CBC NEWS - NEWFOUNDLAND
Aquaculture plan goes over far from swimmingly for critics
'It needs to have better regulation and more input from the public,' says coalition for reform
CBC News Posted: Sep 30, 2017 4:36 PM NT
Premier Dwight Ball might have 28 specific points to boost the aquaculture industry and add 2,100 jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador, but the Coalition for Aquaculture Reform says his plan unveiled this week leaves much to be desired.
"What's wrong is what it doesn't include," says Leo White, one of the founders of the organization, which says fish farming poses risks to the marine environment and native species.
In addition to the jobs, the government's plan is to boost salmon and mussel production to 50,000 and 10,750 tonnes annually, respectively.
But, hang on, said White. He said the groups that make up the coalition want environmental assessments for all new projects — including expansions of existing ones.
"They're talking about expanding the industry by double … within a brief period of time. I think they mention 20 months, and that can only be done by expansion of existing projects," White told CBC Radio's The Broadcast.
When speaking about the aquaculture plan in Gander this week, Ball said there is a line that needs to be walked.
"The opportunity is there to create sustainable jobs in the aquaculture industry, but we must do that in protecting the environment," he said Tuesday. "Protecting the environment but, indeed, making sure the industry gets the opportunity to grow as well."
But White remains unconvinced.
"They made absolutely no reference to the negative effects that the industry has on the wild salmon population," he said.
The big picture
White said he is also concerned about the big-picture view emerging from the blueprint presented by Ball on how to boost aquaculture — he says it's outdated.
"People who are prominent leaders in the industry are saying that the future of the industry is on land. But here in Newfoundland in both the expansion of the existing industry and the big thrust to have new projects — like the Grieg project in Placentia Bay — is the opposite," White said.
White said it isn't just the big and little things in the plan that have irked him — it's how the message was delivered, too.
"My first reaction was, 'Well, it's too bad that, you know, you have to find out about it from the media rather than have government recognize that groups like the Coalition for Aquaculture Reform and the Atlantic Salmon Federation, you know, we have a legitimate stake … and we've approached government to be included," he said.
The coalition has about 20 members, including conservation, environmental and indigenous groups, academics and scientists.
"We are not anti-aquaculture. Aquaculture has a place in Newfoundland and Labrador ... we just think that it needs to have better regulation and more input from the public, more transparency," White added.