The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador (SCNL) are expressing deep concern over the province’s five-year aquaculture strategy and the process that led to it. Both ASF and SCNL agree that the plan is based on a faulty, biased process that should instead have been modeled after the comprehensive independent process that took place in Nova Scotia.
In December 2014, both the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Nova Scotia released reports pertaining to open-net pen aquaculture. The Newfoundland and Labrador Sustainable Aquaculture Strategy 2014 is an 18-page document produced internally by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. It recommends a doubling of the open-net pen aquaculture industry within the next five years and that a public relations campaign be launched.
That is in stark contrast to The Final Report of the Independent Aquaculture Regulatory Review for Nova Scotia, chaired by Dalhousie Law Professors Meinhard Doelle and Bill Lahey. The 144-page Doelle-Lahey report recommends a regulatory regime that has strong measures to ensure protection of wild fish and wild fisheries from the proven negative impacts of open-net pen salmon farms. It also acknowledged that salmon farming can seriously harm wild salmon.
The Doelle-Lahey report recommended that protection of wild salmon populations be listed in the legislative framework as one of the criteria to be considered in leasing and licensing decisions. It also calls for appropriate physical separation between marine-based aquaculture and salmon rivers and known salmon migration routes. If implemented, it states that no new aquaculture licenses are to be issued until a new system is in place and that all existing aquaculture operations must meet the new regulatory regime.
While Nova Scotia’s review was conducted by an independent third party, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador conducted its consultations in-house via the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Office of Public Engagement.
“This puts the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in the biased situation of promoting the interests of the open-net pen aquaculture industry, while at the same time acting as the regulator,” says Don Ivany, Director of ASF’s Newfoundland and Labrador Programs. “The consultations lasted a meager three weeks in Newfoundland with short notice right before the Christmas holidays in 2013. In comparison, the Nova Scotia consultation process lasted more than a full year.”
Last week, a rally was held in Nova Scotia with about 400 people turning out, including community and conservation groups, to offer their support of full implementation of the Doelle-Lahey recommendations.
There appears to be no such support for aquaculture industry recommendations coming out of Newfoundland, except from the industry itself.
“The Newfoundland aquaculture plan sends a message that government is open for business under the status quo without taking into consideration the well documented negative impacts of open-net pen finfish aquaculture,” says Don Hutchens, President of SCNL. “The report barely acknowledges the problems of escapes and disease and sea lice outbreaks. This government is still in denial.”
ASF presented in person a brief to the Doelle-Lahey panel as part of the lengthy and thorough consultation that went into the aquaculture review, and provided the same type of brief to the three-week consultation in Newfoundland by email. The compilation of input from the public by the Newfoundland government acknowledged that there was deep environmental concern about salmon aquaculture practices in Newfoundland. “However” concluded Mr. Ivany, “the government’s response is to carry out a public relations campaign on behalf of the industry, rather than actually commit to tackling the problems through a regulatory regime that will protect Newfoundland’s environment and natural resources from the impacts of open pen salmon aquaculture.”
The Atlantic Salmon Federation is dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well-being and survival depend. ASF has a network of seven regional councils (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Maine and Western New England). The regional councils cover the freshwater range of the Atlantic salmon in Canada and the United States.