Fishers concerned with pesticide use

Clayton Hunt
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Halse addresses some of the issues

Mildred Skinner, a FFAW/CAW representative in Harbour Breton, said that harvesters in the area are concerned about the amount and at least one type of pesticides being used by aquaculture farmers in the Coast of Bays area.

Health Canada has granted fish farms in Newfoundland and Labrador approval to use the pesticide Salmosan to help control sea lice.

The main fear of the harvesters is that Salmosan is a pesticide used to kill seal lice, which are crustaceans.  If Salmosan can kill one crustacean it can possibly kill others such as lobster, shrimp, krill and crab.

Skinner said, “Our fishermen realize that if we have fish farms in the area they will be using pesticides. However, the bottom line is that we don’t know enough about Salmosn and there’s not enough transparency from the industry to give harvesters more information about the product.

“This development is right in our area where we’re fishing, and it’s expanding all the time.

“We are not saying we shouldn’t have aquaculture as it means a great deal to the economy of this area. However, we need to slow down and take a serious look at some of these issues we’re concerned about with the use of pesticides such as Salmosan.

“We are not privy to a lot of information about some of these pesticides and we feel this is wrong.”

According to Skinner, the government of New Brunswick is proposing a system where aquaculture companies would have to submit a report each week showing whether a sea lice treatment is planned, where the site is located and what pesticide will be used.

She said that the Newfoundland government needs to develop a similar system in this province to keep traditional harvesters informed about pesticide use and their possible effects on other sea life.

The Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland (SPAWN) is also expressing concern regarding the long-term effects of using Salmosan in the Bay d’Espoir area.

SPAWN, which is opposing all sea-based aquaculture of salmonid species in the province, is saying that Salmosan will kill all anthropods and copepods in the vicinity of the application, including lobster and shrimp.

Matt Abbott is the marine coordinator of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and is the Fundy Bay Keeper.

Abbott said that Salmosan does show potential to harm lobster particularly in lab tests that demonstrate that repeated low dose exposure can impact molting in lobsters in the long-term.

He said, “If this does happen, then you might expect that if multiple cages on a farm are being treated over several days or weeks, that this use will have an impact on juvenile lobsters.

“There are a lot of lobsters in a lot of places producing a lot of larvae. Since these larvae move so far it’s hard to see the impact of Salmosan from any particular region.”

Abbott said that more research needs to be conducted into the long-term effects of pesticides by the aquaculture industry.

He said that the recent round of federal cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) science did not help with the future of research in this area.

According to Abbott, a DFO biological station in St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick that was a world leader on the impacts of pesticides on the environment is now gone and that the entire research group is now working in other fields.

“Salmosan has been in use in New Brunswick for several years and there has not been significant lobster kills associated with the product. However, there’s also an absence of research to see what’s occurring at the local level.”

Nell Halse agrees with Abbott that Salmosan could be harmful to lobsters.

She said, “This is why government does all the risk assessment work and why the Government of Canada, under Health Canada, would never approve the use of any pesticide without prescribing how much you can use, how long you can use it and how much you can use in any given period.

“Health Canada gave all industry players the right to use Salmosan under very strict controls.

“With Health Canada, provincial governments and veterinarians, we have a number of treatments approved so we rotate them. This makes each more effective and we end up using a lot less of the product.

“Salmosan is only used when government veterinarians prescribe it and its use is approved through the Pest Management Regulatory Agency which is under Health Canada.

“It is only used under a veterinarian’s control within the proper guidelines set by government.

“From an animal welfare point of view, people would certainly want to know that we’re taking good care of our animals and not letting them suffer. We want to protect the health and well being of all of our fish.”

A spokesperson for Health Canada said that the Salmosan emergency registration granted to the province of Newfoundland for the control of sea lice in farmed salmon expires on December 31, 2012. Salmosan cannot be used after that date unless a new registration is granted by Health Canada.

According to the spokesperson, before a pesticide can be imported, sold or used in Canada, Health Canada conducts a scientific evaluation to determine that the risks to human health and the environment associated with the use of the product are acceptable and that it is effective for its intended use.

Health Canada’s conclusion following a thorough assessment of Salmosan is that its use does not pose unacceptable risks to human health or the environment if sued according to label directions and the conditions of the emergency registration.


Organizations: Health Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland Conservation Council of New Brunswick Pest Management Regulatory Agency

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Harbour Breton Bays Canada Fundy Bay

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