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Earlier this week Cooke Aquaculture and three senior executives were charged by Environment Canada in relation to the deaths of lobster that occurred in the Bay of Fundy in November, 2009. The chemical cypermethrin was found in the carcasses of dead lobster in several areas of the New Brunswick region of the Bay of Fundy. Cypermethrin is a chemical that can be used to combat sea lice infestations in salmon farms.

New Brunswick salmon growers have been fighting a losing battle in regards to sea lice for several years, as have growers in Norway, Scotland and Chile. The New Brunswick growers recently petitioned Health Canada to allow them to use a new treatment, Alpha Max, last year. After trails done by Environment Canada showed that lobster exposed to this chemical died, the request was denied.

The statements that Cooke has made to the people of Nova Scotia about these charges are insulting and infuriating. We have long argued that one of the concerns of fishermen and community members of Nova Scotia is how the use of chemicals to treat sea lice can have a harmful effect on the ecology of our bays. These chemicals are lethal to aquatic life, especially crustaceans. Lobster, scallop, shrimp and mussels are all very susceptible to these chemicals.

Cooke trivializes the serious charges they face in for alleged use of this noxious poison by stating in a letter to employees and community members:

“Salmon farmers in many other countries are authorized to use it”.

Suggesting that our government rethink its ban of using such chemicals in our oceans, in order to protect the health of “their” fish is a good indication that they do not feel that using these chemicals is wrong, but it is just unfortunate that it is illegal.

The very fact that Cooke states online to support groups:

“However, we can tell you that the substance they are talking about is something that is used regularly on farms and on golf courses”.

Is this supposed to make the members of our communities feel better? This is not a commonly available chemical, and most definitely is banned for use in aquatic environments.

Cooke also states:

“We continue to encourage our governments to approve the treatment and management tools that our fish health and farming teams need to protect the health of our fish.”

This is in reference to the salmon growers lobbying government to support an Integrated Pest Management Plan or IPMP. This would allow for a wider variety of chemical theraputants to be at the disposal of the salmon farmers to use to help combat sea lice problems. If our government agrees to this IPMP, how do they propose to regulate the use of such chemicals?

Cooke goes on to say:

“We are all custodians of the marine environment and we recognize the importance of the fishery…”

We have no reason to believe that they will be better stewards of the marine environment in Nova Scotia than had been reported in New Brunswick.

The bottom line is: the reason so many community groups have been standing up and demanding that our government rethink its decision to allow the rapid expansion of open net salmon farming in our lucrative fishing grounds is based on circumstances such as this.

With the need for salmon growers to have broader access to chemicals in order to grow “healthy fish” situations like this will continue. And the allowance by our government for these companies to operate at the expense of our oceans, at the expense of our fisheries and at the expense of our communities is not acceptable. Growing salmon is something that needs to be done in a manner where companies are responsible for the wastes that are generated by this type of farming. Not simply relying on the vastness of our oceans to absorb these wastes, because our oceans cannot tolerate this treatment.

St. Mary’s Bay Coastal Alliance (SMBCA)

Mayday! Shelburne County

Tom Sherman: Summerville Centre, Queens Co.

Jan Pottie: Summerville Centre, Queens Co.

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