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33 serious charges filed against Glenn Cooke  & Cooke Aquaculture execs – $33 million fines and 99 years in prison possible – December 13 court date

Glenn Cooke

BREAKING NEWS: 2nov2011:  Glenn Cooke, CEO for New Brunswick-based, multi-national aquaculture giant Cooke Aquaculture was charged with two other executives on Monday by Environment Canada with at least 33 counts of  section 36.3 of the Fisheries Act prohibiting the discharge into the marine environment of "deleterious substances".  After several reports in 2009 of sudden massive lobster kills near Cooke salmon farms in New Brunswick, Environment Canada raided Cooke offices and seized documents and records relating to the use of illegal pesticides, including cypermethrin.  Also charged by Environment Canada were Cooke Aquaculture/Kelly Cove Salmon executives Randy Griffin and Michael Szemerda.

An Environment Canada press briefing paper described the charges: "Environment Canada is alleging that Kelly Cove Salmon, a division of Cooke Aquaculture, and three of its senior company officials allegedly released a cypermethrin-based pesticide into the waters of Maces Bay, Passamoquoddy Bay as well as the waters surrounding Deer Island and Grand Manan Island between November 2009 and November 2010. Cypermethrin is not authorized for use in marine environments, and is harmful to crustaceans including, but not limited to, lobster and shrimp."

$33 million in fines and 99 years in prison are the maximum penalties faced by Glenn Cooke and his colleagues. The first court date for Cooke on the current charges is December 13.

Waters Poisoned
Robert Robichaud, regional operations manager for theEnvironmental Enforcement Division of Environment Canadatold SouthCoastTODAY that, over a two-year period, two investigations were conducted on the allegations that Glenn Cooke, Griffin, Szemerda and Kelly Cove participated in the dumping of noxious pesticide cypermethrim into the waters of  Passamaquoddy Bay and Maces Bay and the waters near Grand Mannan and Deer Island. Several media reports appeared during that time. The pesticide contains lethal amounts of fast-acting neurotoxins described as "highly toxic to fish, bees and aquatic insects."

The Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association has recently began a comprehensive lobbying campaign to convince mayors, wardens and councils in New Brunswick with an implied threat to the councils that aquaculture jobs would be lost if the industry was not allowed to use additional chemicals to combat sea lice and other salmon diseases.

Breaking a commitment

On its web site, Cooke advertising an environmental policy which states that they are committed to "minimizing the imacts on the environment" from salmon farming, that they "respect the working environment," that they will be "active in preventiong pollution",  that they would use "environmentally friendly products",  that they would participate in new technologies and support best practices "in the interaction of our operations with the environment", "ensure that all employees are aware of the policy," and provide resources and training to ensure staff is able to confirm to the policy.  "These charges make a mockery of that environmental policy," says a source who is very familiar with the effects of noxious pesticides on sensitive marine environments.

Pamela Parker of the New Brunswick Salmon Growers Association told reporters when the pesticide dumping allegations first surfaced, "We want the public to know that salmon farmers are extremely diligent at protecting marine environment. We only use products authorized by Environment Canada, and we only use them in accordance to prescribed method of treatment." Robert Robichaud said that the use of cypermethrin as alleged against Cooke is absolutely prohibited by Canadian regulations encoded in the Fisheries Act.

Losing battle against sea lice

Many industry observers believe that Cooke and other industrial producers are fighting a losing battle in trying to raise millions of salmon in close proximity in large salmon feed lot operations. It is generally agreed that the control of sea lice on farmed salmon has hit a brick wall, with applications of the common – and legal – chemical Slice needed at double and triple strength to have any effect on the outbreaks and epidemics which are a common occurrance throughout the world on salmon farms.

In addition to regular outbreaks of sea lice in New Brunswick, Norway, Chile, Scotland and elsewhere, the continued incidence of ISA virus in large farms in Chile, Norway and elsewhere has come home to Canada, with recent reports of ISA in wild salmon in two separate locations in British Columbia near large salmon feed lots.     

Cooke, whose income is reported at $500 million per year,  has recently began a major expansion of industrial salmon farms in Nova Scotia with farms near Digby, Lunenburg, Shelburne and elsewhere.  The firm owns farms in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Maine, Chile and Spain. A Cooke subsidiary in Chile was recently named in a government report on the possible spread of the immune salmon anemia virus (ISAv) similar to the strain which devastated the Chilean industry in 2007, resulting in the slaughter of millions of fish and the loss of more than 7,000 jobs.  Cooke executive Nell Halse recently told a US fishery reporter that Cooke preferred the relatively unregulated Nova Scotia to the more stringent environment in the U.S. 

PR director Nell Halse did not respond to telephone inquires, but told CBC television that Cooke looked forward to addressing the charges when they know more specifics.

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