First Nations show Nancy Greene Raine, Harper govt positive alternative to open net fish farms

First Nations show Nancy Greene, Harper govt positive alternative to open net fish farms

First Nations show Nancy Greene Raine, Harper govt positive alternative to open net fish farms
Namgis First Nation-grown closed-containment salmon ready for market (Photo:

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

Inside Kuterra plant
Inside Kuterra plant (

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.

For example, Clare Blackman worked for the provincial body that chose fish farm sites, and now works for Marine Harvest. Cohen evidence shows the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does not want to find ISA and other diseases in farmed salmon. Their Moncton lab was shown not able to find ISA.

Fish farms aren’t about jobs and revenue

The Fish farm industry is fond of stating that it provides $800 million in revenue and 6,000 jobs in BC. This is not true. The only real report, from Stats BC – which ironically has DFO’s name on it though DFO does not say so – shows categorically that fish farms result in few jobs and very low revenue. The report says all BC aquaculture results in a measly $61.9 Million in BC GDP.

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.

Almost double the employment has been lost from the commercial sector alone. This results in fewer processing jobs, and impacts sport jobs and revenues, too. Let’s assume a marginal 10%: this means 840 jobs from sport’s 8,400 multiplier jobs and 240 from processing’s 2,400, since 50% of the wild salmon died in the presence of fish farms.

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 people of BC do not support selling off of free quota for big bucks. We want wild salmon. In Chile, it has been noted that fish farms want more sites because they need to move from diseased areas that they create.

On-land fish farms offer solution

A Kuterra employee shows off one of its land-raised fish (
A Kuterra employee shows off one of its land-raised fish (

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

In-ocean fish farms have high sewage costs– currently almost a billion dollars, at $924 million – and that’s only at one third their authorized production volume.

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.

I keep asking for the autopsy of that whale found dead in a fish farm net last year on Vancouver Island, but DFO keeps telling me it isn’t available. Hmm.

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.

The DFO report said the figures I used are conservative and that killing seals, sea lions, and other pinnipeds must stop. But the killing goes on, in BC and all over the world – Marine Harvest operates in 22 countries. And fish farms want to expand in the ocean in BC?

Fish farm diseases

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.

DFO’s scientist Kristi Miller and her viral signature work, showed that ISA was in Fraser sockeye back to 1988 – and recently, some sockeye components died up to 90% on the spawning beds from PRV. Cohen reopened the already closed Commission, strictly on fish farm disease issues, and then out spilled all the evidence on fish farm diseases, particularly, ISA and HSMI, (soon followed by PRV) and then IHN in Clayoquot Sound last year, for which we the taxpayer paid multinational billion dollar corporations $5.56 million for their diseased fish.

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.

Globally, aquaculture loses one third to one half of all aquaculture products to disease. The main conclusion of the following Kibenge document, slide 36, is that Aquatic animal disease is part and parcel of aquaculture.

Chile’s addiction to antibiotics

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,

Sea lice chemicals

Sea lice kill a third of wild salmon fry in Ireland and spread disease to wild salmonids and other species. Sea lice are so bad in Norway that over the past decade sea lice treatments have gone up 80 fold to 8403 kg in 2013. Norwegian fish farms spent $169.9 million on sea lice chemicals in 2012.

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.

Endosulfan is banned world wide by the UN. This has a good all-around discussion.

Cooke let off hook for $33 million fine

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.


About DC Reid

DC is a poet, novelist, sport fishing and fisheries policy writer, who has won numerous awards over the years. His 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,

15 thoughts on “First Nations show Nancy Greene, Harper govt positive alternative to open net fish farms

  1. Mike, just who is getting millions of tax payers dollars? this “native ” fish farm is supported from our tax dollars not theirs as usual, and by the way do you have any idea how many “native” ocean fish farms in the ocean there are and who is also paying for them, the good old tax payers again, so lets just call a spade a spade and now you can get of your biased soap box, not all of use are as guilable as you think.

  2. I guess we’re all done touting the virtues of Sweet Spring land salmon now huh? On to the next “best thing”.

    Some people should stick to poetry, and leave farming to farmers.

    If I was to some up this article, it would be: “blah, blah, misrepresentation, blah, lie, blah, blah”

    1. Linda, your rhetoric along with Reid’s is getting boring to say the least, if it was not for a never ending supply of working tax payers money these highly costing fish would never get to any market, if this was a none native venture it would be broke in the first year, also there is a majority of us who do not believe your and the eco nuts diatribe on ocean fish farms, most of us can think for our self, you and others should try this some time.

  3. So, how many senators have economic interests in fish farms in BC. And how many of their friends do, I wonder?! Since there seems to be no imperative for Ms Raine and the other senators to disclose their conflicts of interest, will will never know how pervasive the corruption is. Sad that the planet suffers from the actions of these people.

  4. I almost forgot. Nancy Greene Raine. Get with the program – What you espouse is passe to the extreme – to actually support and applaud the development of open net fish farms given the profound history, information and scientific data that we have in hand is careless, dangerous and unfortunately, extremely ignorant. You and your beliefs do not represent the enlightened, compassionate and educated people of this province. Honestly, your views are not in the majority and you will not be respected for this stance on open net farming. The young people of our communities will not stand for it, and will not stand with you or your like. Period.

  5. Excellent article. I am appalled by the axing of our environmental laws through the omnibus bills and am against open net fish farms in the extreme. My thanks to you for brazenly and realistically citing the actuality of impact that open net farming brings to our environment and highlighting the political corruption that both precedes and foreshadows this business. Power to you – there are many of us and more coming on board.

  6. GREAT article, Mr. Reid! These facts are well-known to most sports-fishermen and those with a basic understanding of biology, but because of trade agreement with Norway, the politicians don’t want to listen.

    I can’t believe they’re giving our tax dollars to fish farmers as compensation for diseased fish.

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