The Time Has Come
~ by Jim Rosgen -
Salmon Farms – Stop the Madness
“The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things…”
As Lewis Carroll wrote, it’s time to speak of the convoluted relationship between governments, both federal and provincial, and the aquaculture industry, particularly the salmon farms. As a background, I got to this point trying to trace the outcome of last summer’s outbreak of IHN virus at fish farms run by Grieg Foods and Mainstream off the BC coast.
At the time, the farms in question were quarantined (and I use the term loosely, as does the industry – it is a physical impossibility to quarantine a farm that consists of an open net pen in the middle of the ocean.) and a cull of the stock was ordered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
At the time, I contacted CIFA and asked if compensation was being paid to the farms for the culls. I indicated I did not think these culls qualified for compensation as the farms continue to operate in open net pens in direct contact with wild stocks, which are being blamed for the infection. In addition, representatives of one of the farms indicated they did not vaccinate for the IHN virus because it is too costly.
I received a reply from Dr. Gary Kruger, Program Manager – Animal Health (Aquatics), Western Operations, based out of Calgary. (What better place to monitor the Pacific Ocean). He indicated at that time that compensation had not been paid, and outlined the guidelines for payouts throughout the food industry. In particular he stated the following:
“It is important to note that compensation is not automatic under any circumstance, not even when animals have been ordered destroyed.Â Careful evaluations are undertaken, including, but not limited to, the producer’s own biosecurity measures to try and prevent introduction of disease, e.g. vaccinating, etc. It is also important to note that compensation is only awarded at fair market value at the time of destruction. As such, there is no incentive not to have good husbandry practices and biosecurity measures in place in order to prevent the unfortunate occurrence of a destruction order”.
In January of this year I followed up with Dr. Kruger to determine if compensation had been paid out for the two instances questioned in August.Â His reply was as follows:
“Yes, I can confirm that the CFIA has awarded compensation to those eligible fish farms due to the destruction of fish as result of the IHN outbreak.Â The compensation was awarded as per legislation.”
I went back and questioned the amount of the payouts, the recipients, and the reasons for the decision, and received the following:
“Unfortunately the information you are requesting is protected under the Privacy Act, so I cannot provide that to you.Â I should add that these are not seen as “obviously flawed farming practices…”
For the two culls in question, an estimated 15,000 pounds of salmon were destroyed, and compensated at current market prices at the time. This quickly runs into several million dollars, in what can be perceived as nothing more than corporate welfare. In the case of Mainstream, the company is owned by Cermaq, which is controlled by the Norwegian government.Â (That makes this payout basically foreign aid to a nation not in need). Grieg Foods is also owned by Norwegians, as are the vast majority of the salmon farms in Canada.
While the lack of transparency from the government did not surprise me, it did make me curious as to the level of handouts to this flawed industry. I was aware that payouts in BC for the current outbreak of IHN, and previous outbreaks back to 2003, have put that total into the tens of millions of dollars. In addition, on the EastÂ Coast, outbreaks of the ISA virus have been occurring for years, and these have also been compensated for. I contacted the Atlantic Salmon Federation to obtain more information on culls in Eastern Canada, and discovered a piece just published in a paper in Newfoundland. This indicated the following:
“Since ISA outbreaks in eastern Canada began, more than $100 million of taxpayers’ dollars have been used to compensate fish farmers for having to kill ISA-infected salmon that were grown out in open net pens in the ocean.”
The full article can be found at the following address:
So my question to the Federal and Provincial governments is this: “In times of government austerity, and massive cutbacks to many valid and needed programs, how can we continue to throw money into the ocean to compensate an industry that is unable to operate in a manner that is conducive to producing a safe product without endangering not only their own livestock, but also the wild stocks swimming freely through these diseased open net pens?Â The number ofÂ jobs created by this industry is meager, particularly when compared to the never-ending payouts for diseases they cannot prevent due to their insistence on staying in the open ocean. Why do we continue to financially support this failing industry? It cannot be jobs, so it must be political pressure, lobbying, and campaign donations.”
The time has come. It is time to stop the bleeding and force this industry to move out of our oceans and into closed containment facilities on land. No new farms should be approved, no existing leases extended, and all sites should be closed as their leases expire. The support of this dying industry should not be on the backs of taxpayers, as there is no return to our investment. Few well paid jobs, minimal taxes (the Canadian operations are not profitable), nothing but financial risk for the public, and a huge survival risk for the wild salmon on which this coast has a major reliance.