Urgent Action Needed – Implement Cohen Commission Recommendations

Gary Haggquist - Fish Farm editorial cartoon

On November 12, 2015, Eddie Gardner of The Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance and Dr. Aexandra Morton of Salmon Are Sacred wrote to Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, a Ministry under the newly elected Liberal government. In this letter, we support the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance led by Bob Chamberlain, who asked Minister Tootoo for an urgent meeting to address another collapse of wild salmon runs, and impose a moratorium on all farmed salmon ventures on the West coast. Open-net fish farms continue to be plagued by diseases, sea lice amplification and PCB contamination. Open-net technology fish farms continue to use degrades the marine environment with untreated feces and uneaten feed. We also registered our support for River First Nations who have not given their consent to have fish farms on the migration routes of Fraser River wild salmon, and must be included in the discussions. Fish farms threaten their Aboriginal right to a fishery and both levels of government (federal and provincial) have a duty to consult and seek the consent of coastal and river Indigenous people on the siting of fish farms.

Farmed Salmon: range of hazards

The opposition to ocean fish farms is growing rapidly, in light of the alarming fact that over the years, fish farms in Chile, Norway, Scotland and Canada have been fighting a losing battle against bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Sea lice in Norway have gone out of control and fish farms on the BC coast are experiencing similar problems. Antibiotics, drugs and chemicals cannot stop the threats to their farmed salmon, resulting in periodic culling of farmed fish at the cost of millions of dollars to Canadian tax payers. Retailers in the US are now starting to remove farmed Atlantic salmon from Chile from their shelves due to the use of dangerous levels of antibiotics. Scientists warn this seriously compromises the ability of humans to fight off infections, and overuse of antibiotics has proven to create “superbugs” that can become widespread.

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Red Flag – FOCCG mandate to support “a sustainable aquaculture industry”
The new federal Department of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard (DFOCCG) has the mandate to protect fisheries and oceans and also has been given the mandate to support a sustainable aquaculture industry. We must all write to Minister Tootoo and Justin Trudeau warning them that placing fish farms on migration routes of wild salmon is simply unsustainable. We urge a comprehensive review of all the scientific evidence that clearly shows fish farms pose threats to the wild salmon and its habitat and pose threats to human health. Implementing the Cohen Commission recommendations is a start, and all stakeholders need to be fully engaged in this process. This includes Coastal and River First Nations, sports fisheries, environmental groups, the ecotourism industry, fish farmers, the provincial and federal governments.

The Precautionary Principle Needs to favour Wild Salmon Resurgence
The precautionary principle needs to be upheld in favour of resurgence of wild salmon. This principle needs to be applied to protect all wild salmon as a priority over the ocean aquaculture industry and needs to be firmly embedded in the Fisheries Act as a means of removing DFO’s current conflict of interest in promoting, encouraging and supporting ocean aquaculture at the expense of the marine environment and wild fisheries. With emerging land-based closed containment aquaculture, we hope you will see an opportunity to support this as the sustainable way for aquaculture and wild salmon fisheries to safely co-exist.

The Nothing less is acceptable! We urge all stakeholders to unite and form a strong coalition to push for rapidly phasing out of fish farms on the BC coast and to support land-based aquaculture! This is what is possible! This is what real change is all about! This is the change that would be for the greater good of us all, and the life-giving ecosystems upon which we depend.

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