Simply assessing the impacts of farmed salmon on wild stocks does too little to alter years of neglect from Ottawa, MP Nathan Cullen said yesterday.
“Atlantic farmed salmon operations have exposed our wild salmon to disease and pesticides and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) hasn’t even bothered to monitor the impacts,” he said, demanding the farms be moved to contained, in-land sites. “The Northwest depends on its wild salmon and it is shocking to see such lack of oversight from the federal government.”
The Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP was responding to a report tabled Tuesday in Parliament by Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Julie Gelfand. It focused on whether DFO and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency manage the risks associated with salmon aquaculture in a manner that protects wild fish.
The report concluded they did not.
“I suggest that the department is at risk of being seen to be promoting aquaculture over the protection of wild fish,” Gelfand said at a news conference.
She listed several shortcomings to support the statement: the department’s failure to identify a threshold for action when wild fish stocks decline, poorly monitored drug and pesticide use, no requirement to monitor the health of ocean floors beneath fish farms and too little enforcement of the few regulations that do exist.
“Then there’s this issue related to funding research,” Gelfand said. “We found that the research funded on a long-term basis was research supported by the aquaculture industry, but research that was for management of the industry was only given short-term funding.”
As the global market now relies on farms for more than half of the fish used for human consumption, Gelfand’s report recommended Fisheries and Oceans Canada clearly articulate the level of risk they’re willing to take with wild fish stocks, in addition to conducting its planned disease risk assessments by 2020. DFO had already committed to the assessment in response to Cohen Commission report that revealed shortcomings of aquaculture management as early as 2012.
“This is a damning report that highlights the failure of the Liberal government to protect our wild salmon stocks,” said Cullen. “After so many years of neglect, we are expecting a devastating season in the Northwest.”
The government agreed to the recommendations put forth in Gelfand’s report, but Cullen said it’s time to do more.
“The government has a responsibility to protect wild salmon and Canada has an opportunity to become a world leader in making a just transition to safe, land-based salmon farming that will protect our wild salmon and allow stocks to flourish,” said Cullen.
Last year the government defeated a private member’s bill to transition the industry to closed containment, a move Cullen said “left many concerned citizens dismayed.”