Tuesday, October 26, 2010

AQUACULTURE: New Coalition squares off with Fundy aquaculture operators

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New coalition wants major changes to aquaculture methods Published Tuesday October 26th, 2010

BRETT BUNDALE
TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL

Fishermen, environmentalists and coastal residents on the Bay of Fundy have banded together to voice serious concerns about the impacts of fish farming on marine life.



Scott Dougan/NB Images
The Atlantic Coalition for Aquaculture Reform is calling for wholesale change in the way the industry operates.


The Atlantic Coalition for Aquaculture Reform is calling for wholesale change in the way the aquaculture industry in the region operates to lessen its impact on traditional fisheries and the marine environment.

"Large-scale salmon aquaculture in the Bay of Fundy is known to have a negative impact on the water through excess waste, fish feces and excess food with antibiotics and colour," said Matthew Abbott, project co-ordinator with Fundy Baykeeper.

The current sea lice outbreak in New Brunswick salmon cages has also added toxic pesticides to the mix, he said.

"We're concerned about the impact these pesticides have on traditional fisheries and the marine environment," Abbott said.

The coalition aims to raise awareness about the possible side effects of fish farming and encourage sustainable reform in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

"We're not trying to sink the aquaculture industry," he said. "But we can't allow it to operate to the detriment of the marine environment and others on the water."

Pamela Parker, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, said she welcomes the collaboration of stakeholders.

"We have been operating in the Bay of Fundy for over 30 years," she said. "During that time we have managed to work closely with the traditional fishing sector, tourism and others that share our working waterfront and we're proud to be recognized as world leaders in sustainable and environmentally responsible salmon production."

Parker said there is a misconception that the stocking density of salmon is too high.

"We grow our fish in the most natural way possible," she said. "Salmon, as any fish, are schooling animals and we farm them in a way that they are comfortable with because salmon simply will not grow if they are stressed. So our stocking density is based on fish health and environmental sustainability."

"We're criticized for being too intensive, but the entire production capacity of our industry would fit into an area about the size of Yankee stadium," she said.

Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Mike Olscamp said the traditional fisheries and aquaculture industry are both important to the Bay of Fundy region and to the province's economy as a whole.

"We are committed to ensuring that the two sectors operate in a manner that supports a sustainable co-existence," he said on Monday. "I have had the opportunity to speak to representatives from both industries and it is paramount that channels stay open so that we can continue the dialogue as we move forward."

According to the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, the aquaculture industry generates an estimated $159 million in farm gate sales a year. There are a total of 95 fish farms in the province that provide up to one in five jobs in the Fundy Iles - more than 1,500 positions in total.

Melanie Sonnenberg with the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said the fish farming industry is hurting traditional fishing. Last year the association reported dead and dying lobsters in their traps to Environment Canada.

"We would like to all co-exist," she said. "But if they need to use toxic chemicals to continue to survive that is a tremendously big problem."

Sea lice outbreaks do require the use of pesticides, Parker said, but she said New Brunswick companies only use chemicals that have been approved for use.

Use of the illegal pesticide cypermethrin found recently in the Bay of Fundy is under investigation.

Last week Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency to approve deltamethrin, sold commercially as AlphaMax, to kill sea lice in floating salmon cages delighted fish farmers but angered traditional fishermen.

The move flew in the face of a request by the Traditional Fisheries Coalition, including the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, to suspend the use of chemicals in the bay.




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