Lo­cals lament­ing aqua­cul­ture’s wrath

The Southern Gazette - - Editorial - Bill Bry­den, Lums­den

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.

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.

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.

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