New Clayoquot fish farm proposal spawns call for moratorium


From the Tyee – May 19, 2011

by Tyler Harbottle

A proposal from one of B.C.’s largest fishery operators to establish a
new 56-hectare open-net fish farm in Clayoquot Sound has led to calls
for a permanent moratorium on such facilities.

“We don’t want to see expansion of salmon farming in net cages at all,” said Michelle Young of the Georgia Strait Alliance, one of a group of organizations calling for the ban.

Mainstream Canada,
which already operates 14 open-net salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound and
produces around 25 thousand tonnes of fish annually, submitted a tenure
application to the provincial government, according to the Coastal
Alliance for Aquaculture Reform.

This is the first proposal under a new arrangement where
the provincial and federal governments share the role of vetting

The alliance — which also includes the David Suzuki Foundation and Living Oceans Society cites a litany of issues with open-net salmon farming, such as sea lice, algae blooms, marine mammal deaths and waste deposits on the ocean floor. 

The proposed farm would contain 12 open-net cages
measuring 1,230 metres in length and 30 metres in width, and would
produce some three thousand tonnes of salmon every year, according to a
Mainstream statement.

“We would like see transition to closed containment farming,” said Young. 

Closed system aquaculture tanks
limit the impact on the surrounding ecosystem by “controlling the
interface between the fish and the natural environment,” according to a
Coastal Alliance publication.

But Mainstream has no intention of making the transition. “They don’t feel it’s economically viable,” said Young.

In a statement
issued by Mainstream, the company said it is “following the development
of closed-containment aquaculture,” but is not yet prepared implement
such technology.

“We believe that present technology for open net pens
allows for sustainable aquaculture, and we aim at demonstrating this in
our operations through management of environmental impacts.”

Mainstream conducted extensive studies of the surrounding
ecosystem, the ocean floor, currents and animal habitat before filing
its application, according to the statement.  The company does not
expect its operations will have an impact on any of them.

But Bonny Glambeck from the Friends of Clayoquot Sound is not convinced.

“We are basically playing Russian roulette with our ecosystem,” she said.

Glambeck said the addition of another farm to the area
would further amplify the diseases found in wild salmon populations and
contribute additional toxins to the marine environment.

“Then there’s the issue of sustainability,” she said. “How many farm sites are we going to have in Clayoquot Sound?”

The proposed farm would be located near Plover Point on
the east side of Meares Island, an area rich in marine life and popular
amongst sea-kayaking tourists, said Glambeck.

Twenty-two fish farms currently operate in Clayoquot
Sound, but none exist in the ecologically important area off Meares
Island, she said.

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.