B.C. Lifts Moratorium on New Fish Farms
VICTORIA, British Columbia, Canada, September 13, 2002 (ENS) - The government of British Columbia has lifted a six year moratorium on permitting new fish farms for salmon aquaculture. Over the objections of environmental groups who say open net cages contribute to disease and dilution of wild salmon genes, the government says it has put regulations in place that will allow "sustainable growth" of the aquaculture industry.
"B.C. now has the most comprehensive regulatory framework in the world, including science based standards to protect the environment," Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries John van Dongen said Thursday while announcing the new fish farm rules. "It's time to get on with creating jobs and revitalizing the economy for B.C.'s coastal communities and First Nations."
In tandem with lifting of the moratorium, the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection has introduced a new finfish aquaculture waste control regulation.
The new rule applies to all fish farms and includes provisions for registration, waste discharge standards, pre-stocking requirements, domestic sewage requirements, best management practices, monitoring and reporting, remediation, fees, offenses and penalties.
The government says that "to ensure maximum safety for the environment and public," the regulation will be reviewed within three to five years to evaluate its effectiveness and consider if amendments are required.
The David Suzuki Foundation, a longtime critic of the aquaculture industry, today called the government's statement that new waste management regulations will result in a sustainable aquaculture industry "nonsense," because open net cages, which allow waste to flow directly into the ocean, will continue to be used.
"Of equal concern is the fact that federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) scientists oppose the province's lifting of the ban on new salmon farms," the Suzuki Foundation said Thursday.
"Not only were DFO scientists not notified about today's announcement, which is incredible given their responsibility for our oceans, but a senior DFO scientist told me today that he and his colleagues oppose this move by the province because the waste management regulations are not adequate," said Otto Langer, the Suzuki Foundation's director of marine conservation.
Earlier this week, a salmon farm on the west coast of Vancouver Island was dumping tons of salmon into the ocean that died because of a toxic algae bloom, the Suzuki Foundation says.
Until last week, another farm north of Port Hardy was operating illegally with no permits. The fish were moved after the Suzuki Foundation ran advertisements in the "Vancouver Sun" and "The Province" newspapers alerting the public to this illegal activity.
"Today I wrote to Prime Minister [Jean] Chretien urging him to intervene in order to protect our ocean environment, the rights of First Nations and the livelihoods of British Columbians - tourism operators, sports and commercial fishermen - who will be affected by this decision," said Suzuki Foundation executive director Jim Fulton, who is a former member of parliament for a coastal British Columbia riding.
The Heiltsuk First Nation of Bella Bella is suing the province because salmon farm licenses have been issued in their traditional territories without proper consultation as required by Canadian law. The Heiltsuk filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday, September 9.
The provincial government has established a C$5.1 million fund to support independent research into aquaculture and the environment that it says will resolve any outstanding scientific issues.
The research funding includes C$3.75 million to improve aquaculture practices. Another $1.25 million will establish a chair in aquaculture and the environment at the University of British Columbia, and $100,000 will go to the new Malaspina University-College Centre for Shellfish Research in Nanaimo.
The aquaculture research and development committee of the Science Council of B.C. will coordinate the research. "We know aquaculture is an expanding industry with markets around the world," said Monty Little, chair of the Science Council's aquaculture committee. "The government has acknowledged the importance of ensuring this growth is based on good science by having the Science Council oversee this research."
The marine finfish aquaculture industry in British Columbia provides jobs for communities and revenues for the province, with a reported annual production of 49,400 metric tons of fish and a wholesale value of C$320 million in 2000.
Provincial development scenarios indicate aquaculture expansion could lead to more than C$1 billion a year in economic activity, and 9,000 to 12,000 new jobs over the next decade, most in coastal communities.
"Today's decision is based on our government's commitment to a scientifically based, balanced and principled approach to environmental management that ensures sustainability, accountability, responsibility and continual improvement," van Dongen said.
For more about aquaculture in B.C. visit the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association at: http://www.salmonfarmers.org
The David Suzuki Foundation is online at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org
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