(Vancouver, BC, 27 June 1999) – . DFO must stop promoting netcage salmon farming when so many wild salmon stocks are in crisis, an alliance of concerned West Coast First Nations and conservation organizations said today. Officials from the federal Department of Fisheries Oceans are expected to advocate more netcage salmon aquaculture at a meeting of provincial fisheries ministers to be held in Ottawa on Monday, June 28
The Department (DFO) has a conflicting agenda because its mandate is to conserve wild fish and critical habitat yet senior department officials openly advocate netcage salmon farming, spokespersons for the alliance charged.
Members of the Alliance Against Netcage Aquaculture include First Nations, conservation, fishing, tourism and recreation groups.
“Converting the netcage salmon farming industry to closed containment technology is the logical answer, but DFO hasn’t even been willing to discuss this,” said Laurie MacBride, Executive Director of the Georgia Strait Alliance. “Escaped farmed Atlantic salmon have successfully spawned two generations in a Vancouver Island river, but DFO still denies there is a problem,” she said.
The Department just held a two-day, so-called national round table on the aquaculture industry (June 21-22) without inviting BC First Nations and very selective invitations to groups concerned about the industry that have gathered research from Canada and abroad.
“To my knowledge no BC First Nations were invited. This is an insult to all BC First Nations,” said Chief Robert Joseph of the Musgamagw Tswataineuk Tribal Council.
Many prominent BC environmental, fishing, recreation and ecotourism organizations were also left off DFO’s invitation list.
“Fish farming in netcages is a menace to the marine environment,” said Arnie Narcisse of the BC Aboriginal Fisheries Commission. “DFO is complicit in the destruction of wild salmon stocks and is therefore infringing on aboriginal rights. David Anderson’s silence about our concerns is deafening.”
Most First Nations in B.C. have adopted a “zero tolerance” position for salmon farms within their traditional territories.
As a result of widespread opposition to netcage fish farming and concerns about the impacts of escaped Atlantic salmon, B.C. Minister of Fisheries Dennis Streifel recently announced that the provincial government will not lift the four year-old provincial moratorium on fish farm expansion anytime soon – a move that was welcomed by alliance members.
Jim Fulton, Executive Director of the David Suzuki Foundation stated “the Fisheries Act is the strongest piece of environmental legislation in this country. It was written to protect the marine environment and wild fish stocks.
But that is now being subverted because DFO has taken on the public relations role of promoting open salmon netcages. It is outrageous that public servants and public money are being used so blatantly to benefit industry and against the public interest.”
Alliance spokerspersons point to problems in eastern Canada as well, where infectious salmon anemia has now spread from New Brunswick fish farms to farms in Nova Scotia. The New Brunswick and federal governments have already dished out approximately $25 million in emergency loan guarantees and relief to the industry in New Brunswick .
“DFO’s unwillingness to address the probl ems of netcages here in New Brunswick puts the future of Atlantic Canada’s coastal environment and all the activity it supports at risk”, said Janice Harvey, Director of Marine Conservation for the non-profit Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
“Our wild salmon stocks are at great risk if DFO continues its headlong rush to “Farmageddon'”, said Greenpeace Canada’s Catherine Stewart. “DFO’s partnership with Monsanto to breed transgenic salmon, its bailout of netcage failures, its blindness over Atlantic salmon escapes and disease epidemics on top of its consistent habit of selective consultation are examples of how DFO is courting disaster.”
“In adopting an unequivocal advocacy role for the aquaculture industry, the Department may well be found to have been negligent, perhaps even reckless, in the discharge of its duty to protect wild fish,” concluded Karen Wristen, Executive Director of the Sierra Legal Defense Fund.