Paul Smith - Climate in turmoil and Stormy Waters for Placentia Fish Farm Project


Paul Smith Climate in turmoil and Stormy waters for Placentia Bay salmon farm

Published: Feb 03, 2018 at 6 a.m.

Angling season 2018 opened this week, Feb.1. By the time you read this it will be trouting time once again. That makes me happy.

Iíd likely be going ice fishing this weekend, thatís if the ponds, lakes and gullies were safe to travel on. They are most definitely not, at least not here on the Avalon, and the temperature is skyrocketing to 7C tomorrow. Iím worried that ice fishing will be a total bust this winter. Thatís sad for us because trouting through the ice is one of Goldieís favourite outdoor activities, right next to cod fishing on the bay.

For my part, Iím far from a dedicated ice fisher. Very far, because I get bored too easily, and standing over a hole in the ice dangling a worm on a hook isnít terrible intriguing to me. But I do like a meal of mud trout. And our new insulated cloth ice fishing shelter makes the complete on-the-pond experience so much more civilized. I can brew tea and warm a can of beans while the freezing nippy wind howls around outside.

Yes indeed, hopefully we will get some serious frost and real winter, so Goldie can get her ice-angling fix. If the weather co-operates, stay tuned for a winter day on Gull Pond. We might even bring the grandkids along.

Iíll be going fishing ice or no ice. Actually mild winters are best for my kind of fishing.

You know me, thereís nothing can beat fly fishing, delicately casting creations of fur and feather to torment trout and salmon.

Iíll be heading to the Waterford River very soon to mess with those rotund sea run brown trout. I think numbers might be up a bit this winter, at least Iím hopeful. There were quite a few smaller fish in the river last season, but nothing like the world-class trout fishery that existed in old St. Johnís before Hurricane Igor.

There is no question that extreme weather events can take a serious toll on sport fisheries. Iím convinced that Tropical Storm Chantal devastated the Shearstown River trout population. And my buddy from Florida has been updating me on thousands of snook dying due to unusual Florida cold snaps. Wow, the weather is really getting crazy.

Look at what happened in Corner Brook a few weeks ago when temperatures soared to the mid-teens and 100 cm of rain fell on a pristine west coast winter landscape. The Humber River flooded and ice rafted downstream, ripping and tearing at clay banks and riverbed. Typical gin-clear winter water ran murky and silted for days on end. That is not good for salmon stocks, as if salmon werenít in enough trouble already.

Incidentally, while on the topic of salmon, we are now awaiting a decision on our governmentís appeal about requiring a full environmental assessment of the proposed Placentia Bay aquaculture project. Last fall the Atlantic Salmon Federation won a court decision forcing a full environmental impact study (EIS) before the Grieg salmon farm and hatchery operation could proceed. The Newfoundland and Labrador government appealed the decision. It really and clearly doesnít want to have this study done. Anyway, we will soon know the final outcome. I personally would like to see a full EIS before any salmon farm comes to Placentia Bay. We citizens have a right to know the potential hazards and consquences.

Thereís even more news on the salmon farming front. A coalition of groups and individuals has joined forces to lobby and make a case for aquaculture reform in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is NL-CAR, and its members want to ensure that this provinceís aquaculture industry moves forward on a sustainable and environmentally responsible path. They are presently most concerned about the Grieg project in Placentia Bay. An EIS is essential, and if the court ruling is favourable it will proceed. In fact the government has already laid out guidelines for the assessment. Although they have promised to cancel the EIS if they win their court appeal. In any case NL-CAR feels there are deficiencies in governmentís guidelines. There are a lot so Iíll only highlight a few.

There is only one public meeting required for the entire EIS. Given the level of controversy, this is totally inadequate, according to NL-CAR. There is no requirement for Grieg to characterize wild salmon migration patterns in the area. NL-CAR thinks that the proposed sea cage technology is questionable, specifically with reference to Newfoundlandís winter ice environment. The novel plan to control sea lice with lump fish needs further investigation and documentation. The list goes on and you can check it out for yourself at www.nlcar.ca.

This is important to outdoor people. Thereís a reminder on NL-CARís website about the deadline to submit any concerns you might have about the proposed guidelines for Griegís full and thorough EIS. If you want a say in what goes on you can e-mail your ten cents worth to EAProjectComments@gov.nl.ca. Thatís democracy in action, so take full advantage. I will. Read the guidelines first. You will find a link to them on NL-CARís site, or you can find them on www.mae.gov.nl.ca, thatís the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment.

Thereís plenty going on. Now if we can only get some decent ice on our ponds. Goldie want to go ice fishing.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniardís Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at flyfishtherock@hotmail.com  or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock