Environmental groups have raised concerns about a new federal report on Canada’s $1-billion aquaculture industry, saying the study appears to be focused on ramping up production at the expense of the environment.
The Senate’s three-volume report offers 10 recommendations, including a call for a new federal Aquaculture Act and more research on finfish aquaculture and the impact of pesticides used on sea lice.
The Senate’s standing committee on fisheries, which studied the industry for 18 months, is also calling for a national database that would offer the public access to information about every aquaculture operator in the country.
“There didn’t seem to be an avenue for the general public to be able to obtain information ... on industry activity,” said Sen. Fabian Manning, the committee’s chairman.
“The 70 pieces of federal and provincial legislation that govern the industry require streamlining under a new, federal act,” he said, whilst confirming that the committee endorsed the idea of the industry being given the tools to double its production in the next 10 years.
Aquaculture represents about 30 per cent of Canada’s total seafood production, with British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and P.E.I. leading the way. The industry produces finfish, shellfish, aquatic plants and other species, such as sea cucumbers and sea urchins. British Columbia’s salmon farming industry accounts for almost half of the country’s total production.
“Canada is well positioned to supply the growing global demand for fish and seafood and to do so sustainably, environmentally, economically and socially,” Manning said.
He called for accelerated harmonization of provincial and federal regulations, better industry access to veterinary drugs, fish feed and pest control products, and for regular inspections and consistent enforcement of environmental regulations across the industry.
Conservation groups say the call for a new aquaculture act has been a long-standing request from the industry, and critics say it could lead to less protection for wild fish.
The Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, which is opposed to ocean-based salmon farming, says there should be more of an emphasis on land-based, closed-containment fish farming.
Rob Johnson, the centre’s sustainable seafood co-ordinator, said a new aquaculture act could be used to water down existing regulations in the name of clearing red tape.
“The need is for stronger regulation and enforcement,” he said.
“It’s going the other way and deferring to industry self-regulation ... The priority is pushed off onto research rather than stronger regulations and enforcement that we know we need now.”
Source: Michael MacDonald, The Globe and Mail. Read the full story here.