Recent charges against Cooke aquaculture and three of its executives for the alleged use of illegal pesticides serve to highlight concerns about the ability of regulators to continue to manage and enforce existing regulations in the face of severe job cuts at Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Matthew Abbott, Fundy Baykeeper, points out that this is precisely the kind of issue that Canadians expect Environment Canada to investigate. However, Abbott states that "with the recent announcement of sweeping cuts to Environment Canada by the federal government, it will be more difficult for the government to continue to investigate these kinds of cases, and hold the aquaculture industry to account. These charges highlight the importance of properly funding science, monitoring, and enforcement to protect our shared waters.”
"Who will be left to monitor fish farms and other industries that impact our oceans?" asked Inka Milewski, science advisor for the Coastal Coalition of New Brunswick Action and long-time advocate for ocean protection and restoration.
The recent investigation into the use of banned chemical substances is a clear example of why industry self-regulation is problematic, and points to the need for greater monitoring, and independent enforcement by government.
According to Milewski, a worrying trend in ocean management is to allow industry to regulate itself through "best management practices " and "integrated pest management programs". "The assumption in these
management approaches is that the industry knows best and they know what they need and when they need it in terms of growing fish and using chemical treatments. This case demonstrates clearly that this is not the case."
Milewski points to enforcement of sulphide limits in sediments under fish farms as an example. According to Milewski, DFO came up with new limits on what levels of sulphides in sediment destroyed or altered bottom habitat in 2006. A request by Milewski under the federal right-to-information act reveals that not a single fish farm in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia has been sanctioned for violating those limits even though monitoring results show that some farms have exceeded the limits.
PHOTO: INKA MILEWSKI