2006 Legislative Session: Second Session, 38th Parliament
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE
MINUTES AND HANSARD
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE
October 11, 2006
Present: Robin Austin, MLA (Chair); Ron Cantelon, MLA (Deputy Chair); Al Horning, MLA; Daniel Jarvis, MLA; Gary Coons, MLA; Scott Fraser, MLA; Shane Simpson, MLA; Claire Trevena, MLA; Gregor Robertson, MLA
Unavoidably Absent: John Yap, MLA
Others Present: Brant Felker, Research Analyst; Dorothy Jones, Committees Assistant
1. The Chair called the committee to order at 9:01 a.m.
2. Opening statement by the Chair, Robin Austin, MLA
3. Statement by Chief Russell Kwakseestahla, Laich-Kwil-Tach First Nation
4. The following witnesses appeared before the Committee and answered questions:
|1)||Campbell River Environmental Committee||Julie Sigurdson|
|2)||Ocean Pacific Marine Supply||Bruce Kempling|
|3)||Campbell River Netloft||Doren Anderson|
|4)||Dr. Neil Frazer|
|5)||Comox First Nation||Barb Mitchell and Ron Frank|
|6)||Southside Welding Ltd.||Dennis Walker|
|7)||Green Party of Canada, North Island Constituency||Michael Mascall|
|8)||Stuart Island Community Association||Cathy Minor and Roger Minor|
|9)||Sonora Resort and Conference Centre||Sean Ross|
|11)||Concerned Citizens and Friends of Lighthouse Country||Marty Fortier and Brian Dane|
|12)||Sport Fishing Institute of B.C.||Eric Kristianson|
|13)||Walcan Seafood Ltd.||Bill Pirie|
|14)||Dr. Vernon Kemp and Mary Kemp|
|15)||Laich-Kwil-Tach K'ómoks Nations||Chief Russell Kwakseestahla|
|16)||Kwicksutaineuk/Ah-kwa-mish First Nation||Chief Bob Chamberlin|
|19)||Ritchie Foundation||Rupert Gale|
Coast Mountain Expeditions, Coast
and Discovery Islands Lodge
|21)||Xwémalhkwu (Homalco) First Nation||Chief Darren Blaney|
|22)||Marine Harvest U-14 Boys Soccer||John Jepson|
|23)||Noboco Styro Containers||Cory Percevault|
|24)||Dr. Jennifer Balke|
|25)||Brown’s Bay Packing||
with Corine Buse,
|26)||Steven Robert Brunt|
|28)||Kathy Smail, for Dr. Judith Williams|
5. The Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair at 5:11 p.m.
Robin Austin, MLA
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2006
Issue No. 23
|Chair:||* Robin Austin (Skeena NDP)|
|Deputy Chair:||* Ron Cantelon (Nanaimo-Parksville L)|
|Members:||* Al Horning (Kelowna–Lake Country L)
* Daniel Jarvis (North Vancouver–Seymour L)
John Yap (Richmond-Steveston L)
* Gary Coons (North Coast NDP)
* Scott Fraser (Alberni-Qualicum NDP)
* Gregor Robertson (Vancouver-Fairview NDP)
* Shane Simpson (Vancouver-Hastings NDP)
* Claire Trevena (North Island NDP)
* denotes member present
|Committee Staff:||Brant Felker (Committee Research Analyst)
Dorothy Jones (Committees Assistant)
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WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2006
The committee met at 9:01 a.m.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
R. Austin (Chair): Good morning. My name is Robin Austin. I'm Chair of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture and the New Democratic member for Skeena in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome everyone here to this committee's public hearings in Campbell River. It's our pleasure to be in your community and to hear directly from you on the issue that has been referred to this all-party legislative committee.
Today's meeting of the committee is a public meeting, which will be recorded and transcribed by Hansard Services. A copy of today's transcripts, along with the minutes of this meeting, will be printed and made available on the committees website at www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/aquaculture. In addition to the meeting transcript, a live audio webcast of this meeting is also produced and is available on the committees website to enable interested listeners to hear the proceedings as they occur. When this is not technically feasible, an archived copy of the audio broadcast is still available on the committees website.
Let me also, for the benefit of all witnesses, read out the committee's mandate. The Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture was reissued the following terms of reference by the Legislative Assembly on February 20, 2006: that the committee be empowered to examine, inquire into and make recommendations with respect to sustainable aquaculture in British Columbia and in particular, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, to consider the economic and environmental impacts of the aquaculture industry in B.C.; the economic impact of aquaculture on B.C.'s coastal and isolated communities; sustainable options for aquaculture in B.C. that balance economic goals with environmental imperatives, focusing on the interaction between aquaculture, wild fish and the marine environment; as well as looking into B.C.'s regulatory regime as it compares to other jurisdictions.
This committee is to report to the House no later than May 31, 2007. This committee reports directly to the House and not to the government. The committee is unique in the Commonwealth. An opposition member holds the Chair, while a government private member holds the Deputy Chair position. The majority of members hail from the opposition as well.
Accompanying the committee are Hansard 1 and 2. They record what is said during these hearings. Hansard 1 is Wendy, and Hansard 2 is Doug. The Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees Craig James will be joining us in just a short time. At the rear of the hall is the committee's research analyst Brant Felker, along with Dorothy Jones, who can assist you with questions that you may have about the work of our committee.
Before introducing the first nations chief who will make some welcoming remarks, I would like to have the members of the committee introduce themselves, starting on my right.
D. Jarvis: Good morning. I'm Daniel Jarvis, and I'm the Liberal member for North Vancouver–Seymour.
A. Horning: I'm Al Horning, MLA for Kelowna–Lake Country.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I'm Ron Cantelon, MLA for Nanaimo-Parksville.
C. Trevena: Claire Trevena, MLA for North Island and very proud to represent you.
S. Simpson: Shane Simpson, Vancouver-Hastings.
G. Robertson: Gregor Robertson, Vancouver-Fairview.
G. Coons: Gary Coons, North Coast.
S. Fraser: Scott Fraser, Alberni-Qualicum.
R. Austin (Chair): I would like to recognize that we are in first nations territory, of the Campbell River band. I would like to invite Chief Russell Kwakseestahla of the Awahoo tribe to come forward and make a few opening comments.
R. Kwakseestahla: [Kwak'wala spoken.]
R. Kwakseestahla: To the committee: we were never taught a difference of our family between the flyers, the crawlers, the swimmers, we native people. We were all as one, as in the word defined as [Kwak'wala spoken]. So when we make our submissions we will be forthright in the protection of all the things that we have been provided by the great Creator.
My great-grandfather in 1914 had stated that the great Creator had put us here, and that is where our position comes from. My late great-grandmother used to say that the feast dish cepa ac'i was given to us by the Creator, all things that our people harvested and lived by before contact. [Kwak'wala spoken.]
I am one of the prince sons of one of the royal families of the north Gulf of Georgia. My father is Capt. George Kwakseestahla, Qwinxwilas. He has done his civic duty five times in my lifetime amongst our people, to remind our people and the new people of who he is and who we are. Also, other head royal families from the north Gulf of Georgia, Discovery Passage and Johnstone Strait have done the same thing for their families.
We are remnants of the inherent governance of our ancestors. Although we are not recognized by the Canadian Parliament or the provincial Legislature, we still act on our fiduciary responsibilities in the interests of our homelands and the different things that we have
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issue with, such as what the committee is hearing today. I wish — from our point of view, from our perspective and from our sister and brother nations and tribes that are going to be permitted to make presentations to the committee — to have a just resolution and that we are heard as the indigenous nations who have survived the colonization of our homelands. It is very important at the 13th hour in our histories, for our future generations, for our pleas to be heard and not fall on deaf ears.
In 1914 there was a committee here. My ancestors and the ancestors of some people who are sitting in this room made presentations to the McKenna-McBride commission, but all the pleas of our great-grandfathers fell on deaf ears, and I hope that isn't the case today. The best thing I could wish for in our homeland is to have a just and fair hearing by the committee. There'll be the ayes and the nays, but I would call on the respect of all presenters — because this is our homeland; we are non-treaty, the Laich-Kwil-Tach K'ómoks — with any foreign government to at least have the respect for and diplomacy with each other today while we sit here and adjudicate what we're here today for. Gilakas'la. Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Chief Russell.
Before calling up the first witness, I'd just like to remind everybody who is going to be speaking before us today that we have an extremely full agenda. In fact, there's probably a waiting list of people who'd like to speak beyond five o'clock. As it is, we're going to be here for the entire day listening to various witnesses, and I would ask the people to try and limit their comments to around ten minutes. That enables the members of the committee to ask questions.
Please be aware that if you go beyond the 15 minutes, you're cutting into other people's time, and it'll make it very difficult at the end of the day to try and catch up. So please try and limit your comments to within ten minutes.
I'd like to begin by inviting Julie Sigurdson to the witness table as the first presenter.
J. Sigurdson: My name is Julie Sigurdson. I'm currently the president of the Campbell River Environmental Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture on behalf of CREC.
We have taken a look at the economic and environmental impacts of the aquaculture industry and have tried to give a balanced perspective from the environmental sector. We have examined sustainable options for aquaculture while trying to balance economic goals and environmental needs.
Our submission will focus on concerns and issues regarding how wild fish and the marine environment interact and impact on one another. We will conclude with suggestions regarding solutions and options addressing these concerns and issues.
Most of our issues lie within the salmon-farming industry. Other types of aquaculture, we feel, seem to have less deleterious impacts if done on a smaller scale in areas where oysters, clams, abalone and geoducks, etc., have survived naturally before human impacts had been detrimental.
Our specific concerns include sea lice infestations. Empirical evidence, both home-based and foreign, documents the negative impacts of open-net-cage aquaculture, which has spread the sea lice to migrating salmon smolts. Small communities coastwide have been severely impacted by the tragic decline of our wild salmon resource. We do not need any more widespread infestations of sea lice, which compound the abuses that have already been suffered from harmful human practices.
We recognize the concessions made by the industry — for example, Marine Harvest — related to fallowing and transferring Atlantic salmon to alternate sites. This agreement with Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, or CAAR, clears a corridor every year for migrating salmon smolts in the Broughton Archipelago. Terms of the agreement call for the adoption of a migration corridor every year, alternating between northerly and southerly routes.
However, Clare Backman, environment and lease manager for Marine Harvest, stated in the Campbell River Mirror on April 19: "Let's be clear. The corridor concept is not part of the provincial sea lice action plan, nor do we or the federal Fisheries Department believe corridors are required to safeguard wild salmon migration." She pointed out: "But in good faith we agreed to establish an alternating corridor on a temporary basis while more research on the issue is done in cooperation with the government and CAAR."
While industry's concessions to fallow and relocate farms in the Broughton are only temporary, they do support our position. The position is that a serious commitment be made in support of the precautionary principle. A first step in this process should be the return of a moratorium on fish farm expansion. In addition, governments, both federal and provincial, need to provide the financial and human resources necessary to complete the research monitoring progress, or lack thereof, of the sea lice issue.
There is also a need to provide consistent enforcement of effective regulation. CREC is confident that the process outlined above will lead to the realization that the best way for aquaculture to become sustainable, both operational and environmental, is to adopt closed containment aquaculture.
Our next issue that we would like to discuss is benthic contamination. Benthos is the flora and fauna found at the bottom of the sea. The accumulation of anoxic wastes under open-net pens is a serious problem. Salmon raised in open-net pens emit wastes that accumulate on the ocean floor, and this layer of anoxic waste has consumed all oxygen in these sediments, leaving a barren wasteland.
Proponents of open-net pens state that where net pens are fallowed, the ocean floor recovers. However, a study of one site, three years after the farming had stopped, identified that a footprint remained.
To quote Lloyd Erickson, a retired government scientist specializing in pollution monitoring: "History has shown that to the B.C. aquaculture industry, com-
[ Page 571 ]
petitiveness means being able to pollute as freely as your competition." His summary recommendation was parallel to ours, which states that the salmon-farming industry move to closed containment process.
Our next issue is the cumulative effects of mercury, hormones, antibiotics and chemicals on wild fish stocks and human health. Fish farms combat IHN, infectious hematopoeitic necrosis, and VHS, viral hemorrhagic septicemia, through the use of antibiotics and chemicals. Hormones are used to promote growth and strength.
A study published in Environmental Science and Technology, April 2006, sampled rockfish near fish farms in the Broughton, which showed elevated mercury, up to threefold. This study suggested that the high levels could be traced to the waste food and fish feces from open-net pens.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Adrian deBruyn from the University of Victoria, stated: "If we are going to work towards this truly sustainable aquaculture, we must know a lot more about contaminant releases and changes to contaminant cycling around farms."
Again, our plan of action adheres to the precautionary principle which includes continued research, effective regulation, regular monitoring and consistent enforcement.
Our fourth issue that I would like to discuss includes fishing down the food chain. It is well documented that worldwide fishing down the food chain is having a serious negative impact on the oceans of the world. Fish stocks are being overfished, and other marine organisms such as krill are being depleted at an alarming rate. This overfishing is having a serious effect on other dependent marine species.
To use vast quantities of wild fish stocks and other marine species as a source of food in support of aquaculture is irresponsible. Depletion of the oceans' resources cannot support a truly sustainable aquaculture industry or a sustainable environment.
In summary, CREC urges the government to apply the precautionary principle in finding resolutions to issues involving both sustainable aquaculture and a sustainable environment.
Our suggested plan of action encompasses the return of a moratorium on fish farm expansion; serious study of harmful impacts of all aquaculture types; support of government, both in finances and human resources, to continue research on specific issues related to the aquaculture industry; monitoring of both positive and negative results of fish farm activities; the use of alternatives, such as fallowing, migratory corridors and site relocation or rotation; effective regulation consistent with enforcement of these regulations; encouragement of all parties to work in the spirit of cooperation and good faith to settle these issues; and an eventual move to closed containment aquaculture.
In closing, it is our sincere request that the sustainability will apply equally to both aquaculture and the environment. We realize that there will be no easy answers. Please don't be satisfied with choosing a path that our wildlife, our children, our environment will pay for when we can choose a best-practices scenario now.
Let's choose the best for all of B.C.'s future, and set an example for the world. Other countries have already learned, and we don't have to go down the same road.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond, and we look forward to the results of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture and seeing a positive outcome for all British Columbians.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks, Julie. I'll open the floor now to members' questions or comments.
S. Simpson: Thank you very much for the presentation. I have one question. It relates to closed containment. You spoke about closed containment. One of the things that we know is that there are a lot of unanswered questions around that issue, both in terms of the economic and commercial viability of closed containment and around an assurance that it will address the issues that are in play.
It doesn't appear at this point that there has been the kind of research done on that to be able to put that forward. So the question I have is: would you support the provincial government partnering — and that means with resources — with industry or with others and academia to do a really significant closed containment pilot to see if it works?
J. Sigurdson: I think that would be a really great idea, so that we could see what the issues and different effects would be for that system as well. You'd have to have a closed-loop system somehow or else make sure the outcome is very clean coming out the other end.
S. Simpson: The sense being, then, to answer the questions that a lot of people have on both sides of the issue as to whether this actually will achieve the goals and still be commercially viable.
J. Sigurdson: That's right. We need to do some studies on that to see if it will work. I think that is a good idea. I mean, we have to find a solution somehow, some way, because obviously, we've got people who need to work within the salmon-farming industry. It solved a lot of economic problems. However, we have a lot of problems with our wild fish stocks. So we have to solve it in that area as well.
There are so many things to consider. There's got to be a solution somewhere. I mean, we're smart. Human beings are smart. We've got to figure it out, because it's not working the way it is.
G. Coons: I'm just looking at your suggested plan of action and comparing it to the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, which was an independent organization out to advise the governments of Canada and British Columbia. They came up with some recommendations also in 2003 in an advisory — Wild Salmon and Aquaculture in British Columbia. It was a report to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans of Canada and the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries at
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that time in British Columbia. They recommended that the precautionary principle be applied in a much more rigorous way than it is used. They also looked at wide-ranging research and monitoring programs.
In one of your recommendations you talk about the research and the support by governments. So you believe there is not the scientific research out there?
J. Sigurdson: No. Currently, I think we need to do more. There are other countries like Scotland and Norway that have learned, and we could use their research, and we could also do a lot more of our own. We've done lots of research. It is getting better. The salmon-farming industry has improved quite a lot, but we need to do more. There's always room to do more. We shouldn't be having more wild salmon issues. There are so many other impacts that have harmed our wild salmon industry. We need to not add to that. We need to make it better.
G. Coons: One last comment. The Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council also recommended that supervision and regulation of wild and farmed salmon, especially for fish health and disease surveillance, should be integrated to single-bay or area-management units. I understand that in Norway they've gone to, I guess, preserving certain fjords. Do you think that would be a recommendation that we should consider?
J. Sigurdson: It could be a possibility, but we have to really make sure we don't impact the rivers and creeks that we already have any more. When the salmon are coming down those rivers and creeks, they can't…. With the sea lice issue and with the pollution that's happening on the bottom, we don't need any more impacts in our fjords. So we have to be careful where we put them if we are not going to go to closed containment. If we are going to go to closed containment, or try to find a solution with less pollution going out, then I don't think we should have them in every fjord or every bay. There really has to be a balance.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much, Julie. I think you've presented a well-thought-through and well-organized presentation, and I thank you for the time you put in on doing that.
You covered some of the comments I would make. You comment about site relocation and rotation. I wonder if you could expand on that.
J. Sigurdson: Well, some of the different companies have a multitude of farms, and maybe they don't have to use them all at once. Maybe they could alternate. Say they use one farm one year, and they move down the way a little bit to another farm and do a rotation. You might have fewer fish out there, but then it would help save some of the pollution factors. Maybe you wouldn't get as much sea lice coming through either if you alternated and rotated them.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): In terms of relocation, would you favour relocation, then, of some of the farms?
J. Sigurdson: Well, I think, depending on where some of them are located…. I know they have to be in places out of the weather so that it's safe for the workers and everything like that. But maybe some of them are in the best places. So that could be taken a look at as well.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much, Julie, for your presentation.
At this time I'd like to call Bruce Kempling from Ocean Pacific Marine Supply up to the witness table.
B. Kempling: Good morning. I'll be brief. I know you have a long day ahead of you. My name is Bruce Kempling, and I own and operate Ocean Pacific Marine Supply here in Campbell River. We are a supplier to the aquaculture industry of general marine supplies, boating gear as well as safety gear. In addition we operate a shipyard for repairs and maintenance of vessels of all types up to about 60 feet or 50 tonnes.
I've been in the business for 21 years, and during this time we've watched the aquaculture industry change and grow and mature, in my view, into the industry that it is today. Although I've observed a lot of changes over the years as the industry's developed, I think the most significant is the number of regulations that exist today, both provincially and federally, that the operations now deal with that simply didn't exist 15 or 20 years ago.
The economic impact of salmon farming in the north Island is substantial, and not just in terms of direct business with the aquaculture companies, but I think the high level of integration into our communities, both economically and socially…. The direct jobs that have been created are full-time, year-round, with fair wages, good benefits, and they're all throughout the coastal sections of the north Island. In my view these are the components that we need to have a sustainable local economy and a healthy community.
The spinoffs in our local economy are also substantial and affect everything from real estate, consumer goods, school and college enrolment to services and recreation. It would be difficult, I think, to identify businesses in Campbell River and throughout the north Island that are not affected in some way by the salmon-farming industry.
There is, in my view, a high level of regulations and codes of conduct, both provincially and federally, and I've watched over the years as the industry has made what I think is every effort to comply and change and develop with these regulations. I support the industry and the efforts of all those involved to build a positive, sustainable and long-term industry for the north Island and for the benefit of all.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Bruce. Do any members have any questions or comments?
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R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Bruce, you've been supplying to them for — how many years did you say?
B. Kempling: Well, we've been in business for 21 years.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): And what proportion of your business, for example, would this represent?
B. Kempling: Well, it's hard to put a percentage on it, but it's a substantial part of our business. I think the reason it's hard to put percentages on these things is, as I've said, because it's such an integrated part of our economy now. So there's direct business to the aquaculture companies themselves, but there's business to other operators who are also working part of their businesses with the aquaculture industry. I guess all I can say is that it's substantial.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): One other question now. We certainly have heard and are hearing a wide range of opinions, both supportive and not so supportive, of the aquaculture industry. From your perspective over 20 years — you mentioned regulations — how would you characterize changes in the industry?
B. Kempling: I think that from what I've seen, it's gone from what was, say 20 years ago, a very new, untested…. There were few, if any, regulations from the provincial and federal governments because it was such a new industry on this coast. It's gone from there to what are very mature, very professional operations where they're working with government, working with their own people and doing a lot of testing. It just appears that the whole operation is much more professional and much more mature than it was 20 years ago.
S. Fraser: Thanks, Bruce, for being so concise and to the point. Touching on what Ron started on questioning, you've been in business for 21 years in marine supply?
B. Kempling: Yes.
S. Fraser: When you began in marine supply, did you anticipate the growth of this industry?
B. Kempling: No.
S. Fraser: So what was your rationale for getting into the marine supply business?
B. Kempling: Oh, just an interest in that type of business, I guess, from a philosophical point of view. We deal with a lot of different industries, including the aquaculture industry, and have for all of these years.
S. Fraser: So the percentages…. I know that it's hard to figure out the numbers. I know a significant portion of your business now is in aquaculture, probably mostly in finfish aquaculture. Previously, though, would it have been from commercial fisheries, sport, recreational — what?
B. Kempling: We do business with the commercial fishing industry. We do business in the recreational fishing industry, forest industry, tourism industry. Your question is….
S. Fraser: Just how things have changed. You've mentioned how this industry has grown, and of course, it's become a mainstay for you. You don't have the percentages, but that seems quite clear. Initially, that wasn't the case. The main portion of your business — would that have been from the commercial fleet? Who would you have been supplying in the marine supply business 20 years ago, say?
B. Kempling: Pretty well all the same people we are now, except that the aquaculture industry has grown. Some of the other industries have shrunk or aren't as substantial a part of the economics as they once were. There are certain types of fisheries that aren't as strong now as they were 20 years ago. On the other hand, there are other fisheries, such as prawn fishing, that weren't prevalent 20 years ago and are very prevalent now.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
Now I'd like to call up Doren Anderson from Campbell River Netloft.
D. Anderson: My name is Doren Anderson. I'm the manager for Campbell River Netloft. We're a company that works pretty much 99.98 percent for the aquaculture industry. We build, repair, alter, wash and treat fish farm nets and subsequent supplies.
The company was started in '87 by a Norwegian company. Those fellows were here for Expo, actually, and saw the opportunity, came here, set it up and supplied Norwegian companies starting out here. I started with the company in 1989. I was in a commercial fishing background from Prince Rupert.
I used to work on a trawler. It's more like an ocean vacuum that would drag a net across the sea floor, stirring up all the benthic and everything else in its path, knocking over rock piles and coral reefs and scooping up everything. We'd just take what we wanted and chuck the rest overboard. But it was nice to be home at night, so this was a better job, I think.
We started 19 years ago, and we've seen the industry grow and mature as well, as Bruce said. We used to start with very small nets. They've definitely grown, but so has the technology to make them stronger and safer — all at the initiative of the farmer, just to protect his investment.
We used to use half-inch ropes and very small, thinner netting. Nothing goes into the sea now that isn't a 5/8-inch rope. It's over 10,000-pound break strength.
We started out in a small building at the freshwater marina here in town. Then we got busier and expanded into two buildings. Soon we were working two shifts.
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In '99 it was so busy that we started looking for a new place when our lease was coming up. We built a new purpose-built facility in an industrial park here in town — a 14,000-square-foot, brand-new building and a full one acre of yard to work on nets outside. It's all fenced and enclosed property. Now all those people could work on the same day shift. Good facilities.
There were downturns in '01 for everybody. We shrunk a little bit. With all our work from fish farming, it wasn't a lot — just basic service and keeping up equipment that existed. There was not a lot new going on, but there were still needs to be met.
Our parent company decided that we should tool up to serve the industry better, so we opened a second facility beside our property — another two acres, a new building, a net-washing machine, wastewater treatment facilities, a disinfection tank, an antifoulant treatment system and net-drying. We've been doing that ever since.
We have, I think, 28 full-time employees and eight part-time. This year has been better than the last two. If it keeps up as we are, we'll put out over a million dollars in wages and benefits this year.
I've seen the salmon-farming industry push for equipment, tools and systems that are better than were ever dictated by the government, to protect the eggs they've put in their baskets. Our Norwegian parent company also makes netting. They're the biggest producer of commercial fishing gear in Scandinavia, but they also make netting and ropes and everything from the other industries involved.
It was Canadian companies pushing for stronger netting that made them go get machines that could produce this. Prior to that, commercial fisheries never asked for anything as strong. That was before the break-strength requirements came in from the provincial government here.
Just this last week we put together a big predator net with huge one-inch lines and netting that's like small rope. That's double protection on their system of fish inside.
A lot of the young employees would actually…. I'm not so young anymore. We have 19 families depending on our company. We've taken young guys and trained them up. There's definitely a skill to repairing nets. We're teaching them to run big equipment — large forklifts, air brake tickets.
Running crews. When I first got into this industry, I was amazed at all the young people managing sites and just in big in-charge positions. When I was growing up, it was just a lot of older guys running things, it seemed to me. Then, I was surprised later to learn that they all have letters behind their name. They went to school for this stuff.
I even see it today. A lot of young guys on sites are running their crews. They have a fresh outlook and focus, and they see things from a different point of view. There are still opportunities here. There is still innovation that can happen.
That's another point as well. If there's an idea that someone figures will work better, like your closed containment systems, it's been tried here and in several different places, on several different occasions. Even, I think, the Pacific Biological Station has had them. There has been one set up on Saltspring. In Washington State they've had a few different types.
If these systems were better and worked so much better, they would have been in use by now. You guys will see more environmental devastation and mess on the hillsides on the way to these little conferences than you ever will in ten years of looking at fish farms.
Also, about siting near creeks and spawning beds and things like that, provincial regulations and siting guidelines already take that into account. They know that they don't want that to happen, and they keep them away from each other, as well as keeping salmon farms away from shellfish beds and things like that.
I think the regulations exist now to regulate this industry fine. A lot of the stuff that has gone on now has been pushed for by the farmers, and they have a vested interest in things going right and in protecting their environment. Government and regulation has generally played catch-up to that. Sure, they're keeping an eye on it, but modern farmers are way ahead of that stuff today.
We also deal with some shellfish guys. A lot of those are getting more intensive and trying to make productive businesses out of them, rather than just family-oriented enterprises. There's nothing out there that doesn't affect something else, but I think they're both pretty innocuous industries in the environment.
In the 19 years that I've been in this, I haven't seen this wanton destruction and this huge decline in the wild fish populations that everybody claims. We've got 20 years of history here, and I haven't seen it yet.
They can talk about it all the time. It's like when you go to the forest and find a dead animal there covered in flies, and you think: oh, that must have killed him, and it had to come from that feedlot over there. It just doesn't make sense.
I brought some samples here of rope and stuff we're using commonly in nets today. If you're interested, you can have a look. These are the larger ropes used in the pred nets. The smaller ones here are the standard used in the regular nets in the sea today.
D. Anderson: The strength of this predator net is 1,021 pounds. That's single-strand.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): This holds up the nets? Is that the idea?
D. Anderson: Most nets are built as a framework, a grid of ropes. The mesh is always made longer so the rope takes the strength, never the weight of any weights. There is more strength vertically in the ribs. Some of these nets now have ribs every ten feet.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So these would be the ribs, then, would they?
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D. Anderson: In fact, the predator net we built is made entirely out of one-inch lines, whenever there are lines involved. The other ones are the 5/8 and basically, some bigger ones now are three-quarter.
Those are just some examples of how much better things have gotten since the beginning. You can keep all that for your little kid. I don't care.
Anyway, thanks for listening to my comments.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Doren.
Do members have any comments?
S. Fraser: A question. You provided us with a diagram to take us through the net-washing process. There are some terms there that I just don't know, so if you could help me with that, please. There's flocculant and there's a Kemira unit. And if you could also say where in this mix the antifouling happens after the cleaning? I'm not sure where that works.
D. Anderson: Okay, a small overview of the washing system. We have a net washer that's a closed, sealed unit — stainless steel tank — and it's a rotary washer. A lot of people think there's soap involved in washing nets. It's just water and tumbling — mechanical tumbling, knocking shells off and bits and pieces of stuff and flushing the water through it.
That is a diagram of our after-treatment system. On a discharge cycle in our washer, the heavy, coarse stuff is removed in a set of filters. There are three more sets of filters that remove the smaller and smaller coarse materials, and then there's the clouded water. The fine suspended particles in the water move to a separate tank, and then they're treated with what is called a Kemira system there.
That's diffuse flocculation. They add a chemical to make the small bits clump up together, and then it's floated off on a screen belt. That sludge goes to an extra tank, and the water gets recirculated back to the first tank to resupply the washer.
S. Fraser: Okay, thanks. I used to work in a refinery, so systems are interesting to me.
At the end of that system does the net get antifoulant on it? Or what happens there?
D. Anderson: At the end of that system the net will come out of the net washer, and we'll soak it in a disinfection tank, which is just a tank with hot water again — 60 degrees Celsius for half an hour.
Some of you have photos included in the back of your packages. They're not all the same. One of them shows a guy standing in a monstrous tank with the coils at the bottom. I don't know who has that one, but that's the disinfection tank. It's just full of water. It's kept hot, and we cook it in there like an autoclave for half an hour. That disinfects any harmful three-letter diseases that everyone's worried about.
After that the net is brought to the clean area. Generally, at that point it's repaired, and we do any alterations. In the end it's dried out. If they want to treat it with antifoulant, then we'll take that net, and we'll put in a basket like a deep-fry basket and soak it in a tank full of paint. Our paint is a wax-based emulsion. It has copper in it in a smaller percentage. This net is soaked in there for half an hour. We let it drip off for most of the day, and then we spool it on a large drum and blow air from the inside to dry it out. Our antifoulant stays a bit greasy — a feeling to it.
At the far end this sample is our antifoulant.
S. Fraser: Okay. That's on there already.
D. Anderson: Yeah. This is an untreated section of used net, and this is another competitive antifoulant, from our competitors. This is a dry one. This stays a little greasy, and that's without it.
After that, then the net is dried, and it's put in the water, the same as you paint the copper paint on the bottom of your boat.
S. Fraser: All right. You've answered the whole next question: how the heck do you do that?
D. Anderson: This is another product that isn't antifoulant. It's just a wax-based sealer. We just treated a large predator net for an organic farm on Quadra Island with this product, because they can't use antifoulant. It seals the fibres and hopefully prevents organisms from grabbing on tighter. You have to do something when…. You have to treat it. Otherwise, it just gets full of mussels.
A. Horning: I was going to ask you a bit about your company. I notice that you've got — 28 and eight part-time — 36 people working there, with benefits and wages over a million dollars a year. Do you just look after Campbell River here? Or are you up and down the coast?
D. Anderson: Up and down the coast.
A. Horning: Do you have competitors too? Are there others in your industry?
D. Anderson: There are two in town. Pretty much the largest competitors are here in town. There was one in Nanaimo, and there's another service centre in Port Hardy. But most of the builders are here in town now — well, both of us. There's another service fellow in town.
We service fish farms in Washington State, Puget Sound, up into Alaska, some trout farms in Alberta. I've sent some goodies to Malaysia, Japan and the Philippines.
A. Horning: So you're always doing research and development to try and come up with better stuff all the time too?
D. Anderson: Now we're just busy trying to keep up with our orders, so there's not much time for that. If a farmer comes to me and he's got a certain problem or an issue, I'll help him work it out. We might find an innovative solution to it.
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There are some problems with dead fish ending up in the corners of nets. We just made a simple block. You sometimes can lift the corner or a block to keep the stuff out of there. Different fittings in the bottom of a net to take….
To reduce diving, now they have a product called Liftup. It's a Norwegian thing that will slurp dead fish and feed up from the bottom without diving it. We've built a recessed pocket for that to mate with, so it's a nice, clean design.
We make the bottoms of nets cones now — very large, eight metres of cone from a hundred-foot-wide net, down to another 25-foot tip so that everything will find the centre, to be removed easily.
We've put nets together that will be able to come apart. They have heavy steel hardware connections and things so that when they're together, they're solid, but they can come apart to join them together or to spill other fish into them. In the Gulf of Mexico I'd actually like to put fish in and out of the net. We've done that — large zippers and all kinds of stuff.
C. Trevena: A couple of questions. You say that you have a Norwegian parent company. What's the parent company?
D. Anderson: The parent company's name is MøreNot.
C. Trevena: And they are worldwide?
D. Anderson: They have lots of service centres and other affiliates in Scandinavia, Chile, Spain, Scotland, Ireland — lots in Europe.
C. Trevena: But as the affiliate here, you're also working, as you say, internationally yourself?
D. Anderson: That's right.
C. Trevena: On the different sorts of antifoulant, is it an issue of cost or an issue of effectiveness that you choose to use the antifoulant you use that others don't use?
D. Anderson: Our parent company has a deal with that company. It used to be Mobil Oil. Now it's called NetKem that our Netrex product is made from. That's the product they use. There are others available to us, but if I use the competitor's product here, then the competitor would get back to them there and say: "Well, they don't even like your product. They'll use ours in Canada." It's a company preference kind of thing.
We believe ours is always pliable. We think that's a good thing — keeping the nets pliable. Other people here believe that a stiffer net prevents seal hits. It's a preference. Ours comes off a bit in your hands, but it washes out of your clothes, whereas if the other product gets on your clothes, it's there forever. It's just preference. They both work as well, I would say.
C. Trevena: My last question, if I might. You say you're doing more and more with shellfish farms. Is this basically a similar process for building and then cleaning the nets?
D. Anderson: Yeah, we do clean some nets for shellfish farms. Some shellfish are grown in rafts, suspended from rafts, and they have predator nets to keep ducks from eating their product. We've had their nets, and we've washed them.
We build those nets for them. We supply them with some of the ropes that would support them on the suspended lines and some socking that protects them or helps to hold the seat on there when they're first put on. Rope, supplies — whatever.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): A further follow-up question on antifoulant. I gather that it's a copper-based compound. How does it compare in terms of intensity — I don't know what you'd say — to a copper bottom on boats? Is it a higher level or lower level of toxicity, or do you know?
D. Anderson: No. It only prevents shellfish from adhering to it. We put samples together that are different antifoulant products, and we've sewn these panels of mesh together dipped in different stuff with a twine in between. The twine on both sides of these panels will get mussels attached to them, yet the panels won't.
It's a 3-percent-by-volume portion of copper, within our antifoulant anyway, and a slow-release rate, maybe, of…. I don't know that it's any more toxic than a boat-bottom paint. It's no different than having that boat parked beside the cage than the cage itself. Testing on it, it's very hard to find high levels of copper right beside the mesh. They will not attach to it.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay. Just to reconfirm in my mind, when you wash the nets…. Firstly, how often are nets serviced?
D. Anderson: Yearly. Maybe every cycle — 18 months.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): And just to be clear, you don't use any chemicals in the washing? You use a coagulant, apparently, to precipitate things. But there are no detergents or other chemicals to purify?
D. Anderson: The coagulant is in another separate building, in another place. I think it sort of goes inert after a while. It's hugely diluted in a big tank.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): And you don't use any chemicals to purify it either? Or you just use heat?
D. Anderson: For the disinfection?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Yeah.
D. Anderson: Yeah, that's all we have.
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R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): One last question. You've seen quite a change, I presume, in the industry over the 20 years. I invite you to comment on that, particularly with respect to predators attacking nets. Escapement is something we've heard a lot. You'd be on the end where you'd see the holes, and you'd know. So I'd like you to comment on any improvements or what your perception is as far as holes in nets where fish might escape.
D. Anderson: The worst predator problems I've seen are in Washington State, where they have monster sea lions there. They'll hop right up on the cage system, and they'll waddle their way in and do what they want. Those guys will put their railings on the outside of the walkways, mesh higher up. They've been seen sort of shooing one back with the blunt end of a pipe pole, and then they end up on the KING 5 news that they're harassing sea lions down there.
I've seen damage here out of Port Hardy with some sea lions that came through but nothing major. Generally, those farms have predator nets now. I've heard of a whale coming up through an empty net just to have a look, maybe to scrape the barnacles off his face, but otherwise, nothing major.
Sea lions are not a huge thing here. I don't know what they're after. Seals are the pests, generally. Most predator nets are keeping them at bay.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Do you find that the nets are effective for seals? That would be the most prevalent animal out here, I would think.
D. Anderson: A seal is like a dog. It's determined that it's going to chew through rope. I've heard that with sea lions in Washington State. We've had stuff that isn't netting. It's a geogrid product — hard plastic, sharp to work with, cuts your hands. But they will go through it like it's nothing when they want the fish behind it.
That's a different issue. Those people have to shut down and switch to large predator nets. This one guy who ran these nets thought they were going to be perfect and that's all he would need. When the neighbours put on a predator net that was impregnable, they just came right back to him. A good predator net is really all you need, and good maintenance of that predator net. Keep an eye on it.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you.
G. Coons: Thank you, Doren. I'm looking at the time here. I'm just wondering. In your brief it says you're speaking on behalf of the Campbell River Netloft Ltd. and the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association. What's your involvement with the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association?
D. Anderson: We are today an associate member. We have been an associate member of the Salmon Farmers Association since our inception. I'm not a producing member. I'm just a service company, so I like to be involved and support the industry.
G. Coons: Just one comment. In your brief here it says: "The salmon-farming industry has dictated increases in all facets of its infrastructure to become safer, stronger, more durable, as local environmental conditions and the size of their investment demand."
I guess that's the dilemma we have when we weigh the economics versus the environmental impacts. I'm just wondering if there are any knowledge gaps. And if there are, what would they be?
D. Anderson: I believe that the farmer still is keeping uppermost in his mind the environmental impact of what he's doing. Nobody puts a flimsy net in the water when you've got 30,000 fish at risk there. You know, your diesel fuel tanks or whatever or your generators are double-protected, and they don't want to have a spill that would cause them some detriment.
The regulations. Nobody wants to be spilling in the environment. You get in trouble for that. They're not slippery. They're being responsible corporate citizens here, I'd like to say.
We certainly are. Our net-washing system is way ahead of anything else here. It tries to be on top of things. The stuff we get out of that system goes in a toxic waste bin, and it's shipped out of the province — I think Alberta. Everybody is doing what they can to be as responsible as they can.
G. Robertson: Thank you for your presentation, Doren. Historically were antifouling paints used on nets from the beginning, or were they just washed?
D. Anderson: Just washed, and it could be quite often. Every three months it would need it. I think that in '94 the first antifoulant nets came here. They came from the east coast, and then they set up antifoulant facilities here to do it. It's really a huge expense for the farmer, but for the less risk from net changes and stress to the fish, I guess it's worth it.
G. Robertson: In your business do you service all of the farms locally in these islands?
D. Anderson: We can. Certain companies we don't do work with; other service centres do. We have in the past serviced all of them.
G. Robertson: Can you give us an approximate amount of antifouling paint that you'd go through in your business, or maybe how much a farm itself…?
D. Anderson: Our antifoulant is fairly new, so it's tough to sell it to these new guys. Pan Fish has used a fair bit lately. We did a couple of nets for Marine Harvest. Like I was mentioning to Scott there, we did the organic type with a small operation this summer.
Volume: 50,000 litres this year. Our product isn't diluted, so 50,000 litres is 50,000 litres. Others can dilute it 15 or 20 percent or more. I'm the smallest guy in
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the dipping pool. There are other guys who have the full contracts to dip for certain companies, and that's constantly what they do. For me, it's not every day.
G. Robertson: Approximately how many farms would you be doing the nets for in a year?
D. Anderson: Individual farms? How many farms are there? I could do nets from every farm on the coast if I had to.
G. Robertson: Say with that 50,000 litres of antifouling….
D. Anderson: Oh, those. That's four or five farms for one particular company, only a couple of nets on one site for another guy, because the other two guys were busy, and hopefully more in the future for our products.
G. Robertson: Is it about 10,000 litres to do a farm?
D. Anderson: No. We can do 100-by net. We did a 100-by net, say, 25 metres deep — fairly beefy mesh. It's taking 1,800 litres to do that net. In a farm they could have ten 100-by holds there. Some 36-metre nets — ten of those, maybe 2,500 litres each.
It depends on the thickness of the netting and how much netting. In a given panel of mesh, if it's bigger holes, there's less actual material there. So a predator net has taken less than some of these big 100-bys, because there's less material there.
Ropes don't suck it up — mostly just the mesh.
G. Robertson: In terms of the toxic by-product. After you wash, you fill tankers that get chipped away, or how exactly…?
D. Anderson: The sludge and the coarse extractable stuff are fairly dry. In fact, there's a screw conveyor to press the water out of it, and then it's just a dry crumble. It's put in a big skip that's a plastic-lined big dumpster, really, sealed over, and they take it away.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Doren, for your presentation.
I'd like to call Neil Frazer up to the witness table.
N. Frazer: Good morning. I was asked by Georgia Strait Alliance to come and speak with you. I have no association with Georgia Strait Alliance. I've never received any funding from them. I'm not an officer or anything like that. But I am one of the co-authors on the study that came out recently in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, so I guess they thought that would carry a little weight here.
I'll just try to give you my point of view on this whole business, confining my remarks to the science, not the engineering or the economics. I'll try to be as brief as I can.
My credentials, if you want to know them, are that I was born and raised in British Columbia. I have a bachelor's degree in engineering physics from UBC and a PhD from Princeton University. I've published about 80 peer-reviewed papers.
I'd like to say that there's a lot of good aquaculture. You have to make a distinction between aquaculture in general and salmon farming in particular. I'm sure that you all know that and will keep that in mind.
Anyway, just to give a little history. A few years ago Krkošek, Lewis and Volpe published an article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society on the Broughton Archipelago, in which they showed that lice on juvenile pink and chum salmon were coming from salmon farms. More recently we published an article in the National Academy of Sciences that showed not only that the lice are coming from the farms but that there's a very powerful mortality of juvenile salmon associated with those lice.
I got involved with this after the paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society was published, because the B.C. Salmon Farmers hired a man named Alaisdair McVicar, a retired professor of parasitology from Scotland, to discredit the Krkošek, Lewis and Volpe article. Alaisdair McVicar wrote a criticism of this article, and it was passed around in B.C. as if it was peer-reviewed science, which it was not. It was just somebody's opinion.
I was asked to look carefully at the Proceedings of the Royal Society paper and see what I thought of it. So I did look at it. I went through the mathematics in detail and wrote a 40-page essay explaining the mathematics and looking for sources of error.
Indeed, there are some sources of error in the Proceedings of the Royal Society paper. One is that it seriously underestimates the sea lice larvae that come from the farms. It does so for a very simple reason: it assumes a linear migration route. But, actually, the migration route bifurcates a tribune channel in Knight Inlet, so a lot of the larvae are lost. There is a serious underestimation of infection pressure.
In the recently published paper in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, not only is this underestimation effect still there, but there is an underestimation of mortality. In other words, there's a very broad range of mortality estimates in that paper. But it's still not as accurate as it could be. One of the reasons is that we're not taking predation into account.
In the mathematics that I did, which we're working on now, which is why I haven't looked at this paper for six months, we're looking at how to incorporate that predation effect. It can be done in a way that is entirely different than the proceedings article. So it'll be a different, completely independent way to do it. Anyway, there are some approximations in there, but they are all conservative approximations. They are all such as to cause an underestimation of the effect.
What we're working on currently is the physics of these connected channels — Knight Inlet, Tribune
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Channel, that kind of stuff. How to do the physics right. We're looking at predation, and we're also looking at — and this is what I've been working on very intensely for the past two years — the general question: can you get away with this? Can you add farmed fish to a system of wild fish and sea lice and not damage the wild fish?
Okay. Now, usually when I talk about this subject I have a PowerPoint, and it's full of equations, differential equations, algebraic equations, but the basic physics is very clear, and you don't need equations to understand that. So I'm going to try to explain it here.
This is the ocean. In this ocean we have wild fish swimming around, and they have parasites — let's say sea lice. Those sea lice are just what we know about because we can see them. Anyway, we've got wild fish. They have parasites, sea lice. The sea lice lay eggs. They turn into larvae. The larvae drift around in the ocean before they reach the infective stage — okay? So you're a larvae drifting around in this ocean. You have to find a host, or you're going to die.
Now, we know that most of those infective-stage larvae do not find a host. How do we know this? Because a female sea louse in her lifetime will create a thousand of those infective-stage larvae, and only two of them need to find a home. So in a stable situation you have 998 out of 1,000 that don't find a host. What we have is a host-limited process. So your chances of finding a host if you're one of these larvae are very, very small. But if you now put some farm fish over here in a cage, your chances of finding a host just went up by a huge amount, because there are now more fish in the ocean so more larvae find a host. More larvae turn into sea lice, and you now have twice as many larvae in the ocean and twice as many fish. So you now have four times as many sea lice on your fish as you had before you put your farmed fish in the ocean.
The farm fish are not affected by this, because they are protected in a cage. But wild fish live in a delicate, dynamic balance with parasites and pathogens and predators. We're all used to thinking that predators like seals, dolphins, orcas and sea lions control salmon populations. That's not true. Those guys are just the garbagemen — the big guys. The real predators are what we call the cryptic predators — pathogens and parasites. That's where the dynamic balance is.
When you go into the system, and you put farm fish in there, and you raise those levels of pathogens and parasites, you are going to lose wild fish. It's that simple. That's the physics. We're a host-limited process, and that's not just sea lice. That's everything else too. The only interesting scientific questions are: how much are you going to lose? Where's it going to happen? And how long will it take? These things don't happen overnight.
That's what I work on with all the mathematics. So that's it. You don't need to read all those equations in that PNAS paper. That's the physics. All the equations are just to calculate the details.
What I talked about there in this ocean is something called the host-density effect. Increase the number of hosts, and your number of parasites go…. It's that simple. There's another important effect in places like the Broughton, and that's what I think of as the reservoir-host effect. Now, in our natural conditions adult wild salmon come in, and they have all sorts of diseases. I'm probably not telling you anything that you don't already know, but it's worth repeating and to give it a name: the reservoir-host effect.
These adult wild salmon come in, they have all sorts of diseases, they go up into the rivers, they lay their eggs, they die, and the coast cleans up for six months. When those juveniles come out in the spring, they come out into a clean system. When you put farms on those migration routes, the wild salmon will give all these diseases to the farm fish. The farm fish culture them over the winter. When the juveniles come out in the spring and they have to go by the farms, they get infected.
That's the reservoir-host effect. It's a very powerful effect, because the juvenile pinks and chums are very small. They did not evolve to resist this kind of infection pressure. So we have the host-density effect, and we have the reservoir-host effect. This is basic physics; it's basic ecology. It's equivalent to saying that you can't push on a rope. There's a fundamental problem here. There's no way to do this without losing wild fish. It's not just the Broughton, and it's not just sea lice.
My personal opinion, and this is just speculation, is that the farmers themselves will go to closed containment eventually, because it's just going to be too expensive to treat for disease. Wild salmon have an inexhaustible supply of disease. They're not a problem for us, you know, when we fish, because seals and everything clean them up. All the experiments that have been done with predation have shown unequivocally that predators are very, very good — I mean the big predators — at figuring out which fish are the weakest and the slowest. Those are the ones they go after, and those are the ones they get. That's nature's control.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Neil. I'll open the floor for questions.
C. Trevena: I have a question which I'm not sure whether you'll be able to answer. When the report came out a couple of weeks ago, some farmers associations were very quick to respond. They said that it was bad science and old science. I would like your response to that. They just dismissed it as: "Well, it's old science, and it's bad."
N. Frazer: Neither of those things is true. There's a lot of new data in it. I think it's really good science. I think it's excellent science. You have to understand that many people choose their science the way they choose their religion — it fits the way they want the world to be. Now, I don't have any objection to the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association blowing smoke at the public. They
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have to make a living — right? They're getting a free ride here. They get to use our coast as a sewer.
What really got me involved in this was when I saw a DFO scientist, whose education was paid for by the public and all of whose professional activity was paid for by the public, making very, very misleading statements to the public. I have a very, very strong emotional quotient in this, but it doesn't have anything to do with the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association. It has to do with government scientists who are lying to the public. So I don't care what the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association says. They're going to say whatever will help.
S. Simpson: A bit of a follow-up on that. Could you, as a scientist, just briefly explain to us: what does peer-reviewed mean versus putting out an opinion?
N. Frazer: Peer review means your paper goes to a journal, the editor looks at it, and he sends it out to scientists that are qualified to pass an opinion on it. That peer review is anonymous. Those scientists get to write their opinion of your paper. Those opinions go back to the editor. If you're the author of the paper, you don't know who reviewed it. You never find out. Sometimes a reviewer can waive anonymity, but there's never any pressure on a reviewer to do that.
Scientists are generally very, very critical people. I mean, we're nitpickers. That's our nature. If we get a paper to review and we look at it quickly, if we see anything wrong with it, we jump all over it and send it back to the editor, saying, "We can't publish this. It's no good," or, "This is what's wrong with it," and such and such.
The editor takes all those reviews and makes a decision. Either accept for publication, if all the reviews are good, which is very, very unusual…. I think of the 80 peer-reviewed papers I've published, probably two of them were published without significant revision.
The editor can say, "We'll accept your paper subject to these revisions," and send the reviewers' opinions anonymously back to the author and say: "This is what the reviewers didn't like about your paper. If you can address these points to my satisfaction as an editor, then we'll consider publishing." Or the editor may just reject it.
Does that address your question?
S. Simpson: It does. One second question there. When you've looked at this issue — and we've had some of this discussion with parties on both sides of the debate around salmon farms and the relationship to wild habitat and wild salmon…. We've got lists of peer-reviewed work that has been done — primarily peer-reviewed work — much like the paper you participated in here that has raised concerns about the relationship.
In the work that you've done, are you aware of peer-reviewed science that challenges the work or the types of work that you did on this paper — that takes the other view?
N. Frazer: Well, I just had accepted for publication a peer-reviewed paper which was a comment on a piece of science done by Richard J. Beamish and other people at Pacific Biological Station. In my comment, I pointed out that this was a fundamentally unscientific piece of work for four different reasons. Fundamentally, it was propaganda, not science.
S. Simpson: Would you make that available to us, or just tell us where to find it?
N. Frazer: I'll provide you with a copy of it.
S. Simpson: That would be great. Thank you.
N. Frazer: It's not a public document, because it hasn't appeared yet. It's just been accepted for publication. I have a letter from the editor saying that it's been accepted: "They'll send you proofs."
S. Simpson: Fair enough.
N. Frazer: Now, there's another paper by the same group, which I think is equally unscientific. It's just propaganda. We're looking at addressing that properly.
It takes time. It also takes money. I have the luxury of not caring very much about money, so I'm able to support my scientific work thanks to the courtesy of my wife, who has learned to live without a lot of things. I don't need to get grants. It's very hard to get grants for things that make people uncomfortable.
S. Simpson: I'll remember that.
S. Fraser: I'm going to probe this a bit further…
N. Frazer: Sure — please.
S. Fraser: …because I have received some flak for a statement I made in the press. I didn't think I made it out of turn, and I thought I was being balanced. I just want to make sure that I'm not going to screw up again, if I did screw up before — in the interests of public process here.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. I mean, I've read them before. Are they recognized? They're considered to be…?
N. Frazer: Oh, yeah. It's very prestigious.
S. Fraser: Oh, okay.
N. Frazer: That's why it's in the news.
S. Fraser: Well, it sounds…. But they all sound…. I'm not a scientist, so I don't have any idea.
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The peer review that happens around that — part of that is to adjudicate whether or not the science is valid?
N. Frazer: Oh, yes.
S. Fraser: Okay, I'm speaking as a layperson here, so be patient.
N. Frazer: Oh yeah, absolutely. You see, the thing about PNAS is that they get good reviewers, people who really know what's happening, whereas a third-rate journal could be reviewed by just somebody the editor happens to know.
S. Fraser: Okay, then further to that, the funders of this study, in my understanding, were the National Research Council of Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. I know you made some critical comments about one level of federal involvement here, but are they the prime funders for this, or supporters? What's their role there?
N. Frazer: That funding came through a grant for applied mathematics at the University of Alberta, because money could not be gotten in B.C. to do the work. The fieldwork was largely done by volunteers, graduate students who really sensed the…. You know, when you're a scientist you get an instinct. You know this is good. This is really exciting. It's going to surprise a lot of people and make them uncomfortable. The best science is the science that most surprises. That always changes things.
There was no money to be gotten in B.C. That money came from applied mathematics — Mark Lewis's grant at the University of Alberta. He's a very good applied mathematician, and he had this big NSERC grant.
S. Fraser: Okay. Lastly, if I could just finish this off, the further support, according to what I read, came from three other organizations. It included the David Suzuki Foundation. It also included the sablefish group and the wildlife outfitters group. What role, if any, do they have in the science of this?
N. Frazer: They have no role in the science. They just supplied some money to finance the fieldwork.
S. Fraser: There's no obligation, tacit or otherwise, to provide a result there — in your opinion?
N. Frazer: No, not at all.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): As you point out, people choose passionate belief in one science or the other, and it's a dilemma for this committee. I'm very thankful for you to be here today. I'm just trying to understand your role more, Neil, if I may. You have a PhD. That is in mathematics, too, I presume?
N. Frazer: It's in geophysics, but mathematical modelling is what I do.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Right. So when you talk about real predators, your background is not in marine science, but it's in the mathematical modelling of the results. Is that correct?
N. Frazer: Yeah. I do marine science, underwater sound, stuff like that. I've worked on a variety of problems. It would take more time than we have to talk about the problems I've worked on.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I know, and if we tried to understand the science completely, this would be a never-ending committee. I have one question. Did you do the math, or was it Martin who did the mathematical numbers? I just want to know.
N. Frazer: You know, I checked the math. I checked it. It was done by Mark and Marty, and I checked it and made some suggestions. The reason that I'm a co-author on this paper is that there was a fundamental result they needed for it, and we don't have time to talk about that.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): No, we don't, and that's part of our problem. We don't have time to thoroughly, completely understand all the aspects of the science.
N. Frazer: It was necessary for this paper.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I just have one question on the results, and that is that you show a range of 9 percent to 95 percent. Is that fatality?
N. Frazer: That's a big range. Yeah, mortality.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): It is a big range. I'm just wondering if you could explain that a bit for me. We hear the 95; we don't hear the nine.
N. Frazer: Yeah, exactly. A lot of that depends on the age of the fish, how small they are when they go by the farms, how concentrated the larvae are in the area through which they're migrating. There are variables in there. That estimate will be refined in future work.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay. Just one last question. You mentioned earlier that there were sea lice among other fish in the ocean, when you were doing your little walkabout here.
N. Frazer: The kind of sea lice that are troubling us here, the one Lepeophtheirus salmonis, is an obligate parasite of salmonids. In other words, it can go on sticklebacks temporarily, but it can't reproduce there. It has to find a salmonid host.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I think I could go further with that, but I think we might…. One last ques-
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tion, then. We are planning to have a scientific panel, and your opinion is quite clear. It's not very favourable with DFO. You mentioned that it's propaganda. Would you be prepared to sit in a seminar with them and have your science confront their science?
N. Frazer: I'd be delighted. I went to Nanaimo and gave a talk once.
R. Austin (Chair): I'd like to call at this time Ron Frank and Barb Mitchell, from the Comox First Nation, up to the witness table, please.
Please go right ahead.
R. Frank: Good morning.
B. Mitchell: Good morning. I'm just going to read a summary of our presentation to you.
The Comox First Nation is integrally involved in supporting improvements to and trying to make changes in the salmon aquaculture industry. Our traditional territory extends from the islands, and that's adjacent to Sayward, including the Salmon River drainage in the north and south to the Englishman River, near Parksville.
We have a history directly connected to the salmon resource. This connection has led us to have a great concern for the survival of wild salmon. The many reports of impacts of open-net-cage salmon-rearing technology — from bottom fouling, predator impacts and sea lice proliferation to escaped exotic salmon species frequenting the Salmon River, our main fish river — are of great concern to us.
In order to promote conservation and improvements to the environmental aspects of our territory, we have been involved with Agrimarine Industries in the development and planning for their proposed Middle Bay demonstration of floating closed-containment salmon-rearing technology in Campbell River. We have a small but, to us, significant investment in this opportunity to change the way the salmon-farming industry impacts our sea resources. We have looked long and hard at the technology, met with government and industry officials to educate others and get support for this development.
It is critically important that the federal and provincial governments, ENGOs, industry partners and investors all support trials and development of this innovative solution to many of the problems, both technologically and environmentally, which challenge the long-term viability of open-net-cage salmon-farming practices. While open-net-cage salmon rearing is clearly unsustainable, we believe floating closed-containment technology to be a step towards building sustainability into the salmon aquaculture industry.
A recent trip to Norway by our local municipal and regional representatives showed the viability of closed-containment technology. We are confident that others will see that value in this advance in salmon-rearing technology and support it. We hope that the provincial government will support the innovation of closed-containment systems, as planned for Middle Bay and other locations in our traditional territories, and move to closed-containment salmon-rearing technology as a standard in the industry.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our views of this important issue.
G. Coons: You talked about the recent trip to Norway. Did any representatives from your first nations community attend that?
R. Frank: No, they didn't.
G. Coons: Were any of them asked to?
R. Frank: No, they weren't.
G. Coons: Okay. I'd look at your hope that the provincial government will support the innovation of closed containment systems. How do you see this committee coming up with a recommendation of going to closed containment? Do you see an immediate turn to it, or a phasing in? How would you foresee going to closed containment in your traditional territory?
R. Frank: It can't be an immediate one, because it's unproven technology. We're aware of that. But we see so many of the potential benefits applying to the industry from where it is now to where it could be if all that technology proves out. It's really an issue of getting the funding together and doing a trial that tests not only the viability of the technology but the economics of it. It needs to be done on a scale that would answer that question as well.
On a smaller scale, I think we could probably find out whether or not all of the aspects that are purported to be solved by this are actually solved. But we need to know, secondly, that it's economic.
Comox First Nation are extremely interested in finding a better way to raise salmon. We believe that the floating technology is part of the solution, and of course, the aspect of building capacity and having employment within the traditional territory is extremely attractive to Comox First Nation.
G. Coons: Thank you. One last question. Under the Salmon Aquaculture Review recommendations, one of the recommendations was to develop a system to help fish farm companies, first nations, local residents and other marine users to avoid and resolve disputes, which would include strengthening first nations and public participation in the locating of salmon farms and developing policy objectives. Do you feel that your nation has been adequately consulted and involved in the process?
B. Mitchell: Yes, I believe we have done all those steps to take care of that.
G. Coons: Perfect. Thank you.
C. Trevena: You say that you are involved in the development and planning of the Middle Bay closed
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containment. What is the involvement of the first nation? Is it people, or money, or what do you mean?
R. Frank: All of those things, including energy and a lot of time away from family and friends to go out and view the site, walk the site, talk about the traditional territories, prepare introductions to other first nations, prepare sessions with our local MLAs over the years.
It's been an ongoing effort by the Comox First Nation, including working with the Suzuki Foundation and so on. There's a lot of support and networking that we've been involved in to support this initiative.
C. Trevena: Is the Comox First Nation at all involved in shellfish aquaculture?
R. Frank: Yes. It's a major enterprise of the Comox First Nation — shellfish aquaculture, oysters and clams.
C. Trevena: There is obviously an economic generator there. Why do you feel you want to get involved in this other form of aquaculture?
R. Frank: The involvement in the salmon aquaculture aspects are because of the concern over the effects of open-net-cage rearing on the resources of the traditional territory — purported or otherwise. We're not scientists in that regard, but we've seen the exotic fish swimming in and around the rivers. We've heard the concerns of all the people living in the territory, and we're looking to be part of the solution.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): We didn't go to Norway either.
You say you've learned from municipal representatives about advances in closed containment, although you've just mentioned it's still unproven. Was that from the Comox representative, or here? Who did you learn that from, so we can follow that up?
R. Frank: I didn't follow your question. I'm sorry.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): You say that on a recent trip to Norway, local and municipal showed the viability of closed containment, so I presume that's something the municipal — if I'm reading this correctly — learned on their trip.
R. Frank: We have a good relationship with the village of Sayward, which was represented on that tour and shared the information with us.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Sayward?
R. Frank: Mayor Sprout.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
R. Frank: Thank you for the opportunity.
R. Austin (Chair): I'd like to call up Dennis Walker from Southside Welding Ltd. to the witness table, please.
D. Walker: Good morning, and welcome to Campbell River. Isn't this a great town?
My name is Dennis Walker, and I was born here in Campbell River 61 years ago. I spent seven years working in the Elk Falls Pulp and Paper Mill, and before that I worked in logging camps. In 1978 I began my own welding and fabrication business.
Over the years I've done a lot of business with the aquaculture companies, from the early days till now. It seems to me that this industry has come a long way in every facet of their operations, and the very small footprint on this coast that aquaculture uses, along with the stringent rules that they live with, makes it reasonable that we, the people of B.C., should welcome this industry and make it flourish.
I've visited a number of farms such as Quatsino and Church House, and in my opinion, these farms are clean, well run and maintained. I have had explained to me the rules they live by that others on the coast don't necessarily have to abide by. The fuel tank in the boat that I had arrived in did not have double containment, but the farm had to have double containment even for their outboard tanks and secondary catchments.
The sea life that I have seen growing around these farms makes it look to me like they are not causing much of a problem. The farm crew even had a prawn trap off the end of the farm, and apparently they did fine for their seafood treats.
The small communities up and down the coast, both native and non-native, rely on this industry to sustain their way of life, raising their children in their small communities as I did mine in Campbell River in its infancy. Now some of my children work in the aquaculture industry and are about to raise their children with these resource dollars.
It is very easy for the naysayers to oppose everything that is proposed, but we the workers of B.C. would like to have a job right here at home to keep our families fed and clothed with good, clean resource jobs like these aquaculture jobs.
In short, resources pay the bills — your wages, my wages, the schoolteacher's, the doctor's, the nurse's, and on and on — so let's help to make it happen and not further block this industry out. Use the rules to keep it viable, vibrant and environmentally sound, to be proud of and not scorned.
Thank you for your time, and I sincerely hope that you'll take a positive message back to the B.C. government.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much, Dennis.
Do members have any comments or questions? No?
I'd like to call Michael Mascall up to the witness table, please.
M. Mascall: Good morning. Thank you for having us, and thank you for the opportunity to address you on this issue of aquaculture here on the north Island.
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I would like to begin by introducing myself. I'm an economist with a master's degree in development and economics from the University of London. With this background I've worked on a number of resource-based economies in Africa, the Middle East, Central America, as well as Canada. I've also worked on a salmon fish farm, and I've had some neighbours who've also worked on farms, giving me a familiarity with the aquaculture industry.
Your mandate, to inquire into the sustainability of aquaculture in B.C., is very broad and at the very outset, requires some definition. What does the word sustainability mean? Webster's dictionary has two applicable definitions for this committee.
The first: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. I think it's really important to keep that in mind.
The second definition is: of or relating to a lifestyle involving sustainable methods. In a way, this delineates sustainability into two dimensions for you — biological and economic — and this is what you have to look at when you're looking at the aquaculture and also for the residents of British Columbia.
I would just like to give you a brief view, as an economist, of the aquaculture industry in British Columbia, looking at issues of sustainability. First, in the biological sense, we have aquaculture which is a biological industry that relies on the sustainability of the living biological ecosystem in which it is placed. This can be expanded, in a sense, to the planet as a whole. It is an industry within the planet.
For example, the demand for overharvesting of salmon feed in places like Chile is huge and is fuelled by our aquaculture's demand for fish feed. So we have a negative impact on someone else's ecosystem by increasing the demand for their already limited supply of krill and other creatures that are required for aquaculture feed. There is something very wrong with that from an ecological systems point of view, and I really would like to point that out.
So far, the track history of the aquaculture industry in the marine biological systems has been abysmal. We've got diseases. They have to have disease control. They use the antibiotics, the burning of plastics, the introduction of exotic species, the killing of predators, pollution of fish feces, disposal of morts, competition for food and habitat with wild species, the solid waste washed up on our shores, increased noise levels — all these things.
It's just bang, one after another, and it's just not healthy. It's not good for the existing ecosystem. It's not good for the existing people.
This has not shown much concern for the biological sustainability of the ecosystem. The industry has not built any confidence in general public opinion with respect to the ability to make sustainable decisions. In fact, part of the demise of the wild fish stocks can be seen as an inverse correlation with farmed salmon. For the wild stocks, the numbers have declined dramatically and become far more variable in the last 20 years, while farm numbers have dramatically increased.
That's the biological context. On the economic side we must examine the responsibilities of the firms within the industry. Each firm has a legal obligation to its shareholders to maximize profits or the returns to shareholders. A firm can do this in two ways, generally speaking. One is by maximizing fish prices or minimizing their costs.
Now, if you look at fish prices, in a world market usually controlled by a cartel or oligarchy of firms looking for monopoly control so that they can control the prices for their own firm's advantage, this issue of pricing is outside B.C.'s hands or ability to control, in particular because the major firms which own the fish farms in British Columbia are based out of British Columbia and Canada. Their interest is solely financial and does not include the viability of sustainability of B.C.'s ecosystem.
This also — just a slight digression — raises the issue of foreign ownership in our resources. It's not in B.C.'s long-term economic interest to have foreign ownership of our resources.
What we need is a lot of small-scale, owner-operated businesses which reside on the coast of B.C. This builds self-reliance for B.C. residents as we provide for our major food sources. It also ensures that we manage our marine environment for the long term, as our livelihood depends on it. This demands a strong commitment of responsibility for ourselves. We have to control our future rather than allowing some profit-maximizing firm from the outside to do it for us.
In a sense — coming back to the cost issue here — if we can't control price, really the only tool at the industry's disposal to maximize their profits is to deal with costs, and so wherever they can, they want to reduce costs. For the aquaculture industry the major costs are feed, labour and the controlling of natural biological ecosystems.
Feed is mostly imported, as I mentioned, with a negative impact on another ecosystem elsewhere in the world. Therefore, we have a responsibility to assist in the protection of their ecosystem as well as protecting our own. We do provide free food in our ecosystem to the fish farm, as they feed on passive movement of plankton and small crustaceans that happen to float by.
The other cost that they can look at is labour. Wherever possible — and we've seen this throughout the forest sector or any other industry you look at — labour is being replaced by technology. This doesn't bode well for the future of jobs in the industry and is certainly not helping the people of B.C. in terms of providing jobs for the future other than by expanding the number of farms.
Well, then we need more farms to employ more people, and so you're putting more and more negative impacts on a biological ecosystem and getting into a cycle that you can't get out of.
From B.C.'s point of view, we want more local employment, especially for smaller coastal communities. For example, the number of people employed in the wild fish sector in 1991 was 13,800 persons, while in the farm fish sector there was about a thousand. It seems
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that there's a much greater return to B.C. and its residents in stewarding the wild stocks better and reducing the competition from the aquaculture industry.
One other point of economic interest that I would like to raise is that of scale. Economics really pushes large scale as a more efficient — i.e., cheaper — form of doing business, such as the economies of scale. In an ecological sense, small-scale impact by humans is far more absorptive than large-scale. A large-scale mistake is devastating, whereas a small-scale mistake can be dealt with.
Think about this in the context of sustainability because what we're doing here is concentrating an industry that's all going as fast as it can in one direction. One mistake has huge impacts, whether it's sea lice, antibiotics or whatever issue it is, whereas if we have a lot of little players and one of them screws up — okay, we have to deal with that, but there's much more resiliency in a small-scale system than there is in a large-scale concentrated system.
Fundamentally, you must realize that economics is a man-made discipline. It does not and cannot take into account the needs of an ecosystem for long-term viability.
You know, failure to recognize this means that we make many wrongheaded decisions. Fundamentally, we need to first and foremost recognize that there's a necessity to ensure long-term viability of our biological marine ecosystem, and only then should we start to examine the economics of the industry. Economics can't take into account that biology.
I think that's something you've got to make very clear because once you start mixing them, economics takes over, and because it's a common denominator of money, it makes all the decisions, saying: "Oh, yes, we take into account biological systems." But to them it's mainly a cost, and so they want to suppress that.
The biological system is considered full of cost for the aquaculture industry as there is a definite need for controlling polluters, diseases and absorbing wastes, all of which get in the way of reducing and minimizing cost — especially if regulations are needed.
It should also be indicated that the B.C. aquaculture industry is highly dependent on fossil fuels for its feed, harvesting and transport, running its remote sites and the harvesting of its fish. As has been pointed out and accepted by world leaders, fossil fuel emissions are a major contributor to the increasing C02 concentration in our atmosphere today.
This trend needs to be addressed at every level of decision-making. We need to do our part to uphold the intent of the Kyoto accord and reduce our impact on the planet, so I see you as decision-makers in this position, making a decision. You must certainly consider that as a framework within which you operate.
In conclusion, I would just like to make a few comments here. First, we cannot have sustainable aquaculture until we have a sustainable marine sector which includes the wild fish in numbers such as we've had in the past.
Second, in economic terms we need to look at the long-term benefits for the residents of B.C. We must look at the self-reliance for both employment and food production. The people of B.C. must come first in obtaining jobs and harvesting local, organic food for the people of B.C. Globalization will not look after us.
Third, the aquaculture industry's single-minded focus on its costs control is not sustainable for our marine ecosystem. It promotes the introduction of more technology to replace labour and encourages slack environmental standards.
Fourth, there is a need for many small-scale, owner-operated fishing operations on B.C.'s coast, and the wild fish industry has provided that. The wild stocks cannot tolerate more habitat competition from actively farmed salmon. Perhaps some limitations of the level of technology so that there is not overfishing could be a recommendation to fishermen. Using small-scale, owner-operated wild fishing industry as a model, we can exist for centuries, both in terms of jobs and food.
Fifth, most of all, each of you has to have a vision of a viable future for British Columbia in making your decisions. I urge you to understand that the ecosystem is the basis of our economy. It must not be harmed, or we will not have a future. This must be made inviolate before economics is considered. Economics is a man-made discipline and cannot take into account the needs of an ecosystem for long-term viability.
Lastly, at the very least, we need to just consider a moratorium on the aquaculture industry so that we can follow the precautionary principle. Be careful first. Most of all, there is far less harm in going slowly. So that's my presentation. I'd just like to put that to you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Michael. Any comments?
G. Coons: Just an inquiry. It says you worked on a salmon fish farm. I'm just wondering where and when that happened.
M. Mascall: It was in the early '90s on Read Island in Evans Bay. It was called Silverwillow Farms, a seafood operation. It was a small-scale, locally owned fish farm, which then got bought out by a large feed company.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
I'd now like to call Roger Minor, of the Stuart Island Community Association, up to the witness table.
R. Minor: With us and reading the statement will be my wife Cathy. Thank you.
C. Minor: Good morning. The Stuart Island Community Association represents members within the Stuart Island, Sonora Island east, Dent Island and surrounding mainland areas. The Stuart Island Community Association is a registered non-profit society that has operated since 1964 with the objective, as stated in its constitution and bylaws: "Generally to promote the
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development and improvement of the Stuart Island district and the welfare of its people."
The Stuart Island Community Association objects to net-pen farming of salmon in our waters, especially the farming of non-native species like Atlantic salmon. It is our belief that native fish and wildlife that live and grow naturally in Pacific and intercoastal waters should be preserved and that anything that could hurt or jeopardize their ecosystem should be stopped, particularly net-pen farming of Atlantic salmon. This species could take over spawning areas and prey on salmon fry and herring stocks.
The Stuart Island Community Association supports the precautionary principle in fisheries management and believes this principle requires an end to net-pen finfish aquaculture and that existing finfish farms should be converted to closed-loop technologies or otherwise phased out, as open-net-pen operations pose too high a risk to wild salmon and the rest of the marine ecosystem.
The association backs the efforts of organizations such as the Georgia Strait Alliance and first nations in their efforts to stop fish farming and to protect and enhance wild fish stocks, ecosystems, wildlife and habitat. If we damage the rivers or inlet waters, we don't think we can put these areas back to their original state.
This isn't the industrial age, when we could do what we wanted and hurt Mother Nature. This is a time when we have to protect our delicate ecosystem to ensure that it lasts forever.
For close to a decade now the association and its members have attended meetings and have overwhelmingly expressed concerns with fish farms and emphatically stated that we want net-pen fish farming kept out of inlet areas.
At these meetings there has never been a group of people detached from the salmon farms who have come in support of net-pen farmsites. The only ones in support at these meetings were fish farm owners, managers and employees who wanted to site a business within our area. The number of jobs on a farm do not equal the number of jobs created through resorts and hotels, restaurants and marinas, etc.
These tourism jobs would be threatened if the delicate balance of the ecosystem is disturbed. It is vital to protect Bute Inlet, Toba Inlet, Phillips Arm, Frederick Arm and Ramsay Arm, Loughborough Inlet and Knight Inlet. Any fish farm escapement in these areas could send these farmed fish straight into our rivers and affect the wild stocks.
We consider the mainland inlet areas essential habitat. If one area is damaged, then all can be affected. It is our opinion that there should be a stoppage or, at the least, a moratorium on fish farming within our area. The only ones that seem to disagree with this stance are those with vested interests, such as fish farm companies and the few people they employ.
The debate on whether disease and sea lice are a problem in areas of fish farms is ongoing because there is conflicting research. Migrating wild salmon and other fish that pass by fish farm locations could catch and pass on diseases to wild schools of fish or to other farmsites. Erring on the side of caution is necessary. Once the damage is done, it cannot be easily undone, and we may never be able to save our wild stocks.
Look at the rivers of Norway and the drastic measures they had to take to try to correct the impact of fish farms. It is my belief — and this is Roger's belief — that many aquaculture businesses are multinational-owned corporations which do not provide significant tax revenues to Canada. If something goes wrong, whose tax dollar will pay to repair the ecosystems?
I trust you will review this letter of the association and consider the concerns. Attached to that is a listing of all the information to back and support what is being said in this.
R. Minor: Do you want to take the time to read this one? Do they have the time?
C. Minor: Sure. I'm just going to read the point list that is also attached to this letter, which is the beliefs of the association.
Raising salmon in net cages creates pollution. Fish feces and uneaten food pellets pass through the nets and into the ocean. This waste collects below aquaculture sites and can suffocate marine life on the ocean floor.
There are DFO regulations which deal with the dumping of by-products and sewage which have not been fully enforced for fish farms. It is a conflict of interest to be responsible for the protection of waters and habitat restoration and also responsible for an industry that pollutes our waters and puts non-native species into our waters. DFO should not be responsible for the regulation or monitoring of aquaculture sites.
The attached pictures are taken from outside of a B.C. packing site for farmed fish. The pictures represent two separate occasions, one in July and one in October 2005, when blood from farmed salmon was prominent in the water. The association advised DFO of this and copied them the pictures but as yet have had no response.
Every year thousands of farmed salmon escape into the wild because of human error or torn nets. Nets can be ripped during winter storms or by hungry seals and sea lions looking for an easy meal. The federal government issues licences to fish farmers so they can shoot seals and sea lions that threaten their nets. In 2001 B.C. fish farmers reported killing about 400 seals and sea lions. However, according to some fish farm employees, many additional shootings go unreported.
Nature itself can cause escapements. In our area the winter outflow winds which occur with the Arctic fronts are a major concern. If another severe Bute wind happens, it could lead to pens breaking up or sinking due to ice buildup. Severe weather has the potential of causing a total failure of containment on fish farmsites. This would be a major disaster to our wild salmon.
Escapements do occur without reporting. There have been times when area guides have reported escapements and knew this due to catching Atlantic and
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Pacific farmed salmon in Bute Inlet and Ramsay inlet. As well, farmed salmon have been seen in the Phillips River system. At no time were we informed by any authority, government or business of escapements occurring in our area.
Disease and parasites tend to multiply quickly in net cages due to the crowded conditions. Since many salmon farms are located along wild salmon migration routes or near wild salmon rivers, these diseases and parasites can spread to the wild salmon. Juvenile wild salmon are especially vulnerable to deadly parasites.
Most sites treat their sick fish with pesticides and antibiotics. Residues from these products are released into the ocean and can harm other sea creatures in the area, like shrimp, prawns and crabs.
Atlantic salmon are more profitable to farm. In order to produce larger fish, most B.C. fish farms grow Atlantic salmon, a species not native to the Pacific Ocean. This alien species could threaten the survival of native wild salmon stocks by introducing diseases that native salmon have no natural immunity toward or by taking over river habitat when they escape from fish farms. In the last decade an estimated one million–plus Atlantic salmon have escaped in B.C. and have been found in about 80 rivers.
Farmed Pacific salmon, such as chinook and coho, also escape from salmon farms. These non-wild salmon can interbreed with their wild cousins. This poses problems, because farmed Pacific salmon are less genetically diverse and could dilute the natural gene pool, weakening the viability of wild salmon stocks and threatening their long-term survival.
Mackerel, anchovies and other small fish from North and South America are used to produce food for B.C.'s farmed salmon. It takes between three to four kilograms of wild fish to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon. This contributes to the depletion of fish stocks and is a poor use of fish protein and resources for these countries.
Aquaculture is a business that needs to take financial responsibility and pay the additional business costs to be environmentally responsible. For example, don't farm Atlantics. Put their sites on land, or use closed-loop systems.
Then it says: "See the attached article on the marine harvest site, located at Church House at the mouth of Bute Inlet." The article talks about profitability in raising Atlantic salmon. Then it goes on to show the picture from one of the sites.
R. Minor: All that I want to add is that personally, I've caught farm fish in Bute Inlet, and other guys have too. Through Georgia Strait Alliance and with some help through Fisheries, we have traced the DNA back directly to the Church House site. I'll leave it at that.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much. Claire has a question for you.
C. Trevena: I've got a couple of questions, actually. I wondered if you could just paint a picture. You represent a number of islands. What do people who live on the islands do for their living?
R. Minor: Most of us are in the resort industry. We also have people who live up there who do salmon enhancement work, so we have a hatchery. A lot of infrastructure people through Campbell River keep our area vital through water taxis, airplane services all the way down to Vancouver and to Seattle, where airplane services are also used. Basically, our area is quite dependent on a wide range besides just what we actually do, which is…. The general thing would be tourism.
C. Trevena: As people who work in tourism industry in this area, have you had any response from visitors to the area about the farms or the fact that there have been, as you say, Atlantics caught in the Bute?
R. Minor: Well, it's kind of a two…. Yeah. I think it was four or five years ago when we were having some major discussions up on Sonora Island with region J, we produced…. I think it took us a month and a half, because that was all the time frame we allowed for it. We collected something like 600 signatures, and every one was opposed to fish farming the way it is right now. We also have other books out right now that probably have a few hundred other signatures, also, on them.
C. Trevena: What about responses from visitors? Have there been any responses?
R. Minor: I would generally say most people would like not to see them. They don't believe that they function well. That's all hearsay, what I'm saying, but…. We don't have a bunch of people ever say we should have these things up in our area.
None of us get any jobs from them whatsoever. From what we've heard, the Homalco band has had maybe one person working at the farm where they've sponsored.
C. Minor: I've had people come to the store this year, because I leave out literature talking about the farms. They comment on how they disagree with it totally. They think it's something that the B.C. government shouldn't be looking at continuing with. Going onto land — everybody seems to agree that if they're on land or are closed, it's not a problem.
S. Fraser: Thanks for your presentation. You mentioned that you'd caught some Atlantic salmon.
R. Minor: Atlantic and Pacific.
S. Fraser: Up Bute?
R. Minor: Yes.
S. Fraser: These were adults?
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R. Minor: Maybe half a year or two or three months from…. Yes. They were probably four-year-old fish. You could tell they were farm fish because they looked like couch potatoes. They just weren't a trim, nice-looking fish. You look at them, and they go…. Then all of a sudden their bodies just…. And then they sweep up. You can just tell it wasn't anything that was like a wild fish.
Then we started to collect them. Eric Blueschke, through Georgia Strait Alliance, worked, as I stated, with Fisheries. We were doing DNA testing. We were trying to figure out where these fish came from, because nobody was claiming responsibility for them.
The Atlantics that have been caught in our area have basically been oneseys, twoseys, and they have been spread out — not just in Bute Inlet but also up by Nodales Channel and Owen Point, which is by Frederick and Phillips Arm.
S. Fraser: You've got to help me now. What's a onesey, twosey? I don't know that.
R. Minor: When we were catching these Pacifics up Bute Inlet, we were catching quite a few. I might catch two in a tide, so there was a major release, we know, of these Pacifics.
As far as the Atlantics, it's been that we haven't run into, say, a school of them, as such. Maybe they'd dispersed or whatever, or we just didn't know how big a release it was. So we've caught…. When there has been a release, maybe over a week's time three or four might get caught, or one or two might get caught.
S. Fraser: Lastly, if you could just help me. You said Church House. That was the site that they were linked back to. What kind of distance is that from Bute Inlet, from the site where you caught them?
R. Minor: I'd say about 15 kilometres from where I was catching them.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation. One second. Dan has a question.
D. Jarvis: If you wouldn't mind, can you tell me when you caught these Atlantics? Was it recently or a long time ago?
R. Minor: The most recent one I've heard about was a year and a half ago. I want to say that there hasn't been a major bunch where we sports-caught them.
I wish Greg Barlow, our hatchery man up at Sonora Island, could be here. He's up on the Phillips River a lot. He actually spotted a school of them swimming in the Phillips, up a river system.
D. Jarvis: When was that, sir? Do you know approximately?
R. Minor: Two years ago.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much.
At this time I would like to recess the committee for ten minutes to enable people to use the facilities and to grab a coffee or whatever.
The committee recessed from 11:09 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
R. Austin (Chair): I'd ask that Sean Ross from Sonora Island Resort come forward, please.
S. Ross: Good morning. My name is Sean Ross. I am the general manager of Sonora Resort and Conference Centre, and I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on behalf of the resort. My statement will be brief.
We have operated Sonora Resort since January of 2003. From that time we have invested tens of millions of dollars renovating and expanding the infrastructure of the resort to offer our guests a luxury experience in one of British Columbia's most beautiful and pristine natural environments.
Tourism is a huge economic driver in our area, and in this regard, we employ over 60 staff through the months of April through October, and up to 100 construction personnel have been on the property over the past three winters. In addition to spa, hiking, eco and grizzly bear tours that we offer our guests, fishing remains one of the number one reasons our guests choose to visit our area, and this requires the best fishing opportunities possible.
Although it is unclear in our minds that sustainable aquaculture is a factor contributing to the decline in wild salmon stocks, any policies that you choose to effect that will provide support for the protection and rejuvenation of the wild salmon stock would be of much benefit to our area and greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks, Sean.
Do members have any comments or questions?
S. Fraser: That was very brief. You've got 60 employees?
S. Ross: Yes, on a seasonal basis from the month of May through the end of October, we have approximately 60 seasonal staff working at the resort.
S. Fraser: How much of that is dealing around guiding, fishing?
S. Ross: We have on staff six staff guides, and we use in the area anywhere from ten to 20 contract guides, depending on the number of guests we have on the property at the time who would like to fish.
S. Fraser: And the main fish that you're going after?
S. Ross: Well, it depends on the season, of course. Right now chum is the fish of choice. It's actually the only fish around right now for us. But chinook is the
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primary species caught in our area for most of the summer. We get some pinks, and there is a coho, but it's only hatchery that we're allowed to keep in our area.
S. Fraser: Understood.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Just one question. How many rooms in it, Sean?
S. Ross: We have 83 suites.
R. Austin (Chair): Great. Thank you very much.
I'd now like to call Blair McLean forward to the witness table.
B. McLean: Mr. Chairman, before you has been put a brief outlining what I'd like to say to you today. I appreciate this offer. I sat through the earlier meeting and was unable to get on, and I sat through the meeting in Port McNeill, and I was unable to get on. So third time lucky. The first of the brief outlines my history in the fishing business in the 67 years I've been on the coast here.
I've been a lifetime angler — Campbell River, Knight Inlet, Quatsino Sound. As an alderman in Campbell River 30-some-odd years ago, I worked on the task force to put the Quinsam Hatchery here. I worked with the Department of Fisheries in Knight Inlet, helping them with Glendale spawning channel and blasting rock obstructions in the Kwalate River, as I owned the Knight Inlet fishing lodge at that time.
As a sport fishing fly-in guide, I worked on the rivers — the Ahnuhati, Thompson, Seymour, Wakeman — that basically feed into the Broughton Archipelago. As a fishing guide, I've worked the coast from here to Rivers Inlet.
My concerns are for the dwindling number of coho, chinook, pink and steelhead salmonids returning to their native B.C. rivers of origin. I'm not here to ask for the curtailment of the salmon-farming fishery, just better regulations.
Over the 45 years I've noticed the diminishing return of these four species of fish, and it has gone correspondingly with the introduction of the salmon-farming industry on the coast. There's no doubt in my mind and most reasonable people's minds that one is not conducive to a good wild stock.
In no way do I underestimate, being a resident — as you've seen in your meetings, and I've followed you around — the value that the fish farms have to the community up here. As an educator I know these young families have been brought here by the government, of which you are a part — first by the NDP and then the Liberals and the NDP again — so both sectors of our parliament in Victoria have a responsibility to these farms that are here.
They've offered these jobs to these people. They've encouraged investment on the coast, and now to shut them down would be disastrous. You have a decision to try and make: how do we make this sustainable with the two, the wild and the salmon people, on the coast?
A brief history, which I'm sure you've heard time and again, is that when the farms were initially suggested on the coast — and I heard these discussions and was part of them — there were two strong factors brought forward. First of all, they would use local stock. That was one of the selling points to bring the farms in. Second, a direct route from the rivers to the ocean where they feed would be left so that the fry, the most important part of the cycle, could get from the river to the ocean.
As you're aware now in your meetings, first of all, for business reasons the farms have changed from local stock to the majority of them handling Atlantic salmon — a foreign species. If you travel the world, whenever a foreign species is brought into a new environment, it causes problems. Look at Australia. Look at New Zealand. Look at anywhere where foreign species are brought in. They bring problems with them, because there is no control and check in nature.
The farms which were initially set up as mom-and-pop operations in the gulf down here — Pender Harbour, Reid Island and all these islands — had difficulties. They had problems. They caused environmental concerns. They were shut down, and the farms were bought up by conglomerates, mostly large internationals who moved them in search of fine, clear water where they could raise these fish. So they moved north of Quadra Island into the west coast of Vancouver Island where they could find that, which is desirable for them to raise fish, and they do. They raise a good product, which is internationally acclaimed and sustains the jobs that they have now created.
My first run-in came when I was in Knight Inlet and I was the owner of the fishing lodge up there, which was responsible — as Sonora Resort and these other ones — to my customers. A farm, as you'll see in one of the additions which you'll read later, was placed in Sargeaunt Passage, which is a narrow neck of water leaving Knight Inlet.
The neck of water was less than 100 yards wide. A farm was set in this passage, Sargeaunt Passage, and all of the fish that leave Knight Inlet — Knight Inlet being 70 miles long, a glacial fjord with eight different rivers feeding into it…. All of their fry passed through this small passageway in which, in the centre, they placed this huge farm.
All of the fisheries officers from the Department of Fisheries who I'd worked with for the 20 years before had told me: "Blair, the most important passage to and from Knight Inlet is Sargeaunt Passage, and there are to be no blockages — nothing in it."
When this farm went in there, I went to the Department of Fisheries, who I'd worked closely with, and said: "The farm is situated right there. Do something about it." They said: "We can't, Blair, because it's under the department of agriculture British Columbia, and they place the site of these farms. We have no control."
So we had the department of agriculture looking after a responsibility that the Department of Fisheries wanted to handle. As the declining stocks of Knight
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Inlet progressed, it was obvious that the farm was somehow affecting those small fish that pass by the farm. We've got the controversy of the sea lice, and I'm very aware of that, but I'm only saying that this may be the tip of the iceberg. There is more, because those fish are all vaccinated.
When we talk about salmon farms and salmon in general, 99 percent of the people in the community don't realize that the young salmon of the sixth species — and I call them the steelhead because they act so much like a salmonoid — and the other five species each have a different feeding pattern.
As the fry go out, they go out at different stages of their lives. Some of them go out when they're one week old. Some of them wait a year and a half. Some of them feed on plankton, like the chum and the sockeye. Some are more predatory, like the chinook and the coho and the steelhead, and they will feed on anything that is in front of them. The scent of a fish farm is going to be an attraction to them as they move from the river to the ocean. It's only natural. If there are any contaminants as they go past these farms, the fry are going to pick them up. And two to three years later when they are supposed to return, they do not come back.
Anybody who tells me that Knight Inlet has not been severely damaged in the last ten to 15 years in the return of the four species of salmon and the steelhead that go in there, I will call a liar. Chief Bill Glendale, who went up there as a young man to fish the oolichans every summer or every spring when they go in to fish the oolichans…. I ask you to have Chief Bill Glendale come and speak about Knight Inlet. He goes in every year; he knows. Now when he goes in to fish the oolichans in the spring, he cannot get chinook salmon which he feeds his family with. There are no steelhead left in the river for him to take.
The runs are diminished. The run of fish that went into the Glendale hatchery, which was created in 1980 and 1983 and had restored that river to a million fish in the cycle year, which is the even-numbered years…. Of the pinks up there, the cycle years '84, '86, '88…. It had got down to 37,000 in the '70s. After the spawning channel was put in there in the early '90s, there were over a million fish in that hatchery coming back. There were 20 to 30 seiners fishing it.
This year it has declined again. With no fishing pressure in the last two cycles, it has declined again. It's less than 50,000 fish — one seiner load — which they used to get every cycle. There has been no pressure, ladies and gentlemen, on that river system. In the last ten years there has been no commercial fishing pressure because there are not enough fish coming back.
Moving along, and this is what I'd like to approach…. There are five sections to your mandate. You are asking in the third section for solutions on how we can balance the wild fishery with the farm fish. I've sat and listened to both sides of the spectrum. I've listened to the scientists and the advocates against the farms. I've listened to the farm and the farming community, which has built up huge industries for you. I don't know how many solutions you've been given to take back and say: "Gentlemen, this is what we think might help us in the future."
I have four solutions I would like you to consider as we go through it. First of all, that certain areas of British Columbia be set aside as an area for wild fish only. The government of B.C. made a huge acclamation remark, which was taken well by the public, that the Great Bear rain forest would be set aside for the spirit bear. Basically, everything from the north end of Vancouver Island up on the west coast was set aside for the preservation and security of this one bear.
Now, where does the bear stand in B.C.'s history compared to the salmon, which first brought the people here after the fur trade? Then they came for the salmon. It had been here since the early to mid-1800s, and we haven't set aside any area that is a preserve for the wild fish.
I'm suggesting that if you wish to do this — a recommendation which would be very popular with the public — set areas aside, like possibly the west coast of Vancouver Island. The fish come and go from that area, unmolested, to the sea. Set aside to the Queen Charlotte Islands, which is another reserve that has been set aside for the natives. Possibly now that most of the fish farms have left the gulf, set the gulf aside and say to the midcoast: "We have the farms. We'll leave them there."
We'll let more farms come in there. If there are two farms there, why shouldn't there be six? Why shouldn't there be eight? Why should they put two farms in Quatsino Sound? Two farms in Kyuquot? Two farms in Port Alberni? Two farms in Rivers Inlet? Why do they put one on each side of each inlet just before they get to the ocean? Why can't they have six or eight in one inlet and leave other inlets open? My first suggestion is areas set aside.
The second suggestion. When salmon farms are set in inlets, the fry that leave the rivers — small, defenceless animals — move down the coastline. They very seldom move down the centre of the inlet. They move along the shoreline as they move out to the ocean, and they feed. The predator salmon, as I mention in my brief, feed as they're going out.
Could we not ask that in the inlets…? If there are going to be fish farms, could not all the farms be on one side so the other side is a clear passage? If the farms could be on one side and the other side has a clear passage to the ocean, then possibly we could have the returns coming back. So consideration of where these farms are set.
Third, transportation to and from the farms. I've not heard this mentioned. Recently in a local newspaper a large ship was advertised as being the newest, most modern boat for carrying farmed fish to and from the processing sites. The processing sites should be considered to be put in an area where they can do the least damage to the stock moving from the rivers to the ocean.
How they could pick Brown's Bay as the location to process the farmed fish that are moving in these tanker ships, which are moving the effluent from the boat into the water? These fish have been starved for a period of
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time before they're moved to the farms. How could they choose Brown's Bay which, if you know the waters around here, is just through the narrows? Every fry coming from the inside, moving up to go through Seymour Narrows — the first place it's washed into is Brown's Bay.
The fry from the Fraser that come out, from the Qualicum — from all these rivers inside here — as they move through Seymour Narrows…. That should be a protected bay. Here we have the largest processing plant, and these fish are being processed there from live tanker boats, spilling their effluent into the water.
Menzies Bay, which is four miles this side — a much deeper bay and right on the highway — would have been a much better choice. Logical decisions like that would help the wild fish to survive — and the location of those farms.
They have to be there because you — we, the government of B.C. — have created these farms. They have to have processing sites, but they should be selected so they do the least damage to the fish that are migrating out.
Fourth, these boats, which move the fish from the farms to these sites, are now getting bigger and travelling further distances. As they move, they are circulating the water from that farm to the processing sites, and that water — if it is contaminated — would affect the fry in that area. Not all our salmon are used to going out to the ocean to rear to maturity. We have the inside fish that used to mature by Kelsey Bay and the coho, which would inhabit the gulf. These boats can be seen as threats if there are diseases that can be spread.
Remembering at all times that the contents of these boats could be dangerous and even more dangerous than if one farm to the coast…. Should not the routes they take and the position they take for the processing plants be noted?
I've added here, you'll notice, a blue sheet of information from 1862. It'll be interesting reading, if you would take it this evening. It's a blow-by-blow of the smallpox epidemic of 1862, which spread throughout the coast of B.C. Briefly, it was the natives who were encamped outside of the fort of Victoria at that time. Smallpox was introduced by one person who came from San Francisco.
When the disease got rampant among the natives, the good citizens of Victoria sent the natives home. The good citizens of Victoria were vaccinated against smallpox. The natives, except for one or two conditions, were not vaccinated against smallpox. As yet, the missionaries had not taken that to them. The devastation that caused on the coast, as those natives went back in their canoes to their homesites in Prince Rupert — the Nitinaht tribe and the Kwakiutls — was devastating.
I see an analogy here between the vaccinated Europeans at that time and the natives who were not, and the vaccinated European farm fish and the native fish that are not. The comparisons of history should be considered, I thought, so I put that there for your reading.
In my last conversations with Roderick Haig-Brown…. I was a friend here in Campbell River, and when I came to Campbell River as a young person — I knew him well — we had many discussions. I believed at the time that farming fish was the way to go because we needed the product. Roderick Haig-Brown, if you knew him, was an intelligent man who would not speak out. He was very gentle. He saw my point of view, and he said: "Blair, we must nurture and protect the wild fish, or we're going to be in trouble." No more than that.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Blair.
Do members have any comments or questions?
G. Coons: Thank you for your history and the reading material that you've given us.
You have concerns about better regulations and a regulatory regime. You talked about the government of British Columbia allowing this problem. As you mentioned with your bit of history, it's just not one party; it's a string of events. I've been doing some reading, and I've come across — I've mentioned this before — the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council indicating that the government of British Columbia lifted the moratorium in 2002 and expressed a commitment then to ensure that the environmental effects would be fully taken into account before any new licences would be issued. They talked about having a credible regulatory structure once all of the knowledge gaps have been filled. So you strongly believe there are still knowledge gaps in science.
Again, I think a key that you hit on here is local knowledge. You mentioned first nations and the experienced fishers and old-timers in the region, and we heard that loud and clear during our last journey through Bella Bella, Bella Coola and up to Smithers. We are going to take that local knowledge into consideration.
B. McLean: You see, I know that only common sense is going to prevail here. Ten or 20 years from now everybody will say: "Oh, that's what we should have done."
Gentlemen, if you enjoyed the fine weather out here today…. If you had been here 25 years ago, we would have been blanketed in a level of smog and fog from the slash burning that the forest industry did. At this time of year they used to set the forests up above. When we'd get a bit of a northerly wind, this area would mix with the humidity, and we'd be under smog. There'd be no flights going. I couldn't take my flights to Seymour River because it was impossible to go up and down the coast.
I was on the panels that argued against forestry for slashing and log burning in the fall. They had scientists and agronomists and hydrologists that told us that this was what they had to do to clear the forests at that time of year to get ready for the replanting. Now common sense has shown that they pile it up, and they burn when they can. We don't have this smog anymore. Twenty years later, after the fact, we appreciate clean, clear air and a beautiful day like today, which you would not have in Campbell River 25 or 30 years ago at this time of year.
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I'm saying that if you set preserves aside now in B.C. where scientists are not involved —let the salmon do their thing, and say that this area is a no-go area for boats, a no-go area for fish farms, and this is a fish farm area — 20 years from now this argument will be redundant. It will prove itself. I think those are some solutions you can take back.
R. Austin (Chair): I would like to call Marty Fortier and Brian Dane up to the witness table.
M. Fortier: Good morning. My name is Marty Fortier. I'd like to thank you, first of all, for the opportunity to address the committee. I'm here to represent residents and friends of lighthouse country, which is the Bowser–Deep Bay area, who wish to comment on the inappropriate siting of aquaculture projects.
This brief was prepared by local individuals with expertise in fisheries-related science and technology. It includes a research scientist, fisheries biologists and engineers with more than 120 years of experience in their fields. Also represented are property owners, commercial business and groups such as the Fishing Vessels Owners Association and the Nile Creek Enhancement Society.
What I'd like to do is walk you through our executive summary, which will outline our concerns. Aquaculture has the potential to provide valuable community and regional benefits. However, inappropriate siting of aquaculture facilities can have serious long-term detrimental impacts upon local, socioeconomic and environmental resources.
This particular case study that we're going to talk about…. Recognizing the positive aspects of aquaculture, we wish to present an example of the scallop farm that has been proposed in an inappropriate location in waters offshore from the community of Bowser. The proposal could have serious negative effects upon the socioeconomics of the community, marine recreation, navigation and safety, commercial fishing, tourism, fish and wildlife resources, biophysical regimes and foreshore habitat.
The site is located at the southern entrance to Baynes Sound approximately one kilometre offshore from the community of Bowser, essentially between the Deep Bay spit and Denman Island. The existing lease is 927 acres, or 690 football fields in size. The initial proposal would cover 308 acres, or 230 football fields.
The proposed infrastructure required. Surface facilities would consist of numerous navigation buoys, four to five work vessels 40 feet in size and a number of work platforms. Underwater structures would consist of 26,400 metres, or 26½ kilometres of longline, hundreds of pressurized floats, 132 large anchors, 330 to 700 kilograms of concrete anchors and lines, and thousands of scallop strings.
I brought a little underwater profile for proposed scallop culture infrastructure. You can see that it's like a curtain, and these structures will be positioned in rows throughout the lease area.
I'm going to go through the impacts of the proposal regarding navigation and marine safety, commercial fishing, the recreational fishery, fish and wildlife resources, biological sustainability, pollution, community socioeconomics and hydrodynamics.
Under the issue of navigation and marine safety. The tenure area is located in the main navigation corridor connecting Baynes Sound with the southern Strait of Georgia, and it is used year-round. Hundreds of small vessels use this route during the fishing season, often at dawn or dusk in low visibility. Navigation buoys, work vessels, debris and surfacing of underwater structures would be very hazardous to vessel traffic. I've given you a little schematic to show you where it's located, and you can see that the navigation corridor essentially would go right through it.
Under commercial fishing. This is a major salmon and herring fishery in this specific area. The herring fishery has a very high economic value to the industry. The scallop farm would eliminate seining, gill-netting and trolling in the general area of the lease, due to interference with underwater infrastructure.
Regarding recreational fishing, this Bowser–Deep Bay marine area is famous for its recreational salmon fishing. The existing lease area is in the middle of traditional salmon-fishing zones used for trolling and mooching. The underwater infrastructure associated with the scallop farm would eliminate sport fishing in the vicinity of the lease. Major runs of chinook, coho, pink and chum salmon migrate and feed in this area.
The Bowser area is considered one of the most productive herring spawning sites in the Strait of Georgia. Thousands of migratory waterfowl use this area for staging and feeding. Forecasted production of five million pounds of scallops requires a quantity of food about five times this amount — 25 million pounds. The site would generate about 20 million pounds of waste annually. The cumulative effect of food depletion and waste production together with existing raft culture in Baynes Sound requires further assessment.
With regards to pollution, local experience with shellfish operations in Baynes Sound has shown that excessive amounts of debris can be generated from the sites and can foul nearby beaches. Floating debris will be a navigation and safety hazard to vessels. Sanitary concerns regarding workers on site for long periods of time are also a concern.
Community socioeconomics. Lighthouse country is famous for unspoiled ocean views, marine recreation and wildlife activity. Roughly 180 to 200 homes front the ocean in the area, and as many more have unsurpassed views of the area. There are at least four B-and-B operations in this area that depend on an unspoiled marine environment to attract their clients.
An unsightly industrial operation with constant noise will have a serious negative impact on the enjoyment and value of waterfront and view properties. Tourism in the Bowser area may be reduced due to the impact of the scallop farm on enjoyment of the local marine environment. I've given you a little schematic. It's not all the properties that would be involved, but it
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gives you an idea of how many properties would be fronting this.
Under hydrodynamics. This operation is fully exposed to violent prevailing southeasters. Wave energies could affect underwater structures, even at the planned depth. Anchor or tensioning failure could result in uncontrolled surfacing of subsurface gear, due to the positive buoyancy of the pressurized floats.
Uncontrolled surfacing of underwater gear has been observed at existing operations of this type. Structural failure during storm events may create a chain reaction, affecting the entire facility. Floating gear poses a hazard to vessels in the general vicinity and fouling of local shorelines. The massive underwater structure may affect littoral drift and compromise the delicate balance of foreshore material on Deep Bay Spit.
The questions we have. How will the scallop farm affect the biological carrying capacity of the local marine environment and contribute to the cumulative effects of raft culture in the local area? What will be the impact of waste products from the scallop production and its role in the cumulative effects of expanding raft culture in Baynes Sound? What studies have been undertaken to evaluate the hydrodynamics of the area and the associated structural integrity of the subsurface infrastructure? What scientifically defensible studies have been undertaken to evaluate impacts on littoral drift and possible supply of foreshore material to Deep Bay Spit? And what is the net economic impact of the proposal, considering the negative effects on other natural and economically valuable resources?
Our conclusions are that the location of this proposed scallop facility is inappropriate and may have serious negative impacts upon the socioeconomic and biophysical regimes in the Bowser area. This proposal should be subjected to a thorough and quantitative socioeconomic and environmental impact assessment before any approvals are granted. That's my executive summary on that proposal.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Marty. I'll open the floor for any questions.
S. Fraser: Thanks for the proposal, Marty. I am well aware of the issue. As the MLA, I've received a lot of letters and e-mails on this, mostly with the concerns you've raised — a few in support, for economic reasons.
A couple of issues I'd just like to touch on. The scale of this. I've seen a lot of shellfish operations. This is a big footprint.
M. Fortier: It's massive.
S. Fraser: The proponent met with us in Nanaimo earlier on, and he said he dropped from 375 to 125 hectares after public concerns were heard. Obviously, 230 football fields is still a big footprint. But you say "the initial proposal." Do you have indications that it is just the initial, that it would potentially grow to 375?
M. Fortier: Yes — that they want the bigger one.
S. Fraser: All right. And have you heard anything from the tug operators in the area? I understand there could be some problems associated with navigation, for their viability in the area.
M. Fortier: We haven't been in contact with them, but I assume that they would have the same concerns — probably even more concerns because of the siting.
S. Fraser: Just lastly, if I could. The carrying-capacity issue. I know in Clayoquot Sound the oyster growers there — the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and the oyster growers association — worked to produce a carrying-capacity study. They got funding to actually determine the level of nutrients that were available and at what level that would be. Would their operations be at a limit?
With oysters in an enclosed area, it's almost self-policing because if you use up too many, the oysters stop growing and you've got that problem. But those were in more enclosed inlets as opposed to this wide-open area. Are you aware of any formal carrying-capacity studies that might address a proposal of this size?
M. Fortier: We don't believe so, and this is one of our concerns. That study hasn't been made.
D. Jarvis: Just a flippant question. Where should we put it — any idea?
B. Dane: There are lots of other sites available, and Baynes Sound itself has been a primary site for this type of operation. Perhaps Baynes Sound should continue to be the site for any future operations like this.
M. Fortier: Baynes Sound is much more protected. It's tucked in behind Denman Island, while this is completely exposed to the southeast winds.
D. Jarvis: This is a huge site, isn't it?
M. Fortier: It's massive. I mean, there are concerns about salmon migration trying to go through that forest of ropes. It just hasn't been done. The science hasn't been done yet. That's why we wanted to bring it to your attention.
D. Jarvis: As my associate said, it's so huge in relationship to the salmon farms, which take up about half an acre in all of B.C. Amazing.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you. At this time I'd like to call up Eric Kristianson from the Sport Fishing Institute of B.C.
E. Kristianson: Good afternoon — yes, technically it's afternoon — and thanks for the opportunity to brief you.
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My name is Eric Kristianson, and I'm with the Sport Fishing Institute of B.C. I'd just like to give you a reasonably brief presentation. I appreciate that you have a fairly hectic day ahead of you.
In terms of who we are, we're the industry association that primarily represents the variety of businesses that make up the sport fishing industry of British Columbia. Those are the tackle manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, distributors, retailers, boat manufacturers, propulsion providers and electronics, as well as the fishing lodges, the guides, the charter operators and so on.
To give you a sense of scope and scale, the Ministry of Agriculture — the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food — did a study in 2004 on the entire seafood industry, including the sport fishery in British Columbia, and noted that the industry produced about $550 million in economic activity annually in British Columbia, employed about 7,200 people, created about 3,500 full-time jobs and was, frankly, one of the significant elements in the tourism sector in British Columbia.
The other part of that study, and it's quite a good read if you ever get a chance to look at it…. In fact, I understand it will form the basis of the subsequent work that the consultants the committee has hired will be doing for their subsequent work on economic activity on the other salmon-dependent industries. That study actually put out some very useful figures, I thought. What it looked at was the amount of money people spend to go recreational salmon fishing in British Columbia.
What they found was that in 2002, which was the year for which they had data, people based out of lodges spent an average of about $780 per day to go fishing. People using charter operators were spending about $500 per day, and independent anglers were spending about $190 per day. In other words, an average of about $262 per day for people to go try to catch a salmon.
If you look at the relative success rate of recreational anglers — remember, 330,000 people purchase sport fishing licences in salt water every year in British Columbia…. If you look at the ratio of effort to catch, most of those people would be much, much better off to go to their local Safeway and buy a fish. As I used to joke with my father and everybody else who's ever gone sport fishing, that's why they call it "fishing" and not "catching."
What that also tells you is that sport fishing and the sport fishing industry is about something else. It's about the fact that people come to communities like Campbell River, the salmon capital of the world — and I can assure you, Mr. Fraser, if we were doing this meeting in Port Alberni, I'd also call it the salmon capital of the world…. They come to communities like this to go fishing, to experience Super, Natural British Columbia — this incredible marine environment we have — and also the very amenities that these kinds of communities provide. It's bigger than just fishing.
I point that out to give you an indication of the fact that ours is an industry that harvests a very small amount of salmon but is intrinsically dependent on the survival of those fish and the integrity of wild salmon stocks for our survival to provide pretty significant employment and economic activity in coastal communities around British Columbia.
The Sport Fishing Institute started tracking the issue of salmon farming and the controversy around salmon farming going back seven and eight years ago — from the time when the issues were concerns about Atlantic salmon escapes and colonization to the issues of benthic pollution, and then more recently into the issue of lice transfer from farms, primarily in the Broughton Archipelago.
We've done our best, I think, to try to be well-informed about this. In fact, it often seems like we've had a never-ending parade of experts from both government, federally and provincially, and from environmental non-governmental organizations giving us their views of what we are to make of the studies and the issues that we are hearing about, particularly lice transfers from farmed salmon in the Broughton to wild salmon stocks in the area.
I guess our attention really got focused on this following the returns, or the lack thereof, in 2005 into the Broughton. At that point we started asking some pretty tough questions to senior staff at DFO and to, I guess, the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands now — the fisheries staff in that department. I would have to say that the answer we got generally would be characterized as one of: "Frankly, we don't know. We don't entirely know what is going on here."
Subsequent to that, we had the study that you had referred to this morning by Krkošek, Frazer and others that reinforces the kind of information coming out of the Broughton and raises other troubling questions about what impact those farms are having on pink stocks and chum stocks in those areas.
I should note that it struck me as odd that while the Salmon Farmers Association did respond to that study, as I think they're fully entitled to do, I have yet to hear any response from either the federal or provincial government about the latest paper that's been published and what that actually means.
I tell you this to say that it's put the Sport Fishing Institute and the sport fishing industry as a whole in a rather awkward position in that increasingly we have questions and concerns about what is going on, and yet we're not getting a lot of answers.
I want to be really clear about this. The Sport Fishing Institute of B.C. and my board of directors is absolutely not opposed to salmon farming or to net-pen salmon farming. It is clear to us that with the world's growing demand for fish protein that it is going to be only a matter of time before the availability of fish protein produced through the wild-capture fishery is going to be greatly outstripped by the demand. It seems only logical and reasonable that that demand is going to be met through animal husbandry and through salmon farming.
Again, we're not opposed to salmon farming or to net-pen salmon farming. But based on what we've been hearing and what we've been reading, we are growing increasingly concerned that steps are not being taken to
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manage problems that are happening in the Broughton that seem to be a bit of a bellwether for what could happen elsewhere on the coast and, frankly, with species that are vitally important to us.
I guess we really have three recommendations for the committee. In our view, it's that government needs to take steps to ensure that the pink salmon migration in the Broughton is not unduly impacted or that the impact on pink salmon stocks is kept to an absolute minimum. I think that's a reasonable step. I think the industry has recognized that, and to their credit, the industry has done good work working with the ENGOs to try to come up with some solutions. But I think it does need to go further.
I would also suggest that it strikes me as critical that government shelve its plans to expand salmon farming around the coast until its own processes have completed — in fact, until this committee has actually completed its work. It seems to be putting the cart before the horse to carry on with that exercise while people are trying to get answers to some extremely difficult and vexing questions.
Finally, I would suggest that government also needs to seriously look at ensuring that they're not increasing density in existing sites as a stopgap measure to make up for the lack of expansion in the interim area. In our view, that could only increase the relative problem.
I guess if I could summarize our position and our recommendation to the committee, it would be that government needs to actually take concrete steps to manage the problems we are starting to see develop in the Broughton that now seem to be fairly obvious. It needs to be seen to be managing those problems, and it needs to provide credible evidence to the public that it is actually doing that.
I don't say that as a criticism of the staff at DFO or at the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. I believe the scientists and biologists working in those departments are sincere people with a genuine desire to protect the natural environment. That said, they are faced with some extremely challenging problems, and they need the support to be able to do that kind of work in a meaningful way.
Again, I would simply summarize by saying that we need government to take those steps. I think government wants to take those steps. Indeed, government appointed this committee for that particular purpose. I think they recognized that there was a problem. I guess, as an industry group, as a user group, what we want to be able to see from government is that they are looking out for our interests and making sure that our industry and the public interest in salmon continues on into the future.
With that, I wish you all the best in what are undoubtedly going to be an extremely vexing series of deliberations.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Eric.
G. Coons: I read in your brief that the directors and yourself have been increasingly concerned about the state of salmon aquaculture and the interaction between wild and farmed. I have to come back to a news release, Salmon Forever, by the tripartite of the federal Auditor General and the Auditors General of New Brunswick and British Columbia back in October 2004. It indicated that they had a real concern about existing provincial legislation and regulations that do not provide adequate protection for salmon habitat, because they're either not enforced or not being acted upon.
Also, the Auditor General of British Columbia of the day recommended that the provincial government identify a lead provincial agency to coordinate efforts for sustaining wild salmon and to ensure that compliance-enforcement programs are adequately resourced. I'm assuming that this release from a couple of years ago sort of started your concerns about the impacts of wild and farmed salmon. Again, coming from the North Coast, where wild salmon is vital to the sustenance of cultural and economic viabilities for most of the communities, I hope that as a committee we come up with looking at those interactions.
What suggestions do you have for the committee as far as wild being farmed?
E. Kristianson: Again, to be honest, fortunately I am in the position of not having to come up with those suggestions. That's what you unfortunate elected folks have to do. Look, I'm not a fisheries scientist, and I don't think I'm competent to provide that kind of an answer.
We started to become concerned about this, actually, significantly before the Auditor Generals' report, although obviously that's something we looked at. I guess the dilemma that we face is one where we know that DFO and the provincial government want to protect wild salmon stocks. I mean, that would seem self-evident. That's what government's job is.
We know that they have the staff and the capability to do it, but yet we find ourselves in a situation where we are constantly getting new information that suggests there are a series of other problems. Then we get into what I would like to call expert poker, which is: "I'll see your expert, and I'll raise you one." That then leaves us, the groups that depend on these stocks, in the position of saying: "Who do I believe? And should I be deeply concerned about this?"
I guess that my advice to the committee is: you need to find a way to allow government to provide us with that level of comfort that they are addressing the problem in a meaningful way.
S. Simpson: I've two questions. One relates to DFO. One of the observations made to us — I think it was when we were in Smithers last week — was by a Member of Parliament there who said that part of the difficulty with DFO is that it has what they viewed as conflicting mandates. One is to protect and enhance the wild salmon; the other is to promote aquaculture.
The issue they raised is that it made it difficult because they've siloed these two things, and we know that senior governments do things in silos, and it's hard for them always to talk to each other about things. So that's created a problem within DFO, and I'd be inter-
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ested about your thoughts about that. It's obviously part of the conflict with things.
E. Kristianson: Yeah. Look, I don't think that there's a way around it. Clearly, DFO is in a conflict when they are, on the one hand, promoting aquaculture and fostering that industry and, on the other hand, regulating it. I think they've made attempts — I would suggest they're unsuccessful attempts — to try to create the Chinese wall between them. But they are in a conflict.
That said, I want to reiterate that the staff that we deal with from the DFO Pacific region are quite sincere in trying to wrestle with some of these questions and some of these problems. The problem we find is that they have a very difficult time coming up with credible answers for us. I mean, it's the old joke that I hear from DFO scientists every time I talk to them, which is: "Eric, fisheries management isn't rocket science. It's far more complicated than that."
That's the challenge. We need government to give us that measure of confidence. We need them to create a situation in which there is agreement on what the science is and there's an agreement on what the steps that need to be taken are so that we can have some comfort that the resource that our industry depends on is still going to be there. And that's no mean feat.
S. Simpson: Just one further question, and I guess I'd make the point that we only have until May, and I think the chances of agreeing on the science between now and May are slim.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): May of what year?
S. Simpson: May of what year.
The question I have is this. We know that that is the challenge, and I don't think that we're going to have everybody sign off on any particular piece of science in the next eight months, so we're always going to have that conflict. We have a challenge here. We have an industry which clearly is economically very important to this community and the communities up the coast, and there are many, many jobs — direct and indirect — and economic opportunity created here. We have the wild fishery — the wild salmon, primarily — which is extremely important. When we start to make this determination and to struggle with these things ourselves, do we need to give a priority to one or the other, and if so, which one do we give the priority to?
E. Kristianson: Well, first off, I would submit that the priority has to be the wild salmon. Beyond the obvious fact that it's the law in Canada under the Species at Risk Act, and any steps that you would take that would somehow undermine those will get you into trouble with SARA very, very quickly…. We've seen that with Cultus, with Sakinaw. We're seeing that with interior Fraser coho. Pick the next species of salmon that will be put on the list. The simple reality is that the priority has to be for wild salmon.
That being said, I am quite certain that salmon aquaculture, net-pen salmon aquaculture, and wild salmon can coexist. The question is finding the methodology for doing that that provides the minimum impact on those wild stocks. There is going to be an impact; that's a given. I think that the priority needs to be in minimizing that impact.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much, Eric, for your presentation.
I'd like to call up Bill Pirie from Walcan Seafood.
B. Pirie: My name is Bill Pirie. I live on Quadra Island. I'm the president of Walcan Seafood, and I've been part of the Quadra Island community since 1974. I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak about what both the wild fishery and aquaculture mean to our community.
Walcan has processed seafood on Quadra Island since 1974. We're the largest employer on the island. We employ approximately 150 people and have an annual payroll of approximately $6 million. Our production base is diversified. It includes commercially caught products such as herring, prawns, spawn-on-kelp and wild salmon. We also process salmon that is grown by the aquaculture industry.
It would be fair to say that our company was built by commercial fishermen, but it is also fair to say that it is being sustained by production from the aquaculture industry. Aquaculture provides continuity between ever-shorter commercial seasons. It turns part-time jobs into full-time jobs. It is the glue that allows us to stay in business and continue to support commercial fishermen.
Farm-raised salmon and wild salmon are integrated into everything we do. We process both products, and our customers purchase both products. Our marine crews work on packers during commercial openings and harvest farm-raised salmon during the balance of the year. We have prawn and salmon fishermen who fish for us for two months and work with us on farmed salmon the rest of the time.
The idea that these industries are not compatible is a myth that has been carefully promoted by groups that are well-paid to criticize aquaculture. Our experience is that these industries have far more in common than that which divides them.
Aquaculture has changed the market for salmon. Salmon is now available every day of the year. The per-capita consumption in North America is continually increasing. Consumers understand the health values, and they want to buy fresh salmon.
New production technology is required to process this growing family of fresh salmon products. The necessary equipment is being developed by the aquaculture industry. It requires a continuous investment in equipment to keep up with market demands. This capital cannot be justified on a stand-alone basis by the wild fishery. However, when combined with aquaculture, capital investments can be made that benefit both industries.
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I sit on the Pacific Salmon Commission as a member of the southern panel. In this forum you quickly learn that there are many complicated variables that determine the survival rates of wild salmon. Ocean conditions — including temperature, available feed and predation — are critical factors. River conditions depend on the snowpack and rainfall as well as logging, urbanization, pollution from industry and commercial agriculture. It is particularly important that these issues are correctly managed on the Fraser River, because this river system provides almost all of the commercially caught salmon on the south coast.
There is another long list of variables that determine the total allowable catch. These include increasing escapement targets and protecting weak stocks, such as Cultus Lake. Once the total allowable catch has been determined, there is the question of allocation between different user groups. How is the international catch divided? What is the allocation between sport fishermen and commercial fishermen? What is the allocation between troll, gill-net and seine fishermen? What is the allocation between commercial fishermen with different area licences? How will treaty negotiations affect the industry?
I have been around these discussions for most of my life, and in my opinion, salmon farms do not even make the list of environmental issues that professional managers consider vital to the health of wild stocks.
If you snapped your fingers tomorrow and salmon farms were gone, all the factual issues that impact the livelihood of commercial fishermen and the vitality of wild stocks would remain unchanged. Our company, with its 150 employees, would be gone; 125 fishing vessels would lose our support, and our community would suffer the consequences. Our company and our community work hard every day to support both the wild salmon and the farmed salmon industries. They are not mutually exclusive.
I hope this committee is able to look beyond the polarized bias that has been present in the public debate. We deserve a balanced report that recognizes the value of both industries working together.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Bill. Claire has a question.
C. Trevena: Thank you, Bill. And thank you very much for your last statement. I think one of the things that we are determined to do is make sure we can get beyond the polarization. As you say, you want to come at this in a couple of ways. One is that Walcan has farmed and wild salmon. You do deal with both products, so you're very intimately aware of both issues. You also live on Quadra where you can see the polarization. We have both people who support the industry, people who are opposed, people who are working in tourism and so on who are concerned about it.
I want to ask you, from your perspective as both president of Walcan and an active businessman on Quadra, how you think we can move beyond this. What do you think the solutions could be that we could look at as a committee?
B. Pirie: I think, personally, that most of the solutions are available to you now. I think the regulatory structure and administrative process that is in place for siting fin fish aquaculture is adequate. Maybe it needs to be fine-tuned, but personally, I think it is an onerous process. It has many, many referral agencies that approvals have to come from. I think to a certain extent that no matter what comes of this, people have to have faith that the referral agencies, all of which are government regulatory agencies…. We have to have the faith that the people — in particular, within DFO — are going to do their job with due diligence.
We just talked about this conflict within DFO. I don't see it, quite frankly. I think that if an environmental assessment has to be done, it has to be reviewed by many tiers of people within DFO. Those people are going to look at this from every standpoint that they can possibly look at it from to try and make sure that there is not going to be interference from that particular site with passing stocks, whether they are either smolts or mature fish.
Someplace along the line the public is going to have to put their faith in the regulatory bodies that are there now to do their job with diligence. Quite frankly, I think that, for the most part, we need to give them credit. We're not in the '80s, when this industry first came on. We have a different set of regulatory requirements now. For the most part, I'm confident that the people that are looking at this from a scientific point of view are doing their job with due diligence.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much, Bill. It certainly is a daunting challenge we have. I think the committee has certainly become aware and appreciates the concerns that people have regarding the protection of the wild stock. That's very important from economic and cultural views.
You've indicated here in your comments that, in your view, the salmon farms compared to these other factors — the ocean conditions, etc. — aren't a large factor. Did I read that correctly?
R. Pirie: That's exactly right.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay. The other thing that we hear very frequently is that the quality of fish that are produced on a farm is inferior. Some have said it's poisonous, inedible. We hear that anecdotally too.
Your plant processes both. I wonder: as they come through the production stream, do you see any qualitative difference as you process the fish? Do you have to discard more? Are there any factors that would cause you to believe one is better or worse than the other?
B. Pirie: They're both great products. Nutritionally, they're almost identical, and the public enjoys them both.
S. Fraser: Thanks for the tour we had in June. That was educational.
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You mentioned the regulatory regime and the fact that it's onerous. I happen to agree.
Aquaculture in B.C. — the regulatory regime — is maybe the most onerous regime, bureaucratically, anywhere in the world. I know it is with shellfish. In my experience with that, it's been quite daunting. Onerous doesn't necessarily mean effective either. Making more regulation or more onerous regulation doesn't necessarily make it any more effective either. I hear you on that.
Your issue around the trust of the public at some point with the powers to be — government in this case, provincial and federal. As Shane pointed out earlier, we've been hearing this a lot around the coast — the seeming conflict between the role of DFO.
Now, in your role in dealing with both the wild, in processing, and in farm, that conflict that we hear time and again with DFO — the mandate to protect the wild stock and also another mandate to promote aquaculture…. We're hearing from the public when we travel that the public have a problem with that. How do you reconcile that?
B. Pirie: Well, I think probably the people that have a problem with that may have a problem with salmon farming in general. I don't see that that conflict is a real conflict. I think they are the most qualified agency. They have the mandate to look after wild stocks. They do that with due diligence.
The conservative nature by which salmon stocks are being managed now, compared to what they were 15 or 20 years ago, is far more onerous. Conservation is the number-one priority that DFO has. I don't believe that DFO has a conflict when it comes down to determining the particular site or making a particular determination with all aquaculture. If there's a conflict, there's very little doubt in my mind that they will find in favour of wild fish. It's the nature that I see from them every day.
You sit around the table at the Salmon Commission with the U.S. on one side and Canadians on the other side, and the issue is salmon. They're talking about salmon. They're talking about wild salmon, and they're talking about many complicated variables that need to be understood and managed in order to protect it. It's a mandate that they truly believe in.
G. Coons: I just, again, want to come back to the Auditor General's report. It's contrary to what you're stating. The Auditor General — independent, not polarized by…. A statement from our own Auditor General is that the key recommendation is that the provincial government, in conjunction with the federal DFO, develop a clear vision with goals and objectives for sustaining wild salmon, and that governments need to work together.
When you start looking at fine-tuning as we go along — I think that was what you mentioned — do you believe that, as far as our aquatic environment is concerned, we should be using the precautionary principle? Or should we be fine-tuning it as we go along?
B. Pirie: I think the precautionary principle is being used and has been used very thoroughly. In that regard, I don't think the precautionary principle should put us in a position where we always use hypothetical risks that have not manifested themselves to obliterate economic opportunities.
G. Coons: Again, I would advise people out there — or wherever they're listening or reading this — to look at the report from the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council on their advisory, Wild Salmon and Aquaculture, that was reported to, as I mentioned before, the Ministry of Fisheries, the Minister of Agriculture and to the public in January 2003.
They are an independent organization to advise the governments of Canada and B.C. as well as the Canadian public. Their recommendation in this report is that the precautionary principle should be applied in a much more rigorous way than it is currently used in the evaluation of interaction risks between farmed and wild salmon stocks.
Again, I find us sitting here back in 2003, discussing the precautionary principle…. I hope to get some more recommendations or thoughts on that from independent organizations that say: "We are using it." The Auditor General, I think, has a concern with it, and I just think that perhaps the precautionary principle needs to be put into full force and be used more rigorously.
Do you agree with that?
B. Pirie: No.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Just a quick question. You started in 1974. Was that primarily then to service the commercial industry because there wasn't…?
B. Pirie: There was no finfish industry here until 1985.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Right. So you now state that you'll close down if the aquaculture industry was closed down. Am I to presume then that there's been a decline in the catch of the wild fishery to the extent that you need both to survive? Maybe you should tell me.
B. Pirie: Absolutely. The opportunities for commercial fishing have diminished to the point where there are…. The seine fleet, for example. This has been a very good season with very good return to the Fraser River. There have been two days that the seine fleet has been allowed to fish in the month of August, and there are two days that they will be allowed to fish — actually, they're not even full days; they're 12-hour days — in the month of October.
Compared to where we were in the '80s and at least the first half of the '90s, we were in a position where they started fishing in July, and there was usually pretty much a day a week for that period of time up until September. The same thing applies to the gill-netters and the trollers. Those opportunities are not there.
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I don't want you to think it is entirely because there are no fish there. It's just that the regulatory requirements have tightened to the point where conservation and precaution have become the dominant way of managing these stocks. Escapement targets and future generations is what their mandate is, and they are so cautious that it does not…. If there is any risk at all attached to it, there is no opening.
G. Robertson: Just a couple of questions around closed containment. Have you processed fish from closed containment aquaculture to date?
B. Pirie: We did end up having a small amount of fish that has been through our plant. They came from the Cedar facility, which has been opened and closed and opened and closed, most recently maybe a year and a half before this most recent closure.
G. Robertson: One of the concerns of the committee — beyond the impact, both ecological and economic on wild salmon — is the long-term stability and potential of the farm industry. Without addressing issues around containment and impact on the environment, it potentially limits the economic upside of the farm-salmon industry.
There have been a lot of advocates saying: why aren't we looking at closed containment more thoroughly? Why isn't there more research, more pilot projects? Why isn't there more happening here?
From a processor's perspective, is it an issue at all for you whether your fish comes from a closed-containment farm or an open-net-cage farm?
B. Pirie: Well, that's a bit of a leading question. The answer in the plant is that we need fish, and the market needs fish. You know, whether it comes from closed containment or open-net cages is a practical, economic decision that needs to be made outside of considerations for processing.
G. Robertson: Would you support more efforts into industrial closed containment as another technology that may make the industry more viable in the long term?
B. Pirie: We don't grow salmon, so I don't think it's appropriate for me to make that decision.
G. Robertson: I'm curious. As a business person, and my background is in the food business as well, having more diverse sources and a more resilient supply chain was really important in the fruit and vegetable business. I'm surprised not to hear more call from processors or people working in the industry for there to be more diversity and more options so that the supply is more predictable and able to grow in the long term.
B. Pirie: I think the supply is capable of growing within the structure of the current industry. I think the current industry is sustainable, and I think it's safe.
I think that, if you want my personal opinion about closed containment…. I had it whispered in my ear that we did, maybe within the last five or six years, process fish that came from an experiment on Saltspring Island. There were four pens that were closed containment, and four pens side by side that were open. We were the processor, so I don't have all of the technical details about what the results were, but economically, it was virtually impossible, and performance-wise, the fish that came out of closed containment were smaller with higher feed conversions.
From a personal point of view, I think that it's an unnecessary road to go down. I think, from an experimental point of view, it would be nice to see whether or not a pilot project of some kind could be put on the water and measured. But it's far, far too early for anybody, especially this committee, to make the decision that the industry, in order to be sustainable, has to go down some experimental path.
C. Trevena: I think one of the things we talked about hypothetically…. I wanted to pick up on something that you mentioned in your presentation, and that Ron mentioned — the idea that if all salmon farms were gone, and talking about what this committee can do. I just wondered why you throw this in because this is something that our committee is not looking at. It's not looking at closing down salmon farms. It's not looking at terrifying workers into considering that they're going to lose their jobs.
So I wondered why you throw this out — if all salmon farms were gone. This is not an issue that we as a committee would even consider looking at. I think that I, like you in this community, have been talking very openly about how we need the jobs that salmon farming brings. I wondered why, hypothetically, that is an issue that you thought was necessary to raise.
B. Pirie: I'm not trying to suggest that this committee is looking at the elimination of salmon farms at all. I made that point only because I think it's important to realize that the environmental issues that are of significance to wild stocks are all going to be there even if we don't have salmon farming. That's my only point.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
I'd like to call Mary and Dr. Vernon Kemp to the witness table, please.
V. Kemp: I'd like to thank the committee for allowing us to present this afternoon. My name is Dr. Vern Kemp. I'm a medical doctor, a family doctor in Nanaimo with a special interest in occupational medicine. The subject I'd like to review today is the question of cadmium as a natural contaminant in coastal bivalves.
Cadmium has always been recognized as a hazardous material, but new evidence has dramatically increased our concern regarding its health effects. The problem needs to be re-evaluated by responsible agencies, and this committee, by its mandate, needs to be
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aware of how the issue may affect sustainability of the industry.
The maps that you have demonstrate the natural sources of cadmium in the Georgia Basin. They also show sample sites where oysters are highly high and relatively low in cadmium. Shellfish, the most studied of which is the oyster, have a protein incorporated in them called metallothionein. This protein selectively binds cadmium when it is ingested in the food of plankton or in the simple filtering process of water containing cadmium, which the Gulf of Georgia does in various degrees.
If you look at map 2, in the upper right-hand corner beside each sample site is a number and a colour. It's the colours that tell the story. Black is extreme; red means bad, progressing to green. You will note a number of sites that indicate contamination of oysters in samples at levels of three, four, five and sometimes even approaching six micrograms per gram. These numbers will mean something to you soon.
The maps are complex. They contain a lot of data, and I would appreciate your taking time after the meeting today to review them. There is a lot of detail in there, but it's important material.
In regard to the health issues, now that you're aware that cadmium is a natural contaminant in the bivalves and that they selectively bind this metal and are unable to get rid of it, let me tell you about cadmium and human health. One bit of information that I think will surprise you is that we're just like oysters. We have metallothionein in us as well. Every molecule of cadmium that gets into our body is trapped, and for all practical purposes, we're stuck with it.
In 20 years we shed half of what we consume today, but unfortunately, each day in our diet, in the water we consume and in the air we breathe, we take in an estimated 40 micrograms of cadmium. Smokers consume significantly more. We can't avoid cadmium, and at this time the World Health Organization states that we can safely consume up to 70 micrograms for a 70-kilogram man. This standard is under active review at this time.
What happens to humans who are exposed to excessive amounts of cadmium? In a nutshell, we get sick. It leads to kidney failure, high blood pressure, liver failure and anemia. It causes osteoporosis, and the World Health Organization recognizes it as a cancer-causing agent, a carcinogen. The cancers it causes include cancer of the lung, prostate and testicle. Breast cancer and cancer of the pancreas are very likely soon to be included on a list of diseases that it causes.
The most recent research on the effects of cadmium has been directed at its effect on DNA. As you are aware, this is one of the most basic building blocks in all living material. Cadmium appears to affect DNA when it tries to repair the natural errors that occur in cell rebuilding. When an error occurs, as they do, DNA can go back and fix the error, keeping the natural mutation rate at a very low level.
Cadmium appears to interfere with that process, leading to mutation rates of up to 2,000 times higher than expected in the model that was used. Of great concern also in this research was the very low level of cadmium that was required to produce the effect.
The rapidly developing body of knowledge regarding the effect of cadmium on human health has led to the establishment of international standards for the maximum amount of cadmium in food. These standards are set to protect consumers from potentially hazardous foodstuffs.
The European Union has a standard for oysters of one microgram per gram. The Codex Alimentarius Commission, run by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, has a standard for mussels and scallops of two micrograms per gram. They are still currently studying the allowable limit for oysters.
Hong Kong has a standard of two micrograms per gram for oysters, and it was their food monitors who raised a concern regarding our shellfish.
In Canada the federal agencies have no standard for cadmium in shellfish. The response of the authorities in Health Canada regarding their position on cadmium in oysters has been a very weak "limit your intake." They've advised that children should consume at a maximum one and one half oysters per month. Their advice for adults is a limit of oysters of 12 per month. An average commercial oyster is considered to weigh approximately 45 grams. Based on a high average of four micrograms per gram, each oyster would contain 180 micrograms of cadmium.
I take you back to the currently allowable World Health Organization maximum daily intake of 70 micrograms. Remember that we get up to 40 micrograms per day as a natural contaminant. The math becomes startling: 70 micrograms of cadmium are allowed each day. We intake 40 micrograms naturally. This equals a safety factor of 30 micrograms. One oyster contains 180 micrograms of cadmium. The excess of cadmium intake over today's standards by consuming one oyster high in cadmium is 150 micrograms.
I also need to mention that in addition to the federal government having no standard for cadmium, neither does the ministry responsible for the safety of shellfish in British Columbia.
In regard to sustainability, it is my opinion that we have a hidden crisis in our making for the coastal bivalve aquaculture industry. In 2001 an international symposium was held in Victoria, where all involved agreed that cadmium contamination was a serious issue and very specific recommendations were made to address it. These recommendations included further scientific evaluation to determine if concentrations could be reduced by alteration of culture techniques. They also recommended that cadmium be considered as a criterion when lease siting was being considered.
To date the recommendations have not been followed, and many of our major producers are currently located in areas of high cadmium levels.
I request that this Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture recommend to the provincial government the following recommendations.
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Firstly, that before-market, independent testing of bivalve products start immediately to identify shellfish sites of production that pose cadmium health risks to consumers of that product.
Secondly, that the provincial government recognize the best international opinion on safe levels of contamination, the Codex standard for mussels and scallops and the Asian standard for oysters, until Codex has made its final determination, and that they use these standards for providing safe shellfish to the public.
Thirdly, that shellfish operations at sites with product found to exceed safe cadmium levels be re-sited to areas of proven safe product. That re-siting would be done at the expense of the agencies that were responsible for the original siting.
By taking this action now, our government would ensure the sale of healthy seafood for consumers at home and around the world.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Dr. Kemp. Do members have any questions?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much, Dr. Kemp, for bringing this to our attention. Does it affect other bivalves as well? You specifically talk about oysters here, but clams and mussels…?
V. Kemp: Clams I'm not sure of, Ron, but very definitely mussels. The documentation is currently in process, I understand. The science has been done, and the announcement of the levels will be released soon, I think.
As far as scallops, they're even worse than oysters. They have a huge ability to contain the cadmium within their gut system. The adductor muscle, which most of us eat, is not so much of a problem, but when a scallop is consumed in total — including its gut contents, which is what we do with oysters — the cadmium content can be very, very high.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): If I understand this correctly, simply put, cadmium is naturally occurring, but it collects in these bivalves, and then when we eat them we can potentially consume very high levels, above 70 micrograms. Is that…?
V. Kemp: That is exactly the case.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay. But I'll read the whole thing too.
S. Fraser: Thanks for this, Dr. Kemp. First of all, to be clear: this is naturally occurring cadmium. This is not from industry. It's not industrial effluent.
V. Kemp: Everybody has agonized over the source. There has been research done in looking for sources from pulp mills or from sewage effluent. There are all trace elements there.
Again, if you look at map 1, it shows the sites of cadmium sampling in streams all over Vancouver Island and lower British Columbia. It's a natural ingredient in our water environment.
S. Fraser: It's in the geology.
V. Kemp: It is.
S. Fraser: Of course, it concentrates in the bivalves, just by the nature of the way they eat.
V. Kemp: That is correct.
S. Fraser: Have there been any processes — bifurcation, something like that — that have been tested to try to clean the oyster? I know these processes are used for mussels, not specifically for cadmium or heavy metals but for…. Are you aware of that?
V. Kemp: Yes, I am, and it's effective for clearing them of sediment materials, those kinds of things. But metallothioneins have that unique property of binding the material and not releasing.
S. Fraser: Okay. Then further, if I could. The nature of the beast…. Most people eat an oyster as an appetizer. It's not considered a staple, as such. I know you've got the limit for kids. Well, I wouldn't go near an oyster when I was kid. I'm not trying to make light of this, but you know, it is not something that people generally say: "Twice a week we eat oysters for dinner."
I mean, it's usually an ancillary food. I know the European Union is looking at raising its limit from one part per million. That was being discussed recently, so I was wondering if that was based on some new work or new studies that they'd done on health effects. Are you aware?
V. Kemp: I think the whole international community is trying to address the question of safe cadmium levels. As you are aware, Fisheries will shut down the fishery for paralytic shellfish poisoning. It routinely tests for bacterial contamination, but at the current time they don't test for cadmium. So we really don't know what levels we're dealing with.
In regard to the international standards, there's no question that it's undergoing re-evaluation. But I think one of the really important things that is going to come out over the next few years is the question of how cadmium affects DNA. This is a huge, huge potential problem, and the studies that I've investigated — in part, in preparing for this talk — indicate that the damage to DNA is occurring at very low levels of cadmium. In fact, the World Health Organization may have to re-evaluate the allowable total consumption that we're now obliged to work within.
It's a changing area, but I think it's one where we should err on the side of caution. I think it would be very worthwhile for our government to take a positive step in the right direction so that this doesn't come down the road at us out of the corner.
It's out there. There's no question about it.
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D. Jarvis: Thank you for your report here. Are you suggesting, or would you suggest, that we close down the whole industry and the wild? There are sites here where I know people are out gathering bivalves, clams. You say there's a problem.
V. Kemp: I understand exactly what your point is, but if you look at some of the maps — take some time later on — there are safe sites, and there are hot sites. That's my point.
We currently don't know what level of cadmium these products have in them. We don't test for it. We need to do the testing. We need, then, to recognize sites that are low in cadmium and locate our aquaculture industry in those sites.
In answer to your first question: I'm absolutely not opposed to the industry. In fact, I support it enthusiastically.
D. Jarvis: But we could only control the farm industry. We can't control the wild.
V. Kemp: No, but on the other hand, Fisheries does put up notices that say: "Don't pick these fish, because they've got PSP in them."
There's no reason that studies can't be done by Fisheries to say that these areas are hot for cadmium — not safe to pick this product — but you can go over to Campbell River, which, if you look at the map, is a safe site and pick the oysters.
D. Jarvis: So you're saying that Fisheries would have to do a system basically like what they do with red tide, etc.?
V. Kemp: Well, the interesting difference between red tide and cadmium is that red tide tends to fluctuate. It comes and goes, and it will locate itself in different areas.
Cadmium, by the nature of the beast that this gentleman pointed out, has areas where it is high and areas where it is low. These are natural things.
Once it's been established where the hotspots are, they don't move. They stay the same.
D. Jarvis: Do the cadmium sites leach — i.e., without being exposed?
V. Kemp: I'm sorry. I didn't get your question.
D. Jarvis: The leaching aspect of this — would they be exposed? Would they leach if they weren't exposed — i.e., like in the mining industry? You know, the leaching there is because they're exposed to oxygen.
V. Kemp: I understand the point of your question. On map 1 you'll see that this is a stream-based study demonstrating that the water material goes into the Gulf of Georgia as a natural process. It's only logical to assume that the same geology occurs under the Gulf of Georgia, as well, and that if there's an ore body protruding into the water mass and that water mass is continuously moving, it's going to pick up the cadmium, just as it's going to do in these streams.
D. Jarvis: You don't think it's a natural thing that we'll just have in our system anyway?
V. Kemp: We all have cadmium. The question is: how much? That's where the real burning question is — how much is safe? The science is moving to a lower level, not a higher level.
M. Kemp: I have a very quick presentation to give. One of my concerns is that the shellfish industry from a social point of view…. A lot of people don't really know what is out there. For people who haven't had an opportunity to get out into the more rural areas and have a look at shellfish sites, I thought it would be good for you to have a look at some of the things that are at the shellfish farms so that you can understand why siting of shellfish farms is so important.
We have no regulation for it right now; however, I think it's one of the few resources that is not regulated with regard to where it's put. Jackie Hunter, back in 2002, suggested that for the shellfish industry to be viable and successful, it had to be socially compatible. Right now, because of the new mechanization that is going on with the industry — it has evolved tremendously — we have a lot of machinery.
If you follow through on page 1, it's just a little picture story going through what they thought the shellfish industry was going to be, which was going to be quite pristine. At the bottom of the page is a picture of the machinery that is in fact there.
A lot of people don't realize that it has become mechanized — that they have generators, 20- to 30-foot cranes, power washers. They have a lot of noise that goes on at these shellfish rafts. They have conveyor belts now that have to be run well with generators. And they have boats. They have motorboats going back and forth all the time, run by outboards.
The beaches also have trucks on them now. They use the machinery down there. They leave rebar and other equipment on the beaches, which make it a little bit dangerous for the trucks. Of course you can't let your kids play on the beach if you're on the west side of Denman Island.
I just wanted to show you some of the unsightly things as well — the visuals that are there with the machinery, the broken rafts and things. These are sitting now right in front of private homes because there is no siting criteria. I think it is very important that we recognize not just tourists see this, but some people look at this all day and every day in residentially zoned areas, simply because we didn't have the regulations for it back then.
We also have a lot of beach garbage, a lot of what's called oyster blue. I don't know whether you walk the beaches and see this blue string, which is what they hang the oysters from the rafts with. Page 5 at the very
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bottom shows the beach cleanup that the Denman Island people did, and they had at least three truckloads of stuff they took. The school kids got involved in it.
Shellfish operations are also very large. They can be ten acres right in front of your home, because there's no siting to say they can't go there. So ten acres of these rafts…. They're 23 feet by 23 feet. There could be a hundred rafts right in front of your home, if you have a waterfront place, with the machinery — whatever machinery they choose to put on them because there's no regulation about the machinery either.
We also have smell. They load their trays up on their rafts and let them dry. Well, to be there is to know what it's been like. If you have that sitting in an area where we have tourists, kayakers, homes…. It just seems very unfair that people should have to do this, be exposed to it.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I think it is socially unacceptable right now — what we have in our shellfish industry. The government recognized this a number of years ago, in 2003, when they actually did the coastal plan. They suggested that the provincial code of practice would protect the public from the noise and the smell and the unsightliness. However, the code of practice was shelved because it wasn't enforceable. So now we have no siting criteria whatsoever to protect the public from these social problems.
The regional district of Comox-Strathcona also suggested that they put the mechanized industries along areas where it wasn't residentially zoned, along the northwest side of Cortes Island, just to get them away. They recognized it, but they have no power.
The provincial government can say that the normal farm practice…. "You can bring your machinery in. It's a normal farm practice." The zoning doesn't have any control.
The federal government is in charge of the vessels. The boats and the barges — they can come in. In fact, in the coastal plan they recommended that barges be at every tenure in the Gorge Harbour.
There were going to be ten ten-acre tenures in the Gorge, all of them having a barge. What better place to put your machinery? I have property on Gorge Harbour. It could be anywhere along the coast where they choose to put that. It's impossible for us to know. The government is accepting some of the machinery because they have no rules. We also know that the industry is evolving. Who knows what machinery is going to be next?
I would request of the committee that you request that the government implement objective, effective, enforceable siting criteria similar to what the salmon farms have. The salmon farms have a one-kilometre distancing from residential- and recreational-zoned areas. I've actually included a section here from the Salmon Aquaculture Review paper that describes that. It's just on the second-to-last page.
I also would request that you suggest that there be a moratorium placed on the approval of further expansions or new shellfish farms until we get this done. It needs to be regulated.
Also, we have a number of people throughout our northern coast who have shellfish farms in their areas — in front of their homes and in their recreational spots. They shouldn't also have to suffer simply because the regulations weren't in place quite as quickly as they were for the salmon farms.
Those poorly sited shellfish farms should be moved. They can be moved to other locations. As you'll see on the bottom of page 9, they move shellfish rafts loaded with product around with no problem. We see them going back and forth. It's slow, but they can move them. I think it's only fair to the public that they be protected now and in the future.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks very much for your presentation. Scott has a quick question.
S. Fraser: I know we're running late here. I'm certainly aware of the concerns you have raised. Like everything, there are good farms, and there are bad farms. I'm quite used to the smaller longline operations in Clayoquot Sound where there aren't any residents in proximity either, but they're generally quiet and quite compatible.
There are siting criteria. The tenuring process is very similar to a salmon farm tenure. It's an aquaculture tenure. It has basically the same referral agencies associated with it, including the public, which we've heard earlier in the issue around Baynes Sound in Bowser where the scallop farm is being proposed. There's a process where the public is voicing its opinion on that.
All the navigational issues and even the compatibility issues are dealt with through the same sort of process. It's the same aquaculture tenure. It's basically handled in a very similar way no matter what kind of aquaculture it is.
For sites that have already been in place, we've seen a lot of friction, certainly, where people have moved into an area, and then there's a farm there. Of course, some farms have expanded, and the original models of them have changed, maybe, to be somewhat less compatible with the original use that was intended.
There are actually siting criteria. The code of practice that's referred to was actually built by the industry. I don't know which agency, but somebody determined that it wasn't enforceable, so it wasn't enforced.
M. Kemp: The code of practice, I believe, that was built by the industry is still there. It was a voluntary one. What they said was: "We would like you to minimize the noise to below 85 decibels." Now, 85 decibels is the level that you have to wearing hearing protection at in industry.
If you have — and this has happened in Gorge Harbour — shellfish rafts with 85 decibels of noise, the workers are wearing hearing protection. The workers are yelling at each other, and you're sitting on your porch. You've been there for 30 years, but nobody told you that these were going to come. What has happened, I believe, is that the siting criteria are not enforceable. There is no regulation that says you can have this machinery at this place, or you can't.
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The zoning. It's a normal farm practice, and if it's deemed a normal farm practice by the provincial government, then it can stay. And if the provincial government says that you can't do it, you can bring in whatever machinery you like on a barge or a boat or a vessel, because that's under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
We've been around and around with this, trying to figure out how we can make it…. I'm not against shellfish, but it should go somewhere. There's a right place for it. Just as in industry, you wouldn't put a lumber mill in the middle of West Van. I don't believe you should have a shellfish farm in the middle of residentially zoned areas. I think you're right. There are some rules there, but they're not being enforced.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
We are now going to recess for 40 minutes, and the next two presenters have kindly offered to make their presentations after lunch. So instead of an hour recess, we'll recess for 40 minutes.
The committee recessed from 1:12 p.m. to 1:53 p.m.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
R. Austin (Chair): Good afternoon. I'd like to call Chief Russell Kwakseestahla to the witness table, please.
R. Kwakseestahla: Chief Kwakseestahla, Laich-Kwil-Tach Nation, Awahoo tribe. Because of the time constraints, I'm going to annotate my submission to the committee, which is from a legal position. On the first page we have the kwikw thunderbird crest of the Awahoo tribe on the cover of our submission to the B.C. Treaty Commission, 1992. Map — third page, submitted to the B.C. Treaty Commission….
R. Austin (Chair): Excuse me one second, Chief. Do we have copies of this? Are we supposed to have a copy of it?
R. Kwakseestahla: I don't think you had it. I gave one copy….
R. Austin (Chair): We'll have copies made afterwards. We'll share them right now.
R. Kwakseestahla: Old W.A.C. Bennett is going to have to give me some tax money for my trees so I can make more copies.
On the third page we have an ancient map of the treaties that were made on Vancouver Island. Also, in the centre of the east side you'll see Laich-Kwil-Tach Nation.
I've changed my destination on my presentation because of the remarks of one of your committee members. I'll start out with a statement.
We're not here today to be complicit or an accessory to the fact of marine genocide. Marine genocide is mentioned two or three times in the document that is before you today.
Also, there's ethnic genocide. I heard the buy, trade and sell of our Laich-Kwil-Tach Nation properties this morning. It's very humiliating to sit here, equivalent to Prince Charles, begging for some of his land back in England. I don't say that lightly. I was thinking about my ancestors while some of the presenters were making their presentations, which were all good and forthright with their positions.
The papal bull of 1455, Pope Nicholas V, another papal bull in 1493, Pope Alexander VI…. A couple of paragraphs into that is where the licence to invade the Americas was given. Some of the wording that I copied from those ancient papal bulls that haven't been rescinded I'll read into the record: "To vanquish and subdue all us nations of free Americas and a licence to commit genocide."
Recently one of the Middle East leaders made statements to the United Nations, specifically to Bush and Harper and Mr. Blair, about the genocide and the theft of the countries where they were located in the Americas and that. It's no secret, and that's why we have to be forthright.
My people have been driven from the coast shores of our country for human habitat. Before I go into some of the legalities, my first recorded ancestor was born here in [Kwak'wala spoken] in 1821, according to family oral history and supported by the 1901 census of the Canada government for the Department of Indian Affairs, or whatever it was called back in 1901. It changes through generations.
His mother and father had to have been born. She was born at [Kwak'wala spoken] in approximately 1800, and his dad was born here in approximately 1800. There is mention in Mr. Smith's diary of the grandfather living here in Campbell River in his house in 1875. He had to have been … in approximately 1755 to 1760, and I'm giving the variance.
What I'm projecting to the panel is that we supersede Delgamuukw by approximately 100 years on our status of occupancy of the Discovery Passage, north Gulf of Georgia. In the document I mention the number of tribes — I think 13 of them; there are others — where they were located and their native names.
On the second page I put: "A Nation Under Siege." When you look at the international rules of law and the international human rights covenant on our basic human rights, we have been violated near beyond repair with respect to our natural habitat and the natural habitat of ourselves to survive.
I'm not a Johnny-come-lately on this issue at bar. Approximately 25 years ago I was a special assistant hired by the chief of the Gwawaenuk band, the late Elsie Williams, in that famous spot you that call the archipelago up north of here in the Gwawaenuk-Kwakwaka'wakw people's country. So I'm not new.
I also sat on the CEN for 15 years — the Canadian Environmental Network. I also sat elected on the B.C.
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Environmental Network for 15 years. I resigned from both those posts because I wasn't into making national parks our homelands. I thought it was still a sword of the colonial accord.
Our legal position — it hasn't changed. We've made presentations to government, to DFO, to other committees, to tribal councils, to district native organizations, to regional organizations and national organizations. We have zero tolerance, and I was quite flabbergasted to hear — because I heard Mr. Gordon Campbell's statement about this travelling committee when it was first struck up — our friend Claire Trevena say that the committee was not looking at the elimination of fish farms. That is disheartening to us because of the marine genocide, as we carefully ink in the word.
My own personal experience of the fish farm industry is not a tour by the fish farm people. I was out herring fishing for three years part-time in Bute, Loughborough and parts of our area, but I was quite appalled one time when we had a three-day anchor out because of the weather in a place called Granite Bay, which some of you are familiar with. I personally used to go in there with my dad, who is present, Captain George.
When I was six to ten and 11 years old, he actually used to do herring eggs on branches there. There used to be a live box there for herring, and we used to get oysters and clams in that area. But there's a lagoon on the east side of Granite Bay that was completely nuked from the residue of the fish farms — the oysters and clams. I went around there two or three times in the boat looking around, and the oysters and clams are dead from that red stuff that comes off those fish farms.
After I got into a meeting about fish farms after the bait-herring was over for that year, I started mentioning that to our people — what I'd personally witnessed. I have never seen personally the late Cousteau-type adventure where underwater cameras are used to go around these areas to look at the bottom of the sea floor at the irreparable damage that is done. I raised the marine genocide of the clams and oysters that I did see as evidentiary fact, and they're still there. We can go there today. They're still there.
Then it becomes a thought in my mind: what about the rock cod, the perch, the rockfish that are all in that same area, and the octopus and that? What kind of marine diseases do those species have from that — especially listening to some of the interesting expert reports that were made this morning by other parties? That is why the position of zero tolerance.
The speaker or the council that I work with or my people will not aid and abet any marine genocide because of the fact that one of the great-grandmothers said that the Creator gave us a feast dish and that we're to look after that dish. We're certainly not going to destroy our food chain in favour of the newly created marine stock that's not inherently from our area.
To my friends that own these fish farms, the very rich people: I put a challenge out to you for my father to cook one of his wild spring salmon and for you to cook one of your Atlantic spring salmon. Have a test, and see who wins that contest on the vitamins and the quality of that fish. I thought about it today while I was listening to the horns being tooted and the foghorn going off — that I'd like to see a cookdown sometime in the near future. I'm not just kidding on that; I literally mean it.
Some of my people…. I'm not appalled at some of the positions up and down the coast, because, to the committee, after hearing the revelations of one of the members prior to break…. The Nuremburg defence that the Nazi Party took was: "I was only following orders." Say, hypothetically, 100 years from now we're all only following orders, and there are no sockeye salmon or spring salmon or rockfish in these areas and that. We are all guilty of aiding and abetting marine genocide. That is important to weigh on your mind.
The only thing I could think of…. I'm not being facetious, and I'm not here to malign anybody. But that defence of the Nuremburg defendants is something to weigh on your mind. Why are we into this, this far, even though we have report after report after report stating that there are deep, deep questions about the harm it is doing to the wild stocks?
There is another thing when my people are missiled into these things. It is called the Stockholm syndrome when the person that is taken hostage starts believing in the hostage-taker and following the hostage-taker, such as in the Patty Hearst thing.
I don't say that lightly, because approximately 15 years ago, without consultation, the elected trustees of the area that I'm from got into fish farming under the table on us. Our trustees today that are elected are opposed to it, but they are not sitting here today, in fear of economic terrorism by the federal and provincial governments — economic penalties that would be levied against them if they were sitting here voicing the concerns of our people.
In Haida Gwaii this committee has the fiduciary obligation to consult our people, not just the trustees. This hearing should be moved sometime in the near future to the Thunderbird Hall, the Quinsam Hall and the Comox hall. See what the people say, and go to the other villages, because we're equal, as all other people now, according to the Haida Gwaii decision. That is a new case law. It only came out this past late spring. Then have an accurate accounting of what transpired.
There are errors of past councils without consultation of the people. That is why we sit here today not as independents but as a voice for our people, as the hereditary leaders of our people and our ancestors, as I clearly stated this morning. We are the royal families that existed here before contact, and we have something to protect. We've been here for thousands of years, and we're not going to move away after the damage is done.
I took a plane ride to Kingcome Inlet a couple of years ago. I was totally appalled at the clearcut logging and the total destruction of the mainland forest of the homelands of our people, the Weiwaikum and the [Kwak'wala spoken] in between Knight Inlet and Loughborough Inlet. It's hard to fathom when you haven't seen it, and then you go up in an airplane and
[ Page 606 ]
see the damage. It's no wonder the grizzly bears are now swimming to Vancouver Island.
Marine genocide. The sea lice destroy wild salmon. That was said many, many times. Back 20 years, when I was speaking for the late Chief Elsie Williams, I was on record.
The other genocide is the wild mammals, which we heard this morning — sea lions, seals, marten, mink. In all of those things there has never been an audit on how many of them were killed on the mainland. The only reason I got wind of it is because the Ministry of Environment was offering the contract to contract hunters in the local paper. I went to the Ministry of Environment. I think Big Moe was the minister, and I asked him: "Who's doing an audit on all this senseless killing that you're doing of these species of animals, when they're at an all-time low?" I never got any reply from that government.
The sea floor, which I mentioned earlier, is being contaminated — oysters, clams, crabs and mussels. If I'm repetitive, it's because nobody is speaking for the rockfish or these other things about what's occurring to them.
There's one thing I omitted from my report to you as a committee and as a speaker. The dump that was up above Middle Point…. There were a number of eagles dying there from poisoning, which the Ministry of Environment hid from the public. I see lately, as I drive by to my property up in Brown's Bay, that they've cut the trees down where those eagles used to live. I don't know if that was a solution to that problem, but it isn't a way of handling things — the way we were taught, as you heard me this morning.
I'd rise on a point of good order. I had two or three cousins in here this morning. I don't see their names on the list. I have a northern elected leader that isn't on the list. I would ask the committee on our part, as owners of this land, that those people be heard even if it's for five minutes so they can go on record with whatever their position is. After all, you are making a decision. Failing that, I would seriously ask the committee to adjourn after this and query themselves: should we be looking at Haida Gwaii and going right into native country and asking the people what they want? Get an opinion, a good mix of our people, as to what they want on the fish farm.
As I said before, our people were duped. Some people were duped into the different ends of the fish farm industry. If I was asked by the panel the same question about what to do with the Denman Island thing…. I'll be facetious to a degree, but my anger and hostility about what is happening to our homelands cannot be hidden anymore. I would say to hire Foss, Seaspan and Northern tugs to tow those people to the place of origin of the people that have the investment. See how long they'd get away with it in their homelands where they come from, to destroy their natural habitat and their marine species. That's what I'd say to that. I say that on behalf of our future generations of children that will fall upon this Hansard one day and say that at least there was a voice and an honest opinion about what to do with these things in their homeland.
I was taken aback by the presenter prior to me. I'd never heard that report before, but I must commend him and some of the other presenters and even the presenters from some of the fish-packing companies. I was very pleased to hear parts of their reports today.
The money that George Bush and Harper are claiming — that money should come back, all of it, to this part of the world. Fifty percent should go to our people and 50 percent to the hatcheries and the stream cleaning that needs to be done. Replant sockeye and salmon in all the rivers that the logging industry destroyed. I see somebody flagging his watch there, but I noticed with the other groups this morning — and I did keep time with my own watch — there were people who were permitted to go way over their time limit.
With that, I will say thank you to the other aboriginal nations that are in here today, to the other presenters that are in here today and, lastly, to the committee. Have a good deliberation, and keep with you some of the thoughts that I have presented to you. There are international laws, rules and regulations that humanity is supposed to be based on under the Charter of the United Nations.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Chief. Scott has a question for you.
S. Fraser: Thanks for the presentation, Chief. I'm not sure where your traditional territory boundaries are.
R. Kwakseestahla: It's in the thing. I'll give you a copy. I think I have one.
S. Fraser: Okay. I'll pass that on. Within your traditional territories, how many aquaculture tenures…?
R. Kwakseestahla: It's our homeland. There are territory provinces within our homeland. We have a country that was free before the colonizers came.
S. Fraser: Do you know how many tenures are within your traditional homeland or traditional territories?
R. Kwakseestahla: Other than the Qwe'Qwa'Sot'Em and the Gwawaenuk, we have the bulk of them too, because there was no deliberation amongst our own people by the trustees who were elected and in power at the time to ask the people and ask us hereditary leaders: do we want these things in our homelands? A yes-or-no question. At least to be asked, yes or no: do we want fish farms?
I understand from inquiries I made yesterday to a couple of my cousins who are on council that the two local councils are opposed to fish farms now. But I wonder why they're not here today, other than the reasoning that I stated — fear of economic reprisal. That's
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the way the federal and provincial governments bully our people or manipulate them through economics.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
I'd like to call Alice Woods up to the witness table.
A. Woods: I am slotted for time right now, but if the Chief would like to have more time at the table, I would be happy to give that up.
B. Chamberlin: Good afternoon. For the record, [Kwak'wala spoken] Bob Chamberlin, chief of the Kwicksutaineuk/Ah-kwa-mish First Nation.
Our territory has been referenced a number of times here today — the Broughton Archipelago. The village which is my home is right in the Broughton Archipelago.
I'll be as quick as I can. I want to thank you for having this opportunity to speak.
First, I looked at the paper here, the North Islander. It says this committee was struck to consider and make recommendations regarding, as the first bullet says, the economic and environmental impacts of the aquaculture industry. When I canvassed this panel this morning before we started, I asked some specific questions about how the federal government, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the provincial government set their environmental standards. I need to say for the record that I was disappointed with the responses I had.
I'm speaking specifically of the DEPOMOD software that DFO uses in order to model the dispersion of waste from this industry. They use the same model to identify the footprint. I think that's an interesting word to hide what actually does go on.
We had a meeting with a man named Jon Chamberlain. He was one of the people who helped develop this software over in Europe. He was also brought here to Canada to customize it for the tides here and so on. I was greatly disappointed to find out that in that modelling software they do a tide analysis of a proposed site for one month, and that's going to be good enough. If you've been around the ocean for any great time, you know that the different seasons offer different types of tide volumes. I think to base DFO's modelling software for the dispersal of the negative aspects of this industry on one month's analysis is horribly inadequate. I believe that if you were to have an in-depth discussion with Mr. Jon Chamberlain and Sheila Jepps of DFO, you would bring yourself to a greater understanding.
I want to reference recent letters that I've read — one about Alex Morton's case, about the introduction of sea lice to the Broughton Archipelago and the impact it has on the outward-migrating pink and chum salmon smolts. The provincial government's own Queen's Counsel in reviewing the case — whether to take it to court or not — hired an independent scientist to evaluate not only the outcomes of this work that Alexandra Morton has done but also the methodology to reach the outcomes.
In his words, they were extremely thorough in the methodology, which in my mind validates the outcomes. That's our own provincial government Queen's Counsel. I think that needs to be understood, and it has to be acted upon, because it says right here that you're going to make recommendations regarding environmental impact. This is not science that is ours, theirs or anything. It's from our own government Queen's Counsel's individual hired to assess it.
There's also a more recent one, a separate study about sea lice impacts, and that was peer-reviewed by the University of Alberta, as was mentioned earlier today, and by UVic and University of Hawaii. If the provincial government is going to disregard the fact that the University of Victoria supports this research, how in good conscience can you fund that university if you don't support the outcomes?
On the front page of this paper that came out here in Campbell River on Friday, it talks of 13 provincial and municipal leaders who made a trip to Norway, and they talked about what a great industry this is over in Norway. The one part that I think is most valid, which I think is very important for this table to hear — and I think you need to research it and understand it — is the 42 national salmon fjords of Norway. For eight fjords they simply do not let the industry in, because they freely acknowledge that their open-net-cage systems introduce or create the environment for large amounts of sea lice. They don't let them into those fjords out of respect for the outward-migrating salmon smolts. They're in the process of phasing out 34 more fjords.
As was presented by somebody earlier today, why not bring that notion here? I was sad to hear that he stopped at Knight Inlet, because that very principle, supported by the independent review of the Queen's Counsel–selected scientist, will tell you that all the farms in the Broughton Archipelago have to go. We have Embley Creek, Wakeman, Kingcome, Ahta, Kakweiken, and we have the one that's on Gilford Island as well. These are all salmon streams, and you can't define that there's a specific route for outward-migrating salmon smolts. The whole area is an outward salmon smolt migratory route.
In Norway — because I met with the director-general of the DFO equivalent in the Norwegian government; he had a lawyer and a marine biologist present — they almost laughed when I told him we were studying sea lice. I think this government needs to quit looking away from established science around the world and understand that this industry needs to change in the most fundamental way — not only in how the industry conducts itself but in the licensing, permitting and monitoring of this industry's impacts on the environment.
The provincial government simply will tell you that it's sustainable. I completely disagree with their terms of sustainability. They want to look just at the benthic area. The guy that we met with, who developed the DEPOMOD, agreed that there is a far-field effect, but it's too expensive to monitor. That doesn't sit well with me, not when the Supreme Court of Canada has rulings which say that our aboriginal title, our aboriginal
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rights and the duty for the Crown to consult and accommodate first nations interests cannot be business as usual. But today it's business as usual. Gordon Campbell is running around with his New Relationship. I don't see it. It is business as usual.
We've engaged in over a year of efforts to try and establish a joint scientific panel to assess the Broughton Archipelago. What a waste of a year. And to hear in testimony today that there is a carrying-capacity study accomplished in other areas on this coast, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has never entertained that notion of doing a carrying-capacity assessment for the Broughton Archipelago, because they would find there are far too many farms there, that the environment there cannot be sustained….
I also heard comments earlier today about how when you go back after a site has been fallowed for a stretch of time, it's okay. Well, what we're talking about is oxygen levels in soil, where we have examples of rich and diverse biological marine life within a stretch of beach. After it's been destroyed, after it's been turned anoxic, all of those organisms die. Then to go back three or four years later and say that it's healthy again, simply because there's oxygen present in the soil again, is not good enough.
I think you need to do some very clear recommendations on how this industry is operating in our country, because whether an individual is supportive of the notion of aboriginal title rights does not matter. It is the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest law in this land, that says it is alive and well.
It is only recently that the provincial government has acknowledged that they need to embrace this notion in a meaningful way, and it's not happening. I keep wondering: what do we have to do to get the attention? We've engaged in good-faith negotiations for well over a year, and that's only since I've been involved. We've been at it for ten, 15 or years, and there's nothing about accommodating our title or our interests.
What does that force us to do, then? We're watching the destruction of a food source which is the basis of our culture, of our people. I don't know how else to express that to you — how important that is and vital it is to us as a people of this earth. I was at a potlatch this weekend in Alert Bay. We had crabs. We had prawns. We had salmon. We had oolichans. We had everything you can imagine that comes from the marine environment, and this industry is having a severe impact on it.
If you want to look at the mainland pink stocks, the assessment about the health of the mainland pinks, take out Glendale Cove's numbers and have an honest look at what is being impacted. You will find that we're on the verge of extinction on pink salmon stocks within our traditional territories.
At our AGM of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council, which I am the chairperson of…. We had our AGM about a week and a half ago. Again, our membership confirmed to us our zero-tolerance policy on this industry as it is practised today. That's the Kwicksutaineuk/Ah-kwa-mish First Nation, the Tsawataineuk First Nation, the Gwawaenuk and the 'Namgis First Nation.
I think it's time. If this committee can do anything at all, you need to make some very strong recommendations to the provincial government and hold Gordon Campbell accountable to his promises within The New Relationship. If you were to look through that, you would find no less than eight sentences that support what I'm saying.
It needs to happen. I'm tired of seeing the Premier of this province in the media flashing this New Relationship document that doesn't mean anything, because it certainly isn't on the ground in terms of accommodation or consultation with first nations people.
S. Fraser: Thanks, Chief Chamberlin. You mentioned the joint panel that you were working on. Could you elaborate on that and let us know what the status of that is?
B. Chamberlin: The MOU development came out of the consultation process on the transfer of licences from Stolt Sea Farms to Marine Harvest. After the initial meeting, when we talked about some of the things we wanted to see, there was a suggestion from the provincial government to develop a memorandum of understanding. Then we switched from consultation on the transfer to the development of the MOU.
What we are putting forward, which is no surprise from discussions versus what we gave in text form, was a joint scientific panel — one scientist appointed by industry, one by our first nations group and one independent — to go out and do some science that everybody can walk by. What we got was the offer of nickels when we needed dollars.
I can't tell you what the day rate is for a scientist, but I can imagine that three of them on a boat is going to be pretty expensive. Then you get into the lab work. We went down a year of negotiations, and like I mentioned at the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs annual general assembly to Gordon Campbell…. I said that we discussed making a sandwich. We all knew what we were putting in there, and then we put it in a paper and gave it to the government. They took all the meat out, threw back two pieces of bread and said: "That's what we're talking about." It's a complete waste of time.
This is what first nations are experiencing today about the New Relationship. It's a joke, because there is no accommodation. There is no meaningful consultation. This is what the Supreme Court of Canada says is unacceptable. You as elected officials need to make sure that this doesn't get lost on a statutory decision-maker so far down the food chain that it hardly matters in comparison to the elected officials within the constitutional structure of Canada.
That's where we're sitting. We've got this great court of law in Canada making rulings, and a stat decision-maker who is disregarding them. That's your responsibility — to make sure that it doesn't happen. It
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needs to happen not just for first nations but for Canadians in general.
We're talking about how this country functions, stemming from the constitution. Our elected officials need to ensure that it's being adhered to in a meaningful way, not just a Premier running around with a document getting lots of mileage out of it. That's what it is today. It is business as usual, and it's a disregard for title and rights. It is your own Supreme Court that has acknowledged that both of these are still alive and well.
G. Coons: Thank you so much for coming in again. Two things I want to comment on. One was the DEPOMOD used for looking at the footprint or the management.
I'm doing some of my own reading here. The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, which coordinates the peer review of scientific issues for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, had a couple of reports out. One that I think you referred to is by Chamberlain, Stucchi and Levings.
In that, they talk about the suitability of DEPOMOD, and they discuss the key limitations of the model and that further model testing is required at a number of farmsites. Basically, they say at present the model should be applied conservatively and the results quality-audited prior to any management decisions being made. I guess you have a real problem with that method being used.
B. Chamberlin: With it, there are so many shortcomings in this software to begin with. I keep coming back to the fact that they go and monitor a proposed site for one month out of the year, and that's going to be suitable.
The tidal flow in any given bay is going to be the determinant in how far the waste food and waste product of this industry are going to be dispersed. It's acknowledged by the person who developed the software that there is a far-field effect, and yet the provincial government and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will only look at the benthic area, not the deleterious….
That's troubling because what we have now is anoxic beaches with clams that are now dying. We have black flesh clams in the Broughton Archipelago, and they're a distance away from the fish farms. It's not right.
One of the things that determines the viability of a fish farmsite is DEPOMOD. You need to be aware of it because that's the determination of how the provincial government says this industry is sustainable on the environmental impact. That's part of what you guys are here to do, so I think you need to understand everything.
There's another thing that I wonder about. How abreast are you all with the HADD permitting of DFO and how they interpret zero-net-loss fish marine environment?
No takers? That's another big piece of the puzzle here in the permitting of a fish farm in a territory. It would be like burning down the pool here and building a new one in Courtenay as a way to make it okay. That's what is happening.
Marine Harvest had done a lot of marine rehabilitative work in Telegraph Cove, which was impacted by the logging industry. That is now considered a habitat bank. They draw on that, and that's how much they can destroy in the Broughton Archipelago. That is unacceptable because in terms of first nations territorial origins, they're wrecking our territory, and they're rehabilitating the 'Namgis First Nation territory as a way to compensate for it. That's unacceptable, and that is how DFO is interpreting their zero net loss.
They talk about the different levels of marine environment in terms of evaluative quantities. So when you go down to the deeper level in these bays, which are now laid waste, they can't fix it. That footprint's going to be there for a very long time. With them all over the Broughton Archipelago, we're having lots of areas where we simply can't do what we once had always done, and that's an infringement.
When we watch the salmon stocks in the region collapse and disappear, on the verge of extinction, and we have want for more studies…. We're going to have the greatest studied decimation of a regional salmon population in the world. So 20 years from now we can say: "See? This is how we did it."
To turn to the aquaculture industry around any concerns to do with wild salmon stocks…. That's their competition. How concerned are they really? But this is why the elected officials and the government are there.
As far as I understand, the government is supposed to balance off our needs and our concerns with industry's pursuits, to make sure that it's a level playing field. Right now it's slanted towards industry.
When you look at the DEPOMOD or the HADD permitting, it all leads to yes, no matter how you look at it. If there's this problem, you do this, and we get closer to yes. If there's this problem, you do that, and you get closer to yes. There is no answer of "no" to this industry.
Continuously focusing on underneath the net pens is unacceptable. If this was happening in the Fraser Valley with another farming industry or out on the Saanich Peninsula, they would not be able to get away with it because they would be responsible for what they're putting in the soil as it affects the neighbours' soil. Why is it different for us? Why is it different for the marine environment?
You've been to our beaches. We showed you some — quickly dismissed by the Liberals. "I've seen black slime before," somebody said, if I remember correctly.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
Can Alice Woods come to the witness table. Alice, if you could limit your time to just a few minutes, because we're now very, very far behind.
A. Woods: Absolutely. I'd be happy to. I want to say that the Gulf Trollers Association had this slot. As fishermen, these meetings continue to be held on the small fishing opportunities that these fishermen have had. I'm not here to represent the Gulf Trollers Association, but I am a fisher.
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I am a fisher and the mother of a son who worked in the fish farm industry for four years. I'm a Canadian citizen, and as such, I am responsible for the actions or inactions of my government. But foremost, I am a co-inhabitant of this planet, and I am accountable for what I leave or do not leave behind for others. It is quickly becoming evident that this must be a priority for all of us.
Having been involved in commercial salmon fishing for over 30 years, I've witnessed the steady evolution of restriction for a dynamic industry. Some new regulations were sensible and benefited the stocks. Others were counterproductive, but for the hope of the continuity of the resource, for the provision of availability for future generations, there was compliance.
Reductions in fishing time and area meant that many fishermen, my three sons included, were forced out of the industry. As trollers, we now fish with reduced gear and barbless hooks to protect non-targeted species of salmon. Access to stocks, even in years of abundance, is severely limited by protection for individual smaller stocks of concern. Significantly, the stocks requiring this protection from harvest are virtually all those whose habitat is compromised.
Fishermen note the inequity in treatment in the application of the Fisheries Act, and while the fishermen's harvest and fishing methods are acutely regulated and policed — which we don't object to — there has been an apparent laxity in the application of the act to fish farm operations. Whatever attempts at conservation that we make as harvesters will be futile if efforts are not made to protect salmon fry and their habitat on their outward migration.
The disease and parasite problems inherent in all dense populations and the use of pesticides, drugs and other chemicals to treat them expose the ecosystem to a variety of serious hazards. These effects are only recently being researched locally but have been proven over time to be extremely deleterious to wild stocks in other locations such as Norway, where fish farms have had a longer presence.
Fish farm companies, understanding the concept of isolation, take sanitation measures and avoidance of cross-infection to protect their own stocks. It is past time that they showed the same respect for their host habitat and contain their pens.
I was not convinced of the truly harmful effects of fish farm industry in the area until our family took part in the collection of fry samples for a sea lice study in the Quadra Island archipelago in 2005. As far as we are aware, this was the first sampling done in this area. By the way, those samples proved that the fry are in worse shape than they are in the Broughton Archipelago.
My son, who worked for four years on the harvest crew for a fish farm company, took part in the sampling. Incidentally, he continues to feel great solidarity with his co-workers, and I can assure you that he did not want to find lice infestations or evidence of correlation to the farms.
The sampling was done in a scientific manner. Infestation rates in proximity to farms were as high as 97 percent. There has been objection to the possibility that sampling is by nature selective to those fry which are heavily infested. To address these concerns, sets were made in areas of concentration which represented full schools. There was no effort made to select infected fish. As well, most of the lice on the fish were in a juvenile stage, too small to be seen as the fry were swimming.
If any of you on this panel witnessed the degree of infestation near the fish farms, you would be truly alarmed. It cannot be denied that there is a very significant problem that we are creating for our wild stocks. If this evidence is ignored, we are doing ourselves an extreme disservice. You must see past the state of denial of the fish farm industry and address this issue.
Sea lice are relatively easy to track and identify. What of other infectious agents which have yet to be identified, much less addressed? In an open system pesticide treatment and drugs for disease are not acceptable remedies. Besides the issue of a buildup of resistance by parasites and disease organisms, there is a release into the ecosystem of substances potentially deleterious to other beneficial organisms, including zooplankton which the wild fish feed on.
These fish farms, more accurately described as feedlot operations, should be subjected minimally to the same scrutiny and regulation as other feedlot operations for the containment and removal of toxins and waste products. It is not acceptable that we are using marine areas as dumps for industrial production. It is ironic that the companies are degrading the very assets they have used as the selection criteria for this location: clean, cool, richly diverse waters, ideal for salmon.
It is evident that if Canadians are going to have a say in the methods of farm fish production and the impact of these companies on our heritage and our responsibility to the marine ecosystem, we must do the homework ourselves. We cannot expect companies whose mandate is profitability to self-regulate. Absolute containment is what we should be demanding, and we should be refusing any further tenures until we are sure that it can be provided.
I understand the fear of all those who benefit at present from fish feedlots anchored on this coast that they might lose some income if the fish farm companies, facing higher costs of production, weigh anchor and run to a country with reduced protections. Of course, the potential for that exists. We have all witnessed the steady migration of industry and production to areas where governments do not protect wages, worker safety or their citizens' heritage — the environment.
The question that needs to be answered is: what are we willing to sacrifice for greater profitability for companies? No Canadian would be willing to work for a lower wage than what it would cost to arrive at our place of work solely so that the company could have higher profit margins. No Canadian would be willing to risk the life or limb of a co-worker by negating safety standards in order to save a company pennies per pound of production.
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Why, then, would we expect anything less than sustainability for our marine ecosystem, our heritage and our responsibility, which truly sustains coastal and inland communities far, far beyond our immediate wages? Why do we allow companies to devastate our natural salmon runs and the habitat for other species as well, affecting systems as far as the salmon swim, solely for the economy of literally a few cents per pound? Why are we as citizens bearing the cost to our environment so that these companies can experience greater profit ratios?
What we are witnessing and have been accepting is a trade-off that is not even necessary. If we as Canadians demand higher standards of the companies operating in our waters, the workers in the fish farm industry may actually see increased job security, as they become part of the production of a more desirable product. The cost of responsible production could be passed on to increasingly enlightened customers who would be willing to pay more for a product made in Canada by environmentally sustainable means.
Protection of wild fish habitat should concern all Canadians, but it should concern fish farm companies as well, as they depend on the commercial harvest of wild stocks of mackerel, anchovies and other species to feed their own product. It is possible for us to lead the way in husbandry, instead of accepting industrial impacts that rob our future.
I ask this committee to recognize your responsibility as our representatives to look to a future that will be determined by your decisions today. Require containment and closed systems. Refuse further tenures until there is proven compliance. Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Alice, for your presentation.
I'm going to ask Teresa Robinson to come up to the witness table.
T. Robinson: Good afternoon, panel. My name is Teresa Robinson. I am the quality control manager for Brown's Bay Packing Co. I felt the need to come and speak today because of the potential impact this process and the panel may have on my job. Losing my career is something I fear as much as public speaking, which is pretty terrifying, seeing as how this is my first time doing anything like this.
In 1993 as an expectant mother with a four-year-old at home, I joined the salmon-farming industry. At that time, due to the uncertainty of my partner's job in the forest industry, I needed to find secure employment to help provide for my family. I was hired on the afternoon shift to process salmon roe, which was made into caviar. That job paid two times the amount of the minimum wage.
Then in 1995 after I returned from maternity leave, I was trained on the gutting line and then took a supervisory position processing value-added products. Before I left to join my current employer, Brown's Bay Packing, I worked many seven-day weeks, and a lot of those days were 12 to 18 hours. We were extremely busy, and if you were a motivated and skilled worker, there were a lot of opportunities. Once again, my job supported my family, as my partner's job in the forest industry was eliminated.
When I joined Brown's Bay Packing in 1999, the value-added plant opened. I took a position training employees, which then became a supervisor's position. At its peak between 2003 and 2005 we were an industry leader in processing filets, skewers and steak portions for customers such as Albertsons, Superstore, Costco and Overweightea.
As the demands for those products grew, we expanded our crews to meet those demands. Then in 2005 I was offered a position as the quality control manager, and I'm also the person responsible for governmental affairs and public relations.
Due to our proximity to Campbell River we host many tours. Our guests include school children, seniors, government bureaucrats, politicians, and the list goes on from there. Next week we will host auditors from the European Union, who will be accompanied by officials from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
At the conclusion of every tour the two main messages I consistently hear are: (1) people are amazed at how clean the facility is and that it doesn't stink; and (2) how nice the fish look, and where can they buy it? It's unfortunate that the panel hasn't had the time to come for a tour of our facility, because I would love to give you one.
You may wonder why my story should be told. I'm just one person trying to carve a career in this promising industry for myself and my family. But I am more than that, you see. My story is similar to many others in this industry.
We believe in what we do, and we believe this industry is sustainable in every way. So rather than alter it or shut it down, which would have an enormous impact on people like me in our coastal communities, we should support it. In doing so, it will continue to provide opportunities for everyone. Thank you for your time.
R. Austin (Chair): For your first time speaking, you have some supporters here. Claire has a comment, I think, or a question.
C. Trevena: Yes. Teresa, thank you very much for giving such a personal story. It's always nice to put a face to…. I have been to Brown's Bay, and yes, it doesn't smell. You're quite right.
You started your statement by saying you don't want to lose your job, and you ended it by saying you don't want the industry to be shut down. I just wondered why you think you're going to either lose your job or you think the industry is going to be shut down.
T. Robinson: I guess because of all the people that are protesting against it that are speaking negatively
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here today. I'm afraid that it's going to be shut down because of the pressure that's put on the government.
C. Trevena: You just think that because we're getting a mixed view here, we will in some way shut….
If I may speak, Chair, it's something I mentioned earlier on. We're here to listen to everybody and to make recommendations, which we then put to the government. It is not our role to either open up more salmon farms, if we think that's the way to go; nor is it our role to shut down salmon farms. It's our role to give recommendations to the government, having listened to both sides.
As I've said previously on many occasions, as the MLA for the area, I know that there are lots of jobs in the salmon farming industry, in the aquaculture industry, and I want to protect jobs. So I'm very concerned that there is this misconception going around that we are going to be shutting it down or people are going to lose their jobs.
I hope you will tell your co-workers — I know many of them are in the audience — that this is not something that we are doing. It is not within our mandate to shut down the industry or to make sure you'll, you know, end up with people not working. I hope you can tell your co-workers that.
T. Robinson: I definitely will.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks very much.
I'd like to call Rupert Gale.
R. Gale: Good afternoon. The Ritchie Foundation is a relatively new organization, started this year to look at issues that may affect the future of salmon stocks, particularly in the mainland inlets area. This area is roughly equivalent to what's described in the Johnstone-Bute coastal plan, and I provided, in the back, a map of that area.
Prior to doing this work, I actually was a fishing guide in that area for over 20 years, so I'm very familiar with the local operations in that area and salmon enhancement activities. There are a lot of people in that area concerned with restoring fish stocks and trying to address various concerns with wild fish.
The wild salmon resource has been a vital part of the economy in that area. It supports ecotourism, sport fishing, not only for the operations based out of Stuart Island and Sonora Island, around there, but it's also a destination for numerous operators coming from Campbell River and Quadra Island.
If you're not familiar with the plan area, it's made up a number of narrow channels and inlets, many of which are described as ecologically significant migratory corridors and holding areas for all five species of salmon, both juvenile and adults.
Over the years a number of net-cage salmon farms have been placed in those various corridors. This has certainly raised questions with people who are dependent on those wild salmon resources.
It's difficult to not worry about the potential impacts. We hear, certainly, that there's a body of research out there suggesting serious impacts on wild salmon populations. A number of these farms are, as I've mentioned, sited directly in migratory routes and holding areas where juvenile salmon will certainly be exposed to any possible pathogens present on the farm, such as sea lice.
Probably the thing that really is hardest, I think, for those depending on those wild salmon is that there's really no monitoring, other than, as Alice Woods mentioned, the independent research that was done in 2005. When we ask the question — what are the impacts on our wild fish? — nobody can give us that answer. Nobody's looking officially.
This is not a situation which provides confidence that we have a sustainable salmon-farming industry in our area. Nobody can provide us a certainty that there aren't significant impacts on the wild fish and the marine environment.
I just thought maybe I'd briefly describe the economic importance of those mainland inlet stocks. It's a key economic asset within this area. Numerous people that are employed in the fishing resorts and the ecotourism operations in those mainland inlets live in the tiny communities scattered throughout the Discovery Islands. That's one of the few opportunities for them.
The Johnstone-Bute coastal plan estimated that tourism spending in the plan area was at least $14 million and generated 200 seasonal jobs or a hundred full-time jobs. About 80 percent of this activity took place in the Stuart Island area. That information is a few years old. There's been significant investment and growth in that area. As I mentioned before, there's also considerable economic activity generated from the tourism operations based out of Campbell River and Quadra Island, which use those resources.
Ecotourism. Grizzly bear–watching has become a huge draw. I think that Sonora Resort was here earlier today to speak. It's certainly become their fastest-growing product and is crucially linked to the chum and pink populations returning to those mainland systems. You also have the sport-fishing industry.
Property. You have a number of people who have invested in recreational property in that area and are spending tremendous amounts of money on infrastructure to enjoy being in that environment. This generates a lot of construction jobs and, obviously, supplies and whatnot.
I guess my point is that there is certainly another economy besides the fish farm industry, and it's very, very closely linked to the health of that marine environment.
The fisheries resources in the area are described in the Johnstone-Bute coastal plan. It makes the point that "for several centuries salmon have been of key importance to the people of the plan area." It goes on to identify 30 documented salmon-producing streams, some of them having all five species.
The plan describes many of the channels and inlets as primary migration routes for mainland salmon.
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These are considered to be "areas of ecological significance." The key holding areas in the plan are also identified and are described as sensitive habitat.
The mainland stocks referred to in the plan include several depressed stocks. Senior DFO management has identified declines in Phillips River and Apple River pink salmon as a special concern of the department. In addition, the Homalco in Bute Inlet have experienced dramatic declines in returns of their chum salmon, which are tremendously important to them.
The potential impacts on wild fish, of course, are really why we're all here. I guess it's to discuss that. There is still tremendous debate going on around that.
I know that the focus of this committee is to examine sustainable aquaculture. I'm not sure that the term "sustainable" is defined anywhere. I didn't see it, but I think that — in my mind, anyway — to achieve sustainability, we need to have the knowledge of the extent of any impacts. This will require understanding how these impacts might occur and monitoring to identify if the impacts are occurring.
I was looking through the Pacific Salmon Forum's website. They have a document there, A Review of the Research Priorities on Sea Lice, Wild Salmon and Farmed Salmon Interactions. To put that document together, they interviewed 30 researchers in the field and found that the majority view is that if the research goal is to achieve a reasonable degree of consensus about the risk posed by sea-liced wild fish and then to determine strategies to reduce the risk to acceptable levels, then the entire system must be understood to a much greater degree than it is currently. This suggests that we're still unable to accurately assess the risk to the wild salmon populations and their habitats.
While the smoking gun maybe doesn't exist, there's certainly a body of evidence from here and elsewhere that indicates a very real risk of impacts on wild salmon, especially from sea lice. Referenced earlier were the report of Special Prosecutor William Smart and the expert opinion of Dr. Whoriskey commenting on Alex Morton's case. That certainly reinforces the concerns that people have about those impacts.
Within the mainland inlets area the finfish aquaculture industry is developed on a site-by-site basis. To my knowledge, there is no comprehensive area-wide plan as to how those farms came into being. This has resulted in all possible migration corridors for mainland salmon, both adults and juvenile, being occupied by some of the 21 existing aquaculture tenures.
This certainly presents the likelihood that out-migrating juveniles will encounter a farm that may be contributing sea lice to the marine environment. It also poses the threat of cumulative impacts, since there are multiple farms on many of these routes.
I noted in the province's criteria for siting new finfish sites that it calls for an appropriate distance from areas of sensitive fish habitat as determined by DFO and the province. As mentioned above, DFO and the province put together the Johnstone-Bute plan. Many of the identified sensitive habitats are actually occupied by fish farms. Despite being told that we have these tremendous regulations and criteria, there still seems to be problems, and it raises a lot of questions.
The importance of the resource and the potential for impacts would suggest that a monitoring program should be in place to look at the health of the wild fish. However, there is no monitoring plan within this area, and stock assessment of many of those systems is inadequate to identify population impacts should they occur.
We talked earlier about the independent research work done and finding very high levels of sea lice on pink and chum fry related to the fish farmsites. After I heard that piece of information, I looked at the provincial website on sea lice data. It showed that in April 2005, farms with age one-plus fish in zone 3.2, which roughly corresponds to our area of interest, had an average of almost five lice per fish despite the sea lice management plan, which calls for a threshold of three. This was in April, which likely coincided with the peak out-migration of pink and chum fry.
I'm not trying to make a scientific case here, but it points out that despite improved management over the years, there's still risk to wild salmon. We must have a proper monitoring program in place to look at whether wild fish are being impacted. Without ongoing monitoring of the wild fish, we can't know if we're managing the industry in a sustainable way that's compatible with wild fish.
In the plan area the salmon stocks are vitally important to the communities and residents, and net-cage salmon farming certainly poses a potential risk — a perceived risk, at least — to the businesses dependent on them. With no official monitoring plan, the stakeholders are left with unanswered questions, and they look to the work of the independent researchers for their information. They draw their own conclusions. We look up to the Broughton Archipelago where the debate is going on and draw conclusions from that.
The businesses up there certainly feel they've been impacted, and this is supported by the Wilderness Tourism Association and the Council of Tourism Associations. I guess in our area we're feeling that we're probably being impacted, but nobody is looking.
I'll just jump to a discussion of monitoring, because I feel that this is becoming a more important part of our job in the recreational fishing sector. We're being asked to provide logbook information. Stock assessment is inadequate in some cases to conduct fisheries, and we're told if we want to still fish certain areas, then we'll have to pay for that kind of stock assessment. I've worked with some of the local guides to get in a DNA sampling program, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has said that we will have to pay for pro-cessing that information.
I really feel that the onus has to be on the salmon-farming industry to pay for adequate and comprehensive monitoring, and that information must be available to the other stakeholders and to the public in that area.
The waters used by the fish farm industry belong to the public, as has been mentioned earlier, and the im-
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pacts to the resource impact the people of Canada. The onus must be on the salmon-farming industry to ensure that they operate in a way sustainable to the health of all populations of wild salmon and those who depend on them. They must also provide the public, the owners of the resource, with transparent information on any impacts occurring to wild salmon or to the marine ecosystem.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Rupert.
Do any members have any questions?
G. Coons: At the very end of your presentation you talked about the transparency and the transparent information on any impact. Back when the regulation, the waste control regulations, the Waste Management Act was being revamped, the scientific advisory group — which consisted of Dr. Doug Bright, Dr. Scott McKinley, Dr. Asit Mazumder, Dr. Thomas Pedersen — was given five tasks to complete for the ministry to analyze and make comments re their final draft regulation.
In their final draft regulation they had a concern that the monitoring data needs to be more transparent and that it should be publicly available. Recently I've put it to our ministry because I've heard that often it's hard to get information and that it wasn't transparent, wasn't available to stakeholders. I got a response back saying that this is being done.
You're saying that it needs to be more transparent and it's hard to get information on monitoring and other data?
R. Gale: That monitoring is occurring on the farmsite, not of the wild fish in the area of the farmsite. There is no sea lice monitoring program for any of DFO Area 13. So I'm saying that (a) that needs to be done, and (b) it needs to be transparent and available.
G. Coons: And as far as the ministry website, you're probably on there quite often, trying to get data. Do you find that's useful information and seems to be…?
R. Gale: If you look at what's available for the Broughton, it does seem to be useful. The information — the sort of comprehensive information, I guess — that's available on sea lice levels actually on farmsites was useful. But I would have to comment that the Marine Harvest site, which provides farm-by-farm data and I think on a more frequent basis than the ministry reports it, is a good model.
R. Austin (Chair): I'd like to call up Kevin Onclin from WaveMaster Net Services.
R. Austin (Chair): Kevin's not here? Okay. Ralph Keller, Coast Mountain Expeditions.
R. Keller: Thank you very much for this opportunity. At risk of sounding redundant, my name is Ralph Keller, and I've been a resident of Vancouver Island for 53 of my years and of the Discovery Islands for 27 years. I've been a certified guide for 20 years. I'm owner-operator of Coast Mountain Expeditions, Coast Mountain Lodge on Read Island and Discovery Islands Lodge on Quadra Island.
I work in partnership with Homalco First Nation at Orford River in Bute Inlet where together we've pioneered watching grizzlies from kayaks. I employ nine people seasonally, and I'm also proud to be able to say that I employ first nations people.
I am also representing the ecotourism sector of the Discovery Islands — in particular, the sea kayaking sector. It might interest you to know that on Quadra Island alone the sea kayaking sector is worth about $2 million per summer.
We're opposed to the expansion of the fish farming industry in B.C., especially in the Discovery Islands and Broughton Archipelago. Let me also say that we would like to see some existing sites relocated or eliminated. We also believe that we have reached a saturation point for shellfish aquaculture in and around the Discovery Islands, which include Quadra, Cortes, Read and the Redonda Islands. Here are my reasons.
I'm not an expert on the biological and environmental impacts of the fish farming industry. I would like to say, however, from a layperson's perspective, that intensive aquaculture is similar in its impact on the environment to that of land-based intensive agriculture. The pollution of rivers, lakes and groundwater by chemical pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and fecal matter by the land-based agriculture industry is known, and the loss of biological diversity is known as well.
These same problems, while less visible, are prevalent in aquaculture. Intensive aquaculture creates breeding hot spots for disease and parasites, and while fish farms enjoy the benefits of treatment, passing schools of related wild fish do not. This isn't rocket science. Any parent of school-age children will tell you that schools breed disease and that disease is spread out of the schools into the greater population. That's enough said. I'm sure you get my point.
While we acknowledge the success of modern agriculture in producing cheap, abundant food, we seldom consider the cost — in the case of agriculture in Canada and the Prairies, the virtual extinction of nearly three million prairie bison or the loss of virtually all natural prairie ecosystems in North America, to say nothing of genetically modified plants that have been introduced in our environment and can't be taken out anymore.
The DFO's endorsement of the finfish aquaculture industry appears to be a prelude to that body accepting the demise and even extinction of natural salmon species in our streams, rivers and ocean waters, as though to say that if we cannot have both, then we will settle for self-regulated private sector aquaculture instead of the more troublesome wild fishery.
Most recently the fish farm near Church House in Bute Inlet shot a grizzly bear, further underscoring the premise that finfish aquaculture is not compatible with
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our natural ecosystems. The 60 to 80 grizzlies left on the south side of Bute Inlet are at barely sustainable levels and are a cornerstone of the Homalco First Nation people regaining cultural and economic footing in the modern world. These bears are protected, and the loss of a single grizzly by human hands is a serious event.
It's a sad reality that I am not able to convince you to protect these beautiful islands and wonderful waterways for aesthetic reasons. Protecting natural beauty and natural ecosystems for their own sake is not a consideration for governments, which primarily care about economics. So I'll stick to making a case for the economics of the tourism industry, of which I'm a part — the single largest industry in the Discovery Islands, larger than the forest sector and larger than the aquaculture sector.
Vancouver Island is the most visited non-tropical island in the world. Vancouver Island and in particular the islands of the Georgia basin have become Canada's Riviera. There is a tourism sector here that has been founded on the natural beauty and warm climate of the region. This well-established industry employs thousands and generates millions in revenue each year. It's an industry that forces local governments to consider carefully what they do to the local environment. It's an industry that attracts people and business to a region because it is pleasant, beautiful and a great place in which to work, live and retire.
In these days of e-business people choose carefully where they live, and the quality of life — also known as quality of natural environment — often tops the list. It would be fair to say, I think, that the tourism industry, or the quality-of-life industry, rescued the Campbell River economy when the forest sector hit the skids here some years ago. The Quadra Island economy never felt this forest sector decline, and it's reflected in our high property values and low unemployment. All you need to do is look at our more northerly communities — Port McNeill, Port Hardy — to see the difference between the Campbell River and Quadra Island communities and those communities up north.
As the quality and quantity of wilderness disappears worldwide, in accordance with the laws of supply and demand, what little remains goes up in value. These islands have become an international wilderness tourism destination second to none and have a very high economic value.
The B.C. government continues to believe that it can industrialize our forested viewsheds with clearcuts and industrialize our waterways and channels with aquaculture without hurting the tourism sector. I'm here to tell you that the B.C. government is wrong. The very high-quality wilderness environment we've been selling at a high price to people around the world is in danger, and we cannot continue to sustain increased levels of foreshore industrialization.
The Discovery Islands is an international wilderness tourism-based destination with mostly first-class scenery, wonderful first nations culture and rare wildlife-viewing possibilities — orca viewing, grizzly bears, seals, sea lions, dolphins and porpoises, to name a few. Campbell River may in fact have inadvertently and quietly become the grizzly bear–watching capital of the world, certainly of Canada. Campbell River and the adjoining islands are poised to become B.C.'s next Tofino or Whistler, but its viewsheds, marine trails, channels and waterways need to be protected from industrialization.
I'm asking you, on behalf of the region's tourism sector, not to allow increased aquaculture of any kind in the Discovery Islands and Broughton group and to remove some contentious and inappropriately located farms.
In this area there are two farms in particular. One in Okisollo Channel, near the Octopus Islands, runs a generator all evening long. Blaring rock music can be heard far and wide in an area which sees thousands of commercial and recreational sea kayaking and yachting activity.
The fish farm near Church House, which sees daily Zodiac tours, is located in an important wild salmon holding area. The fish farm there broke an agreement with the Homalco First Nation and the Discovery Island Chamber of Commerce when they put Atlantic salmon into that fish farm instead of previously agreed-upon chinook — to say nothing of shooting grizzly bears.
This appears to me to be an industry which cannot be trusted to honour its agreements or to steward our natural ecosystems, in which they are located. I would ask you to please halt the introduction of any further industrialization of our foreshore by aquaculture and, in some instances, to move them or remove them.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Ralph. Scott has a comment or a question.
S. Fraser: Thanks for the presentation, Ralph. Could you elaborate? The grizzly kill that you talked about initially — what's that about? What happened there?
R. Keller: Well, I was there just before it was shot, and I was there the day after it was shot. The fish-farming industry, or at least this particular farm…. I won't speak for the whole industry, because I'm not familiar with the whole industry. On this farm they have a pen where they put their dead fish. It's located well away from the farm, because I guess they don't want contaminants to infiltrate the live fish.
Well, they located this particular float full of dead fish within, when I saw it, about 150 feet offshore. But after they shot the grizzly, for some strange reason, it was located within 75 feet of shore. Anyone who knows anything about grizzlies will tell you that it's a piece of cake for a grizzly to get out to that float, which it did. I don't know the details of that bear being shot. All I can tell you for sure is that it was shot, and it was shot on land.
R. Austin (Chair): I'd like to call upon Chief Darren Blaney of the Homalco First Nation Band, please.
D. Blaney: Good afternoon. First of all, I'd like to make a request on behalf of Homalco to have a special
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meeting with this committee. I think that ten minutes in front of you is not enough time to give you all the information we have collected over the last year and half of consultation.
In '94 we won an injunction against Marine Harvest putting more Atlantics into Church House. After the hearing the judge agreed that Homalco hadn't been consulted properly. In the past year and a half we've learned an awful lot about the fish-farming industry and some of the problems — the gaps in knowledge, the gaps in science, the gaps in regulation. There are all kinds of problems with the farms.
When we come out to these hearings, you'll hear many, many times about the jobs provided from the fish farm companies. At what price do we provide those jobs? The difficulty of elected people is…. The question they have to ask themselves is: do I protect the environment? Do I protect the jobs? Do I get elected? Re-elected? At some point you must make a decision in favour of the environment.
One of the things that the court case said to B.C. when they sat down across from us was that they had to keep an open mind. When I come and sit down here in front of you, I don't know that I see an open mind.
I'm looking at Mr. Cantelon. When I was watching TV, there was a report on the sea lice issue, and you immediately dismissed it. That was very disappointing, knowing that I was going to come here and sit in front of you and talk to you about my concerns.
What's the point of me coming to talk to you if you don't have an open mind? When you're so content to dismiss new information — science that goes to address some of the concerns that we have as a community for the culture that our community is trying to protect? Our culture is related to the environment. The state of our environment is the state of our culture.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): May I respond?
R. Austin (Chair): Chief, Mr. Cantelon will respond.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Yes, I did, because I responded…. If you'd heard all the comments…. Perhaps you did, but maybe you didn't take them in context.
We received a new piece of information, the Morton study, which certainly was taken as a new and important study, which it is. I try to give a balanced view. There are other reports that contradict that. What I'm saying is that we need to try and keep an open mind. It's not an easy thing to see through these various reports, pro and con.
I didn't immediately embrace the new one, nor did I endorse the old one. I pointed out that there were two reports with conflicting evidence. We will, at some point in the future, put them together in the same room and see what they have to say to one another, because I'm not a scientist, Chief.
D. Blaney: The difficulty with the doubt that keeps getting cast on this new science is that the business can keep operating. When business is allowed to operate in the gaps of knowledge and science and the doubt that's cast on all this information that's available out there is…. For us to remove the farm out at Church House, we'd almost have to have exact science. But for the business to operate, you have a wide-open field, because you have adaptive management.
That's my big struggle with the fish farm industry. You have so much leeway in terms of adaptive management. Adaptive management is being stretched beyond its capacity, in my mind — beyond its capacity in terms of our culture being able to thrive.
When we have a sea lice study that points to the difficulties of smolts passing through farms…. In my area there are about 20 farms that are under review in the SEA process. In my community we have a salmon enhancement operation. Normally, we would be getting up to 15,000 to 75,000 chum returning to Bute Inlet in Orford system. Last year there were 1,700. Our hatchery would be enhancing up to three million eggs. Last year all we got was 28,000 eggs.
If those fry are getting decimated as they go through farms, I want you to have an open mind to hear that. I don't want to be looking at our enhancement facility — and I don't want to be looking in my territory — as empty, as the DFO people said when they went into Southgate River. They said it was a dead zone. There were no bears, no eagles, no nothing, when there should have been bears and eagles from the salmon returning.
The salmon is a very important species for our people and for the wildlife that's out there. We have bear tours in Orford. There was some talk about the bear that was killed in Church House. That was a big concern to us, especially when the industry — Marine Harvest — was so irresponsible in putting that farm. Where the mort totes were placed was close to the shore.
Last year, in February, when there were 232 holes discovered in the nets in Church House, they had to release the dive company because there were holes in other nets in other farms. We asked them why they had to do an audit because there was a hole in the net in Hoskyn Channel where a diver could go through. Yet we have no reports of escapes.
There are all kinds of problems. There's no definition as to what is a small hole, a medium hole and a large hole, and there's no tracking of the nets. The history of the nets isn't tracked, so that when the net gets too old, you should take them out of the system.
In Church House we complained that the pens' mort totes were too close to shore. There was nothing done about it back in February, and then we had this plankton bloom that started to kill off 14,000, and counting, at the time we were sitting in front of B.C…. The bear could smell the rotting salmon there, so they swam out there three days in a row.
Three days in a row. They had time to react, and yet they chose to call in somebody to shoot it. Bears are a business for my people. They had to go and hunt it on land in order to kill it. You know, this plankton bloom is over now. They could have relocated it. It was
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only a matter of a few days. And they had to kill it. They had no permit to kill the bear. Their permit is only for seals and sea lions.
When the industry is allowed to police itself, is this what we should expect? When we look at the bottom of Church House, when the holes in the nets were discovered, we asked why there were no predator guards. Somebody who worked there said, "They just cut it off" — just dropped it to the bottom of the ocean. Nobody's ever been charged for that.
This is an industry that's policing itself. When the holes were discovered in the nets, they told us that they had this counter that can count up to 98 percent accuracy. In that pen in Church House there were supposed to be 125,000 Atlantics. When they went and counted them, there were 127,000 in there. They couldn't tell us if any escaped. We wanted to know the day after if any escaped. They weren't able to tell us, yet they had a grading machine right there, which could count them. The grading machine had been there for two weeks when the holes were discovered.
This is an industry that's got a lot to hide. We asked them. We had a meeting with Marine Harvest, and they had very few answers for us. Not too long after that they considered their consultation done with us Xwémalhkwu people. So in terms of being good corporate citizens, I don't think it's there. I don't think we have much of a relationship if they're not going to be willing to share information. We want to address our concerns.
Right now where that farm is situated is right over rockfish habitat — ling cod–spawning habitat. It's right close to our traditional use areas for clams. None of our people will go and eat clams there anymore because of the impact from the farms, plus the sewage that comes out of the farms. It's an impact on our aboriginal rights.
Before, the farm was a lot closer to the point. It was within 125 metres. Now it's probably 160 or 200. They've moved it away from the shore, but there were clam beds all along the shoreline. When they placed that farm there, we were asking for all kinds of information, expressing all kinds of concerns, yet we got nothing back from B.C.
We expressed our concern about the migration route. B.C. responded to us: "There's no migration route along Church House. The closest migration route is five kilometres to the other side of the channel." And yet when we had our elders presenting, the elders didn't set nets where there were no salmon. The elders set nets all throughout that bay in Church House, and they were able to catch salmon all the time. That showed them there was a migration route.
When they said to us that we didn't know all our clam beaches, we had to go show them the clam beds around Church House and the impacts to that, the impacts to our aboriginal rights.
We've been talking about a one-window approach to government. We have a paper called "The Bar-None Strategy." We can give that out to you now, if you like. "The Bar-None Strategy" has what we've learned over the past year and a half of consultation — some of the difficulties we've seen in some of the industries, some of the difficulties in the science gaps and the regulation gaps. There are all kinds of problems.
When the chinook were still in Church House, some were caught by some of the local sport fishermen. Nobody went to investigate. These guys have still got fish in their freezers that they caught back then. Because of our consultation process here somebody is now coming to pick them up. I'm hoping they're not freezer-burned, but I'm pretty sure they are. They are going to go and look at them now, and nobody has ever been charged for those chinook escapes.
The reason we can tell that there were escapes from a farm is because the tails were all blocked off. When the wild salmon are out there, their tails are triangular. These ones were all blocked off and worn out from the nets.
We have elders talking about escaped salmon in the Fraser. One elder from, I think, Pavilion was fishing along the Fraser. He set out his net, and a DFO guy told him not to fish. He just asked him to come and sit down and watch the salmon swim up to the net. The salmon swam up to the net and just kind of went around it. He figures that was an escaped salmon.
I'm sure that there are big problems with escapes that are not being reported, just as the chinooks were not reported. Nobody has ever been charged. Now we're finally doing a second investigation of it, and this is almost three years later. The limitation on any case is seven months. That's not enough time for somebody, especially if the people that are responsible for the regulations are going to ignore you.
There are many people we've come across that have Atlantics in their freezer, which they've caught in some of the river systems. Nobody from DFO or from the province has ever come to pick them up. There are escapes out there. It's just that people aren't paying attention. We like to bury our heads in the sand and talk about the few jobs that the farms provide, the minimum-wage jobs.
I think that there should be whistle-blower legislation for people. Maybe what they should do is see if you can call a special meeting for whistle-blowers and see what you hear. When I spoke with my cousin, he talked about all the problems he encountered on the farms, but he can't say anything because he's got a muzzle on him. He's not allowed to talk. I don't know if you guys have looked into people that aren't allowed to talk.
What are we going to do about the whistle-blower legislation? Why do we even need to muzzle people that work there if it is a responsible corporate citizen? It makes no sense to me. It makes no sense to sacrifice my future generations' ability to exercise their culture just so somebody can make $10 an hour, especially when we have all kinds of other people that are employed in the tourism industry.
I was reading in the paper a couple of weeks ago that the tourism industry is going to employ about 88,000 by 2015. How long are we going to allow the
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destruction of the environment in our territory? What is the eventual cost, and who bears that cost?
The financial cost is partly ours to bear, because we fought it in court. Partly, it's the cost that the children in my community bear because we had to fight it in court.
Our forester said yesterday: "I don't want you to spend any of your money on us when there are ten different ways you can spend it in a community." That's true. We have so many needs in the community, and yet we're protecting the environment — jobs that the government should be doing. We're enforcing the regulations that the government should be enforcing.
To have to go through this much struggle to be heard, this much struggle to access information, this much struggle to deal with Marine Harvest, which is unwilling to talk, I can only conclude that there is a lot to hide.
I hope you look hard and you listen. I don't want our kids to read about our culture. I want them out there exercising the culture.
I'll read you a little quote from Haig-Brown. It's called "Reaching for the Moon." It was in the paper a couple of weeks ago. "Any radical approach to conservation, to be successful, must include a radical redefinition of economic values, a radical shift in North American purpose, a radical direction in the individual North American character. All three of these changes are already taking place, but slowly and gradually — so gradually that the loss and damage may be far beyond repair before they become fully effective."
You can see that with the state of our salmon stocks, the state of our environment. So how far do we let it go?
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Chief Blaney. Claire would like to say something.
C. Trevena: Darren, I just wanted to know…. Obviously, Church House is in your traditional territories. How many other farmsites are there in Homalco territories?
D. Blaney: We are dealing right now with about 20 CEAA hearings for fish farms — environmental assessments on those fish farms. There's one person doing, I think, almost a hundred CEAAs throughout the coast, so I really feel that the priority is not there to address the full impacts of the farms.
C. Trevena: What sort of consultation has there been with you and your council — with Church House — and now these other applications?
D. Blaney: We've had a lot of dialogue with B.C. through this consultation process. At first, we started out fairly angry. A lot of frustration we've processed. Then eventually we started getting to some area where we can start making recommendations and looking at all the gaps and shortfalls in different regulations in the industry.
We started to see where we can really start making some impact on some of the decision-making and, hopefully, start to function better. If the industry is going to continue, it should function a lot better than it presently is operating.
One of the biggest problems is the self-policing. They can't be self-policing. It's a big conflict of interest.
S. Fraser: Chief Blaney, the CEAA process is a federal process. What kicked that in? This process is happening on existing tenures?
D. Blaney: Yeah, existing tenures. The only one that had been done, I'm pretty sure, was the one in Church House. But even that one was fairly short on information, short on the nutritional and ecological knowledge of our people from Homalco. We had very little input in that CEAA process, so that CEAA process is really outdated in terms of present-day knowledge that's out there.
S. Fraser: Okay. Are your members involved in that process? Are you indicating no?
D. Blaney: Well, we've had some meetings with Transport Canada on that, and we started to look into some of the costs of sitting down with them to review 20 CEAAs. We thought that we should have some technical people involved in that. There's a cost to all those technical people, and we really can't afford that, so we asked Transport Canada: "What kind of funding do you have to deal with this?" They didn't have anything and basically apologized for that.
In my mind, there's very little priority given to this issue. It's just something to say: "This is what we've done." With one person doing it for the whole coast, it's really shameful.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much, Chief.
Now I'd like to call John Jepson up to the witness table.
J. Jepson: Good afternoon. I feel somewhat out of place here, but this is…. I run a local soccer team. Marine Harvest have been the sponsors, and they've requested that I come and talk a little bit about the team. This is an adjunct, if you wish, from the company itself, but here we are.
My name is John Jepson. I'm the head coach of the Marine Harvest U-14 boys soccer rep team. Marine Harvest have been outstanding sponsors in numerous areas within our community. Indeed, within the soccer association, they sponsor more than just the soccer team I coach. I am here this afternoon, however, to speak only about the differences they have made to the team I am involved with.
To my right here we have three members of the team: my son Samuel Jepson, Zach Hamilton and Davis Coates.
Our sponsors, Marine Harvest, have supported us since we were a junior development team. In January
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2000 I attended a BCSA — British Columbia Soccer Association — meeting where they expressed a wish to see junior development teams begin in all areas of Canada, which was a new concept — fully endorsed now but received skeptically in 2000. Campbell River Youth Soccer Association gave us their backing but no financial support.
I had the fortune in those years to have a close friend, Mark Asman, who was working for the company that was to become known as Marine Harvest. I visited with Mark and gave him my dreams of putting together a team that could challenge for the provincial title and put their mark on B.C. soccer. More than that, we talked about the positive values that it would instil in these young boys at such tender age.
Mark, like me, felt that sport — in this case, soccer — acts like a microcosm of society, and if we could produce responsible athletes with a pride in their endeavours, the ripple effect would be immense. We also decided that if we were to create the partnership, the players should do more than simply contribute on the field.
At this meeting it was decided that Mark would make a presentation to his board with regard to the possibility of sponsorship of the team. The presentation was received favourably, and I believe between $1,000 and $1,500 was made available to us. This annual sponsorship has continued, as has the dream.
In the early years the contributions made went toward subsidizing areas of travel, equipment and uniforms. This enabled us to buy quality soccer balls, pinnies, nets, bags, etc. Every two years we purchased new uniforms as players grew. The old uniforms, which were still in decent shape, were passed to other teams in the community.
The past two years we have become a tradition which has seen the boys deliver empty hamper bags within their immediate housing area at Christmastime. Attached to these bags is a note from Marine Harvest. The note explains who we are and that we are collecting food for the Knights of Columbus Christmas hamper drive. It has become a wonderful tradition involving all the players and families, which included pizza and pop, courtesy of the company.
Until last year it was my friend Mark Asman who headed this up. More recently Ian Roberts has been the concept man who has taken it upon himself to join us, with his family, in the hamper drive. Ian and his family have also attended a couple of our family gatherings.
What of the team and the dream of becoming provincial champions? Like our sponsors, we like to be professional in what we do. For more details, attached here is the website address.
In a nutshell, our first year of rep soccer was two years ago. The then U-12 Marine Harvest won the north Island league, the north Island cup, the Island Cup, the B.C. Coastal Cup and finished a credible fourth in the provincial finals. This past year the boys repeated as north Island league winners, once again won the B.C. Coastal Cup, and to put the icing on the proverbial cake, claimed the B.C. provincial championship in Prince George.
This season our goal is to repeat as B.C. provincial champions, claim the B.C. Coastal Cup for a record third time. In between, the team will travel to Manchester, England, where they will have a number of exciting games and take in some cultural sites in northern England.
It's been a wonderful six years so far, made much easier thanks to the generous supports and genuine sponsorship of the local Marine Harvest group, a group we're proud to be associated with and a name that now has a fine reputation on the field as well as off the field in Campbell River and beyond.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, John.
I'd like to now call Cory Percevault from Noboco Styro Containers Ltd.
C. Percevault: My name is Cory Percevault. I'm the plant manager at Noboco Styro Containers Ltd. I'm here today to give testimony or get on record to this committee on behalf of myself, my family, Noboco Styro Containers, and most importantly our employees, many of whom are sitting in front of you today.
I honestly do believe that time will prove that aquaculture as practised here in British Columbia is safe and sustainable. I believe that the industry has demonstrated it's capable of achieving this with a reasonably low amount of environmental impact. I believe that this industry has also proven that salmon farming takes the pressure off of the captive fishery by providing a year-round supply of high-quality fresh salmon to market. I believe that salmon farming in British Columbia is more stringently regulated than any other farming district in the world.
Although these are my true beliefs, I'll leave it to the salmon-farming professionals from either industry or the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association who have the expertise in this area and are better prepared to speak to these statements.
I would like to tell you my aquaculture story today and what this industry means to me. I am one of more than 4,000 employees in this province who make their living directly from the aquaculture industry. Although I'm not a salmon farmer, I'd be proud to be considered one. My story starts in 1996, when I took my honourable release from the Canadian Armed Forces. I found myself in what I believed to be a dead-end job in Nanaimo with no real prospect of personal growth, so I decided to move to Burnaby in order to attend the industrial maintenance mechanic program at BCIT.
I excelled at BCIT and at my two four-month cooperative education placements, one with Chevron's Burnaby refinery and one with Cominco Engineering Services Ltd. I was awarded the BCIT governor's award of excellence for top trade students.
On entry into the program, the staff at BCIT informed me that nearly all the current program graduates were finding good jobs in industry. However, during my 18-month course I watched a major cycle shift in employment opportunities. In fact, of the 16 students that started the program with me, I know of only two others that were able to secure full-time employment.
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Of those two, one had to move to Alberta to continue his employment.
In the following months after graduation I must have sent out more than 300 resumé packages to different employers to seek entry-level employment as a millwright. I still have to this day a stack of rejection letters from major employers here in British Columbia, which I consider my battle scars to try to earn a decent job in any industry. However, even with my training and background, I could not secure an apprenticeship position. I continued to work at the local vending company, repairing and filling vending machines, which was not my life's ambition, although they paid and treated me well.
Unknown to me, a company in Surrey, British Columbia, was looking for a maintenance mechanic millwright. They wanted to develop an employee who would not only work in their maintenance department but help create and maintain a comprehensive maintenance program for their multi-million-dollar processing facility, which was soon to be ISO 9001:2000–certified.
The company found me through a recruitment drive that involved BCIT. The company, Aqua-Pak Styro Containers, is a leading supplier of expanded polystyrene products in the Pacific Northwest and a dedicated supplier to the B.C. aquaculture industry. I accepted a position with Aqua-Pak because they had a good reputation and a long track record of promoting from within their own ranks.
As luck would have it, they not only indentured my apprenticeship and paid for my future schooling; they also asked me to complete a fourth-class power engineering program to become a shift power engineer within the company. For these reasons, I have always felt a deep gratitude toward both Aqua-Pak and the salmon-farming industry as a whole, as they have always supported me and my family when all of the other big sectors of employment — such as mining, chemical production, forestry, food manufacturing, pulp and paper — just were not hiring.
This relatively new industry welcomed me with open arms and has provided me with steady employment and good wages and benefits right here in British Columbia. Over the last seven years in industry I have talked to a fair number of people who owe the same debt of gratitude, as they have been displaced by other industries and found meaningful employment in their home communities thanks to aquaculture.
In June of 1999 I was offered a position as plant manager with Noboco Styro Containers Ltd. right here in Campbell River. This was not only a great career opportunity for me; it was a perfect place to raise our children. Again, it did not involve a move to Alberta.
Noboco Styro Containers' business and livelihood relies virtually 100 percent on salmon farming in British Columbia. Developing a sustainable salmon-farming industry is critical to the well-being of all our employees, our business, our local suppliers and the community at large. Aquaculture is the single reason this business was started in 1988.
Our company, which was started as a local, family business, is strategically located in the heart of B.C.'s aquaculture industry, where we can service our customers' needs as required, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The plant and process are certified to international standards through ISO's 9001:2000 registration process and a yearly independent audit. Our products carry the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's food approval and are moulded of expanded polystyrene, which ensures only the highest quality of fresh seafood is delivered to market every day.
The aquaculture industry represents virtually 100 percent of our sales and provides 29 full-time jobs — which include four administration, five qualified tradespeople and up to 20 unionized hourly plant staff — representing $1.1 million in annual payroll. In that $1.1 million there is, of course, a substantial amount of income tax collected, because as we all know, no one can really escape the taxman. In addition, all levels of government collect their share of taxes from the company and our transactions, enabling both Campbell River and all of British Columbia to grow and prosper.
Noboco and our employees live right here in Campbell River and support the local economy. As a company, Noboco supports many local organizations and charities, such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Knights of Columbus, the elementary school lunch program, the Bradley Robinson memorial fund, the Vancouver Island regional development team, Crime Stoppers, Baptist Church community events and the Rivercity Players, to name a few.
Noboco has built and maintains and continually updates its factory, purchases its equipment and machinery and has over 120 local suppliers providing goods and services totalling more than $1.4 million annually. As I previously stated, Noboco is a very unique plant with a variety of equipment, which includes five moulding presses, two high-pressure boilers, two silkscreen-printing machines, one shrink-film packaging machine, four compressors, one EPS pre-expander and various other support equipment.
With a plant full of specialized equipment, we require a variety of skill sets for our operation, ranging from machine operators who run, troubleshoot, maintain and repair the machinery to general labourers who inspect and package our products. Noboco invests a significant amount of time and money to train our employees. On average it'll take six months of training to produce an effective operator and an additional six months for them to achieve their government certification as a power engineer.
What is important to understand is that without aquaculture our business would not have been founded or exist today. There would not be 29 jobs at Noboco, and the local Campbell River economy would not see the more than $2½ million per year currently being spent.
Further in support of aquaculture and our business, I would like to read into the record a letter addressed to this committee from the United Steelworkers Association, local 1-363, the union which represents our employees. The letter is signed by both Rick Wangler, the president, and Stan Beech, the financial secretary of
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the local. I believe the letter summarizes my feelings as well.
Dear Committee Members:
I am writing to express our support of B.C.'s sustainable salmon-farming sector.
While conducting your research, please remember that B.C. salmon farming is a major contributor to communities and many families in the coastal regions of British Columbia. Many of our members are affected by any reduction in the salmon fisheries of any sort.
Our province's coastal communities have been hit hard by reduced employment in the forestry and commercial fishing industries. Salmon farming is a bright spot for employment that supports families in these communities. Many of our community leaders are supporters of aquaculture because they know how important it is to the local economic development.
I would encourage this committee to separate fact from fiction as you engage in the research process. I would encourage the committee to base their final recom-mendations on clear, accurate scientific information. I would encourage the committee to recommend solutions that appease all stakeholders as much as possible, with the goal of achieving sound and continually improving farming practices. Such a report will in turn provide increased employment in our salmon industry.
I am hopeful the final report of the committee will carefully acknowledge the voices of all stakeholders in this highly contentious issue and will produce a final report that is fair, balanced and based solidly on scientific fact. The report will, hopefully, put an end to the rumours and innuendo and will allow those who are prepared to invest in this industry on the coast of British Columbia the ability to do so.
I look forward to the final report.
Stan Beech and Rick Wangler
In closing, the aquaculture industry, with its year-round, predictable production has provided a base of steady, quality full-time jobs in Campbell River and in many municipalities and communities in British Columbia. We are hopeful that the final report of your committee will carefully acknowledge the voices of thousands of British Columbians that work in this province's aquaculture industry and are strongly committed, as I hope the committee is, to allowing the industry to be successful by acknowledging sound and continually improving farming practices.
I'd like to extend an invitation to the committee to come and visit Noboco Styro Containers and to tour our plant and process to see what kind of products and services a Campbell River manufacturer is contributing to the economy of British Columbia as a proud supplier to aquaculture. We look forward to a final report that is fair, balanced and based solidly on fact.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Cory. Ron has a comment or question.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Just one question. Do you supply the containers exclusively to the fish-farming industry or to others as well?
C. Percevault: It would be 99-point-something percent to the fish-farming industry, yes.
S. Fraser: Thanks, Cory. Can you tell me: do you actually process the polystyrene locally, or is that brought in?
C. Percevault: The raw material is brought in, and then it's pre-expanded — or a density change — to make it workable in our process.
S. Fraser: Where do you get the raw polystyrene base for it? Is that from the refineries in the lower mainland?
C. Percevault: It's from refineries in either the U.S. or offshore.
S. Fraser: Oh, okay. And how much is that? It sounds like a lot of…. You're providing for the whole industry in the area? Any idea how much polystyrene that is? I worked in an oil refinery before, so I just….
C. Percevault: I don't have the numbers with me to give you. I can actually give that to you later on if you'd like.
S. Fraser: Okay. That would come in by truck, though, presumably, and come out of your facility as a product.
C. Percevault: Yes, all the transport companies come into our plant daily, and we're probably sending ten-plus semi loads a day, plus our truck, which goes between five and eight times a day — of product leaving.
R. Austin (Chair): Great. Thank you very much for your presentation.
We're going to do just a little adjustment there to the microphone cables, and once that's done, we'd like to hear what Jennifer Balke has to say.
J. Balke: My name is Jenny Balke. I'm a veterinary wildlife biologist, so things are probably going to take a little bit of a different turn here.
The reason I'm here is to speak with reference to one of the fish predators other than us that I work on. I've brought a little slide show on PowerPoint just to make people more familiar, perhaps, with the other elements in this incredibly complex environment that we're dealing with.
Of course, river otters are a bit of a pain in the neck for the salmon-farming industry, as are many of the other fish predators, because they compete with us. I guess that one of my main points in trying to present this is to ask the committee for their support for more research into the wildlife environment that is out there. We are woefully ignorant of so many things, and river otters are just one element of which we are ignorant.
I'm just going to run through this PowerPoint.
Coastal river otters. These are our river otters. The river otter we usually think of as a freshwater species. I'm going to go really quick because I know we don't
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have a lot of time. But because there's this huge biomass in the ocean, they're fishing primarily in the sea. I like to call them coastal otters to avoid the confusion. They're not sea otters. People always see these critters out there, and they think they're sea otters because they're in the sea — can't be river otters in the sea — but they're quite different from sea otters. There you can see the little river otter on the right and sea otters surrounding — different skeleton, completely different biology. They're not mink. Mink is another fish predator that can be a pain — more in hatcheries where you're dealing with smaller fish. These are just the other river otter kin that are around. Here we are: coastal river otters. We like to think of these guys as living on the margin. They're fishing in this incredibly cold environment of the ocean, so they have a high metabolic rate. Trying to keep warm, they eat a lot.
They use that fur they have. They don't have a whole lot of adaptations to living in the sea, so that fur and their high metabolic rate is what allows them to keep on fishing. It's a vicious cycle. They also have to bathe daily in fresh water. As I said, that fur is so important to them. They get salt crystals in it. It's been shown that they need to bathe to get those salt crystals out every day using fresh water so that they can go back in the ocean to catch more fish to keep their metabolic rate going so they can keep warm.
What they're using are marshes all along the coastline. They're using these little freshwater seeps that you'll see all along the ocean edge to do that bathing in. They do a lot of grooming. They're living on the edge. This is their environment. Of course, it's where lots of us like to be as well — right on that little margin, not too far into the ocean, although they'll cross an ocean, and not too far up on land. They're edge-livers. It's fresh water, salt water and the terrestrial environment. They use the land. They have to sleep, of course, on the land, and they mark on the land by scatting.
Some of the dens. They like beaver lodges. They'll share with beavers. We've all seen these on the edge of the shoreline: the remains of the fish they've eaten. Water is where they fish, where they travel.
Food — big-time fish-eaters, the top of the food chain. Like many other predators, like us, they reflect what the rest of the environment has in it, for good or bad. They eat a lot of things. They have a varied diet, but it's principally fish. There are some local fellows eating.
This is just a study that we did years ago in the Charlottes — a lot of different fish, not only salmonids. We got 21 different genuses of fish.
They are on CITES too. That's where Canada's responsibility to them comes in. They are a listed species, because the European river otter is an endangered species from what's happened through industrialization. That's what we primarily think. Because it's an endangered species there, there are all kinds of European programs supporting river otter restoration. It's primarily been attributed to pesticides — PCBs primarily — although a loss of habitat and many other issues face them. So because our river otters look very much like the European river otter, like our black bear, it's on CITES too.
This just shows other otters distributed in the world. This is the European otter and our otter. Just a list of the otter species, showing we're dealing with animals with a lot of problems. But then we know that in B.C., because we've got a host of species that are in trouble. Otters are a worldwide conservation animal. If anything, there would be big PR for the fish farm industry to support….
One of the problems with otters is that they're hard to monitor. We haven't established a technique. That's why we need this research. We have all these up-and-coming techniques, but no money to fund studies to find out how many river otters we have, so we really don't know. We have no idea how many there are. We do know they're impacted by lots of things. Anything that impacts the sea will impact them.
Fish farms and river otters are not a new issue. Europe has dealt with this a lot. One of the big issues with fish farms and otters is the need for exclusion techniques. Even last year the big international otter conference presented another of the latest techniques that seems like it would be very effective for fish pens, fish ponds — a rubber matting strip that has a little bump in the middle and a little electric wire that runs along it. It was very successful. Formerly, electric fences needed a lot of maintenance. They were too tall. There were so many issues with them. This was one another one that offered some potential.
My study — I'm doing a PhD on these guys — is looking at river otter health, so what diseases they have, what contaminants….
Pollution of course is a huge issue. There's a study carried out by the Canadian Wildlife Service centred in Victoria, looking at pollution issues. River otters contact a lot of critters. I had two points to this submission. One was the thought that we are dealing with the removal of a species around fish farms. I'll get to that in a minute.
The second is that diseases are potentially transmitted through river otters from the terrestrial environment through to the marine and freshwater environments. This just deals with some of the ways that we can use now to measure river otter populations if we were going to study them. This is just a remote-camera picture.
The disease study is in progress. What we're mainly dealing with at this stage is testing for mammalian diseases because that's where our reference base is, but river otters eat fish so they have this link to their prey. So we can expect that there are parasites. We refer to diseases in disease ecology now as parasites — all of them, whether they are macro-parasites or bacteria or viruses, all of that. We call it a parasitic relationship.
When there are these relationships between predator and prey, we can expect to have disease relation-
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ships as well because of the connection and the transfer. We see that with our macro-parasites. As the study progresses, we'll be looking at these kinds of things and certainly need more support for research for it.
That's just a synopsis. Just to go over the main points that I was trying to make…. With fish farms, if we can get exclusion techniques that are effective…. We need to evaluate this. We need to know whether they're effective. Once a fish farm has a problem with any predator, it's very, very difficult to then begin putting in exclusions, because the predators have learned that that's where to dine.
River otters eat fish. They would really like to eat fish that are really easy to catch. They have these huge territories. They go 40 kilometres. If you think of a river otter out here in Campbell River, it could be down in Courtenay tomorrow. They're moving through these vast territories. They overlap territories. We don't know, but we could estimate that in a healthy habitat we might have a river otter every kilometre overlapping, but if you put anything, like a dining establishment — a McDonald's fish farm kind of thing — it's going to get visited by a lot of otters.
Once a place has a problem, then it's going to be really hard to put in that exclusion. So we need to make sure those exclusion things go in first, and then we need to find out if they're successful. There are a lot of successful farms out there that aren't having any problems, but let's evaluate them. Let's look at the river otter population. How is it doing around these farms? If farms are truly successful, then there will be a healthy river otter population living around them that can't get into these dining areas, that is living off the natural, healthy fish that they would be living on. We need to know that.
One of the ways I'd love to see this process working is to have really open reporting. You know, river otter management…. You can trap an otter and dispense with it fairly easily, and no one would ever know. A lot of people are very open and very good about it, but we don't really know what's happening.
It would be great if there was an open system where predators, problems were reported, where this was followed up by researchers or extension people that could then go out to farms. Make it all open; make it really work. Have recordkeeping systems that people can access, input to, get suggestions — all that kind of stuff — and, also, do the research to find out whether it's successful or not.
The other thing is the disease angle. We really need to know more. This is one giant experiment. We've got this huge, complex environment. The marine environment — that's where prokaryotes became eukaryotes. Life started. There are a myriad of organisms out there that are changing species, that are just changing their very characteristics. We don't know what's going on out there.
What we're doing by putting in these concentrations of fish is conducting an experiment. Only we don't have any controls on this experiment, and we really don't know what's going on. We can't do the research. It's so complex; you couldn't control that.
I worked in large animal — dairy — veterinary medicine for many years, dealing with swine and various other species as well. On a land-based farming system we adopted exclusion. Farmers didn't go to the local sale barns to get animals because they'd learned a long time ago that you don't bring in new animals to your farm. You keep a closed herd. That's how you have healthy animals.
It would be ideal, in the fish-farming situation, to have some way of containing those animals so they're not contacting other organisms. That is something that I think the fish farm industry could work with and could have a much more successful, healthy product — plus not have any potential for conducting these massive experiments on the side.
There are a whole lot of issues to bring up. Just a simple thing like antibiotic resistance…. If a river otter gets into a fish pen, he hasn't waited till the fish have gone beyond their withdrawal time. He's eating any fish he can get. So the potential for him to have antibiotics in his system…. The organism that he carries then could have developed antibiotic resistance. He goes up, passes that to under your house or your boat. There are all these connections going on. As I say, a massive experiment.
A couple of last comments. I did quite a bit of work with both sea otters and river otters in Alaska. When I was up there we went to a whole lot of hatcheries. I was really unaware that Alaska didn't allow fish farms. It was so amazing to me. I didn't understand why. They have these huge hatcheries.
It's interesting because so many of them — and also land hatcheries in B.C. — accept as a normal course of events that mink and river otter are going to take some of their fish. They see them around. They don't try and pen them out. At least, they may try, but they're not very successful. They accept them taking their share — some share — and they don't think it's a huge issue. Mind you, they're dealing with smaller fish and quite a different approach to fish-raising.
I was wondering why B.C. has such a different management for commercial fish. The whole orientation — why is it so different here than in Alaska?
Lastly, I have been speaking from a perspective of a wildlife biologist working, but I also do come from Baynes Sound, one of the largest, I believe, shellfish areas in British Columbia. So I have to say just a quick word about the whole shellfish aquaculture thing. In fact, I was very fortunate to get here because on the way over from Baynes Sound today, a shellfish net — the beach netting — wound around the propeller of the ferry.
There are major issues with shellfish farming on this coast. I understand that this review is not only about finfish but about shellfish aquaculture as well. I really think that unless the commission made the initiative to go to communities and talk to those communities and get their input, this commission could not be
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said to represent fairly the impact of the shellfish aquaculture industry. Thank you so much.
D. Jarvis: Thank you very much for your interesting topic. I've always felt that if there's anything like reincarnation, I'd come back as an otter because everyone loves otters.
J. Balke: Some people do.
D. Jarvis: I wonder if you could tell me if, under normal conditions…. Sea otters were near extinction a while ago. Who would normally take care of that and look after that? Is it DFO?
J. Balke: Ministry of Environment. Are we talking about who has the mandate to look after it?
D. Jarvis: Yeah.
J. Balke: Ministry of Environment.
D. Jarvis: Have you gone to them for money?
J. Balke: I don't know if you're familiar with the Ministry of Environment and its funding, but it's last on the…. When the Ministry of Parks was separate, they were below the Ministry of Environment. Other than that, they were down there at the bottom.
There is no funding for most of the wildlife species in this province. If you happen to be an endangered species, you may get funding. Last year we were faced with the fact that most of the endangered species did not have funding either.
D. Jarvis: And that's federal, is it?
J. Balke: No, provincial. You could maybe get some federally if you were endangered and listed on COSEWIC.
D. Jarvis: There's no thought down the line that these may be endangered — the river otters — eh?
J. Balke: You talk to anybody who sees one occasionally on the beach: "There are lots of river otters." There were lots in Europe, and now there aren't. They're endangered. We're facing that with so many species. This isn't a new thing, for sure.
D. Jarvis: How are the Alaskans keeping them out of their sea farms?
J. Balke: Hatcheries. I know there are a number of techniques for the sea pens here. We could go into great detail. I could give you the book on various different techniques. There are tied-on nettings. There are various forms of electric fences. Things like that.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks very much.
I'd like to call David Stover from Brown's Bay Packing.
D. Stover: Good afternoon. My name is Dave Stover. I'm the general manager of Brown's Bay Packing Co., located about 20 kilometres north of Campbell River. I'll be speaking today about our company and about its workforce.
I want to start with a little history. We opened in 1989 to meet a growing demand for farmed salmon processing in closer proximity to the farming activities of the day. We were hopeful that our small but eager workforce of about 25 people would process approximately two million pounds of farmed salmon annually, hopefully enough volume to cover our expenses. In our first year we processed 4.3 million pounds.
The period of 1990 to 2002 was a period of rapid growth. Our annual production volume increased, on average, 25 percent per year, and in some years we grew by as much as 87 percent.
At our peak in 2002 we employed 215 workers and 12 staff. To put that in perspective locally, we employed more workers than the coalmine, the sawmill and the city of Campbell River. We were one of the most significant employers, not only in Campbell River but on the entire north Island.
In 2002, if you remember, our province was mired in economic recovery. Our facility and our industry bridged an enormous gap in employment and investment during this period of recovery.
Today we employ 65 people, and our annual payroll tops $3.4 million. Our supply purchases, which are mainly local purchases, top $1.8 million. We still manage to process a few million pounds. Only today we manage to process this volume in a month, not in a year, as was the case in the early years.
In fact, in the last 13 months we've processed 49.599 million pounds of farmed salmon. That's an average of 3.815 million pounds per month. If we convert that production to servings of salmon, we've produced 566,000 servings of salmon each day, on average, with peak days exceeding one million servings.
Each and every day 566,000 servings of salmon leave Brown's Bay on nine trucks. If you do the math, on B.C. Ferries that's about five thousand bucks a day in ferry fares.
This volume of production is greater than any other processing plant in this province. It equates to greater than 50 percent of the annual production of the entire wild salmon fishery. Together with our sister plant Englewood Packing, we exceed the production of the capture fishery for wild salmon.
How is it that we are such a significant player in this industry and you have not taken the time to visit the plant or speak to the people? I am unaware of any visits by any of you, other than MLA Trevena's visit over a year ago, which wasn't related to this process. How can you possibly form an unbiased opinion and make crucial recommendations on the impact of this industry with incomplete due diligence?
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You have inadvertently or purposefully neglected to personally speak with the busiest processing facility in this province, and that is not a credible way of finding facts.
One of your mandates is to examine the specific economic impact of aquaculture in coastal communities. Part of the economic impact is the employment that this industry provides. To help you understand and help you with your research, we have shut the plant down today and brought our story to you. Collectively, a lot of the folks behind me have postponed eighty-five hundred bucks in wages to be here today, and our plant has surrendered $34,000 in revenue to come and talk to you.
I don't have a PowerPoint presentation or slide show, but assisting me with my presentation are a few of our courageous workers, who would like to introduce themselves to you.
C. Buse: Hi, my name is Corine Buse. I have worked in this industry for the last 15 years. I have been provided with benefits and opportunities and a comfortable living. We all work hard and do the best job that we can — and to think that this could all be taken away. When the decision is made, I can only hope that all factors are taken into account. Thousands of hard-working people depend on these jobs.
J. DeCraene: Good afternoon. My name is Janet DeCraene. I've worked at Brown's Bay Packing for 15 years. I'm a single mother with limited education who's been able to support my son, a mortgage, a vehicle and a lifestyle that I've become accustomed to. I really don't want to have to work for $8 an hour when I make double that in what I'm doing now.
S. Williams: Hello, my name is Scott Williams. I've worked at Brown's Bay Packing for 15 years. I got my job straight out of high school. I started stacking boxes on the floor and worked my way up into a managerial position. I support my wife and my three-year-old daughter.
E. Brennan: My name is Ed Brennan. Eight years ago I lost my job in the forest industry due to the poor market. It was a very stressful time in my life. I didn't know whether I was going to have to sell my house, relocate my wife and kids somewhere else in order to find a decent-paying job or if I could somehow be able to find a job and stay in Campbell River to raise my children.
Luckily, I was able to land a job at Brown's Bay Packing. I have been there for seven years now and have been able to maintain my standard of living, keep my house and raise my children in Campbell River, a town that me and my family love. Thanks for listening.
R. Brown: Hello, my name is Richard Brown. I've been in the industry for 12 years, six of which at Brown's Bay. I raised two children off the wage I make, a fairly comfortable living. I come home every night. I don't have to go away. I can stay with my kids. I don't have to move to Alberta like so many of my friends have done, and I get to stay and work in the city that I love and raised in since I was a boy. I'd like to keep doing what I've been doing.
B. Nicolaye: My name is Bruce Nicolaye. I work maintenance down in Brown's Bay. Before Brown's Bay I worked in the forestry industry for nearly 25 years. The sawmill has shut down, forcing myself along with several hundred other employees to move along.
I chose not to return to the forest industry because of declining jobs, sawmills shutting down left and right. I chose to go into the aquaculture industry.
I've been with Brown's Bay now for nearly five years. I've found that it's a reliable, decent income, which has allowed me to stay in Campbell River and not have to move to a different province, or anything like that, to find work.
K. MacDonald: Hello. My name is Kelly MacDonald, and I've been employed at Brown's Bay Packing for the last 15 years. Before being employed at Brown's Bay Packing, I was a janitor and was not able to support myself. Since joining Brown's Bay Packing, I have been able to buy a house by myself, a brand-new car, support a family, learn to teach first aid and go back to school to better myself. I simply would like this committee to consider what aquaculture means to me and my family.
J. Prodaehl: Good afternoon. My name is Jamie Prodaehl. I've been in the aquaculture industry for ten years. I'm a husband, a father of two. I've been able to raise and support my family on this job. It's treated me well. I've heard and I know it's one of the best full-time jobs in B.C. I love this community, and I want to stay and support it longer.
S. Kruse: Hi. I'm Sheryl Kruse. I've been working at Brown's Bay for three years now. Working at Brown's Bay has given me the opportunity to go to school and hopefully become an elementary teacher here in British Columbia. Without my job, I wouldn't be able to pay for myself to go to school. This job has given me all the opportunities to live out my dreams.
D. Fowler: Good afternoon. My name is Dave Fowler. I've been in the aquaculture industry for 17 years, from commercial fishing to now salmon processing. I've seen lots of changes. It's really helped me out with support for my family. My sons are really looking forward to getting into the aquaculture business. I would like this committee to have a good, hard look at our future.
R. Coyle: Hi. My name is Ron Coyle. I'm the office manager at Brown's Bay. I've been in the fishing industry for 17 years now. The first ten years of my fishing industry career was in the wild salmon industry. I worked in a wild salmon cannery down in North Vancouver. The last seven have been here.
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The major difference I can tell you about the two jobs I've had is that at this time of year every year I'd be getting writing cramps from issuing records of employment to all the people who had to go back on EI because the wild salmon was over. This farm salmon industry provides steady, year-round employment, which has provided very well for myself and all the people that you've just heard from. Yesterday I sent $26,000 to the government for payroll taxes, which is a whole lot better than sending records of employment.
D. Stover: You have no idea how proud I am of these people, showing the guts to stand up.
Overshadowed by the economic and employment numbers described prior are the homeless animals at the SPCA, the new mothers at the maternity ward, the dragon boat ladies and the women's shelter. Pet food for animals, furniture for the maternity ward, travel expenses for cancer survivors and an education centre at the women's shelter were all made possible from the over $38,000 that these workers have donated out of their own pocket since 2000. All of those things were made possible by their contributions, not corporate contributions.
Maybe it's that we work in a cold, damp environment. Maybe it's because we work in remote areas. Maybe it's the constant battery our industry faces in the public eye. Maybe it's because of all of that that we attract the quality of human beings that we do to this industry.
The resource worker drives the economy in this province, and a majority of them reside outside of our urban centres. We can't all be salaried workers in the protest industry. Someone has to pay the bills in this province, and it's the blue-collar folk that do. It seems so strange to me that these people have to give up a day of work to promote their industry to elected officials who, by the nature of their jobs, should be accountable to the workers, not the other way around.
When this process began we were cautiously optimistic about it. We understood your mandate, and truly believed that an unbiased effort would lead you to conclude that our industry is environmentally responsible, economically feasible and poised for investment and growth. Most importantly, it would give you a chance to meet the great people of our industry in many coastal communities that have so much at stake.
Instead of unbiased due diligence, you have turned this process into a circus filled with premature conclusions and political party rhetoric.
All this industry has asked is that you have an open mind through this process until all of the information is presented. Some committee members have chosen to make public their opinions prior to completion of all the information submitted and, surely, prior to understanding it. You have lost all credibility, and I cannot think that any recommendations to significantly alter or diminish this industry will be taken seriously. Our cautious optimism has been replaced by rampant skepticism.
Despite the odour that floats around this process, we remain committed to our place in this industry. This belief drives us to embark upon a complete midlife refit of our processing plant. While still in production, we are spending over $2 million, investing in new buildings and technology to ensure our competitive position into the next decade.
In conclusion, at Brown's Bay Packing we are proud of our people and proud of the products we produce. We're also proud of the community and the region we work in, and incredibly proud of the industry we serve.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, thank you for coming today, David, and thanks to the employees who came forward. I think it's very important to have a personal story and a personal inflection on industry. Numbers say one thing; the people say another. I'm sorry we didn't go to see your plant, but that's another discussion.
But one question I have…. We heard today, as a matter of fact, that the wages are characterized as minimum-type wages. That's one thing we heard often on our…. I don't want you to disclose this, necessarily, but maybe you can tell me what the range is in wages of the employees in your plant, on an hourly basis or whatever you want.
D. Stover: Sure. The hourly wages. We have a base rate of $15.75 an hour. We have a production bonus paid quarterly that's $2.25 an hour. That production bonus is based on the amount of volume we produce in a month. In 17 years we've never not paid it, and we've never drifted under the scale that was set. So $18 an hour is the wage at Brown's Bay for a non-supervisory position.
On top of that, since 1989 our owner has been generous enough to share the profits of the company with its employees, and profit-sharing, which is paid annually in February, has ranged anywhere from 3 percent to 8 percent of an employee's wages.
Based on how busy we are 12 months of the year, an employee who works full-time would make anywhere between $38,000 and $45,000 a year. Depending on the overtime that they volunteered to do and whether or not they're a supervisor, it would be upwards of $50,000 to $55,000. That's not a staff wage; that's an hourly wage.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): A follow-up: are you at plant capacity now? That's one question. And do you fill all the orders that you get?
D. Stover: To answer the first question, we are at capacity if you consider that we work 20 out of 24 hours in a day.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): That's capacity.
D. Stover: That leaves us four hours for cleanup. We have to catch up on Saturday and Sunday for that. The retrofit that we are doing will allow us to cut the processing time from 20 hours down to about 16. It's still two shifts — two eight-hour shifts. It's extremely difficult on workers to work a 60-hour week in a cold, damp environment doing manual labour, so we'd like to get that down to around 40 or 45 hours.
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Your next question was: do we fill all the orders? We're a custom processor for Mainstream Canada. We don't own any of the fish. We just process it — a fee for service for them.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): They basically send you what they know you can process, then, I presume.
D. Stover: That's correct. At times we assist their Tofino operation. For example, when they ran out of water earlier in September, we were quite busy around the clock, dealing with all the volume that typically would go through that plant in Tofino. We absorbed it at Brown's Bay.
Anything they throw at us, we do. We'll work Saturdays or Sundays, and we have, quite often, throughout the year.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So it's basically flat out, year-round, then.
D. Stover: Flat out, year-round. And in all honesty, that's not sustainable.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): That's what I was thinking.
D. Stover: Sustainability…. You need time to maintain your equipment. You need time for your people to rest. That's why we're spending the money. It's to build capacity.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Your total investment in the plant would be how much?
D. Stover: The new investment is $2 million. The plant was built for $400,000. We're going to spend $2 million halfway through its life.
C. Trevena: Thanks, David, and yes, I did go to Brown's Bay.
You clearly have a very loyal staff. I just have a couple of questions. Thanks to the Salmon Farmers Association, I have received a large stack of letters submitted, I think, originally to the committee. I've got copies of them all, and a very large stack from your staff at Brown's Bay.
I just wondered if you knew why they were all dated May 24.
D. Stover: Because that was the day we set…. We work through May. I think in May we processed 4.9 million or five million pounds. That is essentially every day of the month, 24 hours a day. In order to assist people with letter-writing and whatnot, we set aside some time on that particular day to do so.
C. Trevena: So the company assisted people to write letters?
D. Stover: Sure. People don't have computers at work. They have to use company computers and so on and so forth. For example, next week we'll have our hearing test, and we'll get it all done on the same day.
C. Trevena: Just if you could explain how this worked. The company said: "Do you want to submit something to the committee? If you do so, you can use our computers on the 24th of May."
D. Stover: Yeah.
C. Trevena: So that's how it worked.
D. Stover: Yeah. Is there a problem with that?
C. Trevena: No. I just wanted to know. I was surprised all the dates were the same.
One of the reasons I raised it…. I was concerned about the tone of some of the letters. It's similar to the tone of some of your staff who have stood up here today, and it's a tone of fear. It's a tone of people who are worried about losing their jobs, the tone of people who are really concerned that their industry is going to be closed down.
I know that we as a committee have never indicated that we are going to close down the industry. I know that we as a committee have been listening to people from all sides and are going to make recommendations. I know that we as a committee have terms of reference, which don't mention recommendations which would lead to closing down the industry.
I think you've heard from a number of us, myself included, that we are very aware of the importance of jobs in the aquaculture industry in our communities.
I wanted to know: who has been creating this fearmongering? I want to know this because ever since I was, basically, politically aware, when I was a teenager, I've been wanting to defend workers' rights, workers' wages, make sure that people have a decent standard of work and not have to go to work fearful.
So I'd like to know whether you can tell me who has been fearmongering among your staff, and if you do know who it is, whether you can tell me how it can be combated, because I don't like seeing hundreds of workers worried about what's going to happen to them and their future when it's not come from here — and whether it's coming from the industry.
D. Stover: That's a good question. I think the fearmongering was elevated when your leader denounced farmed salmon and your political party took a position against it. Look no further than that. That scared the hell out of people, and now this is what you get.
C. Trevena: We as a committee are independent. Yes, it's opposition-led, but the Premier set up this committee to look at sustainable aquaculture.
We have our terms of reference. As a committee, we are all working independently, unbiasedly on this. I hope that in talking to your staff, being a leader, you could tell your staff — could convey this to your staff — that we are not here to close the industry. We are
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here to listen and to give recommendations to the government, which the government will then decide to act upon. I do not like to see hundreds of workers going to work everyday fearful and not having that fear allayed when it was not necessary.
So I hope you can convey that to your staff — to those who are here today and those who are not here today.
D. Stover: Well, I think you just did. You can ask them afterwards if they're comfortable with your words.
S. Fraser: Thanks, David, and thanks to everybody for coming out.
Just so you know, though, we as a committee are from different parts of the province. We've travelled to Clayoquot Sound to Port Hardy to Prince Rupert to Kitkatla to Bella Bella to Bella Coola to Smithers to Campbell River — and back to Campbell River.
We've come back here now twice, and as you've seen, we've had a completely full schedule. In a perfect world, we'd visit everywhere. We've made an effort to come back here, because Campbell River asked us to, and we did. We haven't got to everywhere we're supposed to go yet, and we haven't gone anywhere else twice.
I appreciate the passion that you're here with, but we're back here to listen. And we're back here. This is not our first time; this is our second time. We still have other places to go. Just so you know: we haven't been ignoring this region. There are other places that will probably be upset that we've gotten here twice and we haven't got there.
Just to put it into context: we're not trying to avoid anyone.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
I would like to call Steve Brunt, if he's here.
S. Brunt: I'd just like to thank everybody for giving me the opportunity to speak here today.
I felt it important to talk to you today, because I want to try to bring to your attention the positive impact this industry has on this province. I am not currently directly or indirectly employed in aquaculture. That, however, does not mean that I am not profoundly affected by this industry.
I grew up in a small family employed by aquaculture. I was able to grow up in this beautiful town, supported by employment that was secure and well-paying. I myself in high school was employed for my first job working on a fish farmsite. It was hard work. It paid well, and I like to think those experiences showed me the rewards of good, respectable hard work.
Proponents of fish farming will tell you there are over 4,000 direct and indirect jobs because of aquaculture. I am hoping to convince you that it goes far beyond that. I think I am a perfect example of the even greater impact made by aquaculture. This industry is made up of families and workers who are skilled at what they do and happy to be working on the coast.
Industries are important to a province, which became even more apparent to me when I moved to Alberta. Calgary is where I began working in physiotherapy, and I was almost hired right on the spot. B.C. gave me the education to enter that field but failed to give me the opportunities to utilize it. Every friend I have from Campbell River is now employed in Calgary. Many have no ties to oil and gas, but their own particular skills are highly valued in Alberta.
Some can tell you stories of trying for minimum-wage jobs in B.C. right out of university. Those same people now, after relocating to Alberta and through hard work, are very successful, because they got their foot in the door in the right place and were given a chance to utilize their full potential.
In spite of wage differences or the different sectors we all work in, my friends and I all have one thing in common. It's our goal to one day move back to the Island. I often talk to my friends about what it would take to move home. It isn't much — good friends, good job, being close to family. For most of us, that's all we want. Alberta has nothing to do with making the big bucks. It's about being appreciated for your skills and hard work. But Alberta can never match the beauty and greatness of the west coast.
I think that's why we become so frustrated when industries so full of potential, which are a shining light for a booming economy here in this province, come under attack. Often our friends and family bear the brunt of these campaigns, which I find are often based so heavily on emotion that they are devoid of reasoning or any effort to find common ground. They instead rely on tactics of confusion and conflict to enforce their point.
I also want to say that many of my generation have become frustrated with the lack of progress in B.C. and honestly feel their future is stuck in the middle of political and environmental bickering. There are many issues at stake with the decisions that people such as yourselves are entrusted to make, and not the very least is the prospect of losing many young hard-working individuals to our eastern province. I honestly feel that when emotions are high and minds are closed, there's no room for advancement for any side of any issue.
Your job is to look past the emotions, to do what's best for people, to hold all accountable — not just the industries but those that seek to dismantle them. There's far too much at stake to allow unchecked accusations to so profoundly influence people's lives, families and futures.
Like I said, I'm not an aquaculture expert. But please remember there's more riding on this single industry than most, I feel, understand. I hope any decisions you make are in the best interest of the hard-working families such as mine. I also hope that my friends and I will soon return to this unique and wonderful island.
I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to listen to me today.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks, Steven.
I'd like to call Rina Berkshire.
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R. Berkshire: My name is Rina Berkshire. I've lived in Campbell River almost 30 years. I am not associated with fish farms in any way. I do not own any shares in any companies associated with fish farms. I am past president of the Campbell River District Teachers Association. I have also served on the executive of the B.C. Teachers Federation.
I have this whole scenario in terms of conflict in our province. It goes on and on — whether it be land use, environment, labour or whatever.
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and my illness has afforded me many opportunities along with its challenges in negotiating with this chronic disease. I was in the school system, and I'm not going to talk about that. I'm actually going to make reference to it at one point.
I have about three different points. One is related to my own health. As I said, I have multiple sclerosis. Actually, Quentin has left. He's known me for a long time. Right now I'm able to walk without my cane. One of the things I have been doing for a long time is eating salmon, and one of the reasons I eat salmon is because of the omega-3 fatty acids in it.
My background is home economics. That was my degree, so I taught home economics in school. Having been diagnosed with MS, along with watching all this chaos going on in our province now, particularly in this coastal region on Vancouver Island, I studied the brain and its function and all things neurological. Every day I was learning more and more important things about our brain — 60 percent of our brain matter is made up of essential fatty acids. Now, it's my personal belief that one of the reasons that I'm able to walk without my cane today is that I consume salmon at least twice weekly. I make a goal of eating salmon.
My first choice is fresh, wild sockeye salmon. It's got the great flavour, but it's also got all of those DHA and EPA acids that are exactly the type that I need for my brain. I'm getting it from the food as opposed to a pill.
My second choice, because it's fresh…. The important thing about something being fresh is that…. The farmed salmon — we can have it fresh daily, should we want it. This is so important to have a source of fresh food. I know you've heard so much from the environmental side about degradation and all the rest of it, and I'm just going: "Well, we've got to work all of that out." I'm not here to talk about that part of it.
I'm talking about three different points. One, for my health and my belief that eating farmed salmon has actually helped me with my MS. Now, I'm giving you a personal story. Somebody will go along and say, "Oh, that's hooey," but anyhow, that's my belief, and it's equal to any of the other statements that have been made here in terms of this study or that study or whatever. I mean, this is an observation along with all of the other observations that you have been given.
The other thing that I want to talk about nutrition is the health of our children. I think it's really important. I'm going back to the essential fatty acids, that it's really important…. See, there's been so much controversy about farmed salmon and farmed salmon being bad for you, and then they start comparing wild salmon. What happens is that people stop eating salmon, and we actually need people — particularly children, particularly hyperactive children — to eat salmon, because it will actually help their brain work better.
I think a lot of this controversy about farmed and wild has discouraged some people from eating salmon. So just making the point again that particularly because farmed salmon is fresh, it is of such superior quality, and many chefs prefer serving it in restaurants. In fact, my brother-in-law, who was born in Switzerland — a Swiss-trained chef — prefers serving the farmed, fresh salmon because of its high quality, because it's so fresh.
That's probably two points. My other point is a little bit about the story of Campbell River and north Island. As I said, I've lived here 30 years, and I've been through the Vancouver Island CORE process in 1992. I've lived through the battles at the Clayoquot. I don't know whether I can interest an individual MLA — maybe it's not my place to — but when people here speak from fear, it's because they've lived that fear, because we've had such significant job loss.
The north Island was depopulated by 30 percent in the late '80s and early '90s. A lot of these families were saved because fish farming was able to take the place. The husband lost his mining job, his logging job, his commercial fishing job, so the family either moved away or the woman was able to get a job at a fish farm. So that's where the fear comes from, because it's happened before, particularly to people in rural communities.
We have lived this where we have gone through a whole scenario on Vancouver Island — the Vancouver Island CORE process. We were putting land into parks, and parks were going to be the wealth generators, because that was the particular policy of that particular government at the time. That particular government believed that parks generated wealth.
I think you can hear from David Stover's speech how fish farming alone is such an amazing wealth generator just for our local town. Who knows? Our pulp mill is struggling. Gosh. It could go at any time in Campbell River, because of the low pulp prices.
The other thing that a lot of people have talked about is tourism being the saviour. I would just like to remind you that, at least in my opinion, tourism is the icing on the B.C. resource cake. We are a very fortunate province. We have mineral wealth. We have forest wealth. We have the wild fish wealth, the farmed fish wealth, our other agricultural industries. We're so blessed in so many ways.
You have a very difficult job, because you've heard terrible individual stories about this situation, this situation and this situation. It's really hard, because you have to go through each one of those studies and really look at them. I have a study here. In France researchers found that among 246 people over age 63 those that got the most omega 3s were 40 percent less likely to see a decline in mental health over a period of four years.
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Well, there's a study, and you are being presented with study after study after study. Now, this is an interesting study, but it's like examining only 243 people. The counterbalance is that it went over four years, so that gave it a little bit of weight. These people were studied over an extended period of time.
I don't envy you your job, because it's difficult. On the other hand, particularly on the north Island, we have suffered and suffered a lot. We need to have the security to know that this industry is not going to be put out of business. That there's not going to be so many different regulations put on it that it's going to become so burdened, it's not going to be able to make any money for its employees to donate back to the various entities.
I think I'm just about finished. I'm saying you have a hard job. I think you have to be fair, and I know you will be fair. In examining all of the studies that you've been given, I would say that you are probably not going to have all of the answers anyhow. As the veterinarian told you, this whole area is so vast, and you're looking at one little area. But it doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be the same in the next area over.
The other thing that I was going to say to you in ending — and it's only peripherally related — is if you have not read this man's book, Michael Crichton's State of Fear — and I know you have lots of stuff to read — please, please read it. He addresses a lot of what I call environmental hype, the environmental fluffery. It is a novel, but it is very well-researched, well-documented and it might also help you understand all of the scientific information that you've got to go through.
The other thing I was going to say is…. What happens to a lot of people in elected positions is that you get everything all processed for you. Then you are to decide on the information that you're given. It's good that you're hearing all of this different information for yourself, but then when you go down to make the recommendations, somehow those recommendations aren't anything like you ever thought they were going to be. I want you to be cautious of that. I mean, I know that because I went through the Vancouver Island CORE process. I mean, I know — saw it first hand — how the information just got shifted all around, and it never came out exactly the way…. Maybe somebody's agenda was met, but it didn't reflect any of the information that was provided at that commission.
I thank you for your time. I thank you for listening.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Rina. Scott has a comment.
S. Fraser: Thanks, Rina, for sharing that and personal stuff too. Just an analogy because you touched on something…. Claire and I are both MLAs from the Island, from strong resources communities for the most part. Things aren't always black and white. They're not always as they seem, as you've alluded to. That's certainly part of our challenge.
You talked about '93 in Clayoquot. I moved to Clayoquot in '93. I saw all that. In a lot of cases that was industry telling workers: there's the enemy; they're across the bridge. It was near violence. There was violence, and there were arrests. At the end of the day, I'm working with a community now that's a bunch of loggers, unemployed loggers and unemployed millworkers, with the Sierra Club, with Greenpeace, and they're all working together now. They didn't see eye to eye before. They are now. So there is a grey area sometimes, which you don't always see.
We don't buy everything we hear off the first go. We do listen and learn. We've got to listen and learn from history too, so I just wanted you to know. You're right. It isn't simple up here, but we're not taking everything for granted. We are looking at history, and everyone here has an obligation to do that and to read and to learn and to listen. Don't take everything for granted. We all recognize the importance of jobs, and thanks to you, you've reinforced that.
R. Austin (Chair): Ron has a comment. One second.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I just wanted to remind the representative from Port Alberni that I, too, am from the Island. You seem to have omitted me in your generous description of Islanders.
S. Fraser: Oh, I'm sorry, Ron. You're more urban, though.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Don't tell that to Parksville.
R. Austin (Chair): Anyway, thanks very much for your presentation.
I'd like to call Kathy Smail. Go right ahead.
K. Smail: Good afternoon, almost good evening. I'm actually doing this presentation for a person that I know who is unable to attend this committee meeting today. She's actually recuperating from surgery that she had in Vancouver, but I wanted to give her presentation for her. She asked me to do that, and I agreed to do it.
Her name is Judy Williams. She has a residence in Vancouver as well as on Quadra Island, and she's currently in the process of moving to Cortes Island. She has also lived for a long time on Redonda Island as part of a cooperative there in Refuge Cove.
You all have copies of it, and I'll just simply read it out loud.
"This is a submission to the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture by Judith Williams, assistant professor emeritus at UBC.
"I wish to address the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture from both my position as chairman of the Desolation Sound Salmon Enhancement Society and as the author of a new book, Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada's West Coast.
"During the past nine years the Desolation Sound Salmon Enhancement Society has rehabilitated five creeks draining into Refuge Lagoon on West Redonda Island and has reintroduced coho and chum salmon to this watershed.
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"It has been my privilege to begin to see and accept that to do so involved a need to return the entire system that was affected by, nurtured by and was both sustained by and sustained the salmon cycle.
"We were startled to observe the many predators that appeared as salmon, for the first time in 25 years, spawned in creeks that had temporarily been turned into logging roads. We saw how salmon bodies fed other creatures and all their leavings fertilized the bank, which came alive with the kind of bugs and grubs the baby coho need to grow.
"All during that same period, another food system became known to me which bears on the kind of decision that this committee must address. We tend to think that we invented aquaculture and mariculture, but in 1993, while I was working with Klahoose tribeswoman Elizabeth Harry — her name's Keekus — on my book High Slack, Keekus insisted I visit Waiatt Bay on the northeast top of Quadra Island to view stone wall terraces built by her people for raising butter clams. The Latin term for that is Saxidomus gigantean.
"She said the walled terraces produced the finest clams on the coast. Keekus warned me to go at a zero tide, as the walls were only visible then. Waiatt Bay proved to be ringed by 42 sinuous-walled terraces filled with a clam hash that is the desired substrate for both butter clams and the larger horse clam.
"I hurriedly sought out more information from the archaeology section of the heritage conservation department of the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts. They said I had not seen what I saw, that no record of such intensive cultivation of shellfish existed and that what walls existed would be fish traps.
"Now stone fish weirs do exist on the coast and were one of the ways native people managed a catch. But these filled-in walls would trap little and were not in appropriate locations.
"I then spoke to several native people who spoke knowledgably of their continued use of the clam beds. I subsequently examined 22 similar clam gardens in Kanish Bay on the northwest side of Quadra Island. After geomorphologist Dr. John Harper's mapping of 350 such structures in the Broughton Archipelago, it became possible for us to notate clam gardens from Orcas Island all the way to Sitka in Alaska.
"Many tribes of indigenous people had cultivated clams in such a way to extend the midbeach range of the depth in which butter clams particularly like to grow. These clams were steamed open, smoked, dried, strung on cedar bark strings and traded along the coast. They were given to Captain Valdes as he explored the Inside Passage in 1792.
"Now this was sustainable mariculture. But we, in raising salmon in pens, are doing something no people have ever done: we are domesticating carnivores — the top of the food chain. We have to feed them other fish and doctor them.
"The clams in the clam gardens fed themselves from the bottom of the food chain. Clam garden infrastructure was biodegradable and so integrated that the walls were thought to be natural forms.
"What is important is that almost no native person knew of the clam gardens until very recently — until the past two years. Neil Bourne, a butter clam expert at the Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, was unaware of organized butter clam cultivation. What else about our environment and its previous uses are still unknown to us?
"I want to suggest that we clearly know nothing of precontact shellfish cultivation, that we barely understand what we are doing in trying to preserve salmon stocks since we do not address the entire system and that we certainly do not understand what we are doing by introducing pen salmon and moving Atlantic stocks to the Pacific. If we do not attend to the great salmon system — all of it — we cannot save the stocks.
"Salmon are a wonder, and they are, I propose, a fitting metaphor for how we should deal with our landscape. We need to know more, not through endless committees and studies, but by observing in situ how it all works and developing the will to assist natural systems before we impose artificial environments.
"Respectfully submitted by Judith Williams."
I have a phone number and an e-mail for her on the contact list, and I also have a list of the books that she's published.
A Voice: Ms. Smail, do you work for Claire Trevena?
K. Smail: Yes, I do.
A Voice: You do. You're the constituency assistant. You don't feel you're in a conflict of interest…?
R. Austin (Chair): Excuse me. Order. Excuse me. You don't have the floor. Thank you very much. Dan has a question.
D. Jarvis: Are you able to answer any of the questions that she poses here?
K. Smail: There is probably very little that I can answer, and just to speak further, I totally recognize I do work for Claire Trevena as a constituency assistant, which is why I chose not to represent myself in speaking to this committee and doing a presentation.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for making the presentation on behalf of the professor.
These hearings are now concluded, only ten minutes late. I'd like to thank all those who took the time and trouble to come here and make presentations today. I'd like to thank those members of the Campbell River community for coming out here and listening to them. I'd like a motion to adjourn.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I move to adjourn, Mr. Chair.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much.
The committee adjourned at 5:11 p.m.
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