A recent publication about the hybridization between genetically modified Atlantic Salmon and wild brown trout got to thinking about public concerns about our province's aquaculture industry.
While the report is about biologically engineered salmon in the United States, the issue of escaped farmed salmon and wild fish stocks is worth investigation.
Provincial Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett has been hammering away at the Dunderdale Administration , since his election to the House of Assembly almost three years ago, on issues related to the regulation of the province's Aquaculture Industry. He is not anti-aquaculture, he is just concerned that in the rush to develop the industry mistakes are being made that could have major ecological and economic repercussions
Successive provincial Minister's of Fisheries, the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association , former fisheries minister (defeated Harper CONservative candidate) Trevor Taylor and other vested interests in the industry have attempted to vilify Mr. Bennett over his justifiable concerns about ISA, sea lice and the possible negative impacts of escaped farmed salmon on wild fish stocks.
A few weeks ago, my father, a recently retired fisherman, encountered a pair of federal fisheries officers capturing escaped farme Salmon near Garnish. The government and the industry has been trying to minimize both the risk that these escaped farmed Salmon pose to wild fish stocks and the extent of the volume of farmed Salmon the have escaped into the wild. Fisherman in Fortune Bay tell me the local rivers, brooks and the bay itself is teeming with them. In other words, some magic GPS system did not lead the fisheries officers to the Salmon in the Garnish River, the bay is full of them!
Despite concerns from Mr. Bennett, the Salmonoid Council of Newfoundland and some local investigative journalists, the message from government and the industry remains the same: There has been no significant escapes in recent months; that it's very unlikely that that interbreeding between wild and farmed salmon; the science on the negative impact of escaped farmed fish on wild stocks is inconclusive; That the industry is proceeding in an environmental friendly manner; and the $120 million a year aquaculture industry is employing a lot of people.
We can ignore the science all we want, the reality is that the industry and government are playing down the threat of the impact of farmed salmon on wild fish stocks. Perhaps, the short term gain is work the risk, but please don't spoon feed us misinformation.
People deserve to know the truth. They should read Justice Bruce Cohen's Final Report on the decline of wild fish stocks in British Columbia.
What is wrong with ensuring that more research is carried out to address concerns?
What is wrong with demanding that DFO and the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture put more resources into enforcing and monitoring regulations?
As usual, this administration continues to ignore science and gambles with our future.
Shooting the messenger will not protect wild stocks or the sustainability of our aquaculture industry.
Getting tougher with fish farms will!