ASF Statement on the Liberal Party of Canada’s commitment to transition B.C.'s salmon aquaculture industry to closed containment by 2025.

From ASF President Bill Taylor
Oct 3, 2019
“The Atlantic Salmon Federation is encouraged by the Liberal Party of Canada’s campaign promise to transition the open net-pen salmon aquaculture industry in British Columbia to closed-containment systems by 2025. However, federal parties must govern federally, and a move to closed-containment salmon aquaculture should occur in all provinces where the industry is present.

“The Liberal promise is a clear acknowledgement of the threats posed by the industry to wild species and the environment. In British Columbia this mainly includes parasite and disease transmission to wild Pacific salmon and other species, also the fouling of public waters as a result of chemical and fecal discharge.

“In Atlantic Canada, the same dangers exist and more: massive numbers of unfit aquaculture Atlantic salmon have escaped enclosures since the advent of the industry in the 1970s. As a result, there has been extensive interbreeding with wild Atlantic salmon, leading to a scientifically documented loss of adaptation that contributes to population collapse.

“Wherever the industry exists on the East Coast, wild Atlantic salmon populations are considered threatened or endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has explicitly recognized open-net pen salmon aquaculture as a “leading marine threat” to wild Atlantic salmon.

“Despite this, the basic technology used in marine net-pen salmon farming has remained static. New therapies for treating lice and disease have been introduced, processing equipment has been upgraded, and intensive breeding has resulted in fish that grow fast, but net-pens remain essentially the same. They are open structures placed at sea that rely on the action of ocean currents to circulate water and carry away waste.

“ASF believes a modern industry that makes claims about sustainability and respect for the environment should embrace transformative change. Closed containment salmon aquaculture is not necessarily land-based salmon aquaculture. Several companies that currently operate in Canada are developing ocean-based closed containment technologies. This would allow companies and governments to continue to gain advantage from Canada’s coastline without causing undue environmental harm. An orderly transition could also include the interim adoption of semi-closed systems.

“ASF recognizes that a transition to closed-containment salmon aquaculture would fundamentally change the way the industry operates, but it would be for the better. In coastal waters, companies have no control over environmental conditions. This leads to event like the ongoing mass mortality that has triggered an environmental crisis on the south coast of Newfoundland. In the Bay of Fundy, at least 1,000 salmon have spilled out of their cages in 2019, some heading up local salmon rivers as spawning season approaches. Closed containment production would prevent these incidents.

“As recent polling conducted for DFO shows, three in ten Canadians oppose the industry in its current form. ASF urges all companies to work with the federal government, no matter which party is elected, to place safeguards between their operations and the public waters in which they currently exist. In doing so, Canada could lead the world in a transition to more sustainable fish production."

Bill Taylor, President, Atlantic Salmon Federation

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