Tangier Lobster against planned changes to Fisheries Act
FRANCIS CAMPBELL TRURO BUREAU
Published February 17, 2015 - 7:15pm
Ottawa is playing fast and loose with environmental regulations, according to a group that ardently opposes changes to aquaculture rules.
“This is just a bad policy decision that should be challenged,” Stewart Lamont, managing director of Tangier Lobster, said of proposed federal regulation changes that would exempt the aquaculture industry from Fisheries Act provisions that prohibit the release of harmful substances into water frequented by fish.
“It would allow open-pen aquaculture operations a more lenient access to pesticides and other substances that would deal with some of the challenges they have, primarily with sea lice.”
Lamont, whose Eastern Shore company exports more than three million pounds of live lobster annually, said large volumes of salmon congested in open-net pens in the ocean inevitably contract lice, and the best treatment for those lice is pesticides.
“Unfortunately, those pesticides are also lethal or can be lethal to wild fisheries, in particular, lobster larvae. The pesticides are just as lethal to lobster larvae as they are to lice on salmon.”
Lamont has added his voice to a group of business leaders, commercial and recreational fishing associations, scientists, lawyers and environmentalists who are calling on the federal Conservative government to halt implementation of the regulation changes.
Despite broad-based opposition since the beginning of the regulatory change process in 2011, the federal government has moved ahead with implementing the changes.
“It’s going through the parliamentary process,” Lamont said. “It could be introduced in the very near future. To say the least, there is urgency associated with this initiative.”
That urgency has led to an open letter with 120 signatures being sent to the prime minister contending that the proposed changes will lead to environmental risk through the discharge of powerful pesticides, significantly reduced government regulatory oversight, and damage to Canada’s commercial interests as a provider of untainted seafood.
“These regulations will set back Canadian aquatic environmental protection measures several decades,” Bill Ernst, a retired Environment Canada toxicologist, said in a news release.
A Fisheries and Oceans Canada study on the impacts of Salmonsan and AlphaMax, two pesticides used to treat sea lice, shows lethal effects on lobster and points to a general lack of data on pesticide impacts on a wide variety of other marine species.
“The challenge is that the devil is in the details, and the details have not been released yet, so there is a fair level of speculation and concern about how this actually plays out,” Lamont said. “There has been strong lobbying from the open-net pen agriculturalists who want to have more freedom in some of these substances to deal with their challenges.”
He pointed to the half-million-dollar fine meted out to a subsidiary of Cooke Aquaculture for killing hundreds of lobster in southwestern New Brunswick in 2009 by using a cypermethrin-based pesticide to combat sea lice in its farmed salmon.
“Some very, very damaging consequences have come from this kind of usage in the last 25 years,” Lamont said. “We are concerned that any trend in favour of increased usage of this kind of substance, in theory, poses a substantial threat to the wild fishery. It’s not a positive direction.”
He said possible economic gains do not outweigh the risks to marine life and the environment.
“We would like to raise the awareness of Canadians across the country that this is a policy initiative of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which really, really should be reconsidered. We think that the risks are overwhelming. If it’s simply the result of lobbying by open-net pen fishing operations, that’s not nearly enough justification.”