DC is a poet, novelist, sport fishing and fisheries policy writer, who has won numerous awards over the years. His www.fishfarmnews.blogspot.com houses some 15,000 pages of science on the environmental damage caused by open-net fish farms in BC and around the world. He reads up to 100 pages of global fish farm news every week to stay informed.
DC won the Art Downs Award for 2012 for sustained, outstanding writing on environmental issues with respect to fish farms. The award was based on 10 columns on fish farm issues in the Times Colonist newspaper, three submissions to the Cohen Commission on Fraser sockeye and his blog, fishfarmnews.blogspot.com.
View all posts by DC Reid →
The BC Salmon Farmers’ Association continues to make assertions about open-net fish farms that don’t agree with the science, as a recent ad in the Globe and Mail demonstrates. It is surprising the industry, lead companies including the Norwegian Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg Seafood, uses the same spin they have been doing for decades and simply ignore the evidence.
My guess is the timing of the ad (Nov 5, 2014, Page S3)is just before the federal government will announce the aquaculture activities regulations that allow fish farms to continue using the ocean as a free open sewer and even further allow them to release other chemicals, not to mention, as some pundits taking DFO to court put it, they will be allowed to kill wild salmon.
Race to the sewage-covered bottom
This is a race to the bottom because fish farms like to say they operate under the strictest laws in the world, and then behind the scenes argue to get rid of them. In the past year, fish farms have made the claim in Chile, Scotland, Norway and Canada.
The claim is false because every country has its own laws. And in Canada the laws have already been weakened. The Fisheries Act S-35, and S-36, were gutted last year along with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Enforcement staff numbers are too low and 200 scientists have been laid off.
Well, no. Sustainability usually refers to feed sourced from non-fish sources – salmon are carnivores. However, the industry has contributed to the great decline of small fish – that could be food for third world human beings – and really has no choice but to change. Chile’s anchovy stocks were eliminated by the industry there, mostly the Norwegians.
Pass the chicken feathers
Now, with declining stocks of mack jack mackerel, as well as anchovy stocks off Peru, the protein sources for fish feed are changing. For example, feed giant EWOS is now using increasing amounts of chicken feathers in its feed. Do you want to eat chicken feathers? These have been shown to contain an array of pharmaceutical fluoroquinolones
Other feed companies are now in pristine Antarctica waters fishing down the food web by stripping the ocean of krill, which supports the entire web, even baleen whales.
Also, seven of 10 chemicals no longer work on fish farm lice in Norway. Sustainable? I think not.
Land-based closed-containment…now that’s smart
And no to: “Ecologically smart”. In-ocean fish farms are old-tech dinosaurs that refuse to come out of the water because they can use it as a free, open sewer. The smart solution of putting fish farms on land, the industry persistently refuses to do. Among other sources, look at the Shepherdstown, Virginia conference on land-based closed containment fish farms that took place in September 2013. There are easily 50 science presentations on getting fish farms out of the water. See the Tides Canada post.
100,000-plus sign BC petition
In fact, the public who live with fish farms in their waters want them out. The articles on my index will lead you to citizen protest in BC, Atlantic Canada, Scotland, Ireland, Chile, Tasmania and Norway itself. In BC, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition to get fish farms out of our waters.
Farms dump their problems on environment, public
Oh, and do note that my preliminary estimate of the sewage put into public waters, that taxpayers bear the cost of, is $10.4 billion in BC alone. In Scotland and Norway itself the indexed references show that farmed fish produce more sewage than the entire human populations of those countries. Eco-smart? I don’t think so
And the Skuna Bay fish farm in Nootka Sound BC show another non-eco point. They did what was done in Scotland: continue and continue to claim it is a special system of environmentally sound, organic fish. And what happened? They killed 65 sea lions, the males reaching a ton, by drowning them in their nets. Parent company Grieg cut a deal with DFO for $100,000 after getting caught.
More tall tales
[quote]How will the world feed a population projected to grow to nine billion by 2050?[/quote]
Well it certainly won’t be through farmed salmon because they are too expensive for those in third world countries to buy. They are only sold in rich countries. In Chile for instance, the anchovy stocks should have been used to feed the people, not made into fish feed. And the disease problems there led to a collapse of the industry in 2008, putting 13,000 to 26,000 third world employees out of jobs and resulting in a quarter of a billion diseased, dead fish.
[quote]Salmon are the most efficient eaters on any farm – land or water.[/quote]
What salmon farmers don’t tell you about their estimates of 1.1 – 1.3 kilograms of feed to produce 1 kg of farmed fish is that it is a comparison using dried out fish feed. The more commonly accepted comparison is four to five pounds of actual fish to produce one pound of farmed fish. Not so efficient. And do look at the hog comparisons from Carolina.
[quote]Farming efficiency is critical for the future of our food, water, and land.[/quote]
As above, fish farms are only marginally efficient because they don’t have to carry sewage treatment costs. As far as I know, no other form of farming is allowed to dump sewage into another person’s property or the public’s air or water. When that cost is added in, the revenue and jobs pale in comparison.
[quote]And farming salmon is one of the most climate conscious of all farming practices.[/quote]
What this merely means is that farmed salmon can only be produced in cold water. They cannot be produced in most of the world that has warm water.
[quote]…with the smallest carbon footprint.[/quote]
Again, when you add the sewage costs in, the carbon footprint in many countries is as much as all the sewage of human beings in the country. In BC, for instance, my estimate of $10.4 billion comes in at the same sewage cost as for 4.8 million British Columbians – the total population is 4.6. Any expansion will make the carbon foot print much larger than all that human sewage.
[quote]Salmon farming in BC accounts for $800 million toward the provincial economy and generates 6,000 jobs in coastal communities.[/quote]
The contribution to the BC economy from all of aquaculture (mussels, oysters, clams, seaweed, etc. and farmed fish combined) is a very small $61.9 Million. DFO knows this as its name is on the front cover of the report.
In fact, the commercial, processing and sport industries comprise 90% of the salmon sector’s contribution to the BC economy, more than $600 million. And that 6,000 employment? BC Stats’ figure is much smaller at 1,700 – and this is a multiplier number of jobs across the entire economy. It is the only trustable figure out there.
Oh, and fish farming has been stagnant in the recent past. And its only market is the States (85% of its product) because most Canadians won’t eat farmed fish. It may well be put out of business by its own parent companies that have had a 26% tariff eliminated in the States, and by floating a money-raising bond in the USA to set up there – the only real market for BC.
And just so that you know, DFO did not like the 1,700 multiplier job number, so it scaled it up by 250% to 3,900. So that and the 6,000 number are simply bunk.
And the kicker to this is that I ferreted out the actual number of fish farms jobs in BC. It is only 795 actual jobs. This is only 13.25% of what the industry claims.
So fish farm jobs and revenue numbers are far lower than claimed, and the environmental damage is excessive. I have a table where I have collected 69 fish farm systems, mostly on-land, around the world, comprising more than 8,000 actual fish farms that are on land.
Go look at all the references. You will come to the conclusion that fish farms are not good for BC, Canada or the world. They need to come out of the water or go back to Norway
The following is a letter by salmon farming critic and Common Sense Canadian contributor DC Reid to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his government’s proposed gutting of aquaculture regulations, which would enable virtually unrestricted dumping of fish farm waste into our oceans. The public can comment on the proposed changes until October 22 by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Stephen Harper et al,
The people of BC do not want fish farms in our ocean anymore, so we do not want your Aquaculture Act that would give them the opportunity to dump everything they have into our pristine waters. More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against fish farms in BC.
The only people who want the old-tech, dinosaur fish farms in the waters of BC are a few federal and provincial employees and fish farms themselves. Fish farms only want to be in the water to use it as a free, open sewer. My estimate of the sewage damage in BC is $10.4 Billion that fish farms get away with but the cost comes to taxpayers. You will find the formula I used and a summary of 20,000 pages of fish farm environmental damage science on my site. You will find the links to the science that shows that fish farms put out more sewage than the entire human populations of many countries they operate in. This includes Scotland, and Norway itself. Norway is so polluted they had to dredge several kilometres of one inlet of fish farm sewage and put it on land.
Better technology exists
Of the 85,000 page views I have had in the three years that I have been posting, the most popular by far is the one on the 69 on-land fish farm systems I have found around the globe – comprising more than 8,000 actual on-land farms. People do not want fish farms in the ocean anymore. Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg Seafood follow my blog daily – they are followers who won’t use their own names – as 12,000 of the views are from Norway alone; that is 1 in 7. And look at the Nancy Greene Raine posts for the deficiencies in the current laws.
Farmed fish prompt health warnings
Fish farms like to say they operate under the strictest laws in the world – here and every other country they operate in, recently, Chile, Scotland and Norway. Norway is so polluted that the big story in the past year has been scientists and doctors warning Norwegians not to eat farmed fish because of the POPs, PCBs, dioxins and other organic chemicals that cause, among other things, cancer. But once fish farms say they operate under the strictest laws, they lobby behind the scenes for getting rid of them. Your Aquaculture Act is an example of this.
Gutting fish farm regulations
Other of your examples include the omnibus ‘budget’ bill of 2013 that gutted S-35 and -36 of the Fisheries Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Among other things you fired 200 scientists, including those at the ocean sciences facility in Victoria. In addition, you will find a post on my site that the Royal Society of Canada scientists levelled a stinging indictment at you for your poor treatment of our three ocean coasts.
What your Aquaculture Act does is create a race to the bottom of all the countries that produce farmed salmon because fish farms then deal with those countries and tell them they will have to take their jobs and revenue elsewhere. And, the BC industry’s only market, 85% of it, goes to the USA, but the parent companies of the BC industry have just had a 26% tariff lifted in the USA so Norway is now selling into the only market for BC farmed salmon – and the Norwegian fish farm industry is ten times the size of its BC operations. They will be putting their own Canadian operations out of business, because they are also setting up shop in the USA right now.
At the same time, Chile’s production has peaked since their 2008 crash due to ISA virus and most of it goes to the States. The BC industry is in peril from its own parent companies – right now. This has nothing to do with law, only economics.
Alienating British Columbians with onslaught of projects
Harper et al, you are forcing BC away from the rest of Canada. At the same time your fish farms are destroying our ocean and you want to make the weak laws even weaker, you are backing the Enbridge Pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline. There is the shipping of USA coal through BC and the Site C dam is current, along with LNG and fracking. The last two are provincial issues, but all of these are happening at the same time and your conservative government is taking the hit in BC. You undoubtedly know that your current majority is slim and balance of power is in BC.
BC nets few jobs from aquaculture
Just so that you know, fish farms are not about jobs and revenue. They and DFO like to claim that employment is 6,000 and revenue is $800 million. These figures are not true. The BC Stats report shows that fish farming is stagnant and all of aquaculture contributes only $61.9 Million to GDP, while sport fishing, processing, and commercial contribute 90%, more than $600 million.
These figures were paid for by DFO and its name is on the document, but because it didn’t like the figures, it took the 1,700 multiplier job figure for fish farms and inflated it 250% to 3,900 recently. This is simply not true. The actual employment is only 795 jobs. That is all there really are. You can find on the Marine Harvest site, for example, that it only has 6,000 staff world wide. As it operates in 22 countries, this means about 270 staff per country. As I have said, the real employment figure in BC is a small 795 jobs, that is all.
British Columbians fed up with fish farms
BC does not want fish farms anymore; they cause too much damage and the net economic effect is negative. Fish farms jobs don’t add anything, they just replace existing jobs. The commercial sector has lost the same number of jobs that BC stats says are the fish farm multiplier numbers of 1,700. Also on my site you will find the science that shows that fish farms result in a 50% decline in wild salmon numbers around the world. This includes BC and the indicator stream used on Vancouver Island, Black Creek, is in John Duncan’s riding.
DC (Dennis) Reid
Send your feedback to the Harper Government on its proposed changes to aquaculture regulations by October 22 by emailing: email@example.com
Part 2 of DC Reid’s appeal to Canadian Senator and Olympic hero Nancy Greene Raine, who recently came out in support of a massive increase to open net pen salmon farms on BC’s coast. Read part 1 here.
While Nancy Greene Raine has taken a stance to push in-ocean fish farms, there is a lot of science that she likely does not know. And I doubt she realizes she is taking a stand against wild BC salmon. The bullets from my earlier article are discussed further here, with links for readers to go and read the documents and come to their own conclusions.
Alternate solutions are real and available
Just yesterday, the Namgis First Nation announced it has just changed the entire game for fish farming in BC and around the world. What terrific timing – just as DFO was throwing open our pristine ocean for in-ocean fish farms and their huge environmental damage, land-based Atlantics are now on stream and selling for a premium as an environmentally safe product.
Our aboriginal friends are standing up for wild salmon and our environment. This is one fish farm system that I, Nancy Greene Raine and the citizens of BC can support. Well done Chief Bill Cranmer and the Namgis First Nation, Port McNeill, BC.
Cohen Commission highlighted DFO’s conflict of interest
It would be good for Raine and the other senators to get a more balanced look at the issues than what DFO and fish farms present. Nancy, please look at these issues more closely, and then stand on the side of wild BC salmon.
DFO is conflicted in supporting the industry over wild salmon. In his $26 million Judicial Inquiry, Justice Bruce Cohen told them in bold face recommendation 3 of his 1200 page report, Vol 3, Chapter 2 page 12, that DFO had to be stripped of supporting farmed fish and get on with the priority of protecting wild Pacific salmon:
[quote]The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.[/quote]
This is clear and unequivocal. Nancy Greene Raine and the other senators on the fish committee need to read what Cohen said. His 75 recommendations are in Volume 3, Chapters 2 and 3.
Governments, scientists and testing are in conflict
Staff and resources circulate from the companies to governments and monitoring systems deal with farms as clients rather than being adversarial like police. Fish farms fund lots of research, conflicting scientists. And Cohen evidence showed clearly that fish farms, governments, both provincial and federal, and scientists are in conflict of interest with one another.
This compared with the other parts of the fishing sectors – sport, commercial, processing – contribute 600% more at $605.5 Million, a full 90% of the contribution to GDP.
When you consider that the commercial sector has dropped 1,400 jobs since fish farms set up shop, and wild salmon are down 50%, this strongly suggests that fish farms don’t result in increased employment at all. Wild salmon disappear and fish farms jobs replace those lost in other sectors.
Let me add that the real number of actual jobs in fish farms is far below the econometric analysis, with its multipliers, suggests. I was astonished to sleuth out there are only 795 actual jobs in BC fish farming. That’s all – nowhere near 6,000 – in fact there are only 13.35% of what they claim.
And, once fish farms set up lighting and feed machines, employment drops, and herring and wild salmon have been lured into the nets at night, some eaten, and some in the presence of disease and the ever-present lice. These are the public’s fish, and they are the ones we care about. Lights out.
Fish farms a net job loser
The Stats BC report says all of aquaculture (including shellfish and other fin fish) provides only 1,700 jobs. Add the loss in the other sectors together, 840 + 240 + 1,400, and the total realistic loss is 2,480 jobs in the rest of the fishing sector. This strongly suggests that fish farm replace jobs they eliminate rather than adding anything to the province’s job numbers. And do remember this is not the actual number of jobs in fish farming – only 795, less than half. We would have more than 300% more jobs in the other parts of the fishing sector if fish farms were eliminated and DFO took substantial action on the Wild Salmon Policy as Cohen told them to.
Fish farms are not about jobs and revenue. They are a boom bust industry. Most importantly, it is the workers who suffer the job losses – the very people Raine seeks to employ. 13,000 to 26,000 workers lost their jobs in Chile circa 2008 from its ISA outbreak (63 workers were killed working at fish farms, too). And what do you do with a quarter billion dead fish? Here in BC, Marine Harvest let staff go just before Christmas a couple of years ago. The problem? A disease called Kudoa, which turns farmed salmon flesh to mush. Marine Harvest lost $12 million last year to Kudoa – in fact, BC has way more of this parasite than Norway.
Farms want expansion without using the space they already have
Fish farms want to expand by 19,140 metric tonnes (mt) right now but they don’t use what they already have, putting out a max of 83,000, even though they have 280,000 mt authorized. They have never used their current capacity, so why do they want more? This does not make sense, unless these will be sold off as quota on a spot market, as they are in Norway at 10 million crowns, or it improves share prices, sometime in the future.
The big fish farm companies say land-based closed-containment can’t be done because of the high cost of land, electricity, etc. This is not true – they just want to continue using the ocean as a free, open sewer. On-land recirculating systems use one tenth of the electricity by using a heat pump. They use less land because fish tanks can be stacked one on top of the other. And the fish are protected from all ocean diseases and their own diseases are isolated from other fish, a huge improvement.
With tank covers, the sewage methane can be collected, used to make electricity or heat, and the excess put back into the grid to make money. Water temperature can be set to maximum growth, unlike the ocean that varies all over the place, hardly ideal. Same with optimal photo-period. The sewage can grow hydroponic vegetables for cash. Or be composted and sold for cash.
Recirculating the water saves up to 98% of it. Putting in a current makes the fish line up and thus more fish can be put in the tank, making even more money. In fact, I have a list of 66 different on-land systems comprising more than 8,100 on-land fish farms around the world.
In-ocean fish farms are old-tech dinosaurs compared with on-land systems. See my list. The last major conference on closed containment was held in Shepherdstown, Virginia, in September, 2013. Tides Canada has the more than 50 presentations here. Even Norway, where the BC industry is from, is doing closed-containment studies, for Pete’s sake.
Fish farms dump sewage costs on public, environment
And the senators want to triple the size of the industry? Nobody wants to pay for the current sewage dumped into our ocean, let alone triple the tripled cost of fish farm sewage. I have looked at sewage treatment in North America and Europe, and it’s clear that no one wants to pay a bean for anyone else’s sewage. Why would we pay for fish?
Fish farms produce more sewage than the entire human populations of many countries, Scotland and Norway included. It’s pretty even in BC, too.
Fish farms kill seals, sea lions and other animals
My estimate for sea lions killed by the fish farm industry is 11,469 up to 2011 – at least the ones they count. Greene may not know that many of these sentient creatures drown and realize they are drowning when they are caught in the nets. The rest are humanely dispatched with a bullet through the head – if you think that’s humane.
And in Skuna Bay, where Norwegian giant Grieg tries on the “we are sustainable, organic” spin, 65 sea lions were killed and they got a fine for so doing of $100,000. So a sea lion is worth $1,538 to DFO and fish farms. Many would say that should have been the day all fish farms came out of the water. And, get this, they don’t count otters, seagulls, eagles and so on. Watch this seagull die in a fish farm net.
DFO’s own report shows that harbour seals are basically extirpated where there are fish farms. As seals don’t migrate more than 10 km, when the kill stats go down, it means local extinction, not ‘nuisance’ seals moving on and fish farms not killing as many – you cannot kill what you have already killed.
There are several dozen fungal, microbial and viral diseases. Because the fish are packed together, which stresses them, cortisone is released, which is an immune system depressant. They then pick up any old infection and among the million fish, it gets reproduced so many times that it changes to a virulent strain and the fish die. Then taxpayers pay for them – $5.56 million for dead diseased fish in BC last year – $50 million across Canada, last year. Government paid $135 million of our tax money on the east coast since 1990. We don’t want to pay.
But we do care about wild fish. Here is an example: Dr. Kristi Miller, on the Cohen record, showed that 25% of farmed chinook in Clayoquot Sound had both HSMI and ISA (both are Norwegian diseases that should not be in the North Pacific – DFO let them in on eggs). That is roughly 125,000 per farm. There are 22 farms in Clayoquot Sound, and it is a UN biosphere reserve.
How many wild fish are there? DFO’s number is a pitiful 501 chinook in six streams in 2012 and the Kennedy Lake sockeye run was wiped out in the early nineties and has not come back. Little wonder why. Same outcome for those Owikeno sockeye in Rivers Inlet, where the first two ISA positives for wild sockeye fry came from.
In Chile, ISA resulted in Cermaq reportedly losing $323 million, while Marine Harvest lost 1.4 billion Euros. A quarter of a billion dead salmon. ISA is only one disease. There is also IHN IPN, kudoa, SLV PRV, HSMI. The list goes on.
Cohen on fish diseases
When the two Routledge Owikeno sockeye fry came back with a weak positive, and inconclusive from the Gagnon lab in Moncton; with a positive, with more work needed from Dr. Are Nylund in Norway; and, a positive on the same fry From Dr. Fred Kibenge in PEI, DFO and the CFIA were rocked.
Then, thankfully, someone leaked a DFO report – the Kibenge report – showing ISA in BC waters. DFO saddled Cohen with 500,000 documents but missed its own report on the worst fish farm disease – they considered all results for ISA were false positives – but should have sent the document to Cohen anyway. They did not.
Incidentally, Minister Ashfield, changed the Gagnon finding to negative – perhaps on the semantic issue of having a virus does not mean having a disease. In other words he mis-spoke, saying something he knew not to be true. He should have reported his own lab’s words, and DFO ignores, in public, the Miller evidence and the two world class labs of Nylund and Kibenge, finding the same thing.
BC is no place for fish farms
Here is the point: the North Pacific is the worst place in the world to have fish farms. That is because there are 10 species of wild salmonids from California, up through BC, Alaska and all the way down the west north Pacific shore to Korea, perhaps a billion fish. Fish farms should not have been let in the water here as now all those wild fish could be lost. More fish farms means Greene’s support could help result in the biggest manmade fish disaster in history.
In Chile, they use antibiotics by the tonne, literally. During the climax of the ISA crisis in 2007, the industry used 385.6 metric tonnes of antibiotics. In 2010 that fell to 143; and in 2012 it climbed again to 337.9.
To put such use in perspective, that is: 743,380 pounds of antibiotics. Disease follows fish farms. ISA has pretty much been constant in Norway since the industry fish changed a freshwater ISA virus to a virulent saltwater form in the 1980s. If you read global fish farm news, you find that Chile is on the edge of another ISA disaster which they don’t report on much – remember those strict laws, well, they tend not to mention those in the same breath as the reports of ISA come in – but the antibiotic use is the evidence of tonnes of disease.
Global public opposition
There comes a point everywhere in the world when the people realize fish farms kill wild fish, trash the ocean and the people want them out of the water. This has happened in BC, NS, NB, Scotland, Ireland, Norway itself, the Faroe Islands and will, shortly, in the USA, in Maine. In Denmark they have already moved 50% of fish farms onto land. I just received a request for my research from a newspaper in Tasmania, Australia.
We need – and our wild BC salmon and all the species that depend on them – need us to get fish farms out of the water. If they want to set up shop on land and control their problems, that’s fine; if they want to go home that would be better. The Norwegian coast, is like BC, with long fjords, and the genetic damage has ruined the wild Atlantic salmon in rivers. The sewage is so bad it is more than all the people in Norway. Just as it is in Scotland and pretty much in BC.
In fact, the public being against fish farms has become a global movement with citizens reaching out to find each other around the world and become better informed. This is how I found out that in Atlantic Canada taxpayers paid $135 Million to fish farms for their dead diseased fish – including BC, the past year’s payment was over $50 million. No one wants to pay a dime of our tax money on fish farms that kill their fish with disease caused by too high density. They need to be on land. And the bigger the farms, the bigger the problem,
In the first week in April, 2014 Marine Harvest in Norway announced that it was forgoing putting in smolts because it feared a full $4 billion loss with all the fish dying from sea lice. This article was pulled from the internet in less than a week (I know because I query other people who follow global fish farm news and they confirmed this); then CEO Aarskog announced that sea lice were the biggest problem in Norway, and for anybody with a solution to get in touch with him asap. This is right now in 2014, the CEO of Marine Harvest, the same Marine Harvest that operates in BC in 2014, right now.
In Norway, sea lice are resistant to lice chemicals and it lobbied the EU to accept an endosulfan limit in fish that is one hundred times higher than before. And the PCB, dioxin, and PCB-like cancer causing chemicals, level is also a factor of ten above all other meat type products in Europe. See the graph – it is not pretty.
Back in Canada, in Nova Scotia, Cooke Aquaculture was caught using the illegal lice chemical, cypermethrin, for two years. When the news hit – facing a $33 million fine and up to 99 years in jail – Cooke said it wanted to study the case evidence, and within a few months of silence, the NS government gave Cooke $25 million for aid.
After receiving the $25 million, Cooke ultimately paid a $500,000 fine from Kelly Cove farms for using illegal chemicals for two years. This kind of behavior, and money from government, is all too common in fish farming in Canada. Read on.
Cermaq sees big losses in Chile
But first, in Chile, Cermaq lost 15% of its Atlantic salmon crop to lice in 2012-13. And Chile is openly acknowledged as the dirtiest fish farm country in the world – increasingly moving south to operate largely within the pristine Patagonia UN biospheres. In main production areas to the north, the limiting factors are: disease, lice and fish farm pollution. When production hits 650,000 mt, no more fish can be grown because ‘nature’ kills them all.
At its peak level of 650,000 mt that means they lose more than the entire harvest, and largest output ever recorded in BC, to lice. That is how bad sea lice problems are. But the people of BC don’t really care about fish farm fish deaths – we care about wild salmonids, and there are 10 species that can be killed by lice – and other non-salmonids like herring.
Chemical restriction gutted for BC farms
So what is happening in BC? Here, DFO has announced that it will drop from the already environmentally gutted Fisheries Act, S 36 – for releasing deleterious substances into water – to give the fish farms the right to try any chemical they want.
The annual Norwegian cost to treat sea lice is $170 million and world wide over $300 million. Cypermethrin kills lobsters – and that was how it was determined that Cooke had been illegally using it in its Kelly Cove farms – as well as other crustaceans, for example, crab and shrimp. Krill, shrimp-like crustaceans, are the step above plankton in the wild salmon food chain in BC. We don’t want them killed.
Do note that the article shows that cypermethrin causes gene mutation, organ abnormalities and cancers in mammals. The chemical is suspected to be carcinogenic in humans.
The strictest laws in the world?
You will find that governments and fish farms around the world repeatedly use the phrase: ‘fish farms operate under the strictest (or among the strictest) environmental laws in the world’ in the country in question, (when anyone complains about their environmental damage). The claim is not true because, in the past year, fish farms have said this in Chile, Scotland, Norway and Canada. As the laws are different in each country, the claim cannot be true.
And, of course, Chile is acknowledged as the dirtiest fish farm country in the world, euphemistically referred to as having ‘sanitary problems’. Not to mention that it may have laws, but that is a different thing from enforcing the laws. For example, read fish farm news in Chile and you will find, that though its chemical use is high, Chile does not report most cases of ISA.
In Canada, the claim is even more untrue because the laws don’t apply all the way across the country. There are different jurisdictions operative on the west coast and on the east coast, both federal and provincial.
Furthermore, in Canada, the claim is more untrue because the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act were both gutted a year ago in a federal omnibus bill (an egregious occurrence in itself). But it is even worse than this.
Minister Shea and the DFO ADMs state in the senate video noted in this article, that S 36 of the Fisheries Act, already gutted a year ago, will be further gutted so that fish farms will be able to use whatever deleterious substances they want – say, SLICE, cypermethrin, endosulfan, hydrogen peroxide – on lice and for other reasons.
Norway want laws to ‘deal with Aboriginals in Canada’
And there has been a call for an Aquaculture Act, presumably to eliminate the provincial laws, further weaken laws against the use of chemicals and permit fish farms to use the ocean as a free open sewer, as they do now around the world. Here’s another Canadian nuance: from time to time you will see the Norwegian CEOs saying in the press that there need to be rules to deal with aboriginals in Canada, meaning they don’t want to have to deal with each individual First Nation. They want them rounded up, I suppose.
Industry wants laws gutted even further
There is another issue: as soon as fish farms claim the laws are the strictest in the world, they then use that as an excuse to argue that the laws are too strict and to keep jobs and revenue in the country in a competitive world, the laws need to be relaxed. Or they will move on, which they do anyway because fish farms are a boom and bust industry. Marine Harvest operates in 22 countries, and disease takes one third to one half of all aquaculture animals, as noted above in the Kibenge presentation.
And as I have said, the enforcement staff in BC are swamped with duties and few in number. I may see one every five years or so in the field. And, of course, laying off scientists means that other duties with respect to fish farms also do not get done.
Advice for Senator Greene Raine
I suggest that someone who knows Nancy Greene Raine sit her down and tell her that it is wrong to stand against wild BC salmon. And her name is going to be badly tarnished by associating herself with fish farms.She should be on the side of these up to 90% of sockeye dying from PRV on some Fraser tributary spawning beds, too diseased to spawn. Ask DFO to stand by wild BC salmon, and eliminate fish farms from our pristine waters. They sure don’t stand by wild BC salmon right now in 2014.
As BC’s First Nations are showing with their on-land, closed-containment operation, there is a better way.
We want fish farms out of our pristine ocean and put on land, or they can go back to Norway. More than 100,000 British Columbians have signed a petition urging Premier Clark to refuse any expansion leases in BC.
I doubt Nancy Greene Raine knew this and probably needs time to gather independent information and think things over. As it is, she is out of step with the entire province. And I doubt she has considered how soiled her name will become if she gets on the fish farm side of this issue rather than standing with wild BC salmon.
Fish farms tied to wild salmon die-off
There are only 50% of wild salmon left in BC since fish farms set up shop here. Does she want to be the name associated with the loss of wild salmon? I wouldn’t think so. This is the science.
In all fairness, I think she, and the other senators on the committee are just innocents and believe what DFO and fish farms tell them about jobs and revenue, rather than looking at the science themselves. See Gail Shea talk to the senators, Feb 25, 2014.
Jobs over science, environment
In the senate video, the three DFO ADMs make the case that the only thing that stands in the way of expanding the fish farm industry, is that the regulations on sea lice drugs need to be rationalized. And the Senators agree there should be nothing in the way of new jobs and revenue.
It also came clear that Swerdfager/Beven/Gillis have little knowledge of BC salmon. They suggest salmon are milling about in the ocean in any old place and when it comes to spawning time, they go to any old river. Only someone in Ottawa could be so out of touch – too bad it is DFO. And they ignore the many problems with fish farms.
Thriving salmon run doesn’t pass by fish farms
For the record, salmon have set out-travel routes, grid like precision in the open ocean where they feed and set return-routes, and they not only come back to the same river, but spawn within 100 yards of where they hatched. And so on with succeeding generations.
That is why, for instance, that the Harrison component of the 100 subcomponent Fraser sockeye run is coming back in record numbers. Historically they returned at about 38,000, but now are nearing 400,000. This is because, unlike other Fraser sub-components, they migrate out to sea through Juan de Fuca Strait where there are no fish farms, rather than Johnstone where there are. They don’t get killed by fish farm diseases, or lice and ocean survival has been good.
I took the bait too…until I read the science
Now, back to Swerdfager et al. They suggest the only wrinkle is that lice chemical thing, and the senators agreed – it’s about jobs after all. But the ADMs didn’t let on that the Harper Government has already gutted the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and let go 200 scientists, many in BC. And they didn’t say what a huge problem that sea lice really are. The most recent example of many is Norway where lice are so resistant to pesticides, SLICE etc., that chemical use has gone up 80-fold in a decade. That’s how bad lice can be.
To be fair to Nancy Greene, in the beginning, I thought saving wild salmon in the ocean and feeding a hungry world sounded good, too. But then I started finding holes in the arguments. Instead of saving wild salmon, the science shows that fish farms kill them. And fish farm salmon will never feed a hungry world. That is because they cost too much, and can only be sold to first world consumers. In fact, in Chile, the industry destroyed the small fish in the ocean such as anchovies and jack mackerel, to feed their fish.
Farmed salmon gobble up other fish species
The anchovy should have been the protein for the poor mouths of the world, say Chileans, but they were fed to fish farm fish. Today, fish farms say they are moving on to ‘improve’ their feed, but do not acknowledge their role as important contributors to the massive declines – in other words they have no choice but to move on from fish-based feed. Today, boats are scouring the Antarctica, and down the food chain to catch krill for fish feed, if you can believe it. And off Chile the Asian fish farms are still scooping up what wild fish remain and taking them to Asian fish farms, largely prawns – the only industry dirtier than Chile’s fish farms. Read global news on www.thefishsite.com, for a while.
A deceptive industry
I am a citizen of BC and make no money out of this, but I became aghast at the deceptiveness and intransigence of fish farms around the world. I realized how bad fish farm companies were when I read an article on how they neutralized an article by Albany, New York, scientists – Hites et al, in Science, January 9, 2004 – on the cancer causing chemicals in farmed salmon – PCBs, dioxins, POPs and so on.
The article reads like a Hollywood movie, and it came clear to me that every claim fish farms make has to be ground proofed. Read this Spinwatch article. It leaves you feeling you would not have believed corporate citizens could sink so low. See if they don’t remind you of tobacco CEOs.
Farmed salmon and chemicals
And just so that you know, the Hites group has gone on to publish many more articles on chemicals in farmed salmon in the decade since. It’s become world news. In fact, the biggest story out of Norway, where the BC industry is from, in the past year, is doctors and scientists repeatedly warning Norwegians not to eat farmed salmon, particularly women, pregnant women, and children, because of the chemicals in the fish. For a collection of these articles, see here. Cancer causing PCBs, for example, take more than 50 years to be washed from the body.
So farmed fish is full of many kinds of chemicals, the cancer causing ones from feed, then SLICE, endosulfan and a host of other pesticides and antibiotics. The cancer causing chemical problem is currently causing big problems for the Scotland industry – they tried to maintain the fiction they were sustainable and organic. If they said it long enough perhaps people would believe it.
Closed-containment is the answer
The solution to this and most other problems is and has always been taking the farms out of the water and growing the fish on land in closed containers, like the Namgis project on Vancouver Island. I don’t think Raine has much acquaintance with the real problems, so here is a list I will send to her. You might want to contact her too: firstname.lastname@example.org.
DFO is conflicted with fish farms.
The Cohen Commission told the Harper government to remove the conflict and make DFO get on with saving wild salmon.
Fish farms are not about jobs and revenue. They are a net negative to the economy.
Fish feed has cancer causing, and other chemicals in it.
Diseases kill one third to one half of all aquaculture products around the globe.
Wild salmon decline more than 50% where fish farms are introduced around the world.
Fish farms already have triple the capacity than what they use in BC. They do not need expansions.
On land fish farms solve virtually all problems of in-ocean open-net fish farms.
Fish farm sewage costs are astronomical and no one wants to pay for them.
Fish farms kill seals, sea lions and other animals around the globe.
Cohen Commission reconvened over fish farm diseases, when ISA was demonstrated in wild salmon.
Aquatic animal disease is part and parcel of aquaculture.
Scientists and doctors tell Norwegians not to eat farmed salmon because of the chemicals in them.
Public opposition to in-ocean fish farms is growing around the world.
Sea lice chemical use grows dramatically.
Governments and fish farms like to claim they operate under the strictest laws in the world, which is not true, and then fish farms push for weakening the laws.
Tune in for my next article that discusses these negative impacts of fish farms.
I registered the first Environmental Petition (a protocol, not list of names) on the Cohen Report with the federal Auditor General late last fall, and have received the first reply from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). My request was specific, technical, and DFO was required to respond in 120 days – and it did! – on the last day, March 26, 2014.
Here is what I asked:
[quote]1. It is one year since the $26.4 Million Cohen Commission on Decline of Fraser River Sockeye delivered its report to DFO. One year later, I would like to know: What concrete results, and detail them individually, with associated timelines and funding that DFO has committed or expensed to resolve each of the 75 environmental recommendations in the three volume Cohen Report on the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye. The recommendations are pages 105 – 115, of Volume 3. I am speaking of the boldfaced recommendations and the concrete results DFO has taken to achieve each of the 75 recommendations that can also be found in a Cohen PDF of Chapter 2, Volume Three.[/quote]
You will note the important phrase: concrete resultsand the specifics in red above. I asked for concrete details, concrete funding commitments, concrete numbers of people committed, timelines achieved and individual responses to each and every Cohen recommendation. All 75.
It is non-specific mush designed to anaesthetize and give the impression of a potentially plausible positive possibility, while committing, not so much. I used to work for government and it was my job to generate the same milquetoast so everyone got the same story every single time.
So in ‘themes’, here are Gail Shea’s first words:
Related to Recommendations 1, 2 and 3
The roles and responsibilities of the Minister and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to decisions related to fisheries management and fish habitat within federal jurisdiction are clearly communicated to First Nations, other governments and stakeholders. This includes making conservation the first priority in the delivery of regulatory responsibilities.[/quote]
Really? Sorry, Gail, but on recommendations 1, 2 and 3, Cohen says that the weakening of the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, removed a lot of the DFO minister’s ultimate authority (Volume 3, Chapter 3). I would add that if ‘conservation’, was a primary concern, DFO would have taken fish farms out of the water a long time ago.
Justice Cohen: Harper govt weakened fish protections
Cohen goes on to say the ‘omnibus’ bill changes weakened habitat restoration… and even if it hadn’t that DFO doesn’t have the money and people to do much, even though its Wild Salmon Policy says it must. Cohen notes that in seven years since generating the policy, DFO has gotten nowhere on implementation. Testifying, the western director could not confirm any action in the next 2 to five years, as in, the Wild Salmon Policy is off the table, even though Shea says it is not.
In the inconvenient evidence – Cohen evidence is that rare text where once on the record, it is there as incontrovertible fact forever – Cohen notes, among other things, that changes to the Fisheries Act took it from being very strong legislation for environmental protection for salmon and made it the weakest legislation.
DFO’s conflict of interest
Furthermore, DFO has (Volume 3, Chapter 2, P 11) internal confusion on doing conservation work. And its Science Branch spends too much time and resources on clients like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that have no conservation need. So the legislation is bad, the money is bad, and the focus is bad.
Furthermore, he said DFO should not put any fish farm in the water – nor leave any farm in the sea – if it can’t eliminate risks to wild salmon beforehand. The task falls to that confused, poorly funded Science Branch.
Aquaculture industry nets tax dollars for dead, diseased fish
You may recall that in Clayoquot Sound there are 22 fish farms. We, the taxpayer, paid Norwegian derivative fish farms $5.56 million for their dead diseased fish last year in BC (over $50 Million across Canada). Near Tofino, there are only 501 wild chinook left in six streams and the Kennedy Lake sockeye run has been wiped out. This is where Dr. Kristi Miller found 25% of farmed chinook had the killer diseases ISA and HSMI. Little wonder there are no wild salmon left.
DFO likes to say it is following Cohen – that fish farm ‘moratorium’ in the Discovery Islands, for example – but it does not come clean that it set his terms of reference and limited him to only one species of salmon in only one river, the Fraser. What this means is that his report should be taken as applying to all of BC.
Cohen zeroes in on fish farms
In Cohen’s complete list of 75 recommendations, the first 22 regard fish farms, that’s how big a problem he considers them. And Shea has not instituted the western director general Cohen called for to cover wild salmon and habitat restoration. The rest of her answers are the same bland stuff that we spent $26 Million to get. Wild BC salmon deserve more.
The response to the Cohen Report in DFO’s Ottawa is zero, but in BC it is huge. The petition against allowing any new fish farms or expansions has been signed by more than 100,000 citizens. The people of BC have spoken – get the farms out of the water. The petition is going to Christy Clark who can prevent or eliminate fish farms by refusing or eliminating leases – in only sixty days. It’s that simple.
But 100,000 signatures is big time support for getting fish farms out of the water and sending them back to Norway – we the people of BC don’t want them. And DFO’s interest is hard to fathom. Perhaps it believes its own mantra that fish farms mean jobs and revenue. Well, its own report, put out by BC Stats, shows there is not much of either in BC, with only $61.9 million contribution to GPP from all parts of aquaculture, and only 1,700 jobs in all.
By comparison, the rest of the fishing sector – sport, processing and commercial – is ten times that size, with more than 90% of the sector’s $667.4 million toward GPP; and jobs are 87.8% of the 13,900 total. Fish farms are about 10%.
When you factor in that with wild salmon numbers down by 50% since fish farms set up shop in BC, those small number of jobs aren’t new, they simply replace jobs eliminated in other sectors. The commercial guys, for instance, are down 50% at 1400 jobs or nearly 83% of those fish farm jobs. They would like them back.
Environmental, economic cost of fish farms
It’s actually worse than it looks, and that’s pretty bad. I ferreted out there are only 795 actual jobs in fish farming. So it’s simply not true there are jobs and revenue in fish farms. It’s just not true. But don’t be mistaken, the cost to us is huge. The cost DFO doesn’t pay attention to – but we have to – is the sewage cost to our pristine ocean.
And just so you know, the industry already has in place a maximum of 280,000 metric tonnes of production. So why are they asking for more, when they have never produced more than 83,000 and could produce more than three times more than they actually do produce right now? Good question.
DFO’s fishy math
DFO’s numbers are: 83,000 annual metric tonnes of product; 19,140 metric tonnes of new fish farms; and, fish are 4.5 kg at harvest. And as we all know, the cost of treating sewage is huge. Why, in Victoria, the bill, as everyone knows is $783 million for 360,000 people. And that’s just building it.
The commonly accepted number of fish in the sewage department is: 3–10 fish equal the sewage of one human being. Hard to believe, but check it on Google. And our cost that we absorb and thus pay for, using the conservative 10 to 1 ratio, is:
1000/4.5 X 19,140 = 4.25 million/10 = .425 million human equivalents
$783/.36 = $X/.425 = $924 million.
So not only are multiplier jobs down, and the actual number of jobs is very very small, but the cost to British Columbians from expansion (when they don’t need it because they already have triple authorized more than what they produce now) is: $924 million in sewage cost alone. Do you want to pay for this?
Time to dump costly farms
My look around shows me the biggest problem encountered in treating sewage is that no one wants to pay a bean of anyone else’s sewage treatment cost. So why would we pay for fish, that aren’t even human? I don’t think so.
And then there are all the rest of the problems: exotic diseases like HSMI, ISA; killing of seals; reduction of oceans of fish that people should eat – even krill in Antarctica if you can believe it; killing wild salmon; and, chemicals in the fish. So many chemicals that the big news out of Norway the past year is that doctors and scientists are warning people not to eat farmed salmon.
Tell Christy Clark – email@example.com – to send farms back to Norway. We want DFO to work only on wild salmon. And let’s have the same $400 million DFO’s Gail Shea put into aquaculture on the east coast in NL and PEI spent on wild salmon here. But let’s get rid of the sewage first. No one wants to pay for anyone else’s shit. Tell Gail: Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
Expect big salmon numbers this summer. The Fraser sockeye run may be as high as 70 million. Yes, 70. And the most important sport angling species, chinook and coho, seem to be on the same meteoric route in 2014.
Fraser sockeye numbers peaked in the early 1970s and then declined, most particularly in the 20 year period from 1990 to 2009. This was the year the Cohen Commission was sent in to figure out why only 1.6 million sockeye returned to the Fraser, and just as it was getting rolling, 2010 returned more than 28.3 million Fraser sockeye (see video here).
[quote]The 2014 range is: 7.2 million to 72.0 million, with an average of 22.8 million, with expectations at the high end.[/quote]
Method in DFO’s madness
While DFO has significant issues (including almost completely ignoring the Cohen Report), it has to be admitted it does a stellar job of sockeye science, and I have the approved pre-season estimate of the more than 100 subcomponent sockeye run from early May into late September for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in this science heavy process (download .pdf DFO 2014 sockeye forecast).
They have patchy data back to 1913, with better stats from the ‘50s to the present day. DFO uses four different models and puts out estimates based on five different levels of possible return from 10% to 90%. The 2014 range is: 7.2 million to 72.0 million, with an average of 22.8 million, with expectations at the high end.
Then DFO follows fry down rivers, for example, the Chilko counting fence, passing Mission and a seine fishery in the Strait of Georgia, with acoustic arrays in Queen Charlotte Sound as well as Juan de Fuca.
On the way back, test gillnetting is typically done in Port Renfrew as well as Johnstone St. Fish are counted crossing the Mission fence, and samples from all fisheries are sent for real-time DNA testing twice per week, with announcements on run timing, composition and fishing opportunities for commercial, sport and first nations coming every few days as summer progresses. Impressive.
Removal of fish farms may have contributed to big return
Why are the fish in good numbers? Good question. The 2010 high year contributes mostly to the run this year as sockeye are typically four year old fish on returning. It looks like the taking of fish farms producing chinook out of the water in the Discovery Islands (near Campbell River) in 2008 that were getting salmon leukemia virus (SLV) is one main reason – do note DFO followed this disease for years until they terminated research.
Doctors Kristi Miller and Brian Riddell will be ramping up Miller’s science lab, that you will remember showed a ‘viral signature’ disease that contributed to as high as 90% pre-spawn mortality in returning Fraser sockeye. But the 2010 fish were not infected, and thus returned and successfully spawned, resulting in, we hope, prodigious numbers, in 2014.
In addition, fish farms reduced their own fish numbers, particularly Marine Harvest, in 2011 to 2013 by 30% or 6- to 9-million smolts in the narrow Quadra Island to Sayward salt waters. So there were trillions fewer viral particles when the fry migrated.
Virus tests to continue
You will be happy to know that Miller/Riddell will be testing a lot of fish this year, including those from fish farms. But you won’t be so happy to know that DFO, and the fish farms will be parsing news releases – if you followed the convoluted, non-transparent, fish farm refusal to allow BC disease-testing results to come out during the Cohen Commission, you will understand why.
Of note, is one subcomponent that has done well – the Harrison. Its long term average escapement, i.e. sockeye on the spawning beds is 13,500, but both 2010 and 2011 returns were 30 times higher than the long term average at 400,000. The Harrisons are the only subcomponent that migrates out Juan de Fuca Strait where there are no fish farms. They could not get sick, so they returned in healthy numbers. The rest of the Fraser sockeye migrate through Johnstone Strait.
Chinook and coho could see monster year too
But there is more to this story than fish farms. That is because – other than the Fraser 4-2s that DFO, in the Salmon Outlook, said further 2014 non-retention would be likely – around Vancouver Island, the fish return numbers of coho and chinook will be records, too.
First, the sockeye story. The largest run is the Alberni Inlet, Henderson, Nahmint, and Somass (Stamp and Sproat) rivers which typically returns 350,000 to 600,000 fish, with a high of 1.8 million. Sport and commercial fishing begins when it is established 200,000 fish are coming down the Inlet. I have seen years the run has not struggled up to this level.
As with all runs, there are always some younger, sexually precocious male fish, called Jacks. In the past, as three-year fish, the Alberni run had an average of 40,000; however, last year, there were, get this, 400,000 mixed in with the run. That implies a 2014 run ten times larger than the average, perhaps 4 million this year.
From volcanoes to Pineapple Expresses
While the fry do pass a couple of fish farms on the way out, the huge number of Jacks implies that ocean survival has been terrific. Perhaps the Alaska volcano that blew in 2008 showering the Bering Sea with iron oxide heavy dust was the reason, but the more likely event is the winter storms we now call Pineapple Expresses contribute to the Aleutian low-pressure cycle. The wind pushes surface waters aside, bringing nutrients to the sun-penetrating level, starting huge plankton blooms that feed the food chain. Sockeye eat plankton and krill.
Higher marine survival typically means more three year old Jacks. As chinook, these return as roughly 15 pound fish. The West Coast Van Isle hatcheries at Conuma in Nootka Sound and the Nitinat in Juan de Fuca returned Jacks up to 50% of their runs – this was common among other counted rivers. I can tell you from fishing the Nitinat in late November – nursing five fractured ribs, which kept me from fishing earlier – I landed four Jacks one day, some six weeks after the run had spawned and gone. Some years I catch zero in the entire season, even though these fish will beat all other fish to whack a lure.
There are no fish farms on either of these routes. And then there are the Cowichan chinook. As 1- to 2-year fish, they circle Georgia Strait before migrating out to the open ocean. Last year 7,000 returned – this run was down to the unheard of level of 1,068 spawners circa 2010, with, previously, a run average of 12,000 to 15,000 chinook with a high of 25,000. Last year 4,000 of the returnees were 3-year old springs! This points to a return in 2014 of higher numbers than the highest ever recorded. Van Isle chinook typically return 90% at four year old fish, which implies 40,000 chinook for the Cowichan alone in 2014.
Mysterious coho raise more questions
And then there are coho. Last year WCVI wild coho returned in the Salmon Outlook’s highest measured category – 4. And those Georgia Strait coho, that crashed in the mid-80s, with 1- to 2-% return measured against parental spawners, are forecast at 15% – that means 15 fish for every fish that spawned in 2011, rather than 1. Many of these fish migrate past fish farms in the choked waters of Johnstone Strait. As farm numbers were down 30%, and ocean survival high, these two factors may explain the inside high coho numbers in 2014.
But it doesn’t explain high coho numbers on the WCVI. And they are expected to continue in high numbers in 2014. They don’t pass fish farms, hence, the return is based on higher marine survival.
There is great potential for inside coho fishing, now and in years to come. Brian Riddell, CEO, Pacific Salmon Foundation, is emphasizing rehabilitation projects to increase Georgia coho. He has estimated such a fishery could be worth $400- to $500-million additional sport fishing revenue, added to the $1 billion sport fishing creates in BC annually.
I now have reliable figures on slaughtered fish payments of your taxpayer dollars to billion dollar Norwegian derivative fish farms in BC, and others across Canada. Cermaq Mainstream, Marine Harvest and Grieg Seafood may be happy to hear I will eat some crow, as the BC figures are much lower than my earlier estimate.
The reason for having to make estimates is that fish farms typically do their best to prevent the public knowing how much taxpayer money they receive from us for diseased fish that foul our pristine oceans. Behind the scenes, they often have lawyers trying to keep such numbers, and in the BC case, the disease records for testing of their farms, from the public, as happened during the Cohen Commission. He didn’t buy it.
Industry injunction kept taxpayer subsidies from public
In this case, a fish farm legal injunction made my request wait 10 months before our taxpayer dollars were put in a table and sent to me. My estimate of $35 million in BC is incorrect. The payments to Cermaq Mainstream’s IHN diseased Clayoquot Sound farmed salmon are: $2.64 Million for 959,498 diseased salmon (report date: Nov 2012); and, $201,000 for infected equipment and supplies (report date: Jan 2013). The total is $2.8 Million, or $3 per fish, not $30 per fish.
What has not made much news is that the Grieg Seafood open net operation in Sechelt also received payment for slaughtered IHN diseased fish: $1.61 Million for 312,032 diseased salmon (report date: Nov 2012); and, $152,000 for infected equipment and supplies (2013), or $5.60 per diseased salmon.
Aquaculture industry in Canada nets $50 million public dollars
Here’s the bottom line: in little more than a year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency paid fish farms almost $50 Million taxpayer dollars for diseased slaughtered fish across Canada.
You see, in addition to the figures I received, I noticed the St. John’s Telegram newspaper reported $33 Million of taxpayer money given to fish farms in Atlantic Canada for slaughtered diseased fish. Their table shows a bunch of handouts pretty close to the often-quoted CFIA $30 per fish.
Some East Coast farms get over $20 per dead fish
In July 2013, Manuel’s Arm, a Kelly Cove Salmon farm, was paid $23.96 per fish for 100,000 diseased fish, and its Pot Harbour/Hermitage Bay site was paid $8,232,000, or $23.52 per fish for 350,000 diseased fish in December 2012. In fact, the big story from the east is that at the same time fish are dying of ISA and other diseases and we’re paying for it, DFO is giving NL almost $400 million more taxpayer money to put in more open-net fish farms! What a waste. And one of the firms we gave money to, Gray Aqua, has been sliding in and out of bankruptcy proceedings since last summer.
The reasonable British Columbian has to ask: where is the money for BC’s wild salmon? We want $400 Million for habitat restoration. What is DFO actually spending here? DFO’s community habitat program for Vancouver Island is so small it is almost non-existent: $200,000. For all of BC it is $.9 M this year or .45% of the NL money. DFO: we want $400 Million for wild salmon here. Not simply the $1.8 M salmon licence money given to the Pacific Salmon Foundation, where the $400 M should go so BC once again takes control of its own fish with a made-in-BC program.
Solution lies in closed-containment
The real solution to fish farms is to get the old-tech dinosaurs out of the water, which the BC government can do in 60 days by cancelling leases. Even though fish farms say it can’t be done, I have a list of 65 different closed systems comprising more than 8,000 actual on-land farms around the world.
The most recent symposium on closed containment was in Virginia this past September. Tides Canada maintains a link to the plus fifty presentations. They are even doing closed containment science in Norway, for Pete’s sake.
You may wonder why DFO backs in-ocean fish farms in BC at all. I sure do. And we all remember the Cohen Report recommended DFO be stripped of this conflict of interest and deal solely with wild salmon – the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy and 1986 Habitat Policy, with a new west coast director general for bringing back Fraser sockeye. None of these have happened since Report date of October 31, 2012.
Jobs, public revenue from salmon farms overstated
It’s hard to fathom DFO’s interest in fish farms. Perhaps they believe what they and fish farms like to say: fish farms create employment and revenue. Well, I waited five years for the best source of info to update their numbers, and they show decisively that fish farms don’t contribute much of either.
In BC all aquaculture comprises a measly $61.9 Million of Gross Provincial Product, meaning only 9% of the fishing sector’s total of $667.4 M BC GPP contribution. Sport fishing is miles above at $325.7 M or 48.4%. And the employment that they talk of is similarly small at 1,700 or 12.2% in multiplier terms that include spin off jobs. The entire fish sector is 13,900 jobs, with sport fishing 60.4% at 8,400 jobs. The $400 Million for wild salmon restoration would do wonders for processing, commercial and sport fishing employment, not to mention the entire wild BC province.
Sharp wild salmon decline coincides with arrival of farms
So, I did some sleuthing and found that the actualnumber of real fish farm jobs in BC is a very small 795. Commercial job losses in the same period are 1,400 jobs due to the loss of wild salmon. So fish farm jobs likely eliminate jobs in other sectors, resulting in a net employment loss. The same can be said for revenue.
This does not add in losses in processing, and the sport sector from DFO allowing wild salmon to decline 50%. Little wonder the Cohen Commission said DFO is in a conflict of interest. His recommendation was that fish farm support needs to be eliminated and DFO should concentrate solely on the Wild Salmon Policy and its Habitat Policy.
Shea: Thank you for your correspondence of October 30, 2013, regarding the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, which was headed by Justice Cohen.
Reid: As of January 19, 2014, DFO still has not responded to the Cohen Report, tabled Oct 31, 2012. This is why I and others started Environmental Petitions with the federal AG – to force DFO to respond concretely. That process requires a mandatory response in 120 days. No response yet.
Shea: The Cohen Commission provided Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) with valuable information that informs our day to day work of protecting Pacific salmon. DFO is responding to Commissioner Cohen’s recommendations by taking concrete actions that make a real difference.
Reid: One of Cohen’s important recommendations was for DFO to relinquish its conflicting role of supporting fish farms and put its full effort into implementing the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy, and the 1986 Habitat Policy. The report says there should be a new western director general charged with bringing back Fraser sockeye. DFO has not responded to these recommendations.
Shea: The Government of Canada’s commitment and long-term support for the salmon fishery in British Columbia is demonstrated by the significant annual investment that is made on a wide range of activities including fisheries science, protection of fisheries habitat, salmon enhancement, catch monitoring, and enforcement. Currently, DFO invests more than $65 million per year, of which about $20 million is directly related to Fraser River sockeye.
Reid: Well, no. My estimate of habitat restoration needs is $500 Million over five years. If you look at the Clay Bank on the Cowichan that was fixed for a cost of $1.5 M and is perhaps 300 yards long, it is immediately clear the cost of habitat restoration needed in BC. And on the Fraser, DFO actually allowed removal of spawning gravel that resulted in the destruction of 3 Million pink salmon. And where is restoration for 20 miles of San Juan River that looks like a lunar landscape from logging damage? Ditto for the Klanawa. And there are those 77,000 culverts all over BC with electrical potentials fish will not cross to feed or spawn. The BC government fixed 50 and stated the rest would take 3,080 years. It has been letting science people go for years, and the Harper Government has been in the news for dismantling science all over Canada.
So, please, send me a disaggregated budget that identifies real projects and costs. Salmon enhancement is about $21 M for all of BC – but it’s not habitat restoration. Furthermore, by comparison, Bonneville Power, invests more than $40 Million each year for one river, the Columbia, with the entire US budget reaching $1 Billion some years. And your panel that follows Fraser sockeye stocks is an impressive technical achievement, requiring DNA analysis twice per week in real time. This is outstanding, but it is not habitat restoration, nor enhancement. And what does enforcement do with rehabilitation of freshwater salmon habitat which all agree is the real problem? I will take your budget apart to see what, if anything, matters to the issue.
Shea: In addition, Economic Action Plan 2013 included three major measures that are directly addressing Cohen Commission recommendations. First, the Government committed $57.5 million over five years that will help bolster environmental protection in the aquaculture sector through science, enhanced regulatory regime and improved reporting. Second, it contained a new program to support recreational fisheries conservation activities through partnerships with community groups. Third, all revenue collected from the Salmon Conservation Stamp will be dedicated to the Pacific Salmon Foundation, which will mean approximately $1 million more in revenue every year to support the Foundation’s great work.
Reid: Well, no, putting $57.5 M into fish farms is not the same thing as addressing the Wild Salmon Policy, enhancement and habitat restoration for wild, native Pacific salmonids. BC wants fish farms out of the water.
Second, your community group program is only $1.9 M over two years, with only $.2M on Vancouver Island in 2013.
Third, the Salmon Stamp money given to the PSF is actually $1.8 M per year – and is not new as it has been done for some years. I recommended to Brian Riddell, CEO, that he suggest quadrupling the Stamp so revenue was $7.2 M per year to local projects, and gain a commitment from DFO and BC for $7.2 M per year each. The resulting $21.6 M is the beginning of a program of some size, with the leverage of local restoration groups and businesses, that begins to seriously address habitat restoration.
And, in all fairness let’s put this $1.8 M in proper perspective. You are putting $400 M into NL for fish farms, so the $1.8 here is .45% of what you are currently giving to fish farms that Cohen said you should hive off from your activities because it is fundamentally opposed to your responsibilities for wild fish. Where is the $400 M for wild BC salmon?
Shea: The Government has also decided to limit salmon farming activities in the Discovery Islands until September 30, 2020, including not allowing any new marine aquaculture sites; this is in line with Commissioner Cohen’s recommendations. During this time, additional scientific research will be conducted and a disease risk assessment process will be completed. While the Canadian aquaculture industry already operates under some of the strictest regulations in the world in order to minimize risks to the environment, this action responds to the Commission’s call to address “scientific unknowns” in the Discovery Islands.
Reid: Well, yes, a moratorium on the Discovery Island farms is in line with Cohen. On the other hand, his terms of reference, which you set, only allowed him to look at Fraser sockeye. His recommendations should be viewed as applying to the entire province.
As for science, this paper shows a 50% drop in wild salmon numbers in BC since fish farms were introduced. They note the same in Ireland, Scotland and Atlantic Canada, in fact anywhere farmed salmon are introduced. Note that Commercial sector employment has been cut 50%, 1,700 jobs, in the same time period. So fish farm jobs likely eliminate jobs in other sectors, resulting in a net employment loss.
Also, you may recall that your own scientist, Kristi Miller, found the exotic disease, ISA, back to 1988 in Fraser sockeye and both ISA and HSMI, also an exotic Norwegian disease, in the Creative chinook farms – roughly 125,000 diseased fish per farm – in Clayoquot where your own estimate is only 501 wild chinook remaining in 6 streams. And didn’t they just win one of your ‘awards’ for being environmentally sustainable?
You will be aware that the Cohen evidence found an inability for DFO’s Moncton Lab, the CFIA and BC to find ISA disease. And now Miller and Riddell will be doing such work, which sounds good, but you have only allowed this with DFO, CFIA, and fish farms parsing the news releases. I’d say this is a ‘no’ as well.
And on the ‘strictest laws’ comment, this is regularly said all over the world. In the recent past, in Chile, USA, Norway and Scotland. The obvious answer is that your assertion cannot be true because every nation has its own laws.
Shea: The Department is committed to the viability of the salmon fishery in British Columbia so that it remains a sustainable and prosperous resource for years to come.
Reid: I would say, sadly, BC opinion is that DFO is managing wild salmon into extinction and in the end there will be no problem when all the salmon are gone. This includes Kennedy Lake sockeye, Georgia Strait coho, those Fraser 4-2s and 5-2s and the Owikeno sockeye that collapsed more than 20 years ago but have not recovered. Your own science says these are small fry and not killed in freshwater. You will know that the SFU Routledge Owikeno fry were the first ones to be found with ISA in BC, by three different labs.
The only thing keeping a number of Norwegian salmon farms afloat in Canada is the hundreds of millions of dollars they net from taxpayers when their fish die of disease.
You might think the multi-billion dollar fish farm industry was a licence to print money. You’d be almost right, but not for the reason you might think. Norwegian aquaculture giants Marine Harvest, Cermaq Mainstream and Grieg Seafood comprise 90% of BC’s farmed salmon industry and Marine Harvest operates in 22 countries. What you don’t know is that taxpayers, meaning you and me, pay big money to them when their fish get diseases and have to be slaughtered.
Food safety regulator’s fishy business
Once the Canadian Food Inspection Agency detects a reportable disease, it issues a slaughter order and the fish are destroyed. Then the CFIA sends a very large cheque to the fish farm. This taxpayer cheque compensates them for disposable items like infected nets, cost of transport and offloading, cost of sequestering diseased carcasses in perpetuity, and disinfecting all other items that came in contact with the fish, including the boat that transported them. In addition to all this, the commonly accepted extra payment for each fish is up to $30. This figure really comprises an average payment because of all the other costs mentioned.
You’d think the fish farms would have insurance for losses, but my conversations with a marine insurer tell me they have difficulty getting insurance because they lose so many ‘crops’ to – wait for it – disease. So why are we, the Canadian taxpayer paying these foreign, multi-billion dollar corporations?
Industry loses up to a half of its fish to disease
Fish farms like to say their fish get diseases from wild salmon because the latter don’t get sick, as if that’s a justification for cash. Not so. A recent PHD dissertation from Norway showed that the problem with farmed fish is that they are stressed – the cages are overcrowded. This results in high output of the stress hormone cortisol and that weakens immune systems in farmed fish, thus they get disease. They actually change benign viruses into infectious killers.
How much product is lost to disease? One third to one half of all aquaculture products in the world are lost to disease every year, some $35 – $49 Billion (1). I started a Freedom of Information request to the CFIA and DFO to find out just how much we taxpayers in Canada pay to these billion dollar foreign corporations. I have been waiting 10 months now with no answer, so, let me give you a reasonable estimate.
Some fish farms only make money when their fish die
Overall, my expectation is that the cross-Canada disease total will come in at several hundred million taxpayer dollars over the past decade for BC, NS, NB and recently NL. Here in BC, Cermaq Mainstream’s Dixon Point and Millar Channel 2012 IHN slaughters would have paid them, in my estimate, about $35 Million of our cash. That’s so much money that it moved this boom/bust business into positive earnings before interest and taxes (i.e., EBIT), when it lost money the year before – and only made money this year because of having disease. They’ve had a decade of problems before.
[quote]Mainstream Canada reported an EBIT pre fair value and non-recurring items of NOK 43 million, an improvement from a loss of NOK 26 million the previous year, even though volumes sold declined from 5,600 tons to 4,400 tons. EBIT per kilo was 9.6 NOK. Good prices in the North American market and the IHN outbreak last year are the main factors behind the improved result.(2)[/quote]
So Mainstream lost money when they didn’t have disease and made money when they did have disease – because you and I paid them. And they shipped far less fish, even though a third farm, Bawden Point, posted a weak positive for IHN – they were quickly harvested and sent to humans to eat. This should not be the case. Do complain, as I did, to Gail Shea, Minister of DFO (Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca).
Fish Farms reel in another $400 million in Canadian subsidies
On another aquaculture front, you may be even more unhappy to know Shea announced $400 Million in gifts to the aquaculture sector in Canada last week. That’s a lot of dead, diseased fish. I have asked her for $400 million be given to the commercial, sport and processing sectors in BC that provide 600% more in contribution to gross provincial product than fish farms. I’ll let you know.
Fish, profits turn to mush
And fish farms in BC have been losing money. Mainstream lost money in 2012. Marine Harvest has lost money in the last few years, too, largely due to Kudoa, a fungal disease that cost them $12,000,000 in 2012 – and just prior, in 2011, things were so bad they laid off 60 employees – right before Christmas. Nice guys.
Kudoa results in myoliquifaction that makes farmed fish into mush. Would you buy salmon you had to put in a container with a spoon?
Grieg losing money, drowning sea lions
Oh, and then there is Grieg. They got IHN too, last year, in their Cullodon site in Sechelt. Fortunately, we did not have to pay for that as well. Grieg is also the company that had to pay a fine of $100,000 for drowning 65 – 75 sea lions in their Skuna Bay nets in 2010 – they tarted up that site to sell to the unsuspecting in the USA as environmentally-sustainable, organic farmed salmon. Where is PETA when you need them?
[quote]In Canada, the company cut losses, with a negative ebit [sic] before fair value adjustment of the biomass of NOK 2.71/kg, compared to a loss of NOK 8.22/kg in the same quarter of 2012.[/quote]
And the kicker? Cermaq is owned 59.2% by the government and thus the people of Norway. Why do we give another government our money for their killing our fish in our ocean rather than raising their fish on land in closed containers? This does not make sense.
Ask Shea for BC’s $400 million. We can spend it on habitat restoration, something DFO has been sadly remiss about in BC for decades. This year’s total DFO habitat projects for BC is a measly $900,000, only 2.6% of our own money Ottawa sent to diseased fish farms in BC.