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Somewhere on Earth…. fish farming faces a choice ….…..

For those Nova Scotians following the open net pen salmon farming debate, the last few days have been instructive. Events have moved at a fevered pitch.

Alexandra Morton, internationally renowned biologist from British Columbia, has been in the province, visiting communities to teach and to learn. She has recounted the story of the last twenty years battling the impact of fish farms on wild salmon in BC.

She has quickly juxtaposed the circumstances in Nova Scotia where lobster is the threatened commercial species. In what she labeled “an open and shut case”, Dr Morton called our treatment of our wild fisheries “a betrayal by everyone”. 

She could not imagine how we would expose our lobster and crab, endangered wild salmon, and other prime species to the risk of fish farm encroachment. “Do we really aspire to become slum landlords for fish farmers?” she asked.  Well, no we don’t  … but Premier Dexter has been calling the shots.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic Salmon Federation hosted a closed containment seminar in Halifax last Saturday.

The purpose of the workshop was to demonstrate a viable option for sustainable aquaculture; an option that provides bio-security, elimination of fish escapes, a recirculating water system, waste composting and a spectacularly sustainable product. A land based closed containment system protects the salmon from risk, and protects the environment from the salmon.

Sustainably raised farmed salmon anybody?  You bet.

And now this: Dr Morton has discovered sea lice in farm raised salmon in local supermarkets.

Premier Dexter said recently that we don’t have sea lice in our salmon stocks.

We have an inspection and regulatory regime ensuring that infestation does not take place. Mere days later, Dr Morton discovers sea lice on the supermarket counters.

If the salmon are lice infested, pesticides are the treatment of choice. Pesticides are lethal to lobster larvae (they’re not great for humans either). So it is a vicious circle, and perhaps a lethal circle. 

Nova Scotia must decide what role it wants to play in aquaculture when it grows up.

Do we wish to be slum landlords for fish farmers?

“Fish Farming for Dummies” as it were, utilizes old and reprehensible polluting technology.

Or do we wish to become a cutting edge sustainable aquaculture community in which new technologies and applied science are embraced?

Closed containment solutions are viable now; they end the betrayal of our wild caught fisheries, and they eliminate the risk to the consumer.  

What a concept! 

Some place on earth, sooner or later, people will decide that they want to farm fish in the best possible way.

They will devote the resources, the focus and the expertise to lead the world in this rapidly growing field.

They will teach the marketplace that it should not settle for less.

Companies pursuing a truly sustainable model will be rewarded with an ample return on investment in a protein hungry marketplace. 

This sounds like the economic, environmental and social fit that will meet our needs in Nova Scotia, a win/win/win. So there is only one question, 

“If a better way is coming somewhere on Earth, why not here?”

Sindy Horncastle
Jordan Bay, NS

Gloria Gilbert

Osbourne Harbour, NS