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Living Oceans at the CEC: on Land-Based Closed Containment Salmon Farming

July 19, 2017
Karen Wristen Live from Charlottetown

Courtesy of the CEC’s Facebook Page.

Living Oceans was invited to address a meeting of the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the Commission on Environmental Co-operation, held in Charlottetown on June 27-28. The theme of our panel was the conservation of the ocean for the environmental, social and cultural health of coastal communities. Karen Wristen gave the address, which focused on the potential for land-based, closed containment salmon farms to eliminate conflicts with coastal community fishermen and tourism operators.

The presentation focused on the decision in 2016 to allow two more salmon farms into the Broughton Archipelago’s Clio Channel, directly on the path of a long-established prawn and shrimp fishery in which Sointula fishermen have fished for generations. The farms are situated on clam beds traditionally harvested by First Nations and near herring spawning habitat; this attracted objections from fishermen, First Nations and environmentalists alike. Clio Channel was designated in the region’s existing plan as a recreation area; and in the more recent MaPP plans as a “special management zone”. It’s part of the labyrinth of channels that make the Broughton such a popular tourism destination for all kinds of recreational boaters.

There are now three salmon farms located within a couple of kilometers of one another at the head of the Channel, displacing a great deal of economic activity that used to accrue to the benefit of Sointula and other local communities.

The employment and local economic activity generated by the salmon farms could have been realized without this conflict, if the farms had been established on land, like the nearby ‘Namgis closed containment operation called Kuterra. Kuterra salmon commands a premium in the market and has the highest sustainability rating of any farmed salmon. Begun as a pilot project, the operation has now proven out the technology for raising salmon to market size in containment tanks that eliminate environmental impacts while minimizing the need for drugs or chemicals in the production process.

Our presentation pointed to developments around the globe that are encouraging the development of land-based closed containment farms as a means of both protecting the environment and lowering production costs and risks. Norway is offering incentives in the form of vastly reduced licensing fees and loan guarantees for research and development. Other European countries are set to follow suit, while Canada lags behind in establishing a regulatory environment that will encourage responsible aquaculture development.