ANALYSIS - The Canadian government is to back the expansion of an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable aquaculture industry through the introduction of new aquaculture legislation.
The details of the new aquaculture legislation are in response to concerns raised in a study by the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
The support for the expansion of a sustainable aquaculture sector in Canada is contained in a three volume report An Ocean of Opportunities: Aquaculture in Canada, which puts forward a series of recommendations for the development of the industry.
The report says: “There is an ocean of opportunities for aquaculture in Canada.
“Our country has the world’s longest marine coastline, the largest number of freshwater lakes, a diversified aquaculture industry, a rigorous regulatory regime and world-class aquaculture-related research.
“Canada is, therefore, well positioned to help supply the growing global demand for fish and seafood and to do so sustainably – environmentally, economically and socially.”
The report says that the aquaculture industry plays an important economic role in remote and coastal communities across the country, including the First Nations.
And it calls for a consolidation of the existing and proposed federal regulations under the Fisheries’ Act.
“The new Act will express strong federal support for aquaculture, legitimize the industry and acknowledge its important economic contribution to rural and coastal communities,” the report says.
The committee’s report recommends that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans should be able to veto any proposed aquaculture site that in the minister’s opinion poses an unacceptable risk to harm wild fish or fish habitat or have other environmental risks.
The report examines the aquaculture sector in Canada as a whole and also takes a detailed look at the industry in each province to draw up its federal recommendations.
It also compares the aquaculture industry in Canada with those in the other major northern hemisphere aquaculture producers, Norway and Scotland.
The report concludes: “Aquaculture is an industry that has been well established in Norway and Scotland since the beginning of the 1970s.
“In many respects, the Norwegian and Scottish aquaculture industries – their structure and governance – are comparable to that of Canada. The Canadian aquaculture industry is, however, younger and subject to a more complex regulatory framework, which is the result of legislation and regulations emanating from two levels of government.
“Aquaculture governance also appears more complex in Canada because the division of roles and responsibilities between the federal government and the provinces vary from one jurisdiction to another.
“Despite these differences, there is opportunity for Canada to learn lessons from the regulatory and operational developments taking place in Norway and Scotland in relation to aquaculture.”
In taking lessons from the Norwegian and Scottish sectors, the committee report says that there should be a new administration housed within Fisheries and Oceans Canada to coordinate the federal regulatory role in aquaculture – “a one-stop shop responsible for all federal functions in aquaculture”.
It says that the current memoranda of understanding ion the management of aquaculture need to be renegotiated within 18 months of the new act coming into force to bring about harmonisation and simplification of the legislation and reduce duplication.
It adds that the National Aquaculture Strategic Plan Initiative needs to be extended for another two years.
The report calls on the fisheries department to set up a Pest Management Regulatory Agency together with Health Canada and also to establish a minor use and a minor species programme for aquaculture.
It calls on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to take a stronger role in controlling additives and ingredients in fish feed.
And it says the government needs to work with the provinces to develop effective measures to manage invasive species in the shellfish sector.
The committee also recommends further research on the potential impacts of pest control products used for sea-lice management.
“These fields of research should be given priority,” the report says.
It adds: “In our view, research into sea lice epidemiology and the effectiveness of non-chemical methods need to continue. More importantly, the use of proven effective non-chemical methods must be encouraged and the use of drugs and pest control products reserved for occasional use.”
The report stresses the importance of fish health at the heart of aquaculture development.
“Fish health is the number one priority of all aquaculture operations,” is says.
“Fish are introduced into aquaculture grow-out sites disease- and parasite-free. Then, a variety of preventive measures are taken to keep aquacultured fish healthy, including: vaccination, choice of location, maximum allowable biomass, fish health management plans, biosecurity practices, bay management areas, etc.
“The introduction of pathogens in grow-out sites may be attributable to an infected wild fish or contaminated equipment. For this reason, aquaculture operators require access to chemotherapeutants to minimise the impact of these pathogens.”
The report calls for inspections by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to enforce compliance to regulations in shellfish aquaculture in British Columbia in particular to the disposal of debris to maintain the integrity of the environment.
The committee proposals say that there needs to be cooperation to foster research and development and within two years there needs to be an assessment of the research available to be transparent with the public and to fill the gaps in the research programme.
It also calls for a central database that is publicly available on information on licensing and how aquaculture operators comply with the regulations.
Chairman of the committee that compiled the report, Fabian Manning, said: ““The central message of our Senate Committee report is that there is an ocean of opportunities for aquaculture in Canada.
“After completing our extensive 18-month study, we are confident that the Canadian aquaculture industry can grow steadily over the next 10 years and do so sustainably – environmentally, economically and socially.
“We believe that a strong federal role in the regulation of aquaculture – expressed through a new piece of legislation – is necessary to improve the governance of the industry across the country and stimulate investment.”
The deputy chair Elizabeth Hubley added: “During our study on aquaculture, we had the opportunity to hear from a wide range of groups and individuals who shared their views about aquaculture.
“We gave serious consideration to their comments and suggestions as we developed our own observations and conclusions about aquaculture and the challenges and prospects for this industry in Canada.
“I believe Canada has an opportunity to be a world leader in aquaculture and many of the recommendations outlined in our report will help us achieve this success.”
The report and the recommendations have been widely accepted by the aquaculture and fisheries organisations in Canada.
Ruth Salmon, Executive Director of Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance said: “We support the call for a National Aquaculture Act. The Act will recognise our seafood producers as farmers. It will also result in an open, accountable and transparent regulatory process and ensure that important environmental safeguards are in place.
“It would allow Canada to emerge as a global leader in sustainable seafood farming.”
She added: “Aquaculture, or farmed seafood, is today among the fastest food producing sectors in the world. It’s healthy and nutritious and accounts for nearly half of all the seafood in the world.
“Few jurisdictions can match Canada’s natural advantages when it comes to aquaculture — an enormous coastal geography, an abundance of cold, clean water, a favourable climate, a rich marine and fishery tradition, established trade partners and a commitment to protect our environment.”
You can view all three volumes of the report by clicking here.