— April 26, 2016 —

Salmon farming co-exists successfully with wild fishery and tourism industries

Pamela Parker
Executive Director
Letang, NB - Recently, various Maritime organizations wrote a letter to Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter calling for a moratorium on the expansion of salmon aquaculture. While the signatory list is long, it actually represents a small number of citizens.

It is regrettable that this small but vocal group feels the need for an all-or-nothing scenario in Nova Scotia. The fact of the matter is that salmon farming has successfully co-existed with a thriving wild fishery and a vibrant tourism industry for over 30 years in New Brunswick and elsewhere.
 
The same co-existence has been a reality in Nova Scotia, and we are committed to making sure both sectors continue to thrive as partners in our region’s working waterfronts.  Our region’s salmon farmers are passionate and hardworking people who are committed to building a locally based, globally competitive and environmentally sustainable industry that will continue to bring prosperity to our coastal communities.
 
Our industry already employs over 900 Nova Scotians who work and live in rural communities and contribute a value of $40 million to our economy. The majority of Nova Scotians are supportive of our industry. Public opinion research conducted twice in the past year by Corporate Research Associates confirms that when asked for their level of support for the further development of the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia (defined as the practice of farming fish), three quarters of residents indicate some level of support (77%), with three-in-ten completely supporting such development (29%).
 
We’re concerned about the notion put forth by this group that there has been a “rapid expansion” of salmon farming in Nova Scotia. In fact, there have been only three new salmon aquaculture sites approved in Nova Scotia in the last 10 years. The Province currently has a total of 21 salmon licenses/leases that have been issued but only nine of these sites have fish in the water. Currently six applications are being processed for new salmon farms.
 
The total leased area in the province for trout and salmon in the ocean is currently 1.7 square kilometers. This very small footprint could fit into Bedford Basin nine times over.
 
We disagree with the suggestion that our industry will harm the traditional fishery or tourism industry. Our salmon farmers follow the highest fish management and environmental practices; they rely on the best science to farm their fish and live up to, and in many cases, surpass the stringent federal and provincial regulations for aquaculture.
 
It will always be easy to find research that supports certain points of view, which is the case with these groups. What we do know is that lobster landings have in fact increased in the Maritimes since the 1990s, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. A study conducted by the School of Fisheries, Marine Institute of Memorial University in 2005 shows that after 25 years of commercial fish farming, lobster landings are at historic high levels, particularly in areas with active fish and shellfish farm sites. We also know that wild salmon runs are consistent whether salmon farms are in the area or not.
 
Tourism industries have flourished and communities have benefited from a diversified economic base.  In fact, in several communities, we work alongside tourism operators, as visitors to our shores and communities are interested in learning more about what we do.
 
While closed containment is often touted as a magic bullet for salmon farmers, the fact is, at this point, raising salmon in closed systems for their entire life cycle is neither viable nor as ‘green’ as it’s cracked up to be.  Developing land based facilities for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia’s salmon production would require land equivalent to more than 8,000 football fields – over 50 times the space than we currently use to grow our fish to harvest in the ocean. The capital costs alone to move Atlantic Canada’s salmon production to land would be at least $1.5 billion. The amount of continuous electricity needed to run land-based facilities would leave a huge carbon footprint by producing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and closed systems also require a consistent and abundant water supply at a time when many areas are facing water shortages.
 
The all-or-nothing approach put forth by this small group puts at risk the future economic growth of many rural Nova Scotia communities. We are faced with an unprecedented opportunity for Nova Scotia to realize the potential of a growing international aquaculture industry. In New Brunswick and Newfoundland, the salmon farming industry is one of the region’s biggest economic drivers. Salmon farming has created 1,870 jobs in Charlotte County, NB alone. An area once considered one of the poorest areas of the province is now one of the most dynamic. Newfoundland has embraced the aquaculture development opportunity. That province has seen the value of its industry rise by 50 per cent in one year from $60 million in 2009 to $90 million in 2010.
 
Our region produces 30 percent of Canada’s farmed salmon, and a recent Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) report says aquaculture is the fastest growing source of food production in the world, with Atlantic Canada riding the wave of growth.
 
Nova Scotia has an incredible opportunity to realize aquaculture’s potential and create jobs for its coastal communities. And we can do it while still maintaining vibrant and flourishing wild fishery and tourism industries. We are committed to a future where our three sectors remain healthy partners in the region’s working waterfront.  It doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing.’  Let’s do what is best for our people and our province.
 

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