Open net-pen salmon aquaculture and our push for more environmentally-responsible, land-based closed-containment operations in freshwater has gained momentum lately.

A round of Ottawa meetings has proven fruitful. Sue Scott was one of three representatives on behalf of the Atlantic Coalition for Aquaculture Reform who joined representatives from B.C.’s Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform the week of March 4 to meet with senior DFO officials, the leaders of the NDP and Green Party, and Members of Parliament who serve on the House of Common Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The purpose of the meeting was to urge action on the recommendations of the 26 million dollar Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon tabled in October, 2012. Among the recommendations that are pertinent to salmon farming on both coasts are to remove the promotion of salmon farming from the mandate of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), impose a moratorium on new licenses and expansion, and conduct further research and analysis of the relationship between salmon farms and the health of wild salmon. Given Justice Cohen’s finding on the serious risks posed by open net-pen salmon farming operations, the groups urged endorsement of closed containment as a viable solution to protect Canada’s wild salmon and ocean ecosystem health. So far there has been no reaction by Government to any of Cohen’s 75 recommendations.

While on Parliament Hill, the conservation groups received unofficial word that the Standing Committee’s Closed Containment report would be tabled in Parliament that week and we were able to give the media a heads-up, which resulted in very good coverage on both coasts. While we welcomed the report’s acknowledgement that closed containment is a viable technology and the recommendation that Government should provide financial support to further refine and develop the technology, we expressed disappointment that the Standing Committee supported the status quo regarding open net pen aquaculture as it is currently practiced. Jon Carr and I testified before the Standing Committee during its proceedings, and our research with The Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute is cited throughout the report.

On the international scene last week, Sue Scott represented non-government organizations on a North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) review group that looked at five-year Implementation Plans submitted by Parties that were expected to identify actions countries planned to take to implement agreements made at NASCO to restore and protect habitat, manage fisheries, and protect wild salmon from the impacts of aquaculture. The goal of the review is to ensure that enough detail is available in the plans to measure progress when Parties report annually to NASCO from 2013 to 2018. The next step is to provide the review group’s assessment and request for further clarification and information to the Parties for full reporting at the annual meeting in June.

This week we launched our campaign in Nova Scotia to educate the public on the impacts of open net pen salmon farming on wild Atlantic salmon. We are installing the first four of ten billboards in the Halifax area that display messages on the $100 million paid to the industry in disease compensation, the unsustainability of open net pens in the ocean, and the threats to wild Atlantic salmon. The billboard messages will be reinforced by full page color ads in Nova Scotia’s provincial newspaper, the Chronicle Herald, and by the website and facebook. Public reaction has been very strong and supportive.

Just as our campaign was launched, the Province of Nova Scotia announced that an application for a lease for salmon farming in Shoal Harbour, in the eastern part of the province, was rejected. The decision was made as the result of advice from DFO indicating that the operation would be a moderate risk to wild Atlantic salmon. This is the first time that such an application from the salmon farming industry has actually been turned down. Obviously, government is feeling the pressure.

Next week, Jonathon Carr, Sue Scott and I are going to Ottawa to meet with the new Deputy Minister of DFO and other senior staff. High on our agenda is discussion on the many scientific reports that exist proving impacts of salmon aquaculture on wild Atlantic salmon and on our report submitted six months ago highlighting our concerns on the Fisheries Act Amendments, neither of which have ever received official comment from DFO.

As always, please feel free to call me anytime if you have any questions or would like more information. I look forward to seeing you at ASF’s spring meetings in Montreal April 30th – May 2nd.

Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor

Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF)