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Minister Proposes All Land-based Aquaculture

29 November 2012

CANADA - Jim Bennett, the MHA for St. Barbe and the Liberal Fisheries Critic in the House of Assembly, is saying that the province’s aquaculture industry should only use land-based or closed-contained growing operations in the future.

Mr Bennett is basing his stance on Justice Bruce Cohens Final Report into the 17-year decline of the Fraser sockeye salmon in British Columbia, reports The Coaster.

Cohen recommends a freeze on salmon farming production on the Fraser salmon migration route and a revision of fish farm sitting criteria to protect salmon migration routes.

The report also says that, if by 2020, Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials cannot be certain farm salmon are not a threat to wild salmon, salmon farms should be prohibited from Fraser sockeye migration routes.

Mr Bennett said that the Cohen recommendations could as easily apply to aquaculture open-net operations in this province too. He stated that some of the issues related to the industry such as the ISA outbreak in Butter Cove this summer could have serious negative impacts on wild fish stocks here.

Bennett said, “I am not saying that we should shut the current Newfoundland aquaculture industry down.

“What I am saying is don’t grow it any bigger than what it is today, maintain the size you already have and move toward closed contained or land-based aquaculture operations.”

Bennett said that research shows that there is a higher-end niche market for higher-end produced salmon products and that some people will be willing to pay for the sustainable fish products raised on land.

“There is a market for the higher end product, and we could be cornering that market. Our industry has an opportunity to become a world leader in this industry, to get out in front of other jurisdictions and now is the time to take this giant step forward.”

With concerns to a lower volume of fish from land-based operations, Bennett said, “The industry should not necessarily be concerned about the volume of fish produced. We wanted to turn out large volumes of fish in our traditional fishery too and this thinking helped destroy the wild fishery.

“All I’m saying is go slow, move to close contained growing operations which will also lead to jobs in the future. Besides, if the Coast of Bays already has close to 100 per cent employment due to the aquaculture industry, why do we want to grow so terribly fast heading into the future? Where will the workers for the growth be found?”

Bennet said if he were Minister of Fisheries the government money pumped into the industry, such as the $5 million for Gray Aquaculture earlier this month, would still be donated but it would have to go toward land based aquaculture projects.

“The time has come for government to look closer at the research in this industry before they invest any more taxpayers’ dollars. We need a new vision for the industry, one based on new evidence in collaboration with all stakeholders. If done properly more sustainable wealth can be generated in our rural regions.”

Tim Gray, the president of Gray Aquaculture, said that his company has been land-based farming for over 20 years with their hatchery, which is essentially land-based farming.

Mr Gray said, “From a carbon footprint point of view, it is just not feasible for closed-contained operations to produce market size salmon.

“The energy we would consume would in itself outweigh anything we could do in the ocean. And besides, open-net farming is sustainable, so I’m not a proponent of the land-based systems.

“You can raise fish to a certain size on land such as to smolt size but you can’t do it beyond that. I think you’d be hard pressed to show one successful land-based aquaculture operation anywhere.”

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