Citizens gathered in Halifax last week to protest the Nova Scotia government’s approval of two huge new industrial-scale farms in St. Mary’s Bay, bringing with them foul-smelling bags of sludge collected from other salmon farms in the province. It’s come to this! Citizens hauling bags of sludge to the government’s door to try to get them to see – and smell – the unsustainability of net-cage salmon farms.
New-Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture has been granted 84 hectares (209 acres) to farm 2 million fish, but they will place 700,000 fish in each farm for a total of almost 1.5 million farmed fish. That’s 1.5 million farmed fish creating waste and polluting the bays and possibly escaping and competing with endangered wild Atlantic salmon stocks. That’s 1.5 million farmed fish to dope up on antibiotics and treat with toxic pesticides, both of which can end up in the feed and fish waste and in our ocean.
And if all that wasn’t bad enough, St. Mary’s Bay is prime lobster fishing grounds. These industrial-scale net-cages will threaten the future of hundreds of local lobster fishermen and an industry valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
The area’s lobster fishermen and more than 80 per cent of the population of Long and Brier Islands signed a petition last year opposing these two proposed farms. These individuals and organizations want adequate public consultation concerning what is happening in their backyards and to their livelihoods, and many are calling for closed containment. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
As lobster fishermen marched on Halifax to protest the approval, a strong advocate for wild Atlantic salmon is taking matters into their own hands. The Atlantic Salmon Federation is partnering with the Conservation Fund of West Virginia to build a closed containment re-circulating salmon farm.
Almost all of the risks and fears about Cooke’s expansion plans would be non-issues if the industry invested in truly responsible aquaculture. Only closed systems can eliminate, or greatly reduce the negative impacts of out-dated net-cage salmon farming.
Industry claims that closed containment is costly. But these two new farms in St. Mary’s Bay are part of Cooke’s $150-million dollar expansion plan, the first in what’s expected to be a series of large-scale aquaculture projects supported by the province and the federal government.
It’s high time the government stopped supporting this kind of reckless expansion of a failing technology. We have everything to gain by a transition to closed containment aquaculture — the health of our ecosystems and of vitally important wild fisheries, and the respect for rights and concerns of our communities. If we seize the opportunity now, Canada could be the world leader in this greener technology!
And so we find ourselves calling for ‘closed containment’ once again and hoping that our government takes action. Our communities and our environment simply cannot continue to pay the price for this costly net-cage salmon farming industry.