforcement, and the planned expansion of new sites is particularly worrying as there is not sufficient provincial government money available for the monitoring of these large-scale sites, which is problematic for any type of effective regulation.
Over a year ago, ACAR- the Atlantic Coalition for Aquaculture Reform was formed by diverse groups across Atlantic Canada who share a common concern about the negative environmental and social effects of the open net pen salmon aquaculture industry on our shared waters and coastal communities:
http://www.conservationcouncil.ca/Fundy-Bay-Keeper/Atlantic_Coalition... SeaChoice sustainable seafood ranking and sustainability information:
The research, which was funded by the Lenfest Ocean Program (managed by the Pew Environment Group), can serve as an important tool for determining the impacts of aquaculture discharge on waterways and surrounding shorelines. "This study suggests that we should not simply assume 'dilution is the solution' for aquaculture pollution," said Koseff. "We discovered that the natural environment around fish pens can dramatically affect how far waste plumes travel from the source."
Dissolved substances from feces, undigested food and other forms of discharge amass near fish pens. In multiple modeling scenarios in which these factors were varied to study how each one affected the behavior of such pollution, effluent was characterized by "plumes" of highly concentrated waste that held together for great distances from the source.
The findings suggest that regulators need to consider the full range of possible influences on the movement of pollution plumes—and accurately identify the dominant factors—when designing water quality regulations for and monitoring waste from aquaculture.
"Our approach to aquaculture is at an important juncture right now," said Naylor, referring to the fact that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is inviting public comments through April 11 on its draft national aquaculture policy, and the state of California is implementing new aquaculture regulations.
"As the aquaculture industry grows, so will the number of pens that create pollution," she added. "The models that we developed for this study can help regulators determine how waste from proposed fish farms might impact the waterways and coastlines both near and far from the pens."