Ottawa to slash red tape for fish farms

Federal government hopes changes will lead to huge expansion of B.C. fish farms, but farm critics appalled

Vancouver Sun
April 16, 2014

The Harper government is laying the regulatory groundwork for a resurgence of the controversial B.C. fish farm industry.

Bureaucratic hurdles and legal uncertainty are being swept away as part of an attempt to help the Canadian industry, which has stagnated for years, to take advantage of rising global demand for seafood, according to testimony by top officials before a Senate committee.

The regulatory changes include a planned exemption from a Fisheries Act prohibition against dumping harmful substances in the ocean, though government and industry officials say the change won’t alter current practices or pose environmental threats.

The push for a major expansion comes despite the cautionary words about the risk of fish farms to wild salmon in Justice Bruce Cohen’s 2012 report into the decline of the Fraser River sockeye fishery. Cohen, while finding no “smoking gun” linking fish farms or any other specific factor to the fishery’s troubles, concluded that industry’s “potential harm” to Fraser sockeye is “serious or irreversible.”

The pending federal regulatory changes could result in a fourfold increase in production by 2030, according to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea.

“Under an improved legislative and regulatory framework, the aquaculture industry believes that aquaculture could expand from $2 billion in total annual economic activity (in Canada) to $5.6 billion in 10 years and to more than $8 billion in 15 years,” she told the Senate fisheries committee.

“That’s why we’re working hard to enable aquaculture to thrive while ensuring that it is sustainable over the long term.”

One senior official at the same meeting said that B.C., in particular, is poised for growth.

“In British Columbia, we’re in a position now where I think the scenarios and signals are all positive,” said Trevor Swerdfager, assistant deputy minister in charge of ecosystems and fisheries management. … The industry is getting ready for a bit of a takeoff there.”

Shea has said she wants new regulations to remove the red tape that one of her senior officials described as “a very critical impediment” to the industry’s growth.

For example, the industry wants an exemption from a Fisheries Act provision that bans the dumping of harmful substances in waters “frequented by fish.”

The industry, which uses hydrogen peroxide as well as antibiotic-laced feed to deal with sea lice and disease in fish pens, would still need clearances to use these products from two Health Canada agencies. But they would no longer need the extra step of getting one-off exemptions to the Fisheries Act.

A government notice published in February announcing plans for the regulations said the environmental risk “is expected to be negligible” because the chemical and antibiotics are already in use.

Watershed Watch executive director Craig Orr acknowledged the Fisheries Act exemption won’t likely make a tangible difference. But he said the overall thrust of Ottawa’s actions are “scary.”

Orr pointed to Cohen’s warnings about scientific uncertainty surrounding the potential spread of disease and sea lice from farms to young wild salmon.

“I think it’s quite irresponsible to be considering expanding the industry at this point,” Orr said. “They seem to be abandoning wild fish protection on this coast.”

Read the full article in the Vancouver Sun.

Posted April 16th, 2014

True North Salmon Announces Distribution Through FreshDirect

Yahoo Finance
April 16, 2014

True North Salmon, provider of the freshest branded salmon to consumers, announces expanded product distribution through FreshDirect, a leading online fresh food grocer.  A product of the United States, True North Salmon is now being delivered fresh to FreshDirect, from the Gulf of Maine within 48 hours of catch, ensuring customers have the highest quality and best tasting salmon.

FreshDirect customers will enjoy True North Farm-Raised Atlantic Salmon in several varieties, including filets, family packs, whole-side filets, boneless steaks, traditional steaks and whole fish options. In addition, FreshDirect and True North Salmon will offer the convenience of a double fillet on a cedar plank for an effortless and delicious outdoor grilling experience.

"At FreshDirect, we are committed to providing a wide assortment of fresh, high-quality, directly-sourced seafood to customers," said Jeff Ludwin, FreshDirect's Seafood Merchant. "We are excited to introduce True North Salmon to our marketplace, rounding out our offering of sustainable and traceable wild and farm-raised salmon options." 

True North Salmon is rated three stars by the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), the highest certification level standards achievable, for its farms, feed mill and processing plant. The certification recognizes the company as one that holds the health and welfare of fish and their natural environments as a top priority.

Read the full article in Yahoo Finance.

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Posted April 16th, 2014

Power failure that killed salmon at Hants County fish farm probed

Chronicle Herald
April 15, 2014

Police are investigating a power failure that killed about 12,000 salmon — almost $350,000 worth — at a land-based fish farm in Hants County last month.

“We are conducting an investigation,” provincial RCMP spokesman Sgt. Alain LeBlanc confirmed in an interview Tuesday.

Officials from Sustainable Fish Farming (Canada) Ltd. contacted the RCMP on March 22, a week after a catastrophic power failure March 15, LeBlanc said.

The nearly market-ready salmon, totalling 30,000 kilograms, were killed in the six-hour power outage at the aquaculture site in Centre Burlington, near Brooklyn, Hants County.

“However, it’s important to say that, at this time, there is no evidence to support or to suggest that this was a criminal act,” LeBlanc said.

“The company reached out to us. We, in consultation with the company, are trying to determine what caused the power failure.”

He said the general investigation unit of the Windsor District RCMP is handling the file.

Kirk Havercroft, CEO of the company, said that as part of the investigation, several simulations were run in the plant to determine the cause of the outage.

“One of those simulations … was basically to assume what would happen if somebody deliberately turned off a key piece of equipment,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

“When we ran that simulation it did reproduce all of the incidents that occurred on the night of the problem,” he added. So police were called.

“As of yet, there is no direct evidence that would suggest that somebody did it, other than to say that the simulation that we ran fit the events of that night.”

Read the full article in the Chronicle Herald.

Posted April 15th, 2014

Cook Inlet Aquaculture buys defunct Port Graham Hatchery

Peninsula Clarion
April 15, 2014

Pink salmon fishing in the Lower Cook Inlet could soon be revitalized as the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association finalized its purchase of the Port Graham Hatchery on Monday after nearly two years of planning, permitting and logistics.

The facility has not been operational since 2007 when low returns of pink salmon and poor prices forced the Port Graham Hatchery Corporation to close. In 2010 the group asked the aquaculture association to assume management of the operation.

Pink salmon reared by the aquaculture association, or CIAA, are expected to return to Port Graham Bay this year, allowing CIAA to begin collecting eggs for brood stock and harvest fish to recover some of the costs during its first year of operation.

“Our goal is to put 84 million eggs in the hatchery and any fish that are beyond that will probably be harvested as cost recovery, although some will be collected by local subsistence users,” said Gary Fandrei, executive director of the aquaculture association.

Read the full article in the Peninsula Clarion.

Posted April 15th, 2014

China to boost aquaculture with USD 47m project

Seafood Source
April 15, 2014

China’s ability to increase its aquaculture yields while also conserving scarce water supplies looks set to be tested in a project being funded by the municipal government of the nation’s capital. Beijing municipal government has spent a stunning RMB 294 million (USD 47.4 million, EUR 34.4 million) since 2010 to ensure that yields are improved from RMB 15,000 (USD 2,420, EUR 1,756) to RMB 24,000 (USD 3,873, EUR 2,809) per mu (15 mu in a hectare) in value terms each year. A further RMB 34 million (USD 5.5 million, EUR 4 million) will be spent this year. The goal is to add 6,000 metric tons (MT) to the Beijing region’s freshwater fish output: part of a broader local government plan to enlarge the city’s “food basket.”

Beijing’s eagerness to meet its rising seafood needs is apparent in a heavily subsidized overhaul of the freshwater aquaculture resources in the region of the capital city (whose urban and rural counties cover an area the size of Belgium). In Miyun county two hours outside the city proper, fish farmers are availing of generous subsidies from the local government to restore ponds and build what are termed “greenhouse”-style fish farms: indoor year-round production in tanks with water recirculating systems.

According to the city’s government press office, this year Beijing is also subsidizing the building of 12 specialized “breeding farms” producing carp, perch and eels. “The goal is to eliminate small, scattered and inefficient ponds and to industrialize our fish farming,” explained a government spokesman this week on the Beijing TV channel run by local government. Also interviewed, fish farmer Wang Xiaoyue had a third of the price of new ponds and water systems. His is one of the 28 “standardized” fish farms promoted by the city as models for others to follow — a model paid for with taxpayers’ money.

Read the full article in Seafood Source.

Posted April 15th, 2014