Bennett proposes all land-based aquaculture

Clayton Hunt
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Time for new vision in aquaculture?

The Honourable Derrick Dalley, the provincial Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, talking to Tim Gray, the president of Gray Aquaculture at a meeting held recently in St. Alban’s.

The Honourable Jim Bennett, the MHA for St. Barbe and the Liberal Fisheries Critic in the House of Assembly, is saying that the province’s aquaculture industry should only use land-based or closed-contained growing operations in the future.

Mr. Bennett is basing his stance on Justice Bruce Cohens Final Report into the 17-year decline of the Fraser sockeye salmon in British Columbia.

Cohen recommends a freeze on salmon farming production on the Fraser salmon migration route and a revision of fish farm sitting criteria to protect salmon migration routes.

The report also says that, if by 2020, Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials cannot be certain farm salmon are not a threat to wild salmon, salmon farms should be prohibited from Fraser sockeye migration routes.

Bennett said that the Cohen recommendations could as easily apply to aquaculture open-net operations in this province too. He stated that some of the issues related to the industry such as the ISA outbreak in Butter Cove this summer could have serious negative impacts on wild fish stocks here.

Bennett said, “I am not saying that we should shut the current Newfoundland aquaculture industry down.

“What I am saying is don’t grow it any bigger than what it is today, maintain the size you already have and move toward closed contained or land-based aquaculture operations.”

Bennett said that research shows that there is a higher-end niche market for higher-end produced salmon products and that some people will be willing to pay for the sustainable fish products raised on land.

“There is a market for the higher end product, and we could be cornering that market. Our industry has an opportunity to become a world leader in this industry, to get out in front of other jurisdictions and now is the time to take this giant step forward.”

With concerns to a lower volume of fish from land-based operations, Bennett said, “The industry should not necessarily be concerned about the volume of fish produced. We wanted to turn out large volumes of fish in our traditional fishery too and this thinking helped destroy the wild fishery.

“All I’m saying is go slow, move to close contained growing operations which will also lead to jobs in the future. Besides, if the Coast of Bays already has close to 100 percent employment due to the aquaculture industry, why do we want to grow so terribly fast heading into the future? Where will the workers for the growth be found?”

Bennet said if he were Minister of Fisheries the government money pumped into the industry, such as the $5 million for Gray Aquaculture earlier this month, would still be donated but it would have to go toward land based aquaculture projects.

“The time has come for government to look closer at the research in this industry before they invest any more taxpayers’ dollars. We need a new vision for the industry, one based on new evidence in collaboration with all stakeholders. If done properly more sustainable wealth can be generated in our rural regions.”

RESPONSE TO MR. BENNETT

Tim Gray

Tim Gray, the president of Gray Aquaculture, said that his company has been land-based farming for over 20 years with their hatchery, which is essentially land-based farming.

Gray said, “From a carbon footprint point of view, it is just not feasible for closed-contained operations to produce market size salmon.

“The energy we would consume would in itself outweigh anything we could do in the ocean. And besides, open-net farming is sustainable, so I’m not a proponent of the land-based systems.

“You can raise fish to a certain size on land such as to smolt size but you can’t do it beyond that. I think you’d be hard pressed to show one successful land-based aquaculture operation anywhere.”

Miranda Pryor

Pryor, the executive director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, said (in a letter to the Coaster): While we do not argue that niche markets may in fact exist for this product, the number of customers who would be willing, or who can afford, to pay a premium for any product is limited and can only be sustainable on small-scale production basis.

Minister Derrick Dalley

The Honourable Derrick Dalley, the provincial Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture (DFA), said that Bennett’s conclusions are not based on facts and that the Cohen Report was inconclusive in terms of the correlation between fish farming and its impact on wild stocks.

According to DFA information, a 2010 DFO-commissioned study investigated the feasibility of nine different closed-containment aquaculture systems for full growout and compared them to conventional open net pens in British Columbia.

 Only one closed option, land based recirculating system proved marginally viable.

From an environmental impact, the electricity costs, construction material, land use and disposal of waste are believed by many to have at least an equal, if not greater environmental footprint, than current cage aquaculture.

Dalley said, “We have developed a very successful aquaculture industry in this province. We’ve established a strong working relationship with the industry.

“These companies have made significant private investments, have created meaningful employment and right now our aquaculture industry is growing and has great potential for the future.

“Neither this government, or myself as Minister of the DFA, plan to jeopardize that and companies are not interested in closed containment. The reality is that closed containment is not feasible and, to date, closed containment for the farming of salmon on land has not proven to be commercially viable.

 “Since 2005, aquaculture has grown in value from just over $52 million to $120 million in 2011. The industry is on course to again experience success in 2012, and at this point we see no reason, no scientific evidence and no conclusions that would suggest we should stop what we are doing.”

MHA Tracey Perry

Tracey Perry, the MHA for Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune, said, “Our aquaculture industry is a world leader now, and I believe we are proceeding in an environmentally friendly manner.

“While we will continue to explore every opportunity that is before us people with expertise in the industry have evaluated land based farming systems and have concluded that these systems have not proven to be commercially viable.

“The value of this industry continues to rise, the biosecurity protocols in use are some of the highest in the country and the world, and our government practices due diligence in managing and regulating the industry.

Mr. Bennett also talks about the future growth in land-based systems for rural Newfoundland. If land based farming becomes economically viable, then there is no economic advantage to establishing such facilities in the province. It would make greater sense to place such farms close to major markets to take advantage of lower transportation costs and to provide fresh product daily to major centers.”

 

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association

Geographic location: British Columbia, Newfoundland, Butter Cove Bays Fortune Bay La Hune

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Recent comments

  • Retired DFO fisheries scientist.
    November 29, 2012 - 11:34

    Todd Dupuis is right on the money. Land based salmon culture is feasible. The present open pen system is driven by pure greed. A spokesperson for Cooke Aquaculture stated last year during a radio interview that they could raise fish with a land-based operation but that profits were about 5% as in contrast to 55% with ocean sited pens. The industry always spouts that land based systems would require large subsidies from government as if they are not presently benefitting from government largesse. Cooke aquaculture has received millions of dollars from the Nova Scotia government to expand his dirty business in this province. To add insult to injury we, the taxpayer, fork out again when their fish eventually contract disease in their overcrowded pens and they have to kill them all to prevent spread of the virus. Also, although the industry has introduced some vegetable matter into the feed they produce for their salmon, wild stocks of forage fish in the southern hemisphere are being decimated to provide food for the salmon. Damage to southern ecosystems will be irreparable.

    • bob milne
      November 30, 2012 - 12:39

      According to this rationale, we should also be pressuring poultry producers to start farming underwater.

  • Darrell Tingley
    November 28, 2012 - 14:58

    7 cases of ISA in the Atlantic Region in 2012 should be enough evidence that open net pen salmon farming is a failure. The infestation of sea lice and the methods to cleanse them is horrific. Yes it is time to move to land based operations are grow a quality product. Stop the pollution of the marine environment and the selling of an inferior product.

  • Gord
    November 28, 2012 - 07:40

    You can grow fish to market size in land-based facilities and it is being done all over the world. We have chosen to grow Atlantic salmon, a carnivorous fish relatively high on the marine food chain, in massive feedlots in the midst of wild fish habitat. We (as usual) are sacrificing the environment for short-term gain instead of looking for a sustainable way to feed people.

  • Dallas Weaver
    November 28, 2012 - 03:02

    What a wonderful idea for me. If Canada forces all aquaculture to be on land based recycled systems, that would mean a land based recycle system built near the markets in the US wouldn't have to compete with lower cost and lower carbon footprint net pens, but just with equal recycle technology while being closer to the market. As an expert in recycle technology, I see a real opportunity to shut Canada out of the salmon market in the US.

    • We Sell Pellets
      December 20, 2012 - 17:23

      Yes yes...start one up in Arizona or Boston right next to the biggest wild fish market in the USA....and buy my Newfoundland feed pellets...actually start 1000 farms down there....and buy my Newfoundland feed pellets made from our fish stocks up here in your neighbours backyard....we won't triple our prices for exported fish pellets and drive you to Argentina for pellets....will we?? Where are the pellets made and with what fish???? USA fish? No? Oh its Canadian fish....good luck with THAT idea.

  • Brad Dunlop
    November 28, 2012 - 00:03

    100's of millions have been spend trying to make closed containment work for Atlantic salmon. To date simply put none have been successful. Currently, there are a number of pilot facilities being built. But all are heavily supported by government funding which is the only reason they are being built. Salmon farming in the ocean produces approximately 2,400,000 tonnes of salmon. This is about 3 times the global production of wild salmon. We no longer rely on wildlife life for food. Fish farming produces about 40% of all fish and soon more fish will be farmed than caught. We transitioned to farming on land many years ago. We are now in a similar transition in the ocean. Fish farming like terrestrial farming will become the dominant form of fish production very soon. Fear mongering about fish farming will not change the outcome. It is time for Canada to move into the modern era where fish farming is the norm.

  • ECO-Friendly
    November 27, 2012 - 19:20

    I don't know how anyone can make a statement that the aquaculture industry is processing in an environmentally friendly manner when we have millions of salmon crapping on the ocean floor. The crap don't stay in one place it moves with the tide destroying and affecting other species in ways we don't know. It's not if, it's when land based fish farming is economically viable there will be no economic advantage having such facilities in the province. Fish farms will be close to major markets taking advantage of lower transportation costs and provide fresh product daily to major centers. Technology will forever keep on moving. At that point we will have destroyed the environment the traditional fishery and there will be no aquaculture industry. Please don't give away to much of tax payers dollars we'll need some to cleanup the environment and try to resurrect the traditional fishery after their gone.

  • sandra hanson
    November 27, 2012 - 14:17

    Jim Bennett- Kudos to you! Finally a politician who has the courage to pronounce a vision for a better way of growing fish in Atlantic Canada. It is time to look to the future instead of propping up an industry that is rife with problems (disease, lice) and clearly shows signs of destroying our traditional fisheries, wild fish and natural resources. There is a better way - and this is what our governments should be encouraging and promoting. The industry nay-sayers? It's JUST about their bottom line short term. Those pesky quarterly and annual reports. If they truly had some vision, they too would be embracing this newer technology -healthier product by far, shorter grow out periods likely, higher market price, AND social license!

  • Ms. Ghost
    November 27, 2012 - 14:05

    Mr. Grey: With closed containment, at the very least, YOU would pay for the electricity needed to spare the environment, rather than forcing the local community to bear the environmental cost of farming your fish. Since you reap the cash rewards in the multi-millions of dollars, it is only right that you should pay the environmental costs rather than forcing the 99% to do so, as is the case with open net pen salmon aquaculture.

  • Todd Dupuis
    November 27, 2012 - 14:04

    Once again I read the characteristically negative comments from Industry and government on the proposal to move the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry to land. The fact is that land-based closed-containment salmon aquaculture offers many benefits over marine net-pen operations. The production of Atlantic salmon on land can operate without the need for antibiotics or harsh, environmentally harmful chemicals to control disease and parasites. Land-based operations spread no disease to wild fish or experience escapees that could jeopardize wild Atlantic salmon conservation, and restoration efforts. Indeed land-based operations gather and/or treat fish feces much like any other land-based intensive farm livestock operation. Having feces contaminate the sea floor or waters is certainly cheaper for the producer but the price is paid by the environment. These operations offer a greater flexibility in location of grow-out facilities. With closed-containment recirculation units there is no need to be near a stream or river - much less the ocean and the product is ready for market typically six months ahead of net-pen operations. Product testing has shown the quality of salmon harvested is superb. Several commercial ventures are under construction around the world. Two facilities in Canada, one on Vancouver Island and the other in Nova Scotia, are poised to start production soon. A conference sponsored by the Atlantic Salmon Federation on land-based closed-containment aquaculture in October 2012 brought together experts from across Canada, the U.S., and from five European countries. Presentations made at the conference are located at: http://asf.ca/landbased-aquaculture.html. Feel free to review the material and form your own opinion on whether land-based closed-containment salmon aquaculture is not only feasible but logical. Todd Dupuis Executive Director Regional Programs Atlantic Salmon Federation