Locals lamenting aquaculture’s wrath
The aquaculture industry on the south coast of the province is undergoing another major crisis, with massive escapes, deadly infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus outbreaks, millions of fish culled, processing plants sitting idle, industry and government’s recklessness and lack of transparency; and families and communities fearing for their future. Many are stressed to the point of not sleeping while fearing the loss of their homes.
As an advocate for sustainable aquaculture practices, I regularly am in touch with many folks in these communities and they are outraged by what is happening to the bays and their communities — and no one to defend them from the wrath that open- net aquaculture continues to bring their way.
They are fearful of expressing their disgust and loathing of this industry, either in the community, publicly or with the provincial government, which continues to champion this industry like it was King Cod.
They would like to go public, but a short-term job is a job, even if it costs taxpayers a fortune or destroys the fishery in that area.
Locals in Pool’s Cove and St. Alban’s are fed up with chemicals, and dead or culled fish due to the ISA virus which explodes inevitably and repeatedly in crowded open-net pen sites placed too close together and exposed to all manner of parasite and illness. Others are concerned that fish destined for the St. Alban’s plant from Northern Harvest and Cooke were culled instead because they were infected with the ISA virus.
Another who works at an opennet pen site near Gaultois believes the industry is destroying the area. Again, he can’t speak because he would lose his job.
They are not alone. This story is remarkably similar to that of the Indigenous people fighting in British Columbia to protect their wild iconic salmon and their waters from the onslaught of a disease amplifying and spreading industry which places profits before concern for the environment and our precious fish.
The onus falls back on the provincial government and its MHAs to protect the interest of these people living in our rural communities; but instead they have become advocates for the industry that pockets our taxpayer dollars, fails to make employment commitments, pollutes waterways, threatens our wild fish and takes profits back to another country.
Locals also need to fight for change in this outdated industry if this never-ending crisis is ever to end. Remember, this has happened before with the industry meltdown from April 2012 to April 2014. Repeating the “make work project” bailouts yet again is not proper governing, nor is the repeated ISA outbreaks, now at six sites since last fall.
And no one, including the government, industry and even the media is talking about the elephant in the room of why processing plants are empty or why there is low employment — millions of culled diseased fish. This from an industry that touts aquaculture as a savior and from a government who believes this is “The Way Forward.”
Take your head out of the open nets, come up for some fresh air and get a better plan than this, Premier Dwight Ball.
Bill Bryden Lumsden