Something sinister to our future is trying to sneak into our province and destroy what we hold dear, including our wild fish.
It comes under the guise of a so-called harmless fish farm expansion in Placentia Bay by Grieg Newfoundland AS of Norway that uses job creation to lure supporters, including our scarce taxpayers’ dollars.
What they try to diminish, even hide, is that this project will inject more than 10 million (7 million annual production) imported European origin salmon into the waters of Placentia Bay. And this is only the beginning! The total wild stock in all of Canada is less than 1 million.
Moreover, the entire south coast (more than 50 rivers facing an endangered species listing) has less than 25 per cent more fish than what typically escapes or “vanishes” a year from the current numbers of open net pens — without this doubling of open net pen production.
If allowed to expand under the proposed plan, these imported salmon will live in supposedly escape-proof cages. Obviously there are no such cages and fish will escape. Supposedly, they will all be sterile females, but once again this will not be the case and is merely PR spin-doctoring.
Escaped fish can roam thousands of miles and will eventually end up in all of our salmon rivers. There is no “safe distance” for an operation like this from salmon rivers.
Even sterile fish that attempt to spawn will have a very negative impact on the reproduction of wild fish. Also, farmed fish are a proven major vector for various diseases which will infect wild populations.
I don’t think it is exaggeration to say that the future of wild salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador is at serious risk from this project. That is on top of the problems around the cage sites of massive waste and disease problems and pollution of pristine waters with chemicals and antibiotics.
Placentia Bay rivers will be an immediate write-off for sure. Garnish River in Fortune Bay has already been invaded by thousands of escaped farm fish and DFO in 2014 quietly netted out a pile and dug a hole and buried them. The salmon cages over in Fortune Bay are a drop in the bucket compared to the Grieg proposal. Anglers I talked to last summer on Cape Roger River told me that Garnish River is going down fast.
Grieg and its supporters will try to convince us that there is a safe distance for these cages from salmon rivers. There isn’t. They will also say that sterile female fish will not interfere with wild salmon spawning if they do get into salmon rivers. Also not correct. What if there are escapees that are fertile? What if some are males?
Despite the billions of Norwegian dollars behind them, salmon farms were recently turned down in Iceland. See http://www.nasfworldwide.com/latestnews/protests-defeat-plan-to-farmsalmon-in-iceland/
What Grieg is proposing is the largest introduction of a genetically foreign species to our province, ever.
I would urge everyone to write to Environment Minister Perry Trimper and ask that this proposal by Grieg receive a full and extensive environmental assessment with a full environmental impact statement as per section 51(b) of the Environmental Protection Act, and an environmental impact statement per sections 53(b), 55, 57-67 of the Act. In other words, as comprehensive a review as we saw, for example, in the Terra Nova oilfield environmental review chaired by the late Leslie Harris
In closing, I offer the words of our Court of Appeal on the role of environmental assessment in Newfoundland and Labrador. In Friends of the Oldman River Society vs. Canada (Minister of Transport), 1992, Justice Gérard V. La Forest described the environment’s protection “as one of the major challenges of our time.” In this statement, the Supreme Court of Canada encapsulates the critical need of reconciling the use of the earth’s natural resources with the protection of the environment.
This is the responsibility of all who care about our future.
Bill Bryden Lumsden