Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fish farm opponents cast a wary eye on industry plans

With the province's major fish farming companies making ambitious plans for the near future, tripling their current levels of production.

It's a move that those that are against the expansion of the aqua culture industry are particularly concerned at the fast pace and rather secretive nature that the provincial government has embarked upon in relation to the to the proposals from Marine Harvest and Mainstream.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons and Skeena MLA and fisheries critic Robin Austin have both asked Minister Stan Hagen to delay the expansion plans and to follow through on recommendations from the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture.

The Daily News outlined the controversial moves in Monday's paper.

Huge fish farming ramp-up worries opponents
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, November 24, 2008
Pages one and three

The recent revelation that fish farm companies in British Columbia are seeking to increase production levels by as much as 600 per cent has critics furious.

Last week, the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform discovered Ministry of Agriculture and Lands documents that show Mainstream and Marine Harvest Canada, the two leading salmon farm companies in Canada, are both seeking to triple their current licenced production on farms in the Broughton Archipelago and Discovery Islands. CAAR also learned that the province has already approved amendments to two of Marine Harvest's five applications, without public notice or consultation.

"An increase in production of this nature will place tremendous pressure on already imperiled wild salmon stocks and the marine ecosystem around these salmon farms," said Catherine Stewart, of Living Oceans Society. "Mainstream's proposed production increases in the Broughton are outrageous, given the company has been violating licenced production limits for years."

CARR member organizations, including the Georgia Strait Alliance and the David Suzuki Foundation, conditionally agreed to several amendments proposed by Marine Harvest Canada as part of an emergency plan to give immediate relief to wild fish through increases in farmed production.

However, the groups have said the level of increase being applied for is too large to justify, especially given that the province recently imposed a moratorium on farm expansion into northern B.C.

"To put forward applications to increase production at a time when there is much controversy is a move that needs to be questioned," said Coons.

"We know there is inadequate funding to monitor sites, we know there is inadequate safeguards to ensure finfish aquaculture is done in an environmentally sound way.

"Any move by Minister Stan Hagen to allow any approvals of these applications would seem very 'George Bush-like' - ramming through controversial legislation prior to your departure to benefit your friends."

Coons and NDP fisheries critic and Skeena MLA Robin Austin, are calling on Minister Hagen to delay any moves for fish farm expansion and push for implementation of the recommendations made by the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture.

"There should be no question about expanding aquaculture when we have runs in the Broughton Archipelago that plummeted by as much as 90 per cent this year," said Austin, who chaired the bi-partisan SCSA.

"The B.C. Liberals are more interested in maintaining the flow of aquaculture dollars to their party than in protecting a lynchpin of our coastal ecosystem and economy. We need to act now to save these runs, before it is too late."

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