- by Ian Goudie
Is this government seriously considering sinking $45 million of taxpayers’ money into a form of aquaculture that is passé? Are we about to put another nail into our economic coffin? What is it about Newfoundland that seems we will sell our soul for a few jobs? It seems like a collective unconsciousness that came from our heavy dependency on outside governments and industry. When we view smaller island populations like Iceland and the Faeroes we find a populace that is self-empowered and build on their own resources whether it is Atlantic cod or eider duck down. But it seems like Newfoundland is always looking to something outside themselves to make it a have province. Even our short fame in the oil development bubble has all but killed rural Newfoundland. Newfoundland and Labrador is blessed with a relatively large extent of natural landscape and seascape. We need to appreciate, and better utilize, what we have in our immediate environments if we are to truly achieve ‘sustainable development’. We do not need to opt for economic activity to keep the local economy afloat that will sacrifice what is precious and unique, such as our wild salmon.
We need to be clear that sea-based farming of salmon is an environmental catastrophe, and get on with the reality that the future of farming these fish is in land-based production. In fact, it is already looming to outcompete sea-based operations. The writing is on the wall with 150 KMT production speculated for land-based by 2020. The Washington State Senate has recently passed a bill to end open net-pen Atlantic salmon farming in its coastal waters.
There is already land-based salmon farming in Nova Scotia, and the recent announcements for two in Maine (33 KMT), and the 90 KMT of farmed salmon per year in Florida clearly show that the industry is shifting fast to land-based, which will out-compete sea-farming. In Newfoundland, the evolution of the present 25 KMT annual output has already taken a huge toll on our wild salmon. DFO studies have demonstrated that one third of salmon stocks in 17 of 18 rivers along the south coast already have significant levels of hybridization (crossing) with escaped farm salmon; a phenomenon described to herald declining runs of salmon in rivers in other aquaculture-intensive places, such as the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, along with areas in Norway and Scotland.
Apparently about 750,000 raised salmon have been documented to have escaped from farms on the south coast of Newfoundland, not to mention rainbow trout. The rivers closest to these operations are suffering the most. How can juvenile salmon ever find their way to sea with the coastal waters patrolled by ravenous escaped fish. For example, Conne River that once supported an annual run of over 10,000 salmon is now less that 1,000. All the rivers along the south coast of Newfoundland are listed as ‘threatened’ under the federal Committee On the Status of Endangered Wildlife In Canada (COSEWIC). But we need to see the parody of a Federal Government Department telling us that our Atlantic salmon rivers are endangered while they pass legislation that ensures companies farming Atlantic salmon are compensated by taxpayers money for any diseased fish that they are ordered to destroy. The industry is compensated for the very things that make it not sustainable.
In his Lost Landscapes and Failed Economies, Thomas Michael Power emphasizes that remnant natural areas are scarce, relatively unique, irreplaceable assets too often squandered for common and cheap commodities. He further states that we as a people can no longer afford such irrational waste and neither can the planet. Newfoundland is presently one of the top four coastal destinations in the world, and in part, this comes from its incredible natural capital. FANE encourage all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to learn more about the dangers and costs associated with aquaculture; if you share our concerns, contact your local MHA and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment and say no to sea farming salmon.