2006 Legislative Session: Second Session, 38th Parliament
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE
MINUTES AND HANSARD
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE
October 18, 2006
Present: Robin Austin, MLA (Chair); Ron Cantelon, MLA (Deputy Chair); Daniel Jarvis, MLA; Scott Fraser, MLA; Shane Simpson, MLA; Gregor Robertson, MLA; John Yap, MLA; Claire Trevena, MLA
Unavoidably Absent: Gary Coons, MLA; Al Horning, MLA
Others Present: Brant Felker, Research Analyst; Dorothy Jones, Committees Assistant
1. The Chair called the committee to order at 10:10 a.m.
2. Opening statement by the Chair, Robin Austin, MLA
3. The following witnesses appeared before the Committee and answered questions:
|1)||Watershed Watch Salmon Society||Dr. Craig Orr|
|2)||David Suzuki Foundation||Jay Ritchlin|
|4)||Dr. Brian Hayden|
|5)||Agrimarine Industries Inc.||Richard Buchanan|
|6)||Wavemaster Canada Ltd.||Doug Louvier|
|8)||Greenspirit Strategies Ltd.||Dr. Patrick Moore|
|9)||Sierra Legal Defence Fund||Sean Nixon|
|10)||Association for Responsible Shellfish Farming||Denise Reinhardt|
|11)||EWOS Canada Ltd.||Jason Mann and Ross Grierson|
|12)||Terram Foundation||Rodrigo Pizarro|
|13)||Simon Fraser University, Statistics and Actuarial Science||Dr. Rick Routledge|
|14)||Taplow Feeds||Dr. Brad Hicks|
|15)||B.C. Nature||Bev Ramey and Anne Murray|
|16)||Simon Fraser University, Dept. of Biological Sciences||Dr. Larry J. Albright|
4. The Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair at 7:29 p.m.
Robin Austin, MLA
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2006
Issue No. 25
|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 18, 2006
The committee met at 10:10 a.m.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
R. Austin (Chair): Good morning. My name is Robin Austin. I am 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 Vancouver. It's our pleasure to be in the city of Vancouver 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 transcript, along with the minutes of the 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 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; the economic impact of aquaculture of 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 to look 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 today, from Hansard on my left there, are Wendy and Doug. They record what is being said during this hearing and make sure that it is put onto the website. Beside me is the Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees, Craig James. At the entrance of the hall is the committee's research analyst, Brant Felker, along with Dorothy Jones, who can assist you, too, with questions that you may have about the work of our committee.
I would now like to begin by inviting members of the committee to introduce themselves, starting on my right.
D. Jarvis: Good morning. My name is Daniel Jarvis, and I'm the Liberal member for North Vancouver–Seymour.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Good morning. My name is Ron Cantelon. I'm the MLA for Nanaimo-Parksville.
C. Trevena: Claire Trevena for North Island.
S. Simpson: Shane Simpson, Vancouver-Hastings.
S. Fraser: Scott Fraser, Alberni-Qualicum.
R. Austin (Chair): Before calling the first witness, I would just like to point out that we have a very full day scheduled ahead of us that will take us to at least six o'clock. I would ask that the presenters try and limit their comments or remarks to between ten to 15 minutes. That enables the committee members, then, to ask questions on the presentation that has been made.
We'd like to begin by inviting Craig Orr from the Watershed Watch Salmon Society to the witness table.
C. Orr: Good morning. My name is Craig Orr. I'm a behavioral ecologist who has studied the environmental costs of salmon farming for nearly a decade, recently as the associate director of Simon Fraser University's Centre for Coastal Studies and currently as the executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society, a member of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, or CAAR.
As a member of CAAR's science and industry negotiating teams, I'm also involved in working directly with Marine Harvest Canada to monitor sea lice on farmed salmon and in research designed to reduce sea louse impacts on wild salmon.
It's probably safe to assume that you've heard much conflicting evidence on whether salmon farming as currently practised is sustainable and on whether government as currently constituted is doing an adequate job of protecting wild fish and thus the interests of the public — tempting subjects to explore, for sure.
But my main goal today is far simpler. I would like to give this committee a glimpse of what is actually occurring on Broughton farms with respect to sea louse production. This farm that you see in the background here is Sergeant Passage, operated in the Fife–Tribune Channel by Marine Harvest Canada.
I have two things to show you today. The first is estimates of louse production from all Marine Harvest farmed salmon in 2003 and 2004, and secondly, weekly sea lice counts made by CAAR and Marine Harvest at two Broughton farms in 2006.
Before I present these data, though, I'd appreciate this committee's indulgence for a short but hopefully
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useful contextual detour. This detour introduces a branch of science which evaluates how well humans manage resources such as trees, wildlife and fish. Scientists who study such things are adaptive management specialists, and perhaps no one is more renowned in this field than British Columbia's own C.S. "Buzz" Holling.
Dr. Holling and several of his colleagues have now spent multiple careers examining and describing broad patterns of resource development and management. Interestingly enough, much of this research focuses on the very theme that is central to the deliberations of this committee — that is, uncertainty.
Uncertainty, like a west coast cloud, hangs over all of our heads, but we have learned to deal with uncertainty in our daily lives. It rarely paralyzes us. We also have come to learn that ecosystems are complex in nature and that complexity and uncertainty are often joined at the hip. What's becoming more apparent in the Broughton examples and in others, however, is how often uncertainty is wielded like a sharp tool by vested interests to maintain status quo policies and practices.
Indeed, an uncertainty dichotomy is described by Holling and colleagues in a rather simple principle on this screen. I'll read it out: while scientists use uncertainty to drive the engine of inquiry, vested interests often use uncertainty to maintain the status quo.
Academics describe resource management systems in which vested interests vigorously pursue campaigns of pseudo-scientific disinformation. They also show that social rigidity and loss of trust in government, in particular, usually occur when government agencies claim they cannot act because evidence is insufficient, thus shifting the burden of proof — that is, showing that an activity is or is not harmful under the public, academics, first nations and special committees.
The B.C. aquaculture debate is our very own case study in the promotion of uncertainty and inaction well past the expiry date of public belief and acceptance. It is also a case study in efforts to constrain scientific inquiry and dialogue within and outside of agencies through rigid communication protocols, threats and intimidation, the control of funding and access to data and the active promotion of disinformation.
It's also a case study in attempts to discredit and/or silence critics through intimidation, including threats of legal action, ad hominemism — that is, attack the person and ignore the issue — and perhaps, even through the appointment of critics to aquaculture committees.
This photo shows you one of the so-called critics of salmon farming, Alexandra Morton — on the left — engaged in what I will politely describe as a dialogue on sea lice with Dr. Dick Beamish of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Let me ask this committee: why is it that this NGO scientist has published more on sea lice impacts than all Fisheries and Oceans and all provincial fisheries scientists combined?
Let me also ask: why has this man spent years in the Broughton and precious time and resources trying to show that sea lice are coming from wild salmon and sticklebacks when farmed salmon vastly outnumber wild salmon during the critical spring migration period of juvenile salmon when no egg-bearing lice have yet been found on sticklebacks, and when he alone was in possession of sea lice data provided by certain problem farms?
Let me also ask: has anyone presented this committee with any peer-reviewed science whatsoever that proves that salmon farms are not the primary source of lice we have seen on wild juvenile salmon?
Once again it seems, it's the NGOs and academics and first nations who are asked to do the proving, so let me get on with it by showing you a graph taken from an upcoming publication on louse production patterns from 12 active farms in the Broughton from 2003 and 2004. These farms contain one to five million Atlantic salmon with approximately 800,000 fewer mature salmon at the start of 2003, which was a partial fallow year.
You'll look at this graph here. The first part of the graph is 2003 and the second part of the graph is 2004. What we show here are estimated numbers of sea lice eggs at these two farms over the two years.
R. Austin (Chair): One second, Craig.
A Voice: Do you have a handout, by any chance?
C. Orr: Yes, I've given a handout.
R. Austin (Chair): It's just hard for the members there to actually see the slides.
C. Orr: Yes, these slides are in the back of the handout.
In both years sea louse production peaked in the late winter, early spring period just prior to the emergence of newly hatched juvenile pink salmon, which you can see on the top here. The average hatching date for pink salmon — the emergence date from the gravel, when they go directly to sea — is March 1. This has been shown over several years.
Farmed salmon hosted nearly six-million-plus gravid — that is egg-bearing lice — that produced 1.6 billion louse eggs during two weeks in the winter of 2003 and 2004. We also know that only half as many louse eggs were produced in 2003 when we started the year with 800,000 fewer mature farmed salmon.
We also know that lice were reduced in both years through multiple treatments of the louse biocide SLICE, and that fewer farmed salmon and lice in 2003, as I've already mentioned, coincided with the much lower abundance of lice on juvenile pink salmon and chum salmon that were collected near these farms by Alexandra Morton. In fact, in one case there was a 42-fold decrease in the prevalence of lice on juvenile salmon near a farm that had been cleaned out of adult salmon. This has been published in a peer review of science.
Fast forward to 2006, and while we counted lice only at two farms, we did so weekly. This is an Atlantic salmon, and you can see several sea lice on this fish that was just shown in the photo. There are lice there on the dorsal
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part of the fish. There's smaller Caligus here. These are Lepeophtheirus salmonis here, and there are several others on there that don't show very well on the slide.
What we did find this year in weekly counts from March 5 to June 30 at two farms were similar peaks of abundance of sea lice at the start of the year — that is in the spring when we first started counting on both farms. These are estimates of total number of motile, that's mobile sea lice, on these two farms. One was Humphrey Rock and the other Sergeant Pass. The top one is Sergeant Pass and this one is Humphrey Rock. These are numbers of egg-bearing lice estimated here.
The reductions of lice through multiple uses of SLICE…. The lice were reduced by 94 percent after the use of SLICE. It's also possible to do a very simple calculation based on the average of 500 eggs per female louse and some 700,000 fish per farm to show that a single farm might produce nearly 200 million louse eggs prior to chemical treatment.
For the sake of all British Columbians weary of the battle of the Broughton and for the sake of wild fish, I'd like to believe this industry, NGO, first nations effort — here we have a picture of Clare Backman and myself celebrating the fact that we finally got out to count sea lice on one of these farms — and the data it generates will enhance transparency and our collective willingness to honestly tackle sea louse parasitism in the Broughton.
Marine Harvest Canada deserves much credit for its positive step of making data available. This is not anything about anti-aquaculture positions or not. It's about reducing harm from sea lice. I'd just like to make sure that's pointed out.
The NGOs and first nations who continue to shoulder a considerable burden of protecting B.C.'s rich but fragile wild salmon also deserve a substantial amount of credit.
This is not just about sea lice in the Broughton, but that seems to be the major topic. There are other publications that we could talk about as well, including a recent one, Environmental Science and Technology, which shows elevated levels of mercury in rockfish. The mercury is coming from the fish feed. There's no doubt about it.
But I also have to be realistic. The sadly robust pattern of resource management I have so briefly introduced suggests that it may be extremely difficult to break the cycle that academics have come to call the pathology of regional resource management. The inevitable end point in so many case studies described in the literature is a further degradation of the environment and a degradation within the agencies themselves, as well as increasingly expensive solutions to today's unresolved problems.
The question which remains, it seems, is: do we have the collective vision and resolve to turn things around, to break the cycle, thus avoiding the seemingly inexorable slide toward the final stages of pathology?
I won't get into the pink salmon counts. I will save those, if the committee would like to look at those. But I will let you know that the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, using DFO's data — and, in part, to counter the kind of mischief that Patrick Moore's involved in out there — has analyzed recent declines of pink salmon since the advent of farming. There's one from the Wakeman River, and I have several more if you'd like to look at those. But we've seen precipitous declines in pink salmon since the advent of salmon farming.
Again, the burden of proof on this is put back on the environmentalists and on the first nations working on these data. We have asked government to analyze these returns. So far they have refused to do so.
Thank you very much.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Craig. I'll open the floor to questions.
S. Fraser: Thank you very much for the presentation. A couple of questions. Yesterday we were in Sechelt. One of the issues that came up…. You've come up with some statistics that would have helped yesterday dealing with: prior to treatment with SLICE, there can be up to 200 million sea lice present on a farm. Is that correct?
C. Orr: That's right — collectively on all the farms, which were data that Marine Harvest posted on its website, and it is a paper in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management. We were looking at a production of 1.6 billion from all the farms together.
S. Fraser: Okay. With treatment with SLICE, obviously that drops way down, which I know is a good thing. We had a presenter yesterday, an active prawn fisherman, representing a fair amount of prawn fishermen who are very concerned about the effects of SLICE on prawns — being a very similar creature, of course.
We have this sort of vicious circle that we're getting as a committee. It seems to be difficult to reconcile. Can you comment on that, Dr. Orr?
C. Orr: I'd be happy to comment on that. I'd like to point out that none of the NGOs that I'm associated with, or first nations, believe that SLICE is a permanent solution. In fact, it's just a temporary band-aid solution. As you well know, it's not permitted legally. It's only permitted by emergency use in Canada.
The thing that we find is that lice tend to become resistant to SLICE. Sorry, not to SLICE — we haven't shown that yet — but to other chemical therapeutants in general. They're very clever in terms of adapting. We also do not know the environmental fate of SLICE. Environment Canada produced recently, which I've reviewed, that shows that we just don't know….
SLICE will cause premature molting in lobsters in laboratory studies, but these are laboratory studies. They're fairly limited. I think the prawn fishermen should be concerned because SLICE's chemical is emamectin benzoate. It operates much like DDT in terms of a neurodisruptor. We do not know what the long-term effects are.
We do know that it's not specific to sea lice. It kills crustaceans. It kills things with shells. We don't know
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the concentrations of SLICE once it's used for treatments, but it is only a temporary solution.
We are basically holding our nose because we are tired of government inaction and seeing one fallow year — where fallowing is a common practice in Europe — so far in the Broughton, which reduced sea louse parasitism from the normal 90 percent down to 35 percent. So we've held our nose. It's not a permanent solution. I think that people should be concerned about the overuse of drugs as a solution to sea lice problems.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much, Dr. Orr, for your presentation. Unfortunately, I looked at your back page here, and the graph is beyond my capability of reading. I would much appreciate if you could submit to the committee a full-size copy of those so I can maybe later review those. I know it's a lot of numbers. You went through it quickly, but I would like to gather a little better understanding.
I salute your efforts to work with the industry. I think that's where we need to go. I also appreciate your comments about attacking the published scientists. In fact, we had it said of one of the colleagues of Dr. Morton, who referred to all of DFO's work as propaganda, and I don't think that's helpful to our dialogue here or useful to us in trying to sort it out. We need, I think, collaborative evidence such as you presented.
It's a long preamble, Mr. Chairman. My question is, then…. We've heard about SLICE. You say it's not legal? I understand that it's not legal for discriminate use. You have to get permission to use it. Isn't that a more correct way?
C. Orr: It has not been approved by Health Canada yet. It's used on an emergency basis, and you have to get permission from government to use it.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): You've said that it's an interim solution. What would you view, in your experience with Marine Harvest and CAAR…? What solutions would you look towards? That's what this committee needs to do: look towards solutions.
C. Orr: Well, I can tell you that it's a subject that has been of paramount interest in Europe for a number of years, and scientists like Peter Heuch, who's a veterinarian in Norway, have published numbers of papers on it. What they find is that they come up with new drugs and new thresholds for the number of lice.
In Europe you're only allowed to have an average of 0.5 gravid lice per farmed salmon in this critical spring migration period of juvenile fish that are passing farms. There's a two-month period where that's mandated. What Dr. Heuch has found is that that will reduce the number of eggs until you start adding more farmed fish and offset the gains of reducing the number of lice, because it's just a mathematical gain.
What Dr. Heuch and others have found is that there probably is no effective way, even using louse biocides, of limiting the number of lice eggs during the spring migration period to a point where you can effectively recover depressed populations of wild fish. They cannot recover their wild Atlantic salmon in Norway, no matter how much they try. But they do use other methods besides biocides that we seem to be hesitant to try in British Columbia. That includes coordinated fallowing of the farms, which is one thing we're talking about with Marine Harvest Canada.
You have to stop the egg production well before the juvenile fish enter the area, or else you're going to have lice, and it doesn't matter what you use. We believe in reviewing the data, the literature from around the world. It's fairly extensively written up by Dr. Heuch and others that there's probably no real, effective way of completely eliminating the louse problem, short of getting rid of open-net-cage aquaculture and trying closed containment systems or something like that, unless we all want to hold our nose and continue to use chemical treatment.
The other issue in terms of Marine Harvest farms is that we've started treating too late in every year. We have to start treating earlier, if that's the interim solution that we're looking at.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Are you suggesting that fallowing could be used, and has it been used in Norway? We didn't go there, but….
C. Orr: We tried it one year.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Did it work?
C. Orr: It reduced sea louse parasitism to 35 percent. We saw the results of that in fairly robust returns in 2004. So we did not kill all the juvenile fish that were leaving in 2003, and we did have a pretty decent return of the adults from that cohort the following year.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): One last question, Mr. Chair, if I may.
You've suggested: "…thus avoiding the seemingly inexorable slide to the final stages of pathology." In my own simple terms, does that mean you see the end, in the Broughton, you were talking about…? This is going to be the final deathblow of pink salmon. Is that what you're saying?
C. Orr: No. Pathology is a medical term that says the patient's not doing very well.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): You say final stages. That, to me…. "Inexorable slide…."
C. Orr: The final stages are degraded environment — a loss of adaptive capacity in the environment in particular; a loss of adaptive capacity in the agencies; a loss of trust in government from the public. These are all described as the pathology, and we cannot seem to break this cycle.
Humans possess foresight, but we rarely apply it in these situations, especially when there are short-term
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gains to be made, and government sees something like aquaculture as a boon to coastal communities, without really exploring whether that's true or not. Then they hold very rigid positions, as I said. They go through the pseudo-scientific disinformation. They control critics. They control funding. Those are all the stages in the pathology of regional resource management, which have been documented in some 35 systems of resource management by the adaptive management biologists I described.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I can tell you that we're getting information from all sides.
D. Jarvis: I just wanted to follow up on a question that maybe you could answer. I brought it forward yesterday at Sechelt. We understand that sea lice are, and they always have been, on the adult salmon. It doesn't really harm them, to that effect. It hasn't in the past anyway. The sea lice die in fresh water or when they're in contact, because they die when the adults come back.
It was suggested to me that there's a certain period after the fingerlings come down, and they go into that stage down at the estuary, where they get accustomed to salt water, etc. When they leave that area there, then they are subject to the sea lice attacking them. These are wild. We're talking about wild. They are affected greatly because of the fact that they do not have scales yet — until such time as they have scales. Then they head out to sea.
Is that for all types of stock? Or is it just, say, limited to pinks and chums that hang around the bottom of the estuary, or their eggs are down in that lower area.
C. Orr: That's an excellent question. The prevailing research — which has been published from British Columbia, by Bengt Finstad in Norway and some others — is that the issue is related to the size of the fish. The pink salmon average about C\z/ of a gram when they enter the saltwater, and chum salmon are slightly larger at about 0.35 grams.
It is an issue that they don't have scales. But the prevailing evidence, which has recently been published, is that lice are fatal to small fish at loads — that is, infestation rates — of about one louse per gram of fish. So when you have one louse or more on these tiny fish, which weigh less than a gram, it's probably fatal.
They have unique life histories, these two fish. The species of salmon — the pinks and the chums — emerge from the gravel and head straight to sea. They're the only two species that typically do that on this coast. They're so tiny. They're about an order of magnitude smaller than the Atlantic salmon smolts that are being infested in Norway, Ireland and Scotland.
We have a magnified problem here due to the exceptionally small size of these fish, which probably cannot even stand one louse in terms of an infection. One louse per gram of fish seems to be the norm in the literature.
D. Jarvis: All right. Now, in regards to the sea lice that have gathered in the pens on the Atlantics that they're using there. There comes a time when they fallow them. Where do the sea lice go that are left there? What do they feed on? There are no hosts or anything like that available.
C. Orr: That's the point of fallowing. Fallowing can be accomplished mainly by harvesting the mature salmon to get them out of the pen entirely, or fallowing, in slightly vaguer terms, can also mean treating the fish with chemical biocides. But what you're doing is exactly what you're saying. You're breaking the life cycle of the louse so that there are no infectious stages of the lice in the water.
The sea lice go through a life cycle of about 38 days from adult to adult again in terms of this creature. It's a very fast life cycle. It's a crustacean. There is only one stage, the copepodid stage, which is infectious. You go pretty quickly from the eggs to the copepodid stage.
What you're trying to do is make sure that you put your fallow period long enough so that the survival of eggs to the copepodid stage…. And then the copepodid stage, where it's an obligate parasite…. That means it has to feed in order to survive, or it will die.
These are all temperature-related, so at 7 degrees, we know that it takes about 40-some days from when eggs are laid until there's no longer any problem with infection in this area. So fallowing periods can last from two to four months, and they typically last from two to four months to completely break the life cycle of the sea louse in these countries that employ fallowing on a regular basis.
D. Jarvis: Okay. I'll ask a series of short little questions here all at once. The fallowing period you're recommending is either two or four? Or is it four to be safe? Is it three and a half?
C. Orr: Let me point this out. We don't know exactly what it is for the Broughton. It is one of the research topics that we've agreed to look at with CAAR and Marine Harvest Canada — the length of the fallowing period. We call it the bookend study, just for your reference.
What we're looking at is the fact that juvenile pinks emerge, on average, from March 1. Based on the average sea surface temperature in the Broughton, which is around 7 degrees in the spring, and based on laboratory growth studies and survival studies of eggs and copepodids, we figure that we have to backdate to somewhere around the end of January. If you stop producing sea lice eggs from those farms around the end of January, there should be almost zero risk by the time the juvenile fish come out.
The bookend study is…. If you're looking at a risk statement…. Okay, what's a 10-percent, 20-percent risk? We're looking at the bookends on this, but we believe that we have to go back almost to the mid-January period in order to have zero risk.
D. Jarvis: Do all sea lice lay eggs at ostensibly the same time?
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C. Orr: They lay eggs continuously.
D. Jarvis: They are continuously, all the time?
C. Orr: Yes. But they tend to lay more eggs in the winter. That is, their fecundity, as the biologists call it, is higher in the wintertime. So that's another problem we face. We've seen three years now in Broughton farms that the peak production of sea lice has occurred just prior to the emergence of newly hatched wild pink and chum salmon. So that's the problem we face that we have to deal with right now.
D. Jarvis: I'm not an expert at this, as you can appreciate.
C. Orr: That's fine. You're doing well.
D. Jarvis: I understand that the eggs, when they're laid, are laid in a gelatin or mucous stage, and they're four or five inches from the surface, and they go up and down, whether they need oxygen or whatever it may be. They float, and it takes them six to eight days to hatch. I look at it in a very simplistic way and say: "Well, if the eggs are all at Humphreys Point, say, and they've all laid eggs at that time, there's a flow of water. So God knows where they could be six to eight days from now."
Am I stupid when I say…?
C. Orr: No, in fact you sound like you've designed Marty Krkošek's experiment. He sampled the lice on juvenile fish as he approached these two farms in one-kilometre intervals. He found that as he approached the farms, with the prevailing westerly and northwesterly currents, he could not find infection on these juvenile fish until they got near the farms and until they got past the farms.
In fact, what Marty Krkošek found was that he could detect elevated levels of sea lice — that is, above background levels — for 35 kilometres past individual farms. So that was mainly a current effect, like you're talking about — downstream, if you will, from these farms. That's the danger zone in particular. When he sampled up to these farms, he could not find infections on these fish. So it did not happen until they got near and beyond these farms.
D. Jarvis: Okay. It's not safe to say, then, that once they've laid their eggs, that area is not contaminated anymore.
C. Orr: Well, a lot of the eggs….
D. Jarvis: But they all lay eggs at different times, so you can never….
C. Orr: That's right. And when you have farms scattered throughout the migration route, what do you do? How do you control that? That's the problem. There are going to be rivers where fish are emerging downstream from the farms, as we've seen, in particular, in the northern part of the Broughton, where some of those rivers — and I have all the slides here — by the farms past Fife–Tribune Channel are doing much more poorly than rivers in the eastern part of the Broughton Archipelago.
D. Jarvis: I'm going to flip back to my first question again. It's the weight that is the primary cause of the sea lice attacking them and killing them — of the fingerlings or smolts going out. It's not because they have a lack of scales or…?
C. Orr: It's mostly a size-related phenomenon and a relationship that's been shown in the literature — now about four different studies. But the lack of scales probably does contribute to the problem. The fact that marine sticklebacks have heavy armour on them probably is what's preventing the lice from reaching maturity on the sticklebacks.
D. Jarvis: I was wondering if the sockeye that are born…. They have a long way to travel from up in the lakes, coming all the way down the river.
C. Orr: They'll be larger and less vulnerable to sea louse parasitism, so they may survive. The reason why we focus on pinks and chums is because of their size and, also, on pinks because they're so numerous. When we kill off the majority of juveniles heading to sea, we can see the damage very quickly in pink salmon, because they come back the next year — or not.
S. Simpson: Very quickly, just a couple of questions, and thanks for the presentation. You talked about the lack of government science or monitoring as it relates to issues around fish farms. I'm interested in that. There are some challenges in getting information, as I'm sure you're aware, because in much of the reporting from farms, it appears that they report to the Salmon Farmers Association. They don't report to the government.
I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the kinds of science or monitoring that government is doing, from your experience, and a little bit about where we need to go there, as a scientist.
C. Orr: Well, I'm not sure if I have the answer to that, sir. I've made a point in my presentation. Why is that the ENGOs have to calculate how many lice are coming from salmon farms? Why is it that government scientists are seemingly more interested in sources of lice from wild fish and from sticklebacks and that government communications people then take that and run with it?
There was a very interesting case study done by three academics on the cod collapse on the east coast. I always try to look for some parallels. What they found was that there was a huge amount of manipulation of the data that were made available to the public. In fact, there was a paper published that caused a great deal of grief within DFO. It was entitled Is Scientific Inquiry Incompatible with Government Information Control? It's an
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excellent read. It's a '97 paper. I can provide you with a copy.
I believe the same situation is happening here, where it's unsafe for many of these government scientists to speak out. It's unsafe for them to pursue the kind of research that's been done in Europe. It's career-limiting. When you have two governments that have a strong aquaculture policy, they don't appreciate that.
That's why, as I said, a considerable amount of the burden of proof has been shifted onto people like Alex Morton and to other ENGOs and academics who are working on this situation. It seems to be a trend that repeats itself. That's part of the pathology of regional resource management where you seemingly cannot get government scientists to go out and tackle a situation head-on.
I've also organized four workshops on sea lice with Simon Fraser University while I worked there, and the weight-of-evidence approach was used to make a consensus statement that lice come from farms, and it appears that lice from farms limit populations of wild fish.
Have you ever heard government buying into those consensus recommendations? I don't think I have. It is dangerous for that to happen. They are supporting their minister and the government policy, and that's the way, usually, that resource management works, unfortunately.
C. Trevena: I have a couple of questions. One is just following on from Shane, and then the other is following up on what Dan was asking.
You mentioned in your presentation pseudo-scientific messaging from government and industry. On this, what do you mean? Pseudo-scientific means that there is some scientific base, as I understand it.
C. Orr: Sure. When we first saw the outbreaks of sea lice in the Broughton — and this comes back to the question that the hon. member at the end of the table brought up — the initial reaction from Don Noakes, who was the head of the Pacific Biological Station of Fisheries and Oceans, was that sea lice are common on wild fish, and everybody's getting a biased view of what's happening.
That's true. They are common on adult fish. They are not common on juvenile fish, until the advent of salmon farming, when we started putting all these adult salmon in the springtime into the coastal waters. Adult salmon were typically only coming back to the coast in the fall. We didn't have these huge reservoirs of sea lice sitting there when the juveniles came by. To say in a public statement that sea lice are common on salmon is pseudo-scientific information because the outbreak of lice on juvenile fish was totally unprecedented on this coast.
That's just one example. I have a whole file that I'd be happy to share with this committee of what I consider to be pseudo-scientific disinformation that's been promulgated about the impacts and sources of sea lice on this coast.
That includes Dr. Dick Beamish going out and using BCARD funding to try and show that wild salmon are the source of lice, when he can only find a few hundred fish out there that are contributing to the problem, and there are millions of farmed salmon sitting there. Why the hell is he not looking at the farms? He is looking at wild fish.
Why are they racing around out there looking at marine sticklebacks and not looking at what's happening on the salmon farms and relating that to the public? That's exactly what I'm talking about.
C. Trevena: Bearing in mind that we're running a bit late on this, I know, I did want to follow up on what Dan was asking about fallowing. We have, obviously, a number of farmsites throughout the Broughton and then lower down into what's now called the Quadra archipelago. To fallow effectively, would that mean that all the sites all the way through would have to have some form of fallowing, or could you do individual locations?
C. Orr: What they do in Europe is called whole-bay fallowing. They try to fallow the farms that are in a specific geographic location at the same time. In order to do that, you have to synchronize production of the farmed salmon.
When a scientist like Maggie McKibben, who works in Scotland, studies salmon farms, she has the advantage of the fact that all farms in one area will either have just juvenile Atlantic salmon, which have no lice on them…. They come from hatcheries — right? They don't have lice on them, and they get lice from wild fish. There's no question about that.
What Maggie can't find is any larvae around these farms when there are only juvenile fish in them. When there are adult fish — a two-year grow-out cycle of the adult Atlantic salmon — she finds lots of sea lice larvae in the water around these farms.
In order to save some of these fish there…. By the way, they have seven sea trout coming back to the loch she's looking at. They've all been devastated by sea lice. When she looks at this, she says: "Well, here's what we have to do. All these farms are synchronized, and that's good if you really want to attempt at control of sea lice."
We don't have that synchrony in the farms on this coast. Some farms have adults; some farms have juveniles. Some are producing lice; some aren't producing lice. When you start synchronizing these, then you have a chance of actually fallowing these farms and taking them out of production for a certain amount of time and breaking the life cycle of the lice. But it has to be done in a small geographic area.
I don't know exactly what that means for British Columbia. We haven't looked at that. But it would have to be something like a bay or a certain area of watersheds that probably encompasses three or four different runs of wild fish.
D. Jarvis: I am a little bit of the opinion, actually, that farming of fish is of benefit to the environment of our oceans in the sense that we're pushing three billion
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people in the world who are used to eating fish once a week and some every day of the week. If draggers and all the rest of it were allowed to just continually go on, we'd fish out our oceans.
It's an awful thing to say, but some parts of our world do not really care about the environment at all when it comes to fishing. We've seen that with the nets two or three miles long, etc.
I think you were asked your opinion as to what the answer is to it all. I'm starting to assume that you think that it's more towards a fallowing process than it is to anything else. I'll keep going. Is there any way that when they lay their eggs, they could be scooped? Or is it such a mass area?
C. Orr: Well, that's a good question. I don't have the answer to that.
I would just like to reiterate that a lot of people in this room, including the ENGOs, are not against salmon farming. They're not against the idea of producing more proteins, despite the fact that the trophic-level dynamics don't seem to make any sense in terms of conversion ratios. That could be solved through some clever research, I suppose.
The issue is that salmon farming, as currently practised, harms wild fish, and something has to be done. I'm not sitting here telling you that fallowing is going to solve the problems, but it has been tried in Europe. It has reduced, in one instance, the sea louse parasitism that was tried in the Broughton Archipelago. We don't even seem to want to go there. That's a problem.
The evidence from Europe suggests that it's not a permanent solution. It will reduce sea louse parasitism, but it has not yet been able to reduce it sufficiently in Europe to recover their depressed Atlantic salmon. These Atlantic salmon have crashed because of sea louse parasitism.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I just have one very brief…. You mentioned, if I've heard it right, a Marty Krkošek. I didn't see it in the references, and I was wondering if you could supply that to the committee.
C. Orr: I would be happy to. It's his recent paper, which has got a lot of media and was published in a very prestigious journal, which I guess has been trashed by several people who seem to have more scientific credentials than Marty does.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I'm not into trashing. You cautioned us against argumentum ad hominem, and we're trying to stay away from that. We've heard enough of that. With respect, I think I heard a bit about that from you about Mr. Beamish.
If you could supply us with how we could get hold of that study, I'd certainly appreciate it.
C. Orr: I'd be happy to.
By the way, I'm not attacking Dr. Beamish. I'm just attacking the way that government approaches this whole situation — that is, particularly, to describe examples of the pathology of regional resource management.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Craig, for your presentation.
I'd now like to call the next witness, Jay Ritchlin, up to the witness table.
J. Ritchlin: Thank you for having me. I'm Jay Ritchlin, with the David Suzuki Foundation. We have been founding members of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform and active in the aquaculture issues and debates for many years, as I'm sure many of you know.
I had the pleasure of presenting to the committee on closed-tank systems and the economics related to them in June. Today I would like to be a little more broad than that and talk briefly about the overall need for sustainable aquaculture.
Directly to the question from Mr. Jarvis, we will need aquaculture.
I'd like to touch briefly, also, on shellfish aquaculture. I understand that the committee's mandate covers all forms of aquaculture. The foundation has done an extensive amount of research on shellfish aquaculture. I will briefly try to cover that, then come back to finfish aquaculture, which of course is primarily salmon in British Columbia, and a few final conclusions.
We need food. We do know that the supply of wild fish is not sustainable if we try to feed everybody the full demand of food that they want. Unfortunately, we also know that current aquaculture practices are not sustainable. So we need to come to some resolution of that.
In British Columbia we have several types of shellfish aquaculture: intertidal, which is also known as beach aquaculture; deep-water aquaculture, off rafts. Then, of course, we have finfish aquaculture, which is almost exclusively, although not totally, practised in open-net cages in British Columbia. It's primarily salmon right now, although we do know that others are on the horizon, and the industry would like to develop several other types of finfish aquaculture.
I think our concern there is that the same mistakes will be made and perhaps the same lack of precaution and foresight will be applied before we get into new species that have some of the same problems and some unique ones to their own systems.
Briefly, shellfish aquaculture has several main impacts that you can see there. The first one is exotic and invasive species. The Food and Agriculture Organization has essentially said that the farming of a species not native to an area should be considered a deliberate introduction of that species to the area. It has almost never happened that you farm a species that's not native and it does not escape and establish some sort of population.
Changing intertidal habitats. This is an issue where we have seen some evidence, but in shellfish in general, one of the biggest problems we have is lack of evidence. The industry has been what you might call mom-and-pop for quite some time, and of course first nations have farmed shellfish for many, many generations. The
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expansion and the proposed expansion give us great pause, because we could significantly change habitats that are required for shorebirds or for the breeding of other marine species or that have other users who may also want to use that area.
The alteration of that fish habitat, particularly with the deep-water rafts of the migration habits of fish, is also little understood. There are some small bits of evidence that suggest we should be concerned. Again, this is an area where Fisheries and Oceans has not yet defined what harmful alteration and disruption of habitat might look like. That needs to be defined, and then the existing regulations need to be clearly spelled out and enforced.
We are operating primarily under codes of practice and with certain things like farm tenure size, stocking levels and production. Those have been exceeded in the shellfish industry without repercussion, sometimes with the excuse: "Well, we knew our expansion permit was coming." We do not believe that's an acceptable way to run any industry, much less one that affects our wild habitats.
The trophic level and plankton level alterations. These are the bases of the food chain. The trophic levels, as Dr. Orr may have explained, are how much something consumes of the basic building blocks of the food chain. One of the good things about shellfish is that they're filter feeders; they don't require outside feed. But when you introduce a large number of filter feeders perhaps to an enclosed bay, you can significantly alter the nutrient flows of that entire bay. In some cases, small contained bays have been permitted to change nutrient levels to open ocean areas or areas in the Georgia Strait that don't resemble their natural trophic levels at all.
Finally, netting and debris. The use of netting is controversial. There are mixed studies on its impacts on birds and other wildlife. In deep-sea types of farming it can impede fish migration. The debris issue is one that I think is just unacceptable, and I think British Columbians should find it unacceptable.
This is a recent photograph of debris collected in an area with shellfish farms. We don't allow most industries to let this kind of stuff go into the natural environment, and I don't think we should be doing it for shellfish farming either.
Shellfish has solutions. I would say, especially in response to the issue of feeding the world, that shellfish aquaculture is the type of aquaculture that we should be encouraging. It consumes far less natural resource than farming carnivores like salmon, and it does not require excess feeds. We want to encourage shellfish in a responsible way, but we do not want to see the introduction of new exotic species. In some cases species that were once exotic, some people think are native here now.
We do not think that netting should be permitted while peer-review research is being undertaken to determine the actual effects in the cases where it's being used in British Columbia. The study of plankton levels and depletion, especially in closed bays, is urgent before expansion is allowed to proceed.
There is a plan starting in 2008 to open up much more of the foreshore to shellfish aquaculture. Before that goes ahead, we need to know some of these things. Violations need to be clearly defined. The Fisheries Act violations that do occur currently don't seem to raise the notice of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which I understand is not your purview. The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and the B.C. Ministry of Environment also have a role to play. The tons of garbage just need to stop.
The precautionary principle needs to be put in place. We need to get the government of British Columbia to be a full partner in ecosystem-based coastal planning and zone creation so that we know where it is potentially acceptable and unacceptable to do some of these types of aquaculture.
Coming back to finfish aquaculture, I'm not going to spend a lot of time going through the impacts. I know that the committee has heard them; I know that their very existence is the reason for this committee. Bottom impacts, escapes, contaminants both in the food and in the environment from farming practices, the feed issue — how much feed it takes to raise carnivorous fish — and the issue of disease and parasites….
The next four slides are pictures that briefly give an overview of these issues. This is a bottom shot from an underwater vehicle below a farm. This is obviously a catastrophic event, where a farm was hit by a boat — a massive escape. We know there are also low-level escapes. Every country in the world that has an active reporting mechanism shows a very continuous level of escapes. In British Columbia, somehow we have miraculously not had that number of escapes, and I think it's largely because we do not have the monitoring that is required to detect them.
This is a bit tongue-in-cheek on the contaminants issue. I don't mean to be ad hominem attacking here, but we have chemicals being used in these fish that do get into the environment. Of course, the contaminants of persistent chemicals in the final product are an issue that's the responsibility of the salmon-farming industry only insofar as they grind up lots of other fish to feed to their fish. That's how the toxic contaminants are concentrated. Admittedly, it is also a much larger problem, with toxic contamination of the planet. The David Suzuki Foundation, among other environmental organizations, works very hard to try and reduce those contaminants.
The issue of trophic levels. There are several interrelated issues here. We are fishing down our wild stocks; there's no question. But the aquaculture industry is contributing to that pressure by the raising of carnivorous fish like salmon, cod, halibut and even sablefish. All of these fish require more protein, especially the oils. We hear a lot about fish meal, but fish oil is a critical limiting factor.
We're taking out fish that are part of the biomass that is essential to the ocean food chain. In some cases they're fish that are food for people in other parts of the world. In any event, they're consuming more protein and fat than they're producing in edible product.
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Finally, as I think has been adequately described by the previous speaker, is the issue of sea lice. There are other diseases. We have bacterial kidney disease. We have ISA on the east coast. We have IHN on this coast. We have Kudoa, which is especially a problem for marketing. All of these have been a problem both for the farmers and, at different levels, for the wild fish.
The sea lice question — I don't think we should be debating it anymore. I know that many of the mayors from British Columbia were recently in Norway and came back very excited about the level of cooperation and collaboration they see there. I am supportive of that. But in Norway, when I was there, I didn't find anyone in industry or in government who denied the link between sea lice and fish farms. I think it's absurd that we continue to do so here.
One of the sustainable solutions that we see as practical and necessary for the coast of British Columbia, if not for other places in the world, is closed tanks. As I noted, I made a full presentation on that in June, but I'll briefly overview it here as well.
This is just a demonstration of some of the planned or existing technologies that are out there. The idea is, to the greatest extent possible, to separate the farmed fish from the wild environment. You get to keep out the majority of the diseases that affect the farms and keep in the majority of the problems that would hurt the wild environment.
I'll quickly overview the benefits to both industry and the environment. Disease transfer and escapes, with most of the systems we have seen that would be supportable, are eliminated. Waste to the local ecosystem can be eliminated. Antibiotics and other chemical therapeutants can be reduced significantly because the farmed fish are protected from the diseases that they catch from the wild environment.
Safe, sustainable feed is, of course, still an issue when you are farming carnivorous fish. But the research that has been done, even by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, has shown a significant drop in the feed required to raise fish in closed tanks because of the ability to control your rearing environment.
First nations and coastal communities. Of course, this is a question of policy as much as anything, but the impacts can be more easily controlled so the conflicts with these people can be more greatly reduced.
I just want to briefly comment on a fallout from my earlier presentation. It started coming out in media and in other discussions that the closed-tank solution was somehow going to move all of the fish farming to Los Angeles so it could feed the market directly. It's not going to happen. For one thing, the water is too warm. It's too polluted. I checked the price of land in coastal Los Angeles, and it's way more than a Crown tenure in British Columbia. It's not a realistic solution. The places that will benefit from something like this are places that have processing facilities and access to a power grid and shipping. They're places like Campbell River, Port Hardy, Port McNeill. These communities could establish a world-class, leading-edge industry in closed-tank facilities.
Wildlife interactions are eliminated. Genetically modified organisms are not directly affected by the use of closed systems. We continue to hope that GMOs will not be introduced into the salmon-farming industry, but if they are, they will be contained in the farms as opposed to having the opportunity to escape.
Industry also benefits from closed-tank systems. They do not have to deal with their pollution getting out into the environment and causing problems. They also do not have to deal with environmental pollution easily getting into their farms. They have the opportunity to control the intake water. It's similar with disease. They have shown in many experimental closed-tank systems that disease drops off almost entirely, in many cases, because you do not have the interaction with the wild fish. Yes, they often carry the initial diseases, but when the packed nature of an open-net-cage farm acts as a breeding ground….
Climate means two things, really. They can control their own climate inside the tanks, which also relates to husbandry, but climate-change impacts are coming. We have seen differing ocean temperatures in British Columbia. Having a closed system allows you to control the rearing conditions and makes you less susceptible to pending changes by human-caused climate change. The David Suzuki Foundation is also working very hard to limit the impacts from climate change. Husbandry I think I've dealt with.
Markets, I think, are a significant one. Farmed salmon has a varying level of acceptability in the marketplace. There are many people who will not buy it and will not eat it. If we had a system that was ecologically acceptable, that would change. Our group, the David Suzuki Foundation, and our colleagues in the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform are committed to helping the markets understand when there is an environmentally acceptable farmed product.
We have a challenge here. We have an industry that we know creates jobs, but there are costs and benefits. I think we can meet that challenge in British Columbia, but there are several things we have to do. We have to acknowledge the peer-reviewed science. We have to stop looking for excuses to ignore the obvious. I think Dr. Orr made that point very well. I believe the province should be supporting closed-tank projects financially with permitting, with fiscal and tax measures if need be. The David Suzuki Foundation and the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform have worked very hard to bring both market acceptance and financial resources to bear on getting some of these things up and running. We're not just talking. We're bringing money if we can.
The fallowing discussion has just been had, but I want to emphasize that as far as we can tell now, it's a temporary solution. We need to do it in the Broughton if we are going to protect those wild pink runs and chum runs, and there are probably other places where, if the research was being done, we would have similar situations to look at. Fallowing is difficult for the farms
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because the growth cycle of fish is longer than one year. And as far as we can tell with the density of wild biomass that we have in British Columbia and the ability of the disease — and the parasite in particular — to transfer from the farms to the wild, it is only a temporary fix while we get to a better solution.
The question of data sharing came up, and I believe we should be requiring much more open data sharing from the industry in terms of their sea lice numbers, in terms of their chemical treatments. I know some of this is now classed as confidential business information in Canada; it is not in places like Norway. I think that needs to be addressed. I think this committee has an opportunity to make that recommendation.
Complete a full cost-benefit analysis is what I mean there. We hear a lot about the jobs that salmon farming brings, and they are there, but we also have costs to salmon farming. Some of them may be obvious — loss of tourism if bear populations disappear because there are no more pink salmon, and loss of fishing opportunity if fishermen can't get out and fish because runs have been impacted.
But there are many costs that are not adequately captured in our current system — the cost of that pollution in the environment and the benefit that the environment gives us by treating wastes for us. There are ways to do that, and this is another one of the areas where CAAR and Marine Harvest have agreed to do some work on economic analysis and the cost benefits to salmon farming in open nets and salmon farming in closed systems.
I'm not interested in trying to create an industry that constantly requires government support to survive, but I do believe we need to understand the full costs and full benefits before we decide that it's just not possible.
I do believe we could make British Columbia a world leader. I think our access to the U.S. market with fresh fish gives us an opportunity. We have competitors who outproduce us and undercost us, and we will probably never beat that, but we are right next door to our biggest market. We could take advantage of that, especially if we had an ecologically acceptable product so that the not-profit community and academics could say that yes, this is being done in a way that is not detracting from the incredible wild resource we have here in British Columbia.
I would respectfully suggest that a few things we would like to see recommended by the committee to the government of British Columbia are to require that new tenures be in closed systems and to fund an implementation process to help that happen, and to not allow the expansion of net cages into new areas that currently are not impacted by them. We should be striving for aquaculture in British Columbia that is a net protein provider — shellfish, other fish that are lower on the trophic chain like tilapia. We already have some closed farms in places like Agassiz. Larry Albright was in the Vancouver Sun last week, and he's growing sockeye in fresh water in a closed system. These are options. They can be made into niche markets.
I believe that the government of British Columbia should be formally asking the federal government to support this transition and to help Canada become a world leader. I would urge that the recommendations from the committee come with specific targets and specific time lines. We all know there have been many reviews of salmon aquaculture in British Columbia. We all know there have been many recommendations made. Many of the recommendations have been excellent, but they haven't come with a specific target and a specific time line.
That's the end of my presentation, and I thank you very much for your time.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Jay, and I'll open the floor for questions or comments.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Your recommendation is that we move to closed containment, and we've heard that before. What we've also heard very often, and I'd invite you to comment, is that closed containment costs two and a half to three times, if it can be done — and I'll get to the "if" part of it as well — the cost of doing it on land. To a certain extent, it's like trying to invent a new car that gets three miles to the gallon or 25 litres per 100 kilometres instead of what we have now. If it does make economic sense — and it obviously hasn't been done anywhere in the world…. I say that because no one has said otherwise to me; if you do, we'd certainly be interested in hearing about it. I'd like you to comment on the energy costs and the consequences of that in global warming versus perhaps…. We need to continue to look for improvements in the fish farming. That's one issue I'd like you to comment on — the energy costs and the consequences for the world.
The second is that we haven't heard yet what anybody will do with the salty aspect of the fish feces. If you're filtering everything out, no one has said that they have a way to manage that waste. We move something that is native to the ocean, and we put it on land or pump it out of a tank. Then what do we do with it? I'd like you to comment on the energy aspects and the disposition of the salty fish feces, which are certainly not native to…. Would you supplant one problem, perhaps, with another?
J. Ritchlin: The economics. First off, I'll say again that we've committed to researching this issue in conjunction with Marine Harvest, and we're in the process of finalizing the terms of reference on this. Part of the problem has been that the pilot projects to date have been very short and very small. The data to create the projections of growth to a mature industry and the economies of scale of a full-size commercial industry haven't been discrete enough to run those simulations. We're committed to doing that.
There have been people within industry who have sent me anonymous spreadsheets. "Design it this way, and you'll compete on a cost scale. You won't even
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need a price premium. You will be able to create the fish in an economical manner."
I think part of the problem is getting capital for a brand-new industry. Very few people want to take that risk, compared to an industry that's already established and operating.
I think the economics have a promising aspect and need to be proven. I don't resist testing that, but I think we haven't given it a chance. In terms of it being done or not done, it's not being done on a massive scale with salmon yet. But there is a company called AquaOptima in Norway that raises barramundi and other cold-marine fish in closed tanks. Tilapia is raised in many places in closed tanks.
There is a proposal for a very large-scale, closed-tank salmon farm on the coast of Normandy in France, which the French government has contributed the equivalent of $500,000 U.S. to getting up and running, using one of the systems that I displayed up there. It's a fully closed recirculating system.
I have great faith in engineers and in people who want to run a business. I think there are barriers to getting it up and running. One of them is that it's relatively common to use the net-cage system. Therefore, there's a disincentive for the people who might want to invest in this kind of thing to invest in a new capital project. The upfront capital costs are higher, but the amortization is longer, and the durability of the systems is better. Again, I would say that we are not fully accounting for the costs that we are incurring from the open-net-cage systems. So that's a bit on both feasibility and economics.
In terms of energy costs, there is a very good question about whether the fully recirculating land-based systems have an energy profile that is acceptable. There's a full life-cycle analysis being done on this right now by researchers from the east coast of Canada, from Dalhousie University and from the group called Ecotrust in the United States, which specializes in resource economics. They're looking into that. But the floating-tank systems that we have proposed for Middle Bay, north of Campbell River, have very little pumping costs, because those systems float in water. There's a very good chance that floating systems in water are going to be the way to reduce that.
The question then becomes: are you looking at the full energy cycle of both systems? The open-net cages are currently fairly far-flung. They run diesel generators to power their feeders and to power the lights where their workers stay when they're there. They have to ship everything — feed, fuel, staff and product — back and forth to their sites and then back into whichever port they may use to ship it to market.
The floating closed systems that we're envisioning would be located close to those coastal communities adjacent to the power grid. Those transportation costs and the energy and climate profile associated with them would be gone. In addition, the ability to reduce feed usage further reduces the energy profile.
Again, I will say that while I do support finding an ecologically sustainable salmon-farming industry, I do not believe that greatly expanding the farming of carnivorous fish is the right way to go, because it will always have an unacceptable energy profile if done at large scale. We need to be farming fish lower down on the food chain.
Finally, the salt waste is a question that I don't have a very good answer for yet. I've heard that mentioned a couple of times. I've talked to some people who say: "It's not really a big problem. We can compost it with other things. We can mix it with municipal composts and make it part…." Again, there's a great faith in the ability of engineers.
But I do know, from experience in the pulp and paper industry, where corrosion is a major problem in the recirculation of many products from the waste streams from the kraft pulping — especially where you have logs, such as in British Columbia, which sat in the salt water for a long time — that they have found ways to remove salt from the system. Some of that is put into landfills. And no, it's not a great solution.
Salmon can also be grown in fresh water. They don't all require salt water. The point is that currently we're dumping that waste into a place where, while it may be…. You could look at it as a natural constituent. Nature never put a salmon farm in one place and kept it there for 18 months and let all the wastes drop out into the ocean. While it's a natural waste, it's in an unnatural concentration and confined to an unnatural footprint.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): If I hear you correctly, you acknowledge the economic imperative as well in developing these systems. If we do it and it's — as we've currently heard — two to three times the cost, no one will invest in any more fish farms here. So if B.C. were to say: "We've got it, but it costs two to three times…." There won't be any fish farms built here.
Secondly, you do acknowledge that the salt waste concern is a leap of faith within engineering, because we're not there yet either.
J. Ritchlin: I'm actually not sure it's a real problem. It's been raised to me, but I don't know that it's a real problem. I honestly haven't been able to answer that to my own satisfaction yet. I've heard it brought up, but I've heard a lot of things brought up that aren't real problems.
In terms of the two to three times cost, I'm not at all comfortable with that number. I think that's a very selective way to use the numbers. If you look at the upfront capital costs, that might be true, but if you do a full analysis of net present value and the internal rates of return, I don't think that's an accurate statement.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I'm just saying what I heard yesterday from someone who is doing closed containment with a sturgeon farm. And you're quite right. Many species do work well, but we don't know if it'll work for salmon yet.
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We've certainly heard from people that tons and tons of this fish waste are going out, so we'll have to deal with tons and tons of it somehow. I haven't heard any proponent say it's no problem — including you, with respect.
I'd just make one other comment, if I may. Would you comment on the food conversion of wild salmon harvests compared to feed? Is it not true that it's a more efficient conversion — albeit you may not find it acceptable — of protein to farm fish versus in the wild?
I have read that it's a factor of considerable degree. So fishing a predator — the high end of the fish chain from the ocean — is not exactly efficient. Isn't it better to lower our exposure and our costs of animal protein by at least doing it farmed? If indeed we want to eat wild salmon or farmed salmon, which according to the latest report is very beneficial for us, and there's going to be an increasing demand for these omega-3 fats….
J. Ritchlin: I saw that report. I call that the magic pill syndrome. Exercise, eating less and switching to other healthy foods, stopping smoking and limiting your alcohol consumption are also very good for your heart. I don't think farmed salmon is the saviour of heart attacks that it's made out to be.
The comparison of feed conversion between wild and farmed fish is, with respect, not relevant. The ecosystem has evolved over millions of years for the wild fish to eat what they eat in the open ocean. We're fishing other species that salmon have never eaten before to turn into fish meal and fish oil to feed to salmon, cod, halibut — whatever it is — that are then being put to market for humans. So we're taking away species from the food chain and giving them to an animal that never ate them, in a way that is actually diminishing the amount of wild biomass available to the food chain and in some cases impeding the ability of other people in other parts of the world to get their food fish.
In Chile they often use jack mackerel for a food fish. That's a fish this big. It's not just like a little tiny waste fish. So while they may be more efficient, they're an addition to the consumption that was never there before.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you for your time.
S. Simpson: Just one question. I appreciate my friend's speculation about what we have or haven't heard. Much of what we've heard has been speculative, because as best I can tell, the work that needs to be done around closed containment hasn't been done.
I do think that there are issues around the economics of it, there are issues around the degree to which it environmentally meets the objectives that we want to meet in terms of separation, and all of those are important questions to ask.
The question I'd have for you is: do you believe the government needs to work with industry and others to answer those questions that my friend asked about? Does that mean we need to do the kind of piloting at a commercial level to determine whether it meets economic sustainability measures and economic, environmental and social objectives? Is that something that we should be looking at?
J. Ritchlin: First off, let me say that I don't agree that none of the work has been done. There were pilot projects in British Columbia that produced salmon perfectly well. They were small, they only operated for one year and they never had a chance to work out the bugs that any new industry has in its first year.
The Cedar farms south of Nanaimo produced fish perfectly well, sold them to Thrifty Foods. They made fish. That farm had energy issues because of where it was located, but that was an attempt to take over a site that already existed and try something new.
I think, learning from what has gone in the past, we will be able to find a technologically feasible and — I believe there's a very good probability — economically viable industry.
In terms of your question on the remaining unanswered questions: do I think the government should participate? Well, I think that absolutely they should because they're the ones who are permitting these things to either happen or not happen, often in waters commonly owned by the people of Canada or British Columbia. I think they have a responsibility to help determine how we can do better.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I just want to make one comment about moving. You said "moving." Well, it's true. It may be true that L.A. is not a good place to move them to, but certainly moving them off the Island would make sense to avoid the two-step traffic. There are lots of places, including areas around Seattle, that might well be amenable to tanks.
There's no question that if you move them to closed containment, either on the land or in the ocean, it would cause some reconfiguration of the industry as we know it now. I think that's an undeniable conclusion.
J. Ritchlin: It might do, and it's worth studying what the change in the economic, community and social cost benefits would be from a change to closed containment systems. But this industry is changing rapidly as it is. It's consolidating. It's producing more without increasing jobs.
You know, every industry…. Our pulp and paper industry has gone through significant changes as well. I think if we plan for the change, if we're active participants in creating the change, we have a much better opportunity to establish a thriving, world-leading industry in British Columbia.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I don't disagree, but we'd be naive to think closed containment wouldn't cause changes.
J. Ritchlin: Fair enough.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Jay, for your presentation.
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I'd now like to call Bruce Swift to the witness table.
B. Swift: Good morning. Thank you very much for changing the schedule. I got caught in some traffic this morning, so that was very helpful.
I'm one of the people who actually has a closed containment system, up in Agassiz. I'll explain some of the things we do, but first I'll talk a little bit about my background. I was going to have a presentation, but I was told that sometimes it gets a little bit iffy on the time. I would have brought some pictures, but maybe another time or maybe you'll want to come out to our farm.
I've been in the aquaculture industry — a proud member of the salmon-farm industry — for 20 years. I started as a hatchery manager in Sechelt, and then we had a saltwater net-pen site in the Sechelt area — both myself and my wife, a family farm. We were the first contract grower of salmon for B.C. Packers.
Unfortunately, being in the Sechelt area at that time, we learned it wasn't the greatest place for salmon farms because of the bloom situation. Unfortunately, being a family farm, we really didn't want to pack up. Our equipment wasn't all that great to go to north Island and things like that, so we decided to kind of wind the farm down.
My wife continued to work with B.C. Packers. She's an animal nutritionist and works in the feed industry. We made them the first in-house salmon feed using their own herring meal. While she did that, I completed my master's through UBC with Dr. Ray Peterson. I worked on evaluation of coho salmon stocks for aquaculture.
That's kind of a buildup to where we are today, where we operate a small farm in Agassiz — five acres. We've been rearing salmon there since 1996. For the past three years we've been doing coho salmon in a closed containment system.
We grow them in fresh water throughout their whole life cycle in 14-foot diameter tanks. We feed them a diet that's all from local feed mills. One mill is organic feed; the other one is just a regular feed that's HACCP-certified. We feed the coho by hand, and all the water goes through a drum filter which is manufactured in Nanaimo by PR Aqua. It's a 60-micron filter that the water goes through. When it starts to clog up, it actually washes itself and separates the solids in one tank, and all the clean water goes through. It's actually passed through wasabi and watercress.
How we started this was that in 2003-2004 we received an ACRDP grant to work with DFO. It was Dr. Noakes from the Biological Station who initiated the project with us, together with Dr. Dave Ehret from Ag Canada — it's the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz. He's a horticulturalist. We got together and said: "Well, what can we do with this wastewater?" That's why we went on the road where we actually started the wasabi. At that time it was actually hybrid poplar.
What we did was that we fed the fish, we screened it, and the water went into gravel beds that fed wasabi and the hybrid poplar. The reason we used hybrid poplar…. It's not a really good economic plant for us, but if you go in the valley, you'll see it is a GMO tree. It's produced to make toilet paper, and it grows extremely fast.
What we did was get these sprigs that were basically no leaves and just a bunch of bud, stick them in gravel and have water continuously irrigating over the base of them. We planted them at the end of one July, and they were about three feet by the end of the first growing season. By the end of the second growing season they were 20 feet in the full canopy.
With the wasabi — and we didn't know this was going to work at all — we ran the water through a series of pipes that irrigated into gravel to grow the wasabi. We had a control, which was straight well-water, and then we had effluent water. We found the wasabi in the effluent water grew twice as fast as the wasabi in the real water.
The reason we picked wasabi is because there were some studies done in Australia where they used wasabi in a trout hatchery. Also, wasabi is very high-valued, and actually it's a very healthy plant. It's ranked as one of the top nutraceuticals.
For us, it was just a fairly standard thing. Unfortunately, when we first started to market our fish in Vancouver, we found marketing farmed salmon in Vancouver was almost impossible. I went to almost every restaurant and talked to people, and because it was farmed salmon, unfortunately at that time they just said no because of all the wild salmon on the menus.
We ended up disposing of three-quarters of our stock at that time to a mink farm because we just felt we couldn't carry it on.
The year after, we were fortunate enough to meet Robert Clark from C Restaurant. Robert invited me, we brought some coho and did a presentation to the food writers of B.C. at an Ocean Wise program. It was a turning point for us. People realized what we were doing. They tasted the fish. They understood how we grew it, and they were actually quite pleased.
The owners of C also owned Raincity Grill, and Andrea Carlson from the Raincity Grill actually started an Agassiz tasting menu. We have other farms in the area. We have a cheese farm and an oyster mushroom farm, etc. She did an Agassiz tasting menu that featured our coho salmon, the wasabi and other products from Agassiz. It went over so well that she just kept on buying our product, until by May of last year she actually bought all our product, and we were sold out.
Now we are in a position where we have to expand the operation. We are going to expand probably almost ten times. We'll be going to a recirc system. Again, we'll be working with Ag Canada and also applying for some NSERC funding and, hopefully, even doing some nutrient modelling — nutrients produced by the fish through feeding and then a nutrient utilization model as well.
As far as that, it's very positive. We do not grow the hybrid poplar anymore. We actually grow watercress
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instead. We started a project with that, just because it grows a lot faster, and we have a lot more practicality.
We've also brought in some local crayfish species — the signal crayfish, which grows up to about a quarter pound. We also use duckweed and algae that's actually grown from the nutrients of the water to feed that.
Basically, we're actually more of an integrated approach to land-based salmon farming. We have the approach that we want to put protein and fat, a high-protein diet, into the coho. All the nitrogen phosphorous we want to try to make money off of. That's the only way we're going to survive.
We're also a small farm, so it's all family-based. We don't hire a lot of employees. We work seven days a week, but I love salmon farming — I have for 20 years, and that's why we're doing what we do.
As I say, we're also doing the crayfish. A few other things that we're doing that I think have some good applications even for the salmon-farming industry is that we keep all our broodstock in fresh water. When we do that, we are able to participate in a fish health certification program that's offered through DFO. Most trout farmers already…. This is a program that's been in place for years. It's free. DFO, basically, samples your fish — 60 fish out of each lot — four times within, I think, 14-18 months. If there are no certifiable diseases, then they're actually declared disease-free.
We do have some good health officials in B.C. I work a lot with DFO. I think they have one of the best health systems in the world. It allows us that if we do want to sell eggs across the border into another country, they're certified disease-free.
Before we actually did the coho, we used to do some Atlantic salmon. We did it for a company called Nor Am Aquaculture. We had a whole bunch of family tanks, and they would bring the salmon over. We'd rear them to five grams, put a microchip in them, pull them together and actually send them back to the hatcheries to be grown up further.
We applied this disease-free certification program to that Atlantic group. We would keep a bunch back. We'd keep them in fresh water. We would isolate them, and we actually had three year classes of the only disease-free certified Atlantic salmon in B.C.
For us, it wasn't that Nor Am didn't have a good fish health system. But for us doing Atlantic salmon in Agassiz at that time, we felt very exposed. We thought: "Well, we've got to do something that's more of a positive thing on that." So when you tell people that we do have this broodstock on land, hopefully, we can fully manipulate it to get multiple spawnings and all sorts of things for the industry. Also, having a disease-free certification was very powerful.
It's unfortunate that another company bought Nor Am. When they came to look at the fish, they didn't see a big value in the program, so we had to discontinue it. It's also unfortunate that the year after, they lost all their fish in salt water due to IHN incidence, but anyways, that's the way it goes.
We do that, as I say. We actually apply the same principles to the coho program. If we're going to have a broodstock there, and we have this opportunity to be health certified — one of the best in the world — then why don't we use it? So we use it. As I say, basically, it's free. The only part is that you have to separate year classes. You have to have very stringent biosecurity, which isn't a problem.
The other thing we do is that we deal with DFO on the molecular genetic side. As I say, we're collecting crayfish right now, and we'll be doing a broodstock program. We want to make sure we have the genetic variability to build the family groups and kind of go from there.
Also, with the coho program, they've also been very involved in the genetic development of coho salmon on our farm.
The other reason why we do coho salmon is that…. I call them aquatic broiler chickens. They are the fastest-growing salmon in the world. I do a lot of genetic and health since I worked with Atlantic programs, chinook programs. We have coho stocks that are just phenomenal.
They can't be used in the ocean net pen because what happens with the coho…. We started the evaluation in the net-pen environment. We can take an egg in October, you can put in an S-zero smolt in June and they'll be 500 grams by December. They'll be five kilos by August.
Just because of maturation, it's like giving them a shot of growth hormone, and they go. That's why we use coho salmon in a land-based operation. There is no other fish that can actually…. Atlantics wouldn't do it. Chinooks wouldn't do it. But it's the coho salmon that is why we do what we do.
When people come to our place, I say: "When you come to our place, you can't think you've come to a salmon farm; you've come to a chicken farm." It's just that we do fish, and not chickens. Basically, when you come to land-based system, you can manipulate the temperature, you can manipulate the photoperiod, and therefore you manipulate the growth.
My background is animal science. I was a biologist and did my master's in animal science. When you're in animal science, you're trained that the fish works for you, and you don't work for the fish. So if you do a land-based system, you have to have full control and make sure you get everything you can out of the fish, out of the effluent and all the way through.
We have a lot of visitors come to our place now. We've linked together with other farms in Agassiz. We have a tour coordinator now. We have busloads of people come in to look at the fish, look at the salmon and taste the wasabi. A lot of people have never tasted real wasabi.
We actually also do a lot of direct sales. I'm not even going to try to compete with the salmon-farm industry. We only sell local — for example, Raincity. We'll harvest the fish at eight o'clock in the morning. We'll harvest them whole. She has them on her doorstep by one o'clock and is processing them by that time.
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The other thing we do is a little value-added product. We make a smoked product and sell it through the local venues. So again, we try to value-add. We can't be a commodity salmon-farm operation. I've been there; done that. I know it won't work.
When we do get people coming into our facility, we do tell them that we're there, and we aren't doing this to be negative against the salmon-farm industry. We're doing this as an extension of it. In fact, usually I spend more time talking about the attributes of salmon farming than I do about our own operation. Things like antibiotics. People have these preconceptions. I say: "No, that's actually not the truth." So anyway, I think that's about it. You're certainly welcome to come out to our place at any time.
The other thing to stress is that we wouldn't be doing it if we didn't have the collaboration with the scientists at DFO, especially in the Pacific Biological Station. We work with Dorothy Keiser and Karen Mullen on the disease side, work with Ruth Withler on the genetics side, worked with Craig Clarke on the smoltification side, worked with Don Noakes, now working with Chris Pearce on the integrated approach to aquaculture.
I really feel that we have a lot of potential in this province to actually do a great aquaculture industry. As I say, we have great water, great people, great species of fish, so that's why we do what we do.
As far as kind of extrapolating things to the aquaculture industry to help give you some solutions, there is — at least I know of one — one company that is doing Atlantic broodstock on land and fresh water. I think they do that in order to protect themselves from various issues in the salt water, especially when you get into a genetic improvement program, where each generation your adults are getting more and more valuable. I think once they start into a freshwater program then it's a pretty short step getting a health certification program. I think that's an easy solution, and it takes a little bit of the heat away, anyway.
The other thing about dealing with the nutrients all the time: with our place, it is difficult. When we started I couldn't believe it. Just dealing with that was very difficult at the start, especially with Atlantics, because we had water go to ground. But things like PR Aqua, who do that drum filter, made the difference of night and day for us. So now we separate all the solids. We put it in the field. We grow garlic. We grow beans. It just allows us to separate that stuff out.
I think, as far as the aquaculture industry…. I've been around it for 20 years. When they talk about taking nutrients out — and I said this in a letter that I sent to Craig — I don't understand why everybody's always trying to go to a closed containment system to try to take 100 percent of the nutrients or capture 100 percent of the feces. I never hear anybody say: "Well, let's try to capture half a percent, and then let's try to capture 1 percent." It's almost like trying to ask Henry Ford to start with a Ferrari. It's just not going to work.
I looked at some of the projects, like the issues that were at Saltspring and the Future SEA bags. In my view, they're a little bit doomed, even right at the start, because of large power issues. You have to have a big power corridor.
As I say, I think if the industry could find a way to utilize the nutrients, who knows? Maybe let's get 1 percent of the fecal material up, and let's throw it into a dungeness crab next door. That's the approach that I think should be taken: that nutrients are money, that you can make money.
Or maybe you do some type of herbal algae production. I have no idea, but I think sometimes we look in the wrong direction. I think we kind of have to be a little more innovative.
The only other thing, as far as the industry…. I think they all should be involved in a genetic improvement program. I'm not trying to drum up business for myself because I do that in the industry, but I do think that it is important for them to have a good, organized, genetic improvement program so that down the road they don't fall into a genetic bottleneck and they have to get gametes imported in.
I'm not against importing gametes in, as long as it's done properly, in a trickle effect. I think it's just part of a sustainable industry.
So those are my three recommendations. As I say, try to do something with nutrients, but try a lot lower level — whether it's airlifts — and do something at a smaller scale.
I think this fish health disease program is a win-win situation for everybody. I'm not saying they have diseases; I just think it's a good thing to have if they bring the broodstock on freshwater and try that. As I say — genetic programs.
Those are the things that I get from my side that I think could be developed further in the industry.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Bruce.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): We've heard varying comments about DFO and their cooperation with industry — in fact, as early as this morning. But being the MLA from Nanaimo, I'm interested that your impression is that cooperation from Mr. Noakes, who I know and isn't there anymore — has been very good in continuing with DFO at the Pacific Biological Station. Is that what you're telling us?
B. Swift: Oh, yes. Don isn't there anymore, but we're actually starting…. We'll be looking at a project to work with Chris Pearce. DFO is providing…. I don't know if it is DFO, but Chris actually obtains the funding for me to give a talk about the ACRD project at Aquaculture Canada this year — coming in November.
I've worked with these people for 20 years. They've been golden. They're one of the greatest assets of our aquaculture and salmon-farming industry.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): This, Mr. Chair, may be a blatant plug, but PR Aqua is also Mr. Gorrie's plant in Nanaimo, I believe?
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B. Swift: Yup.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): You've worked with him, I presume, in developing these drums and systems for treating the water?
B. Swift: No, no. It's a thing he already developed.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Off the shelf.
B. Swift: Yeah. So when we look at a research system, we'll probably be working with John Holder. John also works with equipment that PR Aqua has developed.
The drum filter…. I worked trying to capture feces without a drum filter, and I'll tell you, it's just one horrendous mess, and it's impossible.
I don't even think that PR Aqua could even do something with salt water. I think somebody's got to get an airlift system and separate the solids, but you've got to have something to do with solids — right? That's the issue.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I'll try to be less blatant, Mr. Chair — if I may.
You do raise an issue about coho. Why isn't coho used more in net-pen farming? Because they grow fast in your environment.
B. Swift: As I say, it will grow just as fast. But the problem is it gets that fast growth because of maturation. So what would happen is that everybody would be reaching the same size at the same time — right around August. If everybody did coho, you'd have every five-kilo size coming out of the…. That's the only problem with coho.
That's why in a land-based situation, you can manipulate it with lights. So I tell it: "It's not summer now." It's summer in January, or it's fall in January, and that's when they'll actually…. I just try to extend that maturation window so they're nice and silver by the time they go through.
Target does coho salmon. In fact, they do very well. They get an extra boost out of coho salmon by selling the roe.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Two questions, then. You mentioned you don't see this supplanting the penned fish. You see your industry having the potential to expand to the degree of production that we have in net-pen salmon.
B. Swift: Sorry — a land-based system?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Can you make your industry as big as the current net-pen industry?
B. Swift: You mean like my situation?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, could you expand freshwater closed containment to be as big as the current net-pen?
B. Swift: No, I don't think so. I think the industry out there has probably 80,000 to 100,000 tonnes. I don't think that's practical at all. I think you can do what I do. You can do it outside of Edmonton. You can do it outside of Alberta.
I don't know where it's going to go. As I say, years ago the broiler chicken took a lot more to grow than others. I'm just doing something that's brand-new and unique. But you get a species like coho — you never know where it could go.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So you could do it with a niche — do it anywhere in Canada or the world, I presume.
B. Swift: Yeah.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): What about the quality of the fish? How does it compare? What is the reaction that you're getting?
B. Swift: It's the same as any other farmed salmon. We don't get the Kudoa issues that sometimes the farmed salmon is plagued with. We don't have any parasites. It's fresh well-water right now. It's a flow-through.
We haven't done a lot of experimentation in how to increase or how to play around with flesh quality. We've got too many things to deal with. But I guess we could crank up the speed of the water in the tank and let them swim a little bit faster and maybe firm the meat up a little bit.
Quite frankly, everybody likes our product. It's a fresh product. We do it because it's a great product, and it's a healthy product. As I say, we've value-added.
We've had great response. If Robert Clark at C Restaurant can put it to all the food writers and they enjoy it and if Andrea Carlson at Raincity, who is an excellent chef, can serve it on a menu and sell it as long as she did — which even surprised us — then I think it's good.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much.
C. Trevena: Just a couple of questions following up from Ron's early questions on closed containment. What's your power usage?
B. Swift: Right now we have two pumps, which we run one at a time. One is a three-horsepower pump, and a five-horsepower pump. We're kind of lucky that we don't have to draw water from a great depth. Our wells are 60 feet, but static level is about 15.
Anyway, you've probably heard of the hundred-mile diet. Have you ever heard of that? Well, we actually want to be the three-horsepower fish farm. That's what I mean.
Now we want to expand ten times, but I don't want to drill ten more wells or have ten times more effluent. For us, the challenge is now, and I think it's…. Recirc systems have gone an awful long way in the past ten
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years. So we just want to get it down to where we want to expand to almost ten times what we are doing now, with the same type of footprint that we currently have.
We actually do a lot of things. We tried to bring the hydraulic levels…. Hydraulics is everything, obviously, when you're pumping water. Probably when we do this, our tanks will be a little bit higher off the ground or up on gravel ledges or something more than the average farm would. But we've got to use that hydraulic advantage to help us make this work.
C. Trevena: Clearly, you and your wife are doing this, and it's a small operation. When you do expand, how many people will be working with you?
B. Swift: Actually, it's mostly me and myself right now. Right now it doesn't take an awful lot. As I say, the systems are there; they run on their own. Probably one to two people at the most, especially when you get into other integrated systems like the wasabi. You have to always monitor that for various little bugs and stuff that get into it.
Once we get into crayfish a little bit more…. As I say, almost every time we add something else on the back end, it's going to take somebody else to look after it. That's the only issue there.
We have about 13,000 fish on site right now, which is relatively small compared to that. The key thing for us is to start small and then grow into it. Basically, for us it's not what we can produce; it's what we can sell. That first year really kicked us back, but we're gaining more momentum all the time.
C. Trevena: What's your target number? If you've got 13,000 now, what do you aim for in the expansion?
B. Swift: I don't really have a target number at this point in time. It is our family farm. I don't want a huge, great big five acres of tanks and stuff like that. So I don't really know what the number is. We just want to keep on going and develop the local market and sell product, and we'll see. Maybe 20,000 — I don't really know at this point. We just aren't there yet.
J. Yap: Thank you for your presentation. Following up on the number, which you are not certain about: what is your present level of production, if you can give us some indication? As a small family operation, how many pounds of fish, or how much…? What's your production?
B. Swift: Last year was our first year when we started to market things, and we're always looking for new markets. Right now we have approximately 13,000 smolts that will really start to grow over the next little while. Our market is….
We actually have just developed this little smoking market, which is starting to take off on us. It's almost that we have to develop the infrastructure where we, one day, will own our little processing facilities.
J. Yap: But you are starting to sell to some local….
B. Swift: Oh, yes. Last year we sold out. I can't remember the numbers from last year, but we actually sold out our production. This year, as soon as they get to size, then we'll start to get on the restaurants again.
I think we'll sell, probably, twice as much as we did last year and, hopefully, the smoked fish. It's more of a smaller fish, but that'll be significant as well.
J. Yap: So pretty much whatever you can produce, you can sell.
B. Swift: At this point, yes.
J. Yap: At this stage…. I know you haven't a detailed plan yet to expand ten times — I think I heard you say that, or potentially ten times — but maintain or decrease the footprint. What ideas do you have to do that, to increase and yet decrease the footprint?
B. Swift: We actually won't expand ten times all at once. Basically, right now, with recirculation technology you can recirculate up to 95 percent water. It's not unheard of. Some people go even higher. I think as long as we keep that type of target, we could actually increase significantly what we're doing now.
We always have a certain pump cost to run that pump, anyway, so we'll bring that water — that's make-up water — to allow for the other 95 percent to be in a recirc system.
J. Yap: How do you presently handle the waste?
B. Swift: Right now the waste…. As I say, everything goes through a drum filter. We take the solids off, which we grow in the field, or we actually apply it to the field as the sole nutrient source for garlic and beans. Then the other nutrients…. Then we put the other water through watercress and wasabi.
Wasabi is a very slow-growing plant. It takes two years, whereas watercress is almost two weeks. We actually grow wasabi because it is a very high-value plant, and it grows very well. Even though we don't get the amount of biomass, we still get very good value from it. The watercress is kind of like the opposite. We don't get a high value for it, but it grows very quickly.
J. Yap: It sounds like this is — you described it as a family farm — a labour of love for you and your family.
B. Swift: Oh, it is.
J. Yap: Are you making a return from the farm at this time?
B. Swift: Yes. We're actually making a return, but I certainly can't quit my day job. As I say, we've only been doing it two to three years.
We actually don't have a lot of debt, and we aren't going to go out getting a whole bunch of bank loans
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from that. We've already been there, done that before, and it's just too much stress. We're probably going a little bit slower than maybe we should be, but slow is good.
J. Yap: Is it in your planning or your goal to get this to a stage where it will provide a return to you, to the family?
B. Swift: Yes. On some of the original plans it's anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 pieces. But we also do a lot of high-value product, which we get very good value for. The smoked fish is good. Even for the whole fish it's good, because we're plugged into more direct-marketing sales than a traditional salmon farm that has to go through a whole series of brokers and commodity prices and things like that.
J. Yap: As far as you know, is there anyone else who is doing what you're doing in the province?
B. Swift: Yes. There is Larry Albright out of SFU. He's just doing sockeye. I don't think he's doing the integrated approach. Stephen Cross on the net-pen side is using the integrated approach with mussels and shellfish and things like that.
I think you'll see it grow quite exponentially in the next ten years. Even at the conference for Aquaculture Canada I notice there are lots more papers on how to utilize these nutrients and basically make money out of them.
J. Yap: Right now there are just two of you in B.C.
B. Swift: Doing the freshwater one. I don't know what the Cedar facility is running. That's a much larger facility. We're much smaller, like a smaller type of footprint.
D. Jarvis: Sounds like you've got a pretty good niche market for organic salmon going.
B. Swift: Coho salmon.
D. Jarvis: Coho salmon, yes. Your wife is probably the value-added aspect of that, too, I guess.
B. Swift: She's the brains, actually.
D. Jarvis: I didn't want to say that.
Nevertheless, by far the greatest statement we hear coming out over the last few months on this is: if we do anything, we should be going to closed containment. But the problem is cost. Do you think there's any…? For example, your salmon, your coho. What would your cost per kilo be on that?
B. Swift: Let me back up. I also wouldn't say that this whole B.C. salmon-farming industry should go to closed containment. I don't think that's practical, and I don't think it's achievable.
I think there are other things, as I mentioned. I think they should maybe try to capture nutrients or something — do something else that's a little bit more workable for them. I think that's there. Especially if there's an economic payoff on the other end, then you'll see that start to escalate fairly quickly.
As far as our costs of production…. Our year-end just finished here, so I don't have the current things. It will be a little bit more expensive, obviously, than farmed salmon, because they're doing 200,000 to 500,000 fish per site and no pumping costs. But that's why I try to offshoot things with the wasabi and the other sales.
I can't give you a figure right at this current time, because I don't have one out for this year's group. We're still making money on it. We're making a profit, but we put a lot of work into it too. Our only basic costs are the pumping cost and the feed cost. That's the big issue. We don't have a lot of fancy equipment, things like that. They're reared in big, plastic 14-foot tanks.
D. Jarvis: I could go on to other things, but…. What I'm sort of gathering from you is that self-containment is for the big, large commercial markets and that it would be too costly at that market to go to self-containment, so we have to stay with the pens — that type or some variation thereof.
B. Swift: Well, at this point, yes, I would say that. We're a small, little niche market right now that's able to survive because we actually do direct sales. On something the size of the salmon-farming industry, I don't think it's practical to go to a big closed containment system.
D. Jarvis: There was a mention from a previous gentleman here…. I was probably the one who said it. With the self-containment, if we're able to prove that it was of value to be able to do it — cost-wise, etc. — they'd probably line up across the border and sell it and avoid the…. Go to the markets. That's where…. Any salmon farms or processing plants in the north would probably just ostensibly close down.
Everyone wants to go close to the market, and our market for salmon is the U.S. That's why I was…. He mentioned that fact that they wouldn't go down to the States because of the warmer water. But if you're in self-containment, you control your waters — don't you? You control the heat.
B. Swift: Yeah. As I say, the big challenge for us now will be to expand to a larger size and have a research system that's fairly self-contained. I wouldn't get any more value for my fish selling into Calgary or the U.S. because it's actually closed containment. I get a value selling to Vancouver, because Vancouver is really plugged into the anti-fish-farming thing.
I've heard a lot of people, even a lot of restaurant people, say that once you go over the mountains, they really don't seem to make an issue of it. So I don't think the B.C. salmon-farming industry will get any more
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value going to closed containment in the U.S. or anywhere else. They're still competing with Chile and everybody else. I think that's a reality. I do this because I sell on the local market to keep Vancouver people happy.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Bruce, for your presentation.
I'd like to call Brian Hayden to the witness table.
B. Hayden: Good morning, hon. members. My name is Brian Hayden. I'm a professor of archaeology at Simon Fraser University, and I'm also a board member of the Association for Responsible Shellfish Farming. I would like to convey to you today that the shellfish industry is not the benign, environmentally friendly industry that its promoters often depict it as.
There are certainly some aspects that are environmentally friendly, but there are issues of scale as well. In fact, there are many adverse impacts of large-scale shellfish operations that I would like to bring to the attention of the hon. members.
There are social impacts, impacts on local tourism and marinas, impacts on navigation and the elimination of anchorages. There are health impacts of eating cadmium-rich shellfish and more. But I would like to only focus on the environmental impacts today.
The most obvious problem is the production of industrial wastes that foul the oceans and the beaches. Industrial-scale shellfish operations produce copious quantities of this debris in the form of Styrofoam breakdown. You can see that in this photograph here. One of the rafts is rapidly eroding. Then there's floating Styrofoam down below. There are also plastic trays, plastic tubing, netting and other paraphernalia.
On Denman Island alone the school children there picked up over three tonnes of largely shellfish-industry debris from the beaches. That was almost all accumulated since last year, when they had a similar pickup.
There is also noise, air and visual pollution from power machinery and structures in residential and recreational areas that create problems.
While it may be true that small-scale shellfish operations impact their environments to limited degrees, increases in scale, as in many other endeavours, generate much more serious impacts and problems. As I'm sure you're aware, up until 1998 the shellfish industry largely existed in a small-scale family operation. This was in good harmony with the environment and the residential communities around it. There were negligible adverse impacts.
Since that time the governments of British Columbia have actively promoted the expansion of the shellfish industry as well as the finfish industry in terms of area and also in terms of intensity. There are industrial-scale operations that have taken over, basically, large areas of the coast and impacted some of the most sensitive areas of the coastal waters. Among the most vulnerable locations are the beaches on Denman Island.
You can see here an aerial view of the extensive beach carpeting of these shellfish operations. In fact, they've taken over about 90 percent of the available beaches and covered them with anti-competitor netting rolled out on the beach, as well as some plastic fencing. You see here there's a rectangle of plastic fencing, which is used to control competitor species.
This is in Baynes Sound on Denman Island. Baynes Sound beaches are one of the most important bird stopovers for migratory birds. This plastic netting is meant to control the access of birds and other competitors to the shellfish in the leases.
In other areas that have been heavily impacted, like Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island, there are enclosed bays with sunken basins, and these create traps for waste products from shellfish operations that rapidly accumulate and adversely affect the marine life.
You may not be able to see this too clearly, but this is the Styrofoam raft. There's Styrofoam floating in the waters around the shellfish basins.
There is beached netting over here that's become tangled on the beach, and this is a huge quantity of debris that's been collected from the beaches on Baynes Sound — some of the beaches, not all of them by any means.
Here is the plastic fencing that's being used to control competing species. This is Gorge Harbour. This is the harbour here, and you can see it's extremely enclosed. There's only this narrow entry here, and then these contour lines indicate that it's a closed basin, actually, that sort of traps the sediments and other waste products that come down from shellfish farming.
In all of this, the scale of activity is a critical consideration in maintaining healthy marine environments, especially in ecologically sensitive areas like Gorge Harbour. Industrial-scale activities elsewhere in the world have produced almost 150 marine dead zones. These are zones where marine life cannot be supported due to the depleted oxygen levels.
Scientific studies have shown that one single oyster raft can produce up to 16 tonnes of fecal material in less than a year. In Gorge Harbour the government has proposed authorizing 500 rafts in that very small, enclosed harbour. With 500 rafts and 16 tonnes, that's 8,000 tonnes of shellfish feces that may be deposited every year in this enclosed bay. This is not appropriate, I would suggest, at this scale. Small scales are okay; this scale is something very different.
Since shellfish tenures have become industrial in scale within Gorge Harbour it's hardly surprising that residents have noted a major deterioration in marine and bird life; the reduction or elimination of starfish, crabs and jellyfish; unusual, prolonged periods of turgid, brown water in the summers; and for the first time in living memory, the occurrence of necrotic plankton blooms. I would point out that this is one of the photographs of the first necrotic plankton bloom in Gorge Harbour in living memory. This, basically, used up all of the available oxygen. It was disastrous for fish and other marine life.
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One wonders if Gorge Harbour is now to become another dead zone in the world's oceans or whether Baynes Sound is slated to become a dead zone for bird life as well. Such portents urgently require unbiased scientific studies rather than the industry-funded or pro-industry assessments carried out until now.
I think you've heard some of this before, but I'll just summarize some of the specific effects that have been noted in other parts of the world. A lot of times the lack of scientific impact studies has led some administrators to argue that there is no evidence to show that adverse effects of shellfish operations exist for British Columbia. In fact, I would suggest that they're pleading from ignorance and to promote the industry. In fact, there are sufficient scientific studies in other countries to indicate that intensive shellfish farming can have extremely deleterious effects.
These details are presented in the report that I've submitted to the committee. For instance — just some of the highlights — studies from France and Washington State indicate that shellfish rafts double sedimentation rates and that all types of oyster culture negatively affect eelgrass.
As you may know, eelgrass is vital for fish habitats, for fish reproduction and for other marine organisms as well.
Studies from Japan have shown that oyster feces create environments where no fish live. Oxygen lack kills many fish in these instances. In South Africa raft biodeposition reduced the bottom macrofauna biomass to 5 percent of its original state. In Sweden, after the start of shellfish culture, species that were originally dominant decreased in number and finally disappeared. In Italy intensive shellfish farming led to anoxia and massive mollusc mortality.
There are other studies that have also shown that intensive shellfish operations induce green tides and necrotic plankton bloom, such as the one portrayed there, that remove oxygen and kill fish. Baynes Sound is also, as I mentioned before, an internationally known bird stopover. The full impact of netting on these birds and their reproduction is not well known.
It's evident from these and other studies that intensive shellfish farming is not the beneficial, sustainable or even benign industry that its promoters would have the public believe. In fact, many residents of Gorge Harbour feel that the adverse changes they have witnessed since the shellfish industry expanded there are far from coincidental.
The increased use of netting on rafts and on beaches to exclude competitor species from shellfish sites probably also constitutes a harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat and bird populations, and these HADDs are supposed to be prohibited under federal regulations.
In addition to this, as you've heard this morning, new species of shellfish have been introduced since 1998, including galloprovincialis mussels, which are rated as one of the three absolutely worst invasive species of shellfish known in the world. Shellfish operations have also been established in coastal localities with toxic metal levels far above recommended international standards. Consumption of shellfish with high cadmium levels is a particular concern for human health. Cadmium has been recognized as a carcinogen, as I'm sure you know, and has other adverse effects.
In sum, the shellfish industry in British Columbia lacks meaningful regulation. In fact, it's much less regulated than the finfish industry in terms of siting criteria or other conditions. This situation has resulted in an extreme expansion of the industry into areas that are inappropriate for large-scale shellfish farming, including environmentally sensitive areas, residential and recreational areas and areas with high levels of toxins. Lack of assessment or enforcement has also resulted in massive industrial pollution, as we see here.
I would like to make it very clear that I am not anti-industry. I enjoy shellfish just as much as anyone else, but the intensive industrial-scale expansion without proper regulation has created a number of serious problems. I would strongly recommend the adoption of some basic measures to correct these problems that we now face. These include…. I would add to the list there a moratorium on new leases or expansions of existing leases and the implementation of a powerful code of practice.
There is no government code of practice for the shellfish industry. The government was going to develop one that was going to be voluntary and then decided not to have one at all. This code of practice should eliminate industrial waste from shellfish operations at the source. It should establish siting criteria and density limits for shellfish operations.
It should establish maximum sizes of operations and minimum distances between them, including, I would suggest, a one-kilometre setback from residential and recreational areas. There should be a relocation of poorly located existing operations to new locations, whether because of toxic metals or other inappropriate circumstances.
There should be a strong enforcement and environmental cleanup program that will ensure compliance with a strong code of practice and ensure that the debris that's generated by this industry is by non-compliant or defunct operations. Defunct operations are a major problem. They just leave all their garbage right in place. Stiff penalties might well help motivate compliance.
The shellfish that's sold to the public needs to be systematically tested to ensure safe levels of potentially harmful toxins like cadmium.
Finally, what is generally needed is an objective and neutral study of ecological impacts of shellfish farming and a number of levels of intensity for specific types of marine habitats, including potential impacts of introducing exotic species.
Thank you very much.
D. Jarvis: Thank you, Dr. Hayden. That was a good presentation. Personally, I think from your report and the previous ones we've had on it that we should be looking into the rules and regulations, for sure, on this.
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I want to ask you…. That bloom that you were talking about — is that basically along the line of red tide? Is it likely to spread like the red tide? I'm speaking as a complete amateur. I don't know if red tide is spread or has naturally been along all our shores.
B. Hayden: There are a lot of different types of blooms that depend on the type of plankton that's involved. Some of the plankton produce toxic by-products like red tide. The type of plankton involved in this bloom did not produce toxic products, but what they do is use up all of the available oxygen in the water and basically suffocate the fish and the other types of marine animals in there.
These types of blooms are largely generated by organic matter, such as shellfish feces, in the water. That encourages the plankton to grow and multiply, and they do so in explosive fashion. When they do, they use up all the oxygen, and that results in kill-offs and these blooms.
D. Jarvis: That pertains, essentially, to shellfish farming and what we've seen so far.
B. Hayden: Yeah. What the residents and other individuals and some scientists that I've talked to in the area think is that there's a strong relationship, but no complete study has been done to demonstrate that. This is the first one. It's a very unsettling occurrence.
These kinds of blooms do kill fish elsewhere in the world. I would strongly urge you to check out the websites on dead zones in the oceans.
J. Yap: One of your recommendations — number three — is that there should be systematic testing to ensure safe levels of harmful toxins. Is there not any testing right now to ensure that the product is safe?
B. Hayden: There is testing for paralytic shellfish poisoning — red tide — but there is no systematic testing for cadmium or toxic metals or lead or any of the other ones. There have been one or two preliminary studies — I think there's one still in progress — to look at the distribution of cadmium in the area, but there's no testing for the cadmium levels that are being sold to the public in shellfish.
You may be aware that there was a shipment of shellfish that was sent to Hong Kong a few years ago that was turned back because they were doing the testing, and they found high levels. But there's no testing in British Columbia that's done on a systematic….
J. Yap: So other jurisdictions are testing for these other toxins like cadmium.
B. Hayden: Yes, absolutely.
J. Yap: Your recommendation is to follow those other jurisdictions.
B. Hayden: Well, the government should be ensuring that the levels of toxic materials in the shellfish do not pose a health risk for the public, whether it's the public overseas or the public in British Columbia.
S. Fraser: I don't have the information with me here, but I've certainly seen numerous reports showing various areas along the coast where there are shellfish farms and the testing that shows which level of parts per million, or whatever, of cadmium that are in there. There were certain levels acceptable in Canada, in North America. The European Union has other levels for export-import, and so does Hong Kong.
I can't remember how these things are done, but certainly those levels were quite specific to individual bays. I know in Clayoquot Sound you could actually see Lemmens Inlet had two parts per billion, or whatever the heck it was for that particular time. I know there are tests done, and it must have been…. I just don't know what….
B. Hayden: This was the preliminary study undertaken by George Kruzynski. It's basically a survey to find how cadmium levels vary along the coast of British Columbia. He identified certain hot spots, and there are shellfish operations in some of those hot spots. But it's not a systematic testing of the shellfish that's being produced and consumed and exported. It's just a scientific survey to find out where cadmium might be more abundant along the coastline here.
S. Fraser: I understand the issues around siting and sensitivity about where siting should be and the sheer scale of any activity that's proximal to people's houses and people's way of life and everything.
I have some experience in the shellfish industry. I know the longline operations that I'm very familiar with on the west coast. I have dived on them. There's more life in and around an oyster farm — many different species going through numerous life cycles. They're almost like an artificial reef — lots of fish.
You mentioned starfish. They thrive around an oyster farm. That I saw. Any of the oysters that I saw fall off the lines tend to…. The sea stars and everything crack them right open right away. They seem to get huge there because of that.
The fact that they're filter feeders…. I'm talking oysters here, but all shellfish and bivalves eat plankton as part of their food. When any of the nutrients have any toxicity or any changes in the chemistry of the water or carrying capacity of the water — if it's used up because maybe there's too high a density there — the first thing you see is the failure of the growth on the farms.
I'm not disputing what you're saying, but there are certainly good operations and good ways of doing things and bad ones.
B. Hayden: Absolutely. Yes, I would agree entirely. As I say, the critical factor, I think, is scale. At small scales they produce a lot of beneficial results, as you
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mentioned. When you get overloaded…. A little bit of ice cream is great, but if you have a whole gallon of ice cream, you're going to adversely affect your own system. The same thing is true for the marine environment.
S. Fraser: You just mentioned scale, and you mentioned, I think, ma-and-pa types of operations. I find these operations tend to have quite a bit…. There's a stewardship there too. A lot of times these people become farmers for the lifestyle and the beauty and the appreciation. It's relatively benign if it's done right.
B. Hayden: That's right.
S. Fraser: As you know, Malaspina has a department that is trying to expand to deal with issues around shellfish in B.C. and shellfish growth. They aren't actually industry; they're academic. Maybe some of these questions that you're raising will be…. Maybe that's a venue for getting some answers here.
B. Hayden: It's important to know at what level adverse effects really start kicking in, because they have been noted elsewhere in the world where these fish die off. As I say, at small levels it definitely can be beneficial to the environment, although eelgrass may be an exception. But at dense levels it may be much more problematic.
We certainly applaud people who operate in a responsible fashion, and there certainly are a lot of them out there. The problem is that a few bad eggs can create a lot of problems.
R. Austin (Chair): Great. Thank you very much for your presentation, Dr. Hayden.
I'd like call Richard Buchanan to the witness table.
R. Buchanan: Chair and hon. members, thank you for the opportunity for me to review my thoughts on salmon aquaculture in the province and present an alternate sustainable technology for your consideration. I would like to speak to item 3 of your mandate for this inquiry, particularly the sustainability options for aquaculture that balance economic goals and environmental imperatives.
I am a professional engineer, having practised in the province for the past 40 years in water resource management and environmental and fishery consulting before the inception of the aquaculture industry in the 1980s. I've been involved in the operation of salmon hatcheries, salmon farms and salmon-processing operations under the corporate umbrella of Agrimarine Industries, a B.C.-based company.
My involvement in salmon aquaculture has been as an entrepreneur developing and leading business. I'm one of the few companies that have survived the various ebbs of the aquaculture industry. My exposure to fish culture and marine conservation and preservation has also included 30 years of service to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre on the board of governors, including periods as treasurer, chair of finance and president of the aquarium.
What is sustainability? In my view, sustainability includes economic viability while minimizing the environmental impacts and related direct and indirect costs while maximizing social benefits of aquaculture production.
There have been two significant environmental events in my years of directing Agrimarine that affected economic sustainability. In the mid-'90s we suffered two major plankton blooms at our net cage operations that resulted in a significant fish loss, causing the company to sell their farms and hatchery to a multinational.
Also, two of our processing plant customers suffered significant economic losses due to IHN outbreaks and Kudoa flesh conditions in the Quadra Island area, resulting in these companies severely curtailing farming operations and moving to the Port Hardy region. This caused us to close our Campbell River processing operation, putting 150 employees out of work in 2003.
In 1999 the company began a search for sustainable practice for salmon aquaculture and responded to the province's invitation to study closed containment technologies. Our company proposal was to research land-based closed containment at the Cedar facility, which was already built. The husbandry proved successful, and we observed many environmental benefits, particularly excellent fish health, no escapes, no marine mammal conflicts, no harmful plankton and no sea lice infestation in the Atlantic crop we grew. The facility drew its rearing water from approximately 20 metres depth in Stuart Channel, while the wastewater was discharged at another location.
We completed the five years of research that the RFP issued by the province required, and although the biological aspects of the land-based facility were encouraging, the economic features were not attractive because of the pumping energy costs, liquid oxygen utilization and the small size of the facility.
Thus, in 2003 we turned our attention to designing a solid-wall floating containment system for a marine setting that had the environmental attributes achieved at Cedar but would have financial viability and other economic benefits. We believe our technology addresses the balance of economic goals and the environmental imperatives stated in item 3 of the committee mandate.
We applied to B.C. Lands and DFO for approval for demonstrating our marine-based closed containment concept design at a site in Campbell River located in Middle Bay, obtained a provincial aquaculture permit and also have received an approval-in-principle from DFO.
Following the licensing of the site, we engaged Westmar Consultants, a leading marine engineering service, to design the structural aspects of the facility we proposed. A summary of the technology is in our PowerPoint, but I would like to turn to the attributes of the design we have come up with.
It's a solid-wall concrete construction providing structural integrity, and it prevents escapes. Styrofoam
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is encased for flotation and designed to last over 25 years. The large-diameter construction will maximize rearing space and provide efficiencies that have been a problem in previous attempts at closed containment. Concrete provides a large mass to withstand the wave action and offers long life of a structure.
The structure is stable and safe to walk on and provides access for husbandry and harvesting. Being positioned low in the marine environment minimizes pumping costs. The bottom design facilitates waste capture, and the concrete decking and walls permit installation of railings and barriers to prevent predator entry.
The innovation and investment to move a marine-based closed system for rearing salmon is a large step for the industry and therefore, I believe, requires a public-private partnership to demonstrate the commercial-scale system we are proposing at Middle Bay.
The market and private sector have not been willing to invest the capital required at this stage of the technology due to the controversy surrounding the salmon aquaculture industry, the integration and consolidation of the industry in foreign ownership and the debate over policy regarding salmon aquaculture in the province.
Thus, a vehicle needs to be established to demonstrate a commercial-scale containment farm that has transparency as to the viability of the system we are proposing and reports on the environmental merits and socioeconomic benefits for the coastal communities, first nations and the public.
It will take three or four years and investment of several million dollars utilizing the site we have licensed in Campbell River for closed containment salmon rearing. We have approached both levels of senior government and public foundations with an interest of establishing a public-private partnership, and these discussions are ongoing.
Thank you for the opportunity to address your inquiry, and I'm prepared to answer questions.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks, Richard, and thanks for the update.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Good to see you again. Once again, we appreciate someone coming forward with, if you'll excuse me, a concrete proposal. I couldn't help myself.
The size of the tank. Is that the same size as the current net pens which began in that…?
R. Buchanan: Same production. Each tank has capacity for 100,000 to 125,000 fish.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Is this different? I seem to remember a smaller tank. Maybe I was wrong.
R. Buchanan: Well, the tanks at Cedar were 50 feet in diameter, and these are 100 feet.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Which is the same size as a conventional net pen.
R. Buchanan: Right. The Cedar tanks of 50 feet in diameter are 760 cubic metres. A 100-foot tank is 5,000 cubic metres.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): And that's about the same as a net pen, then, in total volume?
R. Buchanan: It gives you the same production capacity because you can produce at higher densities.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I'm just trying to remember. You would still oxygenate this water, though. Is that correct?
R. Buchanan: Yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay. Now I guess I come to the point. Three to four years — that's what you see as a realistic time frame to develop the technology and validate it as a commercially viable enterprise.
R. Buchanan: Yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Then it would probably be a subsequent period to that to see the industry evolve over the next three or four years after that, or whatever it takes for the industry to take it up.
R. Buchanan: That's correct.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): You recognize that the waste is an issue, so current…. Initially you'd be composting it, which I gather is transporting it to land and composting it until other methods to deal with the saltwater issue can be developed. Is that correct?
R. Buchanan: Yeah, we will look at it as a source of fuel and fertilizer, but we would be composting initially. The industry presently composts 10 percent of their production on land. They take fish that have been sitting in salt water. They have feed in them; they have feces in them. They compost them on land and sell it as fertilizer now. We've been doing that since the beginning of the industry.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): But that's the fish. That's not the feces.
R. Buchanan: It's got feces in it.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): It has some feces in it, but….
R. Buchanan: It's waterlogged.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay. The other question, then, is: several million dollars…. I wonder if you could be more definitive than that. Do you know exactly what it will cost in your business plan? What sort of…?
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R. Buchanan: For a commercial facility?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): No, I'm talking about the three- to four-year period. How many is several million?
R. Buchanan: It requires four tanks for a three- to four-year period of production.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): And the capital investment for that is…?
R. Buchanan: It's $6 million without the site factored in.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Then the operating over that period…?
R. Buchanan: The operating is about $4 million.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): We're looking, in round numbers — and I appreciate this is a proposal, and I'm not trying to hold you; I'm just trying to get an order of magnitude — at around $10 million to do the study.
I understand you've looked for senior levels of government. Do you have any commitments from them, or where do you stand with WED?
R. Buchanan: They are under a review. The minister wrote me a letter saying that they were reviewing their vision statement, and she would get back to me in the fall.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So it's not a no, but it's not a yes.
R. Buchanan: It's not a yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I think that's all I have for now.
C. Trevena: A couple of questions that I have. You said that Cedar didn't work because it wasn't economically viable. Why do you think this is going to be any more economically viable than Cedar?
R. Buchanan: There are three major issues. One is the pumping cost. The water has to be exchanged in a tank every hour and a half. It requires 15,000 U.S. gallons a minute per tank of pumping. Raising it 30 or 40 feet to a land-based facility is not viable. Your pumping costs are 20 percent of your operating costs. That's one factor.
Then we used liquid oxygen at Cedar, and you need to be able to generate your oxygen with power. The power cost to generate the oxygen is about the same as the pumping cost when it's in the ocean. To deliver those 15,000 U.S.-gallons-a-minute of water requires a 15-horsepower pump developed by Future SEA in Nanaimo. They've proved those costs. That was part of the trials at Saltspring. So we know that the pumping costs are low.
The other thing is the construction costs. On land you had to have huge foundation requirements, and in the ocean you don't. So we expect, compared to land-based, the construction costs will be lower.
It's probably about $1 million a tank with all of the oxygen supply, pumping, backup systems and feeding systems for a commercial operation.
C. Trevena: Those tanks would probably have a 25-year lifespan.
R. Buchanan: There's a letter in my submission from Westmar. They expect the tank life to be longer than 25 years.
C. Trevena: The size of the demonstration project that you've got at Middle Bay at the moment. Is that effectively the equivalent — the six tanks there — of one fish farm in any bay?
R. Buchanan: I'm not up to date on what the industry is…. It really depends on the site — the carrying capacity of the site — and where they can locate a net pen. We don't have this problem at Middle Bay because we have lots of water, and we're removing the waste, so there aren't the same environmental concerns.
Each, I believe, 4,000-tonne production unit is probably the minimum, because it gives you two harvests a day all year round, and it keeps costs all the way from processing through to delivery at a lower level — an optimized level. To produce two harvests a day year-round, you need about 4,000 tonnes of production annually. That takes about 14 tanks.
S. Simpson: Thank you for your presentation, Richard. So it's about a million dollars a tank all-in, and you need four to six tanks to be able to make the equivalent, probably, of what a farmsite would be?
R. Buchanan: Probably. You need to get into continuous production of spring and fall entries so that you have a larger volume of production. There'll still need to be some projections based on the cost of production in the tanks. Obviously, as you get more biomass, your costs go down.
S. Simpson: I know we had a bit of this discussion when we had a chance to come out and visit you. I know that this option doesn't completely address all the problems that people identified. The projection is that it significantly goes a long way to dealing with some of those issues.
R. Buchanan: That's right.
S. Simpson: The question is: were you still thinking, with this model, of involving one of the universities, or whatever, to assist with the assessment of whether it
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was meeting some of the environmental challenges that give rise to the issue of going to closed containment?
R. Buchanan: We've actually proposed that the project be done by a non-profit and that the non-profit hire scientific expertise to do the assessment of the biological and economic implications of what we're proposing.
S. Simpson: The last question I have is: if somebody said to you tomorrow, "This is a good idea, and let's move ahead," how long would it take you to have the project commence?
R. Buchanan: Probably in approximately three to four months, we'd have fish in the water.
S. Simpson: To be able to build the tanks and put the equipment….
R. Buchanan: We'd have fish in the water in four months.
S. Simpson: In four months. Then a couple of years of work and an assessment, I assume.
R. Buchanan: That's right. You'd want to build two more tanks right away so that next spring you could put twice the amount of fish in.
S. Simpson: You have two tanks currently?
R. Buchanan: No, we'd put in one tank immediately, two tanks by next spring and another tank in the fall next year, and then you would have continuous production.
S. Fraser: Thanks, Richard, for your presentation. Being mindful of Ron's concrete proposal pun, would it be safe to say that, comparatively, the current industry would be considered a "tankless" job? Sorry about that.
The issues around energy costs have come up with closed containment — that they are always more, obviously. Although being placed in water mitigates at least part of that problem. I mean, there's a natural energy source by being in the water. Has there been any thought of incorporating tidal flows or some such a…?
R. Buchanan: We're aiming our technology at the existing industry. We want the existing industry to see that it's more attractive, more cost-effective, than what they're doing and embrace it. We want to be in the technology business. That's the direction we're going.
It needs to be located on power grids where there's processing, where there's the infrastructure. I see it as an expansion of the existing industry. It's not going to replace net cages in every location of the coast. It's going to allow this industry to expand where they started 15 to 20 years ago. They started in the Sechelt area because of the infrastructure, because of being close to markets. There are economic savings, obviously, by being closer to your market and where the infrastructure is.
We haven't looked at green energy or anything like that, but it may be possible — run-of-river power production. The power consumption is not great. It's fairly small. It's less than 5 percent of production.
S. Fraser: All right. Well then, that extra cost, though, may well be offset by the benefits that this system offers in protection of loss of mortality.
R. Buchanan: And feed utilization, because you can closely monitor feed utilization, and you don't have as much residual feed. That's where the big benefit of cost of production should be. The amortization of the facility over 25 years is 4 or 5 percent and well within what the industry is experiencing now. There're no net changes every five years or so — or replacement of nets.
S. Fraser: And no net loss.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks. Ron has a follow-up.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Mr. Chair, I must apologize for encouraging the punning tendencies of my colleague.
Getting back to…. You, I think, are one of the people who appeared before us who really has experience with the on-land aspects of trying to sell. Would you be prepared to make a definitive statement about closed containment on land?
R. Buchanan: Yes. I'm certainly prepared…. I wouldn't invest in closed containment on land. There are systems that reuse water, but salmon production of the size that we are looking at requires huge amounts of water to exchange in the tanks to keep the ammonia down and to provide the right oxygen levels. In the recirculation systems, you have to have a biological system that removes that ammonia, and it's risky.
The Simons report in the Salmon Aquaculture Review said it would be $75 million to build a large, land-based system. I don't believe that it's viable on land.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Don't believe or…? Is it stronger than just belief? Can we…?
R. Buchanan: I wouldn't invest in it.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you. And I gather you're talking about four tanks. Also, that provides a broader survey sampling. If something goes wrong with one tank, presumably — because accidents can happen — then you still have three tanks that are operational. Would that be a factor, as well, in looking at a reasonably sized farm? Or were you talking six tanks for a farm?
R. Buchanan: No. We're talking four tanks. But the industry operates hatcheries. We've got hatcheries all over the province, and they're a very important part of production. It's a closed system. The knowledge is
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available in the industry to operate a closed containment system.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Richard, for your presentation.
I'd like to call Doug Louvier to the witness table.
D. Louvier: Good morning or, actually, afternoon now. When I prepared this speech, it was supposed to be morning.
I'm Doug Louvier. For the past 18 years I've owned and operated Wavemaster Canada. I'd like to say in the beginning that my general areas of expertise are steel-cage systems. We're the only manufacturers of steel-cage systems on the B.C. coast. It's been here continuously since 1986.
Net handling. Since 1986 we started in the antifoulant business, putting cuprous oxide on nets. We have a net-washing plant that I'll speak to. We have a proper hot water disinfection facility, and we're involved in the repair of nets under the B.C. guidelines for net repair and salmon farming.
I welcome your questions in any of those areas.
I got up today, and I knew it was a good day. I picked up the Vancouver Sun, and I saw "How Fish Can Save Your Life." It was actually a positive article about salmon — wild and farmed. It'd be nice if we all got together on both those fronts and started working together.
For the past 18 years I've owned Wavemaster Canada. We've built approximately a third of all the fish farms on the coast, primarily galvanized steel construction. Also, for a couple of years, when plastic was popular, in '96 and '97, we built a large sector of what was built at that time.
We've built a number of delayed-release cages — in the hundreds — for most major hatcheries in Alaska. They release healthy hatchery fish into the wild for commercial and sport fishing. I believe that hatchery association or setup in Alaska in non-profit hatcheries is probably the backbone of any success that Alaska has today in the "wild fishery."
We've installed many pen systems for B.C. hatcheries co-managed by the DFO and first nation groups on Vancouver Island — our own enhancement-type processes within B.C. and the federal government. We built a $2 million land-based net-washing facility in Campbell River. We wash nets in an environmentally conscious manner, with recycled water and properly manifested disposal of waste products.
We built a $100,000 hot water disinfection plant to ensure fish farm nets meet biosecurity parameters before they go back into the ocean.
We established a net-repair service to farmers where we check government-mandated stretch tests on the appropriate mesh to meet government standards before those nets, as well, go back into the farms.
I'll digress just for a minute into cages. The industry, when I came in, in 1988, was primarily in one-metre-wide cages. There was an eight-metre walkway down the middle — a primary servicing aisle. All of the outside walkways in the squares were of a one-metre variety.
[R. Cantelon in the chair.]
That persisted pretty much up until 1999-2000, when a two-metre variety of cage was introduced into the industry. The two-metre cage now has an eight- or ten-foot main walkway down the middle for servicing the farm. All of the other walkways are two metres wide.
I think that's a very significant change — a positive change in the industry toward escape problems and larger, bigger nets and larger net weights to hold the nets in proper relation to the current.
To give you an idea, the one-metre cages are generally built out of something like a 3-by-5 tube, with metal decking. The hinge services on ours are all built out of C\, flat steel. The new two-metre cages are quite a big cousin. They're built out of a 3-by-7 longitudinal tube, with a 5-by-5 underneath. The decking, instead of an inch and a half deep, is now formed into two-inch-deep decking.
The walkways, being two metres wide in all the outside walkways, perform a great function in terms of spreading the predator access to the fish to a two-metre distance instead of the one-metre distance in the old cages. There's a lot more stability, a lot more safety, and they're much more robust for the conditions on the coast.
Having said that, we haven't had a major Wavemaster breakup on the first one-metre cage on the coast since the inception — knock on wood.
I sport-fish every year. I go to a lodge, generally, up in Prince Rupert and also fish out of one in Campbell River. I love to sport-fish. The reason I'm such a supporter of salmon farms — besides my livelihood — is because, without them, I think we would have harvested every last wild fish by now. In fact, the salmon farmers take the pressure off wild stocks, leaving the wild stocks to sport fishermen like myself and yourselves.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
I've employed 10 to 15 full-time Campbell River residents in my net-washing facility, repairing and anti-fouling nets, since 1999. Approximately one-third of our employers are first nations and have been from the inception of our process. They're some of our very best employees.
Our Langley office employs four full-time people overseeing our steel-cage production. The reason it's in Langley is that all the suppliers and the galvanizer are in the lower mainland.
Every time we build a cage system, we put over 60 full-time tradespeople to work. That has been the case since the middle of June. It will run, under current orders, right till the middle of February — a good six- to eight-month period.
We employ two steel-fabricating shops that run multiple shifts for us. We have a plastic float moulder in
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Port Coquitlam, a steel rail bender in Port Kells, a local steel decking company in Aldergrove, a steel tube supplier in Aldergrove, a steel plate supplier in Coquitlam, a plasma cutter for our steel parts in Port Kells, old hardware supplier in Burnaby and a galvanizing plant that we use extensively in Richmond, several trucking companies. We've employed over 40 high school kids — usually their first part-time job — over the last ten years, preparing our cages to go to market.
The salmon-farming equipment business is very big in the lower mainland. What a wonderful salmon farming industry we have, supporting 4,000 full-time jobs on Vancouver Island. Many coastal communities that desperately need jobs are included in those numbers.
We add $600 million to the B.C. economy each year, and thousands of local B.C. families are supported by very dedicated, well-educated, smart folk that tend their cages of fish 24-7 to produce healthy, nutritious, heart-enhancing fish product 52 weeks a year for your consumption. In addition, 85 percent of the sales from salmon farming in B.C. goes into the U.S. economy, which creates a favourable trade balance for B.C.
I've travelled all over the B.C. coast, up and down the Alaska coast. I've travelled the world fish-farming areas: North America; South America, particularly Chile on numerous occasions; Europe — Ireland, Scotland and Norway, the other large farmer in the world; Australia, including the Tasmania area and up in the northwest of Australia in Darwin. There we installed the first commercial sea-based barramundi or sea bass farm, sending fresh fillets to Sydney and beyond. From my observation, having travelled the world, B.C. farmers are held to some of the highest environmental standards in the world, and B.C. farmers score well against those standards.
How many of you got up today in the pouring rain, went out to your back yard and harvested some wild wheat, cornered a wild cow and sat down to a nutritious breakfast of raisin bran and milk like I did? How many of us had wild turkey, wild beef, wild wheat, wild pork, wild tomatoes and wild cucumbers on Thanksgiving? Not likely many, because we live in the beautiful lower mainland, in Vancouver communities, and enjoy those communities and eat off the shelves in the grocery store because of intense farming techniques.
Without intense farming techniques, far fewer of us would be huddled in little hamlets, milking our cows at five and toiling with backbreaking labour to produce a few meagre things to eat. This is not the reality today. We have six billion people in the world to feed. A recent FAO report from the United Nations made it clear that much fish protein will be needed to solve the world's feeding of Z\n of the population, a billion people, that are underfed today.
It's also a clear fact by the FAO that open-ocean fish production has been flatlining and declining over recent years, and there is nothing on the horizon that would tell us it's going to get better. Farmed fish is the future.
Just as an aside: how about the newest Nobel prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, a 66-year-old doctor of economics from Bangladesh. In 1974 — I'm just trying to say what one person or one new idea can do — he established the first microcredit financing by giving $27 to 42 of the most desperate, poor women in Bangladesh, who scratched an existence from farming or small entrepreneurial pursuits like broom-making. Thirty years later his Grameen Bank has grown to $80 million U.S. per year. It operates with 20,000 staff. It lends to 6.6 million poor people. The vast microcredit business has exploded around the world, with 3,100 agencies now serving over 100 million people.
When are we in B.C. going to wake up and stop majoring in the minors, bickering between two kinds of fish — wild and farmed — both healthy, both nutritious? It's time we looked past our own navels out to the real problem: things like feeding the world's poor — a billion people out there. Aquaculture is what will feed those people. We need to use all the best scientific knowledge and raise protein to end the poverty in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have bigger fish to fry. I welcome any questions, especially in the areas I mentioned: steel cage production, plastic cage production and all net handling. I invite all of the committee and others that might want to attend to visit either our cage-production facilities in the lower mainland or a typical fish farm that we built on the Island and our processing plant where we wash, disinfect, repair and antifoul nets for the industry.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks, Doug. I'll open the floor for questions.
S. Fraser: I dare say we probably have seen some of your work, because we've visited quite a number of facilities on the coast — up and down — so far, and we're not done yet.
D. Louvier: Good. If it has a blue float under it, it's mine.
S. Fraser: Okay, thanks. Do you produce predator nets?
D. Louvier: Yes — or we repair predator nets at the time. We aren't actually producing them.
S. Fraser: Okay. We've had a number of incidents on the west coast where predators were actually caught in them. Is there a way of designing those so that doesn't happen? Sea lions were the issue. I believe Creative Salmon had a problem with that.
D. Louvier: We're doing a number of things in the industry, including putting large net weights or shadow net weights below the farm, which will actually pull the net panels taut. The two-metre cage that was developed in 2000, I mentioned, has gone a long way toward at least separating the predator a couple of metres from the actual fish net itself. That's a start in the right
[ Page 705 ]
direction. The animal is so large that it tends to overpower most of the structures you put in its way. Just like a fox in the chicken coop, once it gets in, if it can't find its way out, it's in trouble.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you for coming, and we're sorry we're late, but we've had a lot of interesting presentations. I have been on your fish farms. I have to say we felt quite secure walking down those walkways, so we thank you for that. So it's come a long way. You've basically — what is it? — doubled or tripled the strength of the farms that you've put in since the inception, would you say?
D. Louvier: Yeah, I'd say double would be a good number.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Double would be a good number.
Also escapement was a major problem, but none of your even one-metre ones have suffered storm damage. What about the two-metre? How does that stand?
D. Louvier: I wouldn't say not suffered storm damage. All the cage systems suffer storm damage from time to time, but in terms of a cataclysmic failure where the cage actually comes apart and the fish are spilled out….
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): You haven't had that, but of course, the new ones are twice as strong.
One question we still have is: what is the real escapement? You repair these nets. You clean them. I don't know if you take notes or are required to, but what's your perception? Are you finding these nets full of predator holes on a regular basis, sometimes, often or rarely? How would you categorize it?
D. Louvier: I think it's difficult to categorize whether you have a predator hole or a wear hole. You know, there are a lot of reasons you could get holes in nets. A lot of it is just the hauling-in and hauling-out process, which you have to be very careful about.
I would say one thing: the government group came to our offices, probably in the mid-'90s, talking about net construction, net breaking strengths and that sort of thing. Out of that came quite a new look at netting.
If you came to our processing plant in Campbell River, where you can see hundreds of different nets, you'd see that the average mesh size has gone up considerably in the nets. The antifoulant actually adds another bit of anti-sun-damaging technique to it, so there has been great progress in terms of the strength and size of the nets and the volume of mesh in the nets over the last half dozen years.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So anecdotally, we hear Atlantics are still being caught out there. We heard it a couple of days ago. In your view, the nets…. Whether the hole is from removal, predator or wear, what's your perception of nets having holes in them when you're servicing them? Is it better or worse? None?
D. Louvier: I think it's obviously much better than it was, say, ten years ago, because a lot of people are using chafe panels and things like that where you have trouble spots.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): But a hole still inevitably will appear, and you still see them and repair them.
D. Louvier: Yes, and of course, with the camera technology available today to look at your net on a regular basis, it's getting better every day in terms of underwater cameras, dive operations and so forth. So the farmers are very stringent about looking after those things.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, of course, the fish is a big investment for them.
D. Louvier: Absolutely.
D. Jarvis: Just a quick question in regards to your nets. Has there been any consideration or thought given — and I don't know if this is a brilliant question or not — with regards to retarding blooms and sea lice? Do you know of anyone looking into that?
D. Louvier: In other words, overcoming the difficulty of blooms and that sort of thing?
D. Jarvis: Yeah.
D. Louvier: Absolutely. A number of companies all over the coast have worked with all kinds of bubblers and airlift units and so forth. One of the most successful used this year was a bubbling curtain and then a large bubbling platform about the size of, or a little bigger than, this table that I'm sitting at. With that, they were able to go through some severe blooms and have very low losses. That was a huge progressing step.
The other thing is that Wavemaster has just come out in the last two years…. We've upsized the unit, and we're trialing it now at three or four farmsites. It's called a HAG uplift unit. The advantage of the HAG is that most of…. Like, a platform the size of this table would have hundreds of thousands of tiny holes in it, to let air out at great depth.
The problem with that is that the back pressure on the compressor uses huge amounts of diesel, so you end up with two, four or 12 big compressors on each site. Our HAG uplift unit is built to literally pop a bubble of air every six seconds and draw in all the water behind that up through a 16-inch, or larger, hose. We expect the fuel used to be cut in half on a system like that.
Yes, there are processes moving forward. Every farm has tried some kind of different technique and some blend of those to try and overcome the blooms that slide through past their farms.
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D. Jarvis: With respect to sea lice, for example, they lay their eggs in a gel, and theoretically they don't hatch for six, eight days — a week or so. Has anyone given any thought to doing something to retard them from entering the nets with a coating or…?
D. Louvier: I can't speak to that. It's really outside my expertise. I will say that the farms medicate for lice on a regular basis, when they need to.
D. Jarvis: The medication for lice, we've been told, is not what you'd call the best thing to have. If you tried to retard them some other way, it would be better.
Okay, that's good. Thank you.
S. Simpson: I just wanted to get a clarification on your answer to Ron when he asked you the question about holes in the nets. You said that they come from a whole variety of reasons and that they might occur, whether it's from predators or wear and tear. I guess there are a variety of things that could cause that. What wasn't clear to me there in the answer was — maybe I just missed it: is there a frequency in that? Are you having to go on a regular basis and do those repairs? Are you seeing a fair amount of that? Is that just the nature of the business?
D. Louvier: Okay, let's discuss. There are two issues. On the farmsite, repairs would be made by local dive crews and/or the local staff there that observe repairs. They have a whole practice they go through when they find a hole. They have to record it on a piece of paper, document it and so forth and make that repair. That's done as often as it needs to be at local sites.
When we get into nets, after we've run them through a big washer and tumbled them for six or eight hours, we pick them up with a crane, and we move them around the yard. Then we lay them out on a nice flat pavement and go through and inspect for holes. Then we darn all those holes or replace them — cut out a section or repair it. So that's a normal function of maintenance.
S. Simpson: Just a quick follow-up. With that, you're saying that the process, as we understand it, is that if there's a hole or whatever at a farmsite, they send the divers down with the repair equipment, they do whatever repair is necessary at that time, and they document it. Then would you get that documentation, so that when you receive a net back, you can say: "Okay, this net has received X amount of damages over the time, so we should be looking at that because we know it's either been severe, or it's run-of-the-mill, or it's whatever"?
D. Louvier: If there was severe damage, we might get a note from the farmer. But, by government regulations, our job is to find any hole in the net that shows up in our repair yard and make that repair.
S. Simpson: But you don't get the documentation from the farmsite: "We repaired something on this net 25 times since the last time you had it."
D. Louvier: No, there's no reason for us to have that documentation, because our job is to check the net fully before it leaves our operation. There's no real advantage. If he sewed 12 holes, and we find two more, and we sew those…. Some of those holes would be temporarily sewn. We might cut those out and do a new piece of mesh in that area to make it even better. There's not really an advantage to passing that information.
If you'd like more information on the subject, you could visit our operation in Campbell River. We'd be glad to pull out some of the records and show you individual nets and how many holes were repaired on net 89 and how many holes were repaired on net 42. If you want to see that information, it's available for you.
S. Simpson: I'm just curious about how the paper works — the processing and the reporting. We've had that raised to us by a number of people, in a whole variety of areas of how reporting works, including net maintenance issues. That would be another one of 20 things that we've been talking about.
One last quick question. The antifoulants. We have had issues raised…. It's a copper paint, I believe.
D. Louvier: Yes. Our particular foulant is a latex-based paint with cuprous oxide in it.
S. Simpson: Issues have been raised to us about toxicity with the foulants, and the way that it wears off those…. What do you know about that?
D. Louvier: Okay. A great deal, actually. For the antifoulant paint to be certified in Canada, it has to have a leaching rate that meets various standards. So when you put it on the farm, it leaches at such a rate, and that's how it kills off all the barnacles and stuff that want to attach to a net, foul the net and stop the water flow through the net. It has a certain leach rate that would cause barnacles or various organisms to release.
By the testing, it can't release excess amounts of copper. Obviously, nobody wants that. From a standpoint when you're washing the nets…. That's why we spent $2 million of our money over the last five years. We built a washing plant, and it's all concrete-contained. We've had the Ministry of Environment up on several occasions to check our facility.
Our facility is a no-per-net, because there is no release of effluents from our site. Everything is brought in, put in a concrete containment, covered against predators and birds and whatever — which also allows it to compost better for washing — and we then wash the net.
In the process of washing, you start out with fresh water, and you get copper water and a lot of debris. The average net that comes through our facility has about a tonne to a tonne and a half of debris on it. We
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weigh it in, and we weigh it out. We charge based on the amount of debris that we have to get rid of.
The reason we have a charge for getting rid of debris is the following. When you're washing copper-coated nets, you're going to get copper water. The release rate of copper into stranger water systems is somewhere between one-half and one part per million on a legal basis through the Ministry of Environment. Nothing we touch in our plant is under 50 parts per million. We have various ponds in our plant that have 80,000 parts per million.
What we do on our plant is dewater the hard goods, pop off the moat, and that water goes up into the dirty water tanks. That water comes out of there and goes into cone tanks. We flock those tanks, very similar to how you would in a sewage facility. Then, in say, 5,000 gallons we'd used to wash for a day, we flock it. About a third of that — 1,200 to 1,500 gallons — comes off as a thick thing with big penstocks in it. That's fed through a two-metre filter press. Out of that 1,500 gallons of water, we get about a half a tonne of hard debris. The copper levels are very high in that debris, and we process that through the lower mainland processor. We file a mandate with the government within 24 hours of that processing, because we're moving those legally hazardous goods.
The water, when it comes out of the filter press…. We have blue water. It's a recycling plant, so we reuse that water. The copper content is blue, but it's very clear blue. It might be reduced to 1,000 parts per million copper. Then we rewash with that — because we're going to wash another copper net so it doesn't matter if it has copper in it — and we run our whole cycle through.
A net can come in holding between one and a half tonnes, average, but we get nets in that have 20 tonnes of debris.
S. Simpson: Just a quick question. Clearly you have a very conscientious approach in terms of how you clean those nets and ensure you contain the waste that comes off of that in a way that it's environmentally protected.
I guess the question I have is…. You talk about the copper water that comes off when you put it through your cleaning processes. Should we have any concern about the loss of copper while these nets are in the water at farms? What comes off of those nets in the water that isn't obviously contained?
D. Louvier: I don't think so. The reason is that if the paint has passed…. We can't use it if it hasn't passed Canadian environmental standards. When it passes those standards, it establishes the release rate of copper, and that's been scientifically studied to say that X, Y percent of copper being released is effective to antifoul but not excessive for the environment.
Now, one thing I will say is that in studying the benthic layer under the pens, the practice in the past was at times to wash nets on the farmsite. We got proactive and built this $2 million facility proactively five years ago to benefit washing off-site in a proper manner. That's why we did it. If you wash continually on-site with copper nets, you're knocking off extra copper going to the benthic layer. In the studies that we do under the sites, we pick that up.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks, Doug, for your presentation.
D. Louvier: Thank you, and if you want a tour, call.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks very much.
We are currently running about an hour and half behind time, but I think it's because there have been very interesting presentations this morning. Members have got lots of questions. What I'm going to suggest is that we have one more presentation prior to lunch. We're going to cut the lunch in half and have a half-hour recess instead of a one-hour recess, to try and catch up a little bit. Hopefully, that's acceptable to everybody.
I'd like to invite Tim Dayton to the witness table.
T. Dayton: That was probably a good decision. If you hear any grumblings, it's probably coming from my stomach, unless everybody else's is grumbling as well.
I'm here today representing another one of the hundreds of businesses that supply goods and services to the aquaculture industry here in B.C. We are packaging suppliers. You heard from our plant manager, Cory Percevault, of Noboco in Campbell River last week. I'm here this afternoon to tell you a little bit more about our company and, specifically, Aqua-Pak.
My name is Tim Dayton, and I'm the general manager of Aqua-Pak Styro Containers Ltd. of Surrey. We manufacture and sell an extensive line of Styro Boxes, many of which have been specifically designed for the aquaculture industry. I'm here today representing the 46 men and women who work at Aqua-Pak and whose livelihoods and futures are heavily dependent on the health, prosperity and sustainability of the aquaculture industry in British Columbia.
Aquaculture is our history and, hopefully, our future. It's why the company was started almost 20 years ago and remains the company's core business, representing between 35 and 45 percent of our current sales volume.
Aqua-Pak was started in 1987 by two avid anglers — one an engineer and one a lumber broker — who met on sport-fishing trip in the Queen Charlottes. They decided there was a new business opportunity making specially expanded polystyrene — EPS — shipping containers we later branded Styro Boxes. They were already established and required in the fresh fish markets of Europe and the Orient, mainly Japan.
The Surrey location was seen as central to the Sunshine Coast and lower mainland processors. Within a year or so the salmon-farming industry expanded to the Campbell River area, and another local entrepreneur copied the Aqua-Pak model and started Noboco.
Both companies rode the salmon-farming roller-coaster through the '90s. Aqua-Pak was more fortunate,
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with its central location and proximity to the United States. It was able to diversify and expand its product line and customer base, mostly within the seafood sector.
In 1994 Aqua-Pak searched for a second plant site as the industry moved even farther north to Port Hardy and the Port McNeill area. Discovering that Campbell River would remain on the transportation route, Aqua-Pak purchased Noboco instead. If it hadn't been for the moratorium of the late '90s and the fish health issues of 2003-2004, we might well have a third box plant by now.
Today Aqua-Pak manufactures 37 different sizes of food-grade, CFIA-approved Styro Boxes; has one industrial packaging customer; and moulds an insulated concrete form system called Quad-Lock. Both companies maintain ISO 9001:2000 certification, which was achieved voluntarily in 2002 and 2003.
From the humble beginnings to now, Aqua-Pak's owners have spent in excess of $10 million on facilities, equipment, tooling, training and everything else required to run a modern plastics manufacturing operation. Noboco's capital investment is about half of that.
As is true of so many manufacturers today, we continue to spend money to save money, upgrading equipment, innovating and chasing efficiency to keep costs under control. Aqua-Pak has in excess of 250 suppliers, most of which are local to the lower mainland and which provide goods and services totalling more than $1.6 million annually.
Most importantly, it's the people that make our companies work. They are the customers that choose to buy our products and services, the suppliers with whom we have longstanding relationships and our employees, who make and deliver the goods. Aqua-Pak's success is our people's commitment to their jobs and the customer.
In the past 20 years we have never missed a shipment. Our facilities regularly work 24 hours a day, five days a week, and our employees readily and voluntarily work weekends for those unforeseen circumstances that do arise.
As mentioned earlier, we currently employ 46 full-time men and women, of whom more than half have been with us for more than ten years. The breakdown includes eight administrative positions; two millwrights — industrial mechanics; six power steam engineers; three shippers; two process experts; and 25 hourly machine operators and packers. Many are new Canadians. Others are displaced from the forest and fishing industries.
These are good, modern industrial jobs. They're year-round and pay fair wages — some unionized — and good benefits. The portion of our annual payroll attributed to aquaculture in B.C. is approximately $1.1 million. These people live in the local community. They raise their families, send their children to school, consume goods and services, and support the many groups and organizations that make living here so great.
Without aquaculture our business would not have been founded, nor grown and matured into the responsible industry leader it is today. We now have the base and expertise to continuously develop, improve and expand our products and processes.
From our perspective, aquaculture on this coast has led the way and set the standards that other sectors of the seafood industry have adopted — standards in fish care and management and in fish quality, handling, processing, packaging and marketing. With the same standards and leadership the aquaculture industry has shown its willingness to continually improve its farming practices, undertake an inclusive communication with all stakeholders, fund meaningful and creative research and in doing all of this has revitalized many coastal communities.
They also value and treat their suppliers with more respect and consideration than any other industry we do business with. These qualities, we believe, are the main ingredients of sustainability.
In closing and on a personal note, I was born on this coast and am currently raising the third generation in the farming area of south Langley. As a family, we spend many weeks in the summers exploring and recreating on the B.C. coast.
From my perspective, there is no farming activity, animal husbandry or resource industry more environmentally friendly or sustainable than farming the seas. I can't believe that the 28-day chicken or the cattle feedlots I smell every day are a patch on aquaculture. I understand that salmon farming must be done in a responsible manner, but I am satisfied, as we have seen increasingly over the years, that the aquaculture industry is an excellent choice for British Columbia.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): One question. Often it's been categorized that the jobs in the fish-farming industry and in related suppliers like yours are minimum-wage jobs with little future. Without being too explicit, how would you characterize how you pay your people? Or be as explicit as you want.
T. Dayton: We pay our people standard industry wages that range from $14 to $22 an hour. Their benefits are fully paid for. Both our facilities were unionized in 1994, and there has been a very good situation.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, we heard from your manager, and he was certainly impressed with the upward mobility in your firm too. Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
At this time we'll recess the committee for half an hour, just to grab something to eat.
The committee recessed from 1:37 p.m. to 2:13 p.m.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
R. Austin (Chair): Good afternoon. At this time, I'd like to call Dr. Patrick Moore to the witness table.
P. Moore: Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thanks very much for the opportunity to present
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to you today. My name is Dr. Patrick Moore. I'm chair and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd., a consultancy based in Vancouver focusing on sustainability, communications and strategy.
I'll just give you a little history. I'm a native British Columbian, fourth generation, born on the northwest tip of Vancouver Island in Winter Harbour, a tiny fishing and logging village where my grandfather and his three brothers were pioneer commercial salmon trollers for all of their lives out of there.
After doing a PhD in ecology and joining Greenpeace for 15 years as a leader around the world, I decided I wanted to focus on sustainability rather than just being against everything. So I thought that aquaculture, the emerging industry around the world, was an example of how we could move towards a sustainable development.
I could not convince my fellow directors in Greenpeace that aquaculture was a worthy thing to suggest as a way to prevent the seas from being overfished — in other words, to start farming the sea, just like we did on the land 10,000 years ago, rather than just exploiting it. For that and many other reasons, I just felt that Greenpeace was not sufficiently on the solutions side, and that's where I wanted to go.
I went back to my childhood home at Winter Harbour, where I still maintain a place, and started a salmon farm at the beginning of the industry in 1984. I became the president of the Salmon Farmers Association in 1986 and served in that position until 1989 and remained a director until 1991. So I saw the beginnings of the industry.
For me it was somewhat ironic that, having left Greenpeace to start what I thought was a sustainable development, on becoming the president of the Salmon Farmers Association one of the first things I confronted was criticism of the salmon aquaculture industry from Greenpeace. I think they thought I had kind of gone over to the dark side. But in fact what I still believe today is that aquaculture is the future of healthy oil and protein for a growing human population and that salmon aquaculture is one of the most important parts of that industry.
We know that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN has just announced that now 50 percent of all finfish consumption in the world is from aquaculture. It's not as much from shellfish, but 50 percent of all finfish is aquaculture, and it won't be long till that's 75 percent. I believe that is a good thing both for human nutrition and for taking the pressure off the wild stocks, which simply cannot provide more than about 100,000 tonnes of seafood per year. Perhaps even that is not sustainable over the long run, but it has remained relatively steady at around that level for quite some years now, so it's probably somewhere in that range.
It is my firm belief, after having been involved in the industry for seven years as an owner-operator and a hatchery and net-pen farmer, that salmon farming is one of the cleanest industries in B.C. from an environmental point of view and that it absolutely, without a doubt, produces one of the most nutritious and healthful foods in the world.
It's been mentioned already today that the story out of Harvard Medical School this morning, which corroborates many other studies that have been done previously by nutritionists and health specialists, shows that eating just three ounces of oily fish per week such as farmed salmon — and these researchers specifically mentioned farmed salmon in their remarks — will reduce your chance of a fatal heart attack by one-third. In addition, they recommended strongly that pregnant women and young children eat oily fish, and addressed the issue of PCBs, mercury and other contaminants in farmed and wild salmon by stating that the benefits of eating farmed salmon for your health are 100 to 1,000 times more than any perceived risk from eating that fish.
So let's put the nutritional argument to bed. I mean, I know that in science there's always room for more information, and sometimes theories get overthrown, but the evidence in relation to omega-3 fats, heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, stress and asthma are pretty conclusive. This, of course, is the CTV version of the story that came out this morning, and that is a piece of farmed Atlantic salmon forefront and centre in that story.
On the other hand, Dr. David Suzuki…. He taught me genetics when I was at UBC in the late 1960s. I did two years of genetics; it was a brilliant series of lectures. I owe David a great deal in terms of my understanding of genetic science, but he went wonky somewhere along the line, and now he says: "I would never feed a child farmed salmon. It's poison." That's from the Toronto Star, September 15, 2004.
Given the studies that have come out today and in the recent past making it virtually certain that omega-3 from oily fish, including farmed salmon, is 100 to 1,000 times better for you…. In fact, the scientists said that not enough fish is being consumed by the general public in North America. In other words, there is a higher level of coronary disease, Alzheimer's and all these other things than there should be, because omega-3 fats are essential for brain development. That's why it is recommended that pregnant women eat oily fish. Their fetuses' brains will not develop properly if they don't have sufficient omega-3 in their diets, and this is a serious health problem not just in North America but in other places where people don't eat enough fish.
Everybody knows that the reason the Japanese and the people in the Mediterranean region have healthier hearts is that they eat more fish. We could be doing the same, and yet activists like David Suzuki, Greenpeace, CAAR and all the rest are trying to frighten people into thinking that if they eat fish, it will be bad for them. In other words, they are purposefully putting people at higher risk of disease than they would be if they didn't listen to this misinformation about eating farmed salmon.
While we're on the subject of human nutrition…. Really, this whole issue breaks down into two subjects: human nutrition and environmental health. We see the anti-salmon-farm people constantly going on about
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artificial chemicals being added to the fish to dye it so that it is pink and that it would otherwise be grey if they didn't do that.
Actually, it would otherwise be white. But they use grey, as if it's like a dirty sock or something like that, to give a bad smell to the fish, when in fact, if it wasn't pink from the natural astaxanthins and canthaxanthins that fish eat in the sea, it would be white, like halibut.
The unique thing about some salmon species…. Everybody knows there are white spring salmon. This is a genetic variety which does not have the ability to retain these pigments in its flesh. All fish that eat krill and plankton and other small fish — in other words, virtually all fish — are eating natural carotenoids that are produced by plankton and then move up through crustaceans into the food chain, and then salmon eat them.
The chemicals, so-called, that the salmon-farming industry is feeding to the fish are absolutely essential nutrients. They are carotenoids. If you google, as I've done here, astaxanthin, a commonly used substance to colour fish, you will see that all of the first 100 listings are for health foods, for people who want to add astaxanthin or canthaxanthin to their diet in order to improve their health, because they are powerful antioxidants. They are carotenoids, as is beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. They're very important for human health.
It would be the same as if you took artificially produced vitamin C — ascorbic acid, which is produced in factories — added it to orange juice and said that artificial chemicals are being added to the orange juice, when what you're really adding is an important vitamin that helps the health of the population.
It's the same for fish. It's healthy to have that red chemical, so-called, in it because it's good for the fish's health. It's also good for the people who eat the fish to have that antioxidant in it. I'll just leave that one there for a bit because the next slide will be on the subject, some further along.
I have watched, over the years, while I was in the industry and since, a relentless attack against salmon farming in British Columbia. It is basically a range war. It's like when the sheep farmers came and the cattle farmers didn't want them. When the salmon farmers came to B.C., the commercial fishermen didn't want them.
I witnessed that myself. I have good friends who are commercial salmon fishermen. As I've mentioned, my family was in the business of commercial salmon fishing for many years. I understand this conflict. But for the life of me, I do not understand why the environmental community has sided with the commercial salmon-fishing industry, because it's the commercial salmon-fishing industry that kills the most salmon in British Columbia every year, not the salmon-farming industry.
The commercial salmon-fishing industry, on average, kills 12 million adult salmon just before they're going to go and spawn in the rivers. Not when they're little babies, because the small fish…. There's only going to be one in a thousand of those that survive, anyways. But when they're just about to come back to spawn, that's when the commercial and sport fishermen target them.
I am a sport fisherman. I don't think there's anything wrong with commercial fishing or sport fishing. But let's face it. Who is killing the most wild fish here? It is the commercial and sport fishery that is killing the most salmon. To make out to the general public, as the anti-aquiculture people do, that salmon farming is the cause of the destruction of wild salmon is completely ridiculous. I'll get into the sea lice issue in a minute.
Anyways, as you know, there is a laundry list of complaints. It starts, I suppose, with fish pooping in the sea. The idea that a salmon farm is some kind of a huge sewage source — or waste, it's often called — and that this is damaging the environment….
There are two important points here. For one, fish waste is not toxic waste. It is composed of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, etc. — in other words, essential nutrients. That is why people use it as fertilizer. That's why they use pig waste as fertilizer; that's why they use cow waste as fertilizer. The reason people are concerned about sewage, if you're referring to human sewage, is not because of the nutrients in it. It's because of the potential for transfer of human diseases.
That is why we don't eat shellfish that are where human sewage is coming out. It's not because of the nutrients in the sewage. It's because of the potential for waterborne communicable disease. That is why we chlorinate our drinking water — in case human sewage gets in it, or other animals whose sewage could give us disease gets in it — so that it's cleaned up.
We can't get the diseases that fish have. That is one of the reasons, from a health point of view, that it is better to eat fish than it is to eat chickens and pigs and cows. We can get diseases from those animals, as has happened over the centuries. With the bird flu issue now, we see that that is possible. That's one of the reasons why fish are better, from a food chain point of view. They're further away from us on an evolutionary level, and they don't carry diseases that can transfer over to human beings like mammals and birds do.
That's one important point. Following from that important point is the fact that if a salmon farm did put too many nutrients in the water — scientifically known as eutrophication, or overloading the environment with organic material, largely carbon, which is going to have an oxygen demand…. What you get with eutrophication is a reduction in oxygen in the water. That is the form of pollution that can occur with too much organic matter going into the sea or lake or river.
If that happened at a salmon farm, all the salmon would die, because they can't swim away. So in that sense, the overloading of organics or wastes — or sewage, as they like to call it — is really an issue of amount. It's an issue where, if there is too much — in other words, it produces a threat to the surrounding ecosystem — the salmon, having the highest requirement for highly oxygenated water of pretty well any species in the sea, will suffer first. Because they can't swim away or crawl away like the other creatures can, they can't seek out highly oxygenated water elsewhere. They are going
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to die in there. That's not very good for the bottom line.
Just like the canary in the coalmine, the salmon in a net pen are the same. If the salmon farmer puts too much organic matter in the water, the fish will suffer first. So it's self-policing.
I think those were the two main points about fish waste.
Salmon farms are not polluting with fish waste. As I say, the reason the word "sewage" is used is to make it seem like the salmon farm is like some kind of toilet, some kind of unsanitary place where all kinds of germs are living, or something, that are going to hurt us. Go to a salmon farm. I think you have been. You will see that at those salmon farms the kelp is thriving on the nets. There is fish all around. Prawn and crab fishermen selectively put their traps around them because they know there is going to be more production there.
The fact of the matter is that the way salmon farms are sited in B.C. today, where there is good flushing and deep water, they actually result in an increase in productivity in the surrounding area of marine life. Yes, they do make some changes. They may change the immediate area underneath the net. But the nets themselves and the surrounding waters have a huge increase in productivity.
A salmon farm is like a floating reef. It actually increases the amount of life in the sea. In particular, because there are now lees to the tide, small wild fish tend to like to rear in the downward side — the lee side on the tide — of salmon farms. They find that a very useful environment to live in, and they rear themselves there — fish of all kinds.
Then there is always the antibiotic scare — that we're going to get poisoned by antibiotics that are being fed to fish and that the antibiotics are going to poison the environment. It is very important to note that antibiotics are medicine. To attack the aquaculture industry because veterinary medicine is used seems ridiculous to me. We might as well end all of our farming if we are going to attack salmon farming on that basis.
As I am sure you are aware, the salmon-farming industry uses far less antibiotics than particularly the chicken and pork industries do. They generally have low-level antibiotic treatment throughout their feeding regime, whereas only 3 percent of salmon feed is medicated in the industry in British Columbia, and many farms are antibiotic-free. Many of them are now being certified as organic. In Scotland and the U.K. it is now possible to get an organic certification for farmed salmon if they are not being fed antibiotics for a period of so long.
There is no justification in attacking the industry on the basis of antibiotics. There were more used in the early years when I started, because we had no other cure for a lot of the diseases than to use medicine.
Now they have developed vaccines for nearly all the important salmon diseases. This has been a great breakthrough in the science of aquaculture, to be able to inoculate these little fish before they go in the water or shortly after they go in the sea in order that they don't catch these diseases in the first place.
Then there's the whole area of salmon farms spreading diseases to the wild. Lice is one of those categories. It's instructive to note that all of the diseases in the sea come from the sea, not from the Atlantic salmon. The Atlantic salmon go into the ocean disease-free and lice-free. They catch their lice and their diseases from the wild salmon, in most cases, or from other species of fish that carry those same diseases.
The farmed salmon are not the cause of disease; they are the recipient of it, because they live in an environment, in the open ocean, where there is disease — just like there is when we get the flu. It's around us. It's no different than that.
Not only that, farmed salmon are treated for both lice and diseases, if they get them — although, because of vaccines, they don't get many diseases any more. But they are treated, unlike the wild fish.
I have never caught a salmon that didn't have lice on it, and I live off the west coast of Vancouver Island. I go fishing way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I worked on my grandfather's boat before there was a salmon farm here — it wasn't to be 25, 30 years until there was a salmon farm here — and all the salmon came on board with lice on their tails. It has been in the ocean for millions of years, and it's just a natural part of the marine ecology.
Could we have the next slide, please. Now this slide is produced from DFO statistics. It represents the number of pink salmon spawning in the Broughton Archipelago mainland inlets. This is exactly the area that the anti–salmon farm activists are focused on, saying that salmon farms are causing a collapse of the pink salmon fishery.
Do I have a way of pointing at that? I have a laser pointer.
Anyway, this is a graph going back to 1952 of the number of pink salmon spawning in the Broughton Archipelago mainland inlets on a year-by-year basis. You will see that there are two main colours here: yellow and blue. The yellow is the even-year runs — as pink salmon have a two-year cycle — and the blue is the odd-year runs. As you can see, prior to about 1970, there weren't a lot of fish spawning in the Broughton Archipelago. These were the years of overfishing — when DFO was allowing a very large percentage of the returning population to be caught before they went up the river.
In the early 1970s that policy changed to a more conservation-focused policy, because we had the collapse of the herring fishery in those previous years and the overfishing of a number of our wild salmon stocks. As you can see, after that policy changed, the number of fish that were being let back into the river increased quite dramatically.
Then, beginning in about 1988 or so, salmon farming started in the Broughton Archipelago. That was when the first net pens went in. As you can see, that was a very good year for pink salmon returns.
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From then on, for the next ten years — 12 years, in fact — there was a steady increase in the average number of spawning fish coming into the Broughton Archipelago and going up the rivers to where, in the year 2000, there were over three and a half million pink salmon recorded going up the rivers in the Broughton — more than twice the number that had ever been previously recorded.
This is the number that the anti–salmon farmers use as a benchmark, as if this is the average or something — as if this is where it should be — when in fact, the best papers I have read on this subject indicate that what we have here is an exponential growth in the population caused by an even reduced catch by DFO.
This is the period of hyperconservation, where conservation now really did trump fishing. The first part is where fishing was the priority and conservation was lower. Then we had an era of conservation. Then we had an era…. This year there were a lot of fishermen who said: "DFO made a big mistake by not letting us take half these fish, because there shouldn't have been that many fish allowed to go up the river." I mean, if it was under conditions where there were no humans, it would have happened anyway.
But then, as happens regularly in nature, the population crashed, and in 2002 there were very few — 147,000 — spawners returning to those inlets. This is a perfectly natural phenomenon and in no way correlates with the salmon-farming activity in the Broughton, because prior to salmon farming there were lower numbers of spawners. Since salmon farming there have been higher numbers on average, if you take the average for each year.
Since the crash of 2002 the population is now showing signs of recovery, which you would expect, because basically they ate themselves out of house and home here. There was a low-water winter. Most of them did not survive, and that is why the population crashed. It happens in all wild populations, and this one is no different than any other.
I will also point out that even though there was a crash to this 2002 level, there were four years before salmon farming started and one just after it started where there were fewer spawners than 2002. In other words, before salmon farming even existed, over this period of 40 years or so there were four times when fewer spawners came back to the Broughton Archipelago, and yet that population went into an exponential rise based on these small returns that occurred in those previous years.
As you can see, if you look at history there is no reason to think that 2002 was anything out of the ordinary, and there's certainly no reason to say, as Alex Morton is constantly quoted: "I am witnessing the extinction of a species." This is just ludicrous. Nobody who knew the history of pink salmon populations in the Broughton would say such a thing with any credibility, because it is recovering. In fact, in 2004 there were nearly 800,000 — I think maybe it was more than 800,000 — fish that returned, coming back from 2002 when there were only 147,000.
There is absolutely no evidence in the facts that salmon farming is decimating the pink salmon populations of the Broughton Archipelago. It is a complete fabrication, and the only "scientists" who are pushing this fabrication are ones who have publicly vowed to destroy the industry in the first place.
I've listened to Volpe talk. I've listened to Alex talk. I've listened to the language they use. They say things like: "The science is in. There's no more need for discussion. It's absolutely conclusive, so don't talk to me about the science any more, because we know the answer. The answer is that pink salmon are being destroyed by the salmon farms."
Anybody who says that the science is over is not a scientist. That is political science, when you say something like that. There's no way that the science is ever over. Galileo figured out that the sun didn't go around the earth. Copernicus figured out that the earth wasn't the centre of the universe. All through the history of science there have been people who are perceived as heretics because they take a contrarian view to the so-called consensus, and yet they turn out to be right. So I think it's really important to remember that there is no causal evidence or proof in science that salmon farms are causing a problem to pink salmon populations. It is a hypothesis. It has not been proven.
That is definitely the case as far as the DFO scientists are concerned. Michael Bigg…. Is it Michael Bigg? Is that right? Did I get the name right? No, not Michael Bigg; he was the killer whale scientist. Our friend, the Order of Canada recipient.
A Voice: Dick Beamish.
P. Moore: Dick Beamish of DFO — Order of Canada recipient, longtime scientist in salmon, knows it inside and out for decades — does not agree with this sea lice theory, does not believe in it and has published to that effect. So we should not make the mistake of thinking we know that this is a fact, because we do not know that it is a fact, and the population evidence, to me, indicates very clearly that there isn't even a correlation between the beginning of salmon farming and a reduction in pink populations.
As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. If someone just looked at this graph, they would say, "Wow; salmon farming caused an increase in pink salmon spawning in the Broughton Archipelago," if you actually studied the graph.
I've covered the artificial dyes. I think I've covered PCBs sufficiently, and the study that came out today puts that one to rest for the time being until someone finds something different.
In order to save the wild salmon we should boycott farmed salmon and only eat wild salmon. I think people get what's good for the fish mixed up with what's good for the fishery. It is good for the fish not to be killed; it is good for the fishery to kill the fish — the, sort of, opposite thing.
David Suzuki and others have succeeded in cajoling and otherwise intimidating restaurant owners and chefs
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in British Columbia into taking farmed salmon off their menus. I have personally spoken to an owner of a major restaurant in downtown Vancouver who recounted to me how he was shaken down in this operation. In other words: "You take farmed salmon off your menu, or you'll have picket signs outside this restaurant scaring away all the public." That is the way it works, and I am ashamed of the fact that British Columbians are doing this to one of the most important industries in this province.
In fact, they are receiving millions of dollars in foundation grants from wealthy American foundations who are in strong alignment with commercial Alaskan salmon fishermen, and those British Columbians are willing to act as fronts for American commercial interests in trying to destroy the salmon-farming industry of British Columbia. That is exactly what they are doing. It has become quite a big business in B.C. to be against salmon farming.
I don't how many people in this room, or whose organizations are represented before you, are making their living being against salmon farming and getting a great deal of the funding from the United States, where the competition is for market share, where the Alaskan wild fishery does not want B.C. farmed salmon to have the advantage that it does. The advantage it has is it's less expensive, it's available year-round and it's generally fresher.
Anyway, to call the Alaskan salmon fishery a wild fishery is ludicrous. It is a salmon-ranching industry, by and large, and I've never heard of anybody suggesting that cattle-ranching was not a kind of farming, as if cattle that are ranched are somehow wild. It's no different with the Alaska fishery. Those fish — 1.5 billion of them — are reared in hatcheries, fed the same hatchery food with the same pink dye in it that the farmed fish are fed, put into net pens in the sea and reared to a larger size so that there will be a higher at-sea survival rate, and then 1.5 billion of these farmed fish are purposefully released into the ocean.
Everybody here gets upset when ten farmed fish escape from a net pen. Up there they're putting a billion and a half of them into the water on purpose and doing everything they can to protect their market share in the United States, including funding Canadian activists who are willing to take that money and use it to damage our own industry.
Aquaculture is a sustainable development. That is why I, as a 15-year environmental activist, became interested in it when the term "sustainable development" was first coined in the early '80s and then made popular in 1987 by the publication of the Brundtland report, Our Common Future. I was inspired by that concept — that we could indeed change the way we did things in such a way as to stop having such negative impacts on the environment and still get the food we needed every day. Aquaculture is a solution. Of course there are unsustainable forms of aquaculture, but salmon farming, as it is practised now in B.C., is not one of them.
Let me address for a moment the question of closed containment. This term is bandied about to describe all kinds of different things. We have to be very clear when we're using terminology around a technical issue like this. The term "closed containment" means closed containment. It means that the water is not exchanged. It means that you take water in a closed container, put fish in it and try to grow them so that they can be sold in the market. Closed containment is not partial containment; closed containment is containment. People use terms like closed containment when they're really talking about a flow-through system, for example. A flow-through system is where you continuously bring new water in and discharge the old water, which is full of ammonia and other substances that are going to build up in the net pen or in the container if you don't get rid of them. That's not closed containment; that's flow-through.
A net pen is a type of flow-through system, in which the water in the tides can flow through and take out the waste where it becomes nutrients in the sea. The fish, then, are constantly in oxygenated and clean water.
Recirculation is another term that needs to be understood. Recirculation simply means that you are taking the water from where the fish are growing and putting it through usually oxygenation and cleaning. You have to have top-up water. I ran a recirculation hatchery for seven years with heating and waste removal. Nobody can tell me that you can have a closed containment hatchery — never mind a closed containment, fish grow-out at a commercial level — where you never top up any water. You have to keep adding fresh water to these systems. They are not closed containment.
The example that you were shown earlier from…. Is it Agrimarine? That is not a closed containment system. Yet everybody is saying that it's a closed containment system, when in fact it isn't. It's a flow-through system. Please don't call it closed containment, and don't let people get away with calling it closed containment when they are describing to you a system which is not closed containment. That's all I would ask, because the term is used very loosely, when in fact it is a very specific term, meaning closed containment. It would be like saying that you can't take the manure out of the chicken coop, basically, if you really had closed containment. In living systems, you can't really get away with closed containment.
A last specific subject is that of escapes. Our rainbow trout originated in the Pacific Northwest — in Washington and British Columbia, mainly, and in some lakes in the high elevation areas between Kelowna and Merritt. Pennask Lake, in particular, is where much of the brood stock rainbow trout has come in this world. Those rainbow trout are in Italy; they are in China; they are in Australia and New Zealand and all through South America. Lakes around the world have been stocked with rainbow trout from British Columbia, and people seem quite pleased with that in those distant regions.
In addition, the Great Lakes, a rather large area of water, are fully stocked with chinook salmon which came from the Pacific coast — the Great Lakes being part of the Atlantic ocean system. People like the
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chinook salmon in the Great Lakes. Now, in the 1920s and 1930s people around the world tried to transplant Atlantic salmon to nearly every place on this planet that they might grow — every temperate region: New Zealand, Australia, South America and the Pacific coast here. People tried really hard to transplant Atlantic salmon here because they're a really good fish. They're equivalent to chinook in their oil content. They're a large fish; they're a good smoking fish and a good fish for lox. They're the premium fish along with chinook and sockeye.
People wanted to grow them here and have them transplanted here. Back then that was just what people did. We've got chickens and pigs and cows and every other imaginable exotic species of plant and animal growing in British Columbia — and brown trout, which came from Europe. Everybody thinks it's going to be an ecological disaster if Atlantic salmon get established here. We have eight species of salmonids in British Columbia. Would it be a disaster if there were nine? I simply do not understand the logic there. Species have been transplanted all around the world.
Now, I don't think we're going to get Atlantic salmon here because they haven't been established yet. They weren't established when they brought over millions of eggs and produced millions of smolts and purposefully released them into the environment in the '20s and '30s, trying to establish Atlantic salmon in British Columbia streams. They released thousands of them into the streams to see if they would go into the ocean and come back. They didn't. For some reason, Atlantic salmon, among salmonids, seem to be the most difficult to translate anywhere else.
Even in their own range in the North Atlantic, when they get overfished, they don't seem to come back very easily. In other words, they're very, very delicate from that point of view. They're not robust even in their own range, which is the North Atlantic. In the Miramichi on our side, and in Scotland and Norway on the other side, the overfishing that occurred, most recently by Greenland, using huge nets up where the fish go for their summer feeding grounds, decimated the Atlantic salmon.
The thing most people don't seem to realize is: the reason salmon farming started is because of overfishing of wild salmon stocks — because there weren't enough salmon any more. That is why Norway started salmon farming in the first place, and that is why salmon farming exists today.
It took the pressure off the wild stocks and allowed this sort of pattern to occur. Here's the beginning of salmon farming in the Broughton. Here goes the population of pink salmon. That's because the pressure was taken off the wild stock. DFO could much more easily rationalize reducing the wild catch. Before then, wild catch was the only source of salmon. There wasn't any other. Now that there is a reliable year-round source of salmon from farms, it's much easier for people managing wild stocks to reduce the catch of those stocks — both from a socioeconomic point of view and from a feeding-the-world point of view.
I would just like to say, in conclusion, that there is a bright future for aquaculture in the world, and particularly for salmon farming, sablefish farming, halibut farming, codfish farming, shellfish farming in British Columbia and other fjord lands — areas like ourselves, Chile, Norway and Scotland. This is why these industries are here in the first place. It's the nature of our coastline and our marine environment.
I would like to suggest that the committee strongly recommend further work in polyculture — i.e., mixing finfish and shellfish so that the shellfish are using the nutrients from the finfish, thus making it possible to grow even more food in the same area without overloading it with organic matter. This is the future of aquaculture: using finfish waste as a nutrient source for shellfish and seaweed.
The Japanese are way ahead of us in many of these things. They have solar-powered hatcheries for producing abalone and scallop spats, which they then seed into the ocean by the millions in places where they will grow out in the sea, and have vastly improved the growing there. We should be mixing our knowledge of hatchery science and our knowledge of wild fish. The craziest thing that has happened to this province, with this absolutely unnecessary polarization between wild and farmed, is that the wild fishery could greatly benefit from the science and knowledge of the salmon and other finfish and shellfish aquaculture people.
A fisherman doesn't have to know anything about the biology of a salmon. They just have to know where you go to catch it and what lure to use, whereas an aquaculturist has to understand some science about the reproductive cycle, the nutrient requirements and all of that that goes into aquaculture. That could be greatly used to assist in wild salmon enhancement and understanding wild salmon nutrition and all of these cycles and everything if we would just work together on this instead of constantly being at loggerheads.
Again, I challenge David Suzuki, as he is such a leader in this and affects so much opinion in people, to retract his statement that farmed salmon is poison and that you shouldn't feed it to children. In the face of a pretty definitive study that says: "Yes, you should feed it to children. And pregnant women should eat it. And everybody should eat it in order to improve their chances of having a longer and healthier life and take some of the pressure off our beleaguered health care system in this province and in this world."
With that, I will conclude my remarks. I've submitted a full and detailed brief covering all this points more thoroughly. I'd be very happy to answer any questions you might have.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Dr. Moore. We'll start with John.
J. Yap: Thank you, Dr. Moore, for your eloquent and passionate presentation. A couple of questions. First of all, there was a study that was released a couple of weeks ago, I believe, out of UVic in a joint study
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with the University of Alberta — and this goes back to the lice issues — that drew a conclusion that you can prove, based on a mathematical model — to a fairly high degree; I think it was up to 95-percent certainty — that sea lice from fish farms in the Broughton caused the death of millions of small pinks. I would like to hear you comment, based on your presentation on the lice issue, on this particular report.
P. Moore: Yes. First, it's hard to believe that millions of pinks are being decimated if you look at this graph. Because the salmon farms have been there for 15 years, and there've been more pink salmon there since they were there than there was before, so that doesn't really compute.
Secondly, what they are demonstrating is a correlation. They are not demonstrating a causation. In science, correlation and causation are fundamentally different concepts. Causation is when you prove that A is causing B, in science. Correlation is when you demonstrate that A and B are somehow linked in a pattern.
Ice cream consumption and shark attacks is the classic case. Shark attacks and ice cream consumption are correlated with each other, because people eat ice cream on hot days, and that's when they go into the ocean. There are a lot of things that are correlated. There are far fewer things that are causative, in terms of science.
If you can show a correlation, you say: "That's why so many activists use the word 'linked'." The word linked is a buzzword for correlated. It doesn't mean that any causation has been demonstrated. It simply means that you've shown that those two things move in a similar cycle to each other.
In other words, what they're showing is that the young salmon are getting the sea lice on them in the vicinity of the salmon farms. But they are also getting the sea lice on them in the vicinity of the islands around the salmon farms, so you could correlate the location of those islands with the sea lice infestation as well.
Even Alex Morton's paper and John Volpe's paper make it very clear, and we have the quotes in our record. It's on our website. They put disclaimers very deeply in their papers that say things like: "Although no direct causal relationship can be proven by these numbers…." They always put that in there. That's because they know that they haven't proven causation. They have only demonstrated a correlation between lice on pink salmon and the location of salmon farms.
As I mentioned earlier, Dick Beamish and other scientists who are looking at this from DFO and the provincial level, as well, do not believe in this hypothesis. They believe that farmed salmon and wild salmon can coexist.
The reason this story has been made up is because it's very effective if you can make up a story that makes it look like the farm salmon are actually damaging the wild salmon — never mind competing with them in the marketplace, which is a fact. If you can make up a story…. The unfortunate thing about this is that the public can't see beneath the sea, so you can make up all kinds of stories about what's going on down there, and nobody can actually look at it and see whether it's really happening or not.
The other part of that study was that juvenile pink salmon that are heavily infested with sea lice die faster when they are put into an artificial enclosure and have water going through it. I don't doubt that either. I don't doubt that many pink salmon smolts get infested with sea lice and die. But DFO studies indicate that those sea lice are present in the entire ecosystem — on sticklebacks, on soles, on codfish and other species in the wild. There is no reason to believe that those smolts are getting sea lice from the salmon farms where the fish are treated for lice as opposed to getting it from a wild source of groundfish or finfish that is carrying those lice around with it right in the vicinity of where the fish come out into the sea.
The main point, though, is that they have not proven causation. I personally believe that it is part of the activist campaign, as all of these scientists who are publishing these things are people who are devoted to attacking the industry. I do not believe that they are independent in any way, shape or form, even though they call themselves thus.
J. Yap: Now another attribute to scientific reports like this one that we talked about referred to the fact that the study has been peer-reviewed, which suggests — when you say it's peer-reviewed, they are scientific peers — that the study, somehow, has more credibility.
I wonder if you could comment on that description — that a study is peer-reviewed.
P. Moore: Well, an awful lot of the most important discoveries in science were never peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed simply means that the editors of the journal sent the article out to a number of people in a similar field and had them review it for factual accuracy.
It's important to note that they are not claiming they have proven a causal relationship. They are claiming that certain mathematical models show such-and-such to be the case — that the pink smolts are getting the lice in the vicinity of salmon farms. Well, logically, that's where they're going to get them. The salmon farms are in the same place where they're migrating, where all the other wild fish are too.
In addition, there's an awful lot of peer-reviewed science around these days that isn't really worth much. Science has become highly politicized. Many of the editors of scientific journals are political, and many scientific journals have taken on a strongly political tone.
If you look at the whole climate science area, for example, which is so controversial right now, there are the believers and there are the skeptics, like me. The true believers really do believe, almost with an ideological fervour, that human beings are the main cause of the global warming that is occurring at the present time.
In fact, in the scientific community, there is a huge debate raging about this. The two opposing theories
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are that it has to do with the sun versus with our greenhouse gas emissions.
There is no proof at this point of either of those theories or hypotheses. It's not proven in science. It is a very strong belief of a large number of people. You've heard the term "consensus" — that there's a large consensus about certain things. Consensus isn't a scientific word. There was once a large consensus that the Earth was the centre of the universe too. But that's not a scientific word.
Again, when it comes to a question of science, please don't go by what a majority of people are telling you, if there is no proof. It just doesn't make any sense to come to definitive conclusions about things on which there isn't scientific proof.
There isn't scientific proof about sea lice from farms causing a decimation of pinks. As a matter of fact, the number of pink salmon that have been spawning in the Broughton in the previous 15 years would argue the opposite — that, if anything, salmon farms have somehow managed to increase the number of pink salmon spawning in the Broughton.
There is no definitive scientific proof about human-induced climate change. We don't know what percentage of the present global warming trend is attributable to us, if any. It might be none. It might be some. It might be quite a bit. It might be most. It might be nearly all. We don't know. Ask anybody who believes that we are causing climate change what the percentage of the present warming is caused by us, and they don't have an answer because there is no known answer to that.
If, indeed, some lice from salmon farms get on young pink salmon and kill a few of them, that doesn't mean that salmon farms are decimating the pink salmon population. Again, look at the numbers. They're not.
I don't know why it would take ten years…. It's been since the advent of lice control on salmon farms that this crash of pink salmon occurred. Prior to then there were more lice on the farm salmon than there are today because they're much better at controlling them now that they have a proper medication for it.
I don't see any correlation there between the actual numbers of pink salmon coming into the Broughton Archipelago and the existence of the salmon farms. All there is, is this hypothetical accusation, virtually — or hypothesis — that the farms are decimating pink salmon, but we don't see it in the numbers. We see the pink salmon population beginning to recover, in fact, from what is most likely a natural collapse.
J. Yap: Just a final follow-up question. You mention that many editors of scientific journals have become politicized. For us on this panel, we'd like to go to the science. How would we, as laypeople on this panel, discern between an objective scientific report and one that may be politicized, one way or another?
P. Moore: With great difficulty. That's the problem. But there is no doubt…. I follow all of this very closely. For example, just recently the Royal Society, the most eminent scientific body in the world, based in the U.K. since 1350 or something, issued a letter to an oil company telling them to stop funding certain organizations because those organizations were misrepresenting the science of climate. Now, that is a scientific body becoming politicized.
It seems to me that what we really need in these very complex issues of ecology, like the salmon issue and the climate issue, is to have an open dialogue and conversation about these subjects instead of having sneering and snickering going on, which certainly does not add to the substance of the debate. But that is what you get. You get called names like a climate denier. They do that in order to associate it with denying the Holocaust. Actually, recently a suggestion was made in a major blog that climate deniers should be subjected to Nuremberg-style trials, for example. It's very politicized.
S. Simpson: I've got a couple of questions that I want to ask. Before I start, though, I do want to ask whether…. Just for the sake of transparency here, are you or your company currently consulting with the industry or supporters of the industry?
P. Moore: Yes.
S. Simpson: So you're being paid for this work.
P. Moore: Yes, I am. As you know, I've been in the salmon-farming industry now since 1984.
S. Simpson: I don't have a problem. I just think that people should know that that's the case, for transparency — the same as organizations that get foundation money.
I was very glad to hear you make the comments about Harvard and the omega 3s. I certainly agree with you, and I think that fish — and salmon in particular, but oily fish — is very important for our diet. We need to maximize that, and I think that farmed fish offer us an opportunity to do that as well.
One of the keys with that, though, and it comes back to the questions that John asked, is around the issue of peer-reviewed science. There always will be a debate, and there certainly has been a debate around the most recent study on sea lice. It is a peer-reviewed piece of work. We have to judge what we accept and not accept as science versus informed opinion. Peer review is one way to at least screen that for laypeople — to say: "It was peer-reviewed." That's a screen that's a fairly credible one, if the publication is credible. I believe that was a pretty credible publication that particular piece of work was done in.
The question I have for you, though, is around the other side of the argument. I've seen Mr. Beamish's piece. I have his piece here on sea lice in adult Pacific salmon, which was the formulation of the piece that we had done, which also was a peer-reviewed piece. What I haven't seen to this point in time are peer-reviewed publications or pieces that relate to this question of sea lice and juveniles — and that relation is the one that is
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in the study that was recently out — that present a different perspective.
I know, as you said, that you look at this stuff, and you stay very current with it. I wondered if you could tell us about any science that would meet that standard that we could look at that would give us another perspective, that was peer-reviewed science, on juveniles and sea lice.
P. Moore: I'm sure that Beamish's most recent paper, which looked at the returns in 2004 based on the returns in 2002 and found that there was a 35-percent survival rate at sea — the highest that has ever been recorded in his knowledge of pink salmon populations — would lead to the suggestion that the pink salmon had not been decimated because they returned in…. Look at how fast they went up in one cycle in 2002.
S. Simpson: Patrick, I do have a question about that, but I wondered just in terms of science that we could get our research people to go out and get.
P. Moore: Yes, Beamish's most recent paper, which is about the ability for wild and farmed salmon to coexist.
S. Simpson: I think we have a copy of that here.
P. Moore: Well, I would then submit that to you.
S. Simpson: That deals with adults.
P. Moore: No, it doesn't. It deals with the survival of the smolts that came out in 2002.
S. Simpson: Well, I know it says Sea lice on adult Pacific salmon in the coastal waters of Central British Columbia is the title of the paper.
P. Moore: That's not the one I was referring to, then.
S. Simpson: I look forward to that paper, then.
Getting to this piece here….
P. Moore: There is such a paper. It's much more recent.
S. Simpson: I'd very much appreciate a copy of it. Thank you.
Maybe you could just tell me about this piece of work here. My understanding is around how this is measured by DFO. The way they measure is they measure a number of rivers that the pinks come into, and that's how they do the counts. That's the methodology for doing the counts.
P. Moore: They count fish in the rivers.
S. Simpson: Right. And that's how they get the counts for this.
P. Moore: Yes.
S. Simpson: Do you know how many of those rivers were counted, whether any of them were enhanced and what percentage of the pinks came out of enhanced versus wild rivers?
P. Moore: No, but I doubt that pink salmon are being enhanced in the central coast Broughton inlets. I don't know that for sure, but I don't think so. Pinks are generally just wild. They're not really worth enhancing because they're hardly worth anything, which often makes me wonder why there's such a fuss being made about them. You can only get five cents a pound for the things.
Chinook, coho and sockeye — those are important from a food fishery point of view. The pink salmon are the most numerous species of salmon we have on the B.C. coast, so worrying about their extinction strikes me as ridiculous. In addition to that, they are not the fish that's sought after for food.
S. Simpson: I don't disagree that there are more valuable species of salmon, but I was just dealing with pinks because this was the piece that you put up.
P. Moore: I put it up because that's being used as the reason to attack salmon farming. We took the DFO figures, and there they are. That's what they say happened. Everybody who was around knows that this year, 2000, was unprecedented. There you really could walk across the fish over a river, they were so thick.
S. Simpson: I think you're right. I think it's a year that is inconsistent with all of the rest. That happens sometimes — the same as years when there's nothing probably are inconsistent with all the rest.
It'll be interesting. We'll have to find out whether there were enhanced rivers used there.
One last question. It relates to the question of closed containment or flow-through. I think you're quite right. What we're talking about here is flow-through systems — the systems like Agrimarine. We need to determine whether those systems actually do enhance from an environmental perspective or not. And, clearly, we don't know that and what the costs are.
The question I would have….
P. Moore: Actually, we do know that.
S. Simpson: Well, not floating ones. We haven't seen that.
P. Moore: What we know is that they're not closed containment.
S. Simpson: That's true.
There's a discussion around whether those models — call them flow-through or closed containment — may provide a better separation between wild and cultured fish, and there may be an environmental benefit. That's a question to be answered. Then is it economic to do
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that at a commercial level? Does it make sense? Is it commercially viable? And that's a huge question.
The question I have for you, as somebody who's been in the industry and looked at it, is: do you think there's value in trying to get those questions answered by independent sources who are neither proponents nor opponents to the current open-net cage system?
P. Moore: Sure, if it doesn't take too much money out of the taxpayers' pocket, I guess. That's what's being suggested here — that the government pay for the experiment. I'd be happy to see the experiment done, if only to prove what we already know — some of us — that it isn't economically competitive, and that it doesn't really make much difference, if you're just going to pump water in one side and out the other and just remove a bunch of carbon, which is what most of the solid waste is.
The nitrogen is in liquid form, and you can't take that out with a filter. You're going to be pumping most of the actual nutrients back into the sea again anyway, which is a good place for them. Why spend five times as much on the structure and the technology if it doesn't really accomplish anything except take a bunch of carbon out of the water, which is perfectly healthy for the ocean too?
I cannot see any possible benefit. You can't sterilize it. In other words, you can't kill the organisms in the water, whether they be sea lice or something else. You have to have fresh water coming out of there and going into there. I just don't see the benefit. All I see is the possibility that we're going to spend a whole bunch of taxpayers' money on something that isn't going to work.
S. Simpson: I respect that view. I'm sure, though, you'd have to agree that we should neither wrap ourselves in and accept blindly the views of those who are opposed to open-net nor accept the views of those who are advocates of open-net, without looking at things in a more balanced way.
P. Moore: You said: "Whether we call them closed containment or flow-through." You can't call flow-through closed containment. It isn't a question of whether you call it closed containment or flow-through. If it's flow-through, it's flow-through; it's not closed containment.
I just think we need to be really clear on that, because if you're going to recommend closed containment at the end of the day, then you really are recommending something that is biologically and technically unfeasible. If you're going to recommend flow-through and that there should be government money put into doing an experiment, as I say, as long as it's not going to break the bank, I would like to see that happen — if for no other reason than to demonstrate whether it works or not.
S. Simpson: Absolutely.
P. Moore: I think we know the economics side of it. Unless the Norwegians and the Chileans and the Scots and everybody else decides to change to a technology that costs five or so times as much, it sure won't be competitive for us. That's purely on the economics side of it. On the biological side of it, I can't see any benefit. I mean, just from a purely conceptual point of view, what benefit could there be?
S. Simpson: I guess we'll have to decide whether it's a good idea to answer those questions.
P. Moore: I'm just asking. What conceivable benefit could it be?
S. Simpson: But you might be wrong.
P. Moore: Is there anybody who can express a benefit that there might be?
S. Simpson: The gentleman who had the proposal before seemed to think it was a good idea, at Agrimarine. We don't know, but we should find an answer.
S. Fraser: Thank you for the presentation. There are certainly a lot of differing views on this. I will make exception, and take exception, to the suggestion that our submissions are coming from groups with a hidden agenda. We've been travelling all over the coast. You have a vested interest, as you said to Shane.
P. Moore: I don't think it's all that hidden, really.
S. Fraser: Well, fair enough. But we've been hearing from individuals, from business people, from fishermen — from commercial fishermen to sport fishermen — from first nations, from proponents of the industry, from people who have great concerns about the industry and from a whole range of people that have solutions or potential solutions. And vested interest? Well, I suppose.
You yourself say we should get beyond this sort of acrimony. To be fair to the hundreds of people that have been meeting with us…. And we've been listening respectfully to all them. You may not be right, even though you believe you are. We will take your submission as much as anyone else's, but we've already had an earlier submission today that refutes that — from a learned gentleman, with a PhD.
P. Moore: Refutes this?
S. Fraser: Yes. Or questions what you're stating with that. And that maybe peer-reviewed journals, if they're not saying what some people want to say, can be refuted. And maybe other journals, if they want to say what you want to hear, are accepted — by some. We have to get way above that. We can't deal with this kind of acrimony.
So I take some offence to the suggestion that the people that have come to make submissions here — and will continue to, on our travels — are necessarily a vested interest, because that's a conspiracy theory.
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P. Moore: You don't think the commercial fishermen have a vested interest?
S. Fraser: I think you have a vested interest. I know the commercial fishermen have a vested interest. We had a prawn fisherman who met with us yesterday on behalf of his association, who is very concerned that the use of SLICE, for instance — which you related to in your submission — may cause damage to prawns, because they are a very similar creature — and, actually, the crustaceans, the crabs and everything else. He is worried about that, because he has to cut back if there is a statement from DFO that there has been a reduction in the prawn fishery.
They have to wear that economically. If it's caused by a preventable cause, from another industry, they do not believe that they should have to bear that cost. I don't know whether he's right or not, but his opinion and his expertise as someone who's worked on the water for decades has to be considered by us as much as, in a lot of cases, the science. That's why we're here.
I could ask a lot of questions, but we're way behind. So thank you. You were passionate. I am passionate too.
D. Jarvis: I was just told a short while ago — and I don't know if there's any basis to it, and I wonder what kind of comment you may have — that in Alaska, the chum, coho, sockeye and chinook returns have been very good this year — except for the pink, which are down — and it's been noted that they're up into the arctic area and all the rest of it. Do you have any comment on that?
P. Moore: My understanding is that the pink salmon returns are down on the whole coast.
D. Jarvis: On the whole coast?
P. Moore: Well, B.C. and Alaska. Yes, I understand that. It says that the cycle has not been good this year for pink salmon. There are certainly lots of chinook and coho out there, as I can attest to, having never had a problem catching one this summer off the west coast.
There are fewer pink salmon, from what I understand. I don't think the final DFO numbers are in on pink salmon for the Broughton or for anywhere, for that matter. Pink salmon are down everywhere is my understanding.
D. Jarvis: Another thing. I've been asking different people, and no one seems to be able to give me a definitive answer. I have always been told that the biggest predation of our pink salmon is out at sea and offshore — referring to all the Asian countries that are fishing out there, the mammals that are in the water that are killing machines and the Alaskans, who are taking an awful lot of our fish.
P. Moore: Well, the driftnet fishery was ended in the North Pacific some years ago, so that's no longer the issue it once was. Although they never really knew how many salmon were being taken in that fishery. It was more a question of incidental kill of dolphins and sea birds and stuff that caused the outrage against that driftnet fishery.
I know that, of course, marine mammals eat a lot of fish. I had the good fortune of visiting Triangle Island. You're not allowed to go ashore, so I didn't but circumnavigated it this summer. To see the vast herd of sea lions there is really quite something.
Sure, there is a lot of predation all the way through the chain. From the second the fish are born in the rivers, bigger fish are eating them, and herons are eating them as they come out. The toughest part for them is in the estuary when they're basically running the gamut as they come from the fresh water into the sea and have to acclimatize. They can't move very quickly because they're smolting then. They're ready to leave the fresh water, but they're not ready for full saline conditions yet. So they have to hang around there a lot.
They get a lot of predation from herring and birds and stuff there all of their lives. That's why, quite often, less than 1 percent of the smolts that go in the sea come back. Just the same, nature has accommodated for that by producing a vastly larger number of young than are expected to live to adulthood and to reproduce.
I think, in balance, the ecosystem of British Columbia's coast is in a pretty healthy state. Just to give a few examples, I've grown up getting on 60 years now on the northwest tip of Vancouver Island. I've seen many seasons up there over the years. There are way more humpback whales and grey whales now than there were when I was young.
The Pacific white-sided dolphin has exploded in its population and came into the inside waters for the first time about ten years ago. Now they're very abundant all along the coast. The sea otter, which did not exist in my part of the coast up until about 15 years ago, is now in such great numbers in Winter Harbour — over 200 of them — that they have eaten every Dungeness crab, and now they're working on the geoducks.
It's amazing what changes that one species of wildlife can bring to an ecosystem. They have made a huge change, but everybody sure likes looking at them, even if there aren't any crab left to eat.
Many other species — the herring, the mackerel, the anchovies — have come back in numbers and are now present in numbers on an annual basis that are far greater than they were back in the '50s, '60s and '70s. Part of that is conservation. I guess maybe part of it is taking some of the pressure off the herring and going more to the roe-on-kelp, instead of just catching all the herring and rendering them down for meal. They were overfished very badly in the '60s. That probably had effects all through the food chain.
By and large, it strikes me that the coastal environment of British Columbia is very clean and healthy in most respects. I'd say that the worse problem we have from a pollution point of view is human sewage. It's completely ridiculous that we have closed shellfish from Point Atkinson to the U.S. border, all through
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Boundary Bay — all those beautiful beaches where you're not allowed to catch a shellfish because it's liable to be contaminated with human sewage, when we should have figured out by now how to recycle our own sewage properly and not be putting it into the ocean or into rivers. It's full of nutrients too and can be made into fertilizer. That's what we should be doing with it. People all over the world have been using human sewage for fertilizer for centuries. As long as it's composted properly and treated properly, it's a perfectly good nutrient.
I see that as the biggest problem — never mind Victoria. I never know what to think about that. Scientists say it's okay to do what they're doing and not hurting anything by dumping all the raw sewage in the ocean. Maybe it is dissipated sufficiently and way out to sea where it's not a disease issue and where it's not an organic issue.
But near our coastal areas, for sure — like Vancouver and up the Sunshine Coast — many of our places have signs with the big red cross through the shellfish, saying don't take shellfish here because it might be polluted.
D. Jarvis: A Skeena development company showed us the financial statement of the dollars that were taken out of the Skeena — showing that B.C. fishers took approximately $27 million out of the Skeena. I think it was last year, or the year before. I'm not quite sure on that. But the Alaskans took $62 million out of it.
P. Moore: Of Skeena fish.
D. Jarvis: Of Skeena fish.
P. Moore: Yeah, well, those fish, unfortunately, swim north before they come back down again. I know we have some kind of treaty with the United States on that.
D. Jarvis: It's like the softwood.
P. Moore: I don't really have a comment on that. That's a political matter.
It just is a fact that the fish go up into the Gulf of Alaska and even into the Bering Sea during the summer, because that's where the feed is — where the upwelling is. Then we are actually, to some extent, at the mercy of the Alaskans as those fish come down the panhandle.
It all goes back to the fact that the British sold us out, and we never got that nice piece of coastline there.
R. Austin (Chair): Damn those British.
G. Robertson: Just two quick questions so we can get on with our agenda that we're way behind on.
First of all, it's a little disconcerting to hear your skepticism over peer-reviewed science, because frankly, it's what we keep being reminded is about the only thing we can actually count on that has had rigorous scrutiny in terms of the science involved. We do intend to continue to pursue, as best we can, the truth through that peer-reviewed science.
I'm curious, though. Have you had peer-reviewed articles published?
P. Moore: No, I'm not a research scientist. I'm an interdisciplinarian, generalist ecologist. But surely you wouldn't put first nations oral history into that category of things you don't rely on.
G. Robertson: No, it's another piece of the puzzle. We're looking at all sides of this.
P. Moore: But it's not peer-reviewed.
G. Robertson: I was just curious if that was your realm — peer-reviewed science, as well, and that's part of the reason that you're a skeptic around its credibility.
P. Moore: Peer-reviewed just means that it's in the literature for debate. Peer-reviewed doesn't mean that a conclusion has been reached. Peer-reviewed, especially when the paper says explicitly that it's not proving causation…. And many of these peer-reviewed papers do explicitly say just that: that although this does not show direct causation, it's interesting that there is this correlation. Correlations are always interesting but generally are not indicating cause.
G. Robertson: Thank you. My second question is that I was a little surprised to hear your comments about the Alaska fishing industry funding environmental groups in B.C. that are raising all these concerns about the B.C. salmon-farming industry.
P. Moore: I didn't actually say that, if you'll read the record. I said that groups, foundations that are associated with the Alaska fishing industry, like the Pew Charitable Trust and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, who have Alaskan fishing industry and U.S. fishery industry people associated with their boards and such, have taken clear positions — like the David and Lucile Packard Foundation — against B.C. farmed salmon, to the point where the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is largely financed by those folks, has a list of unsustainable species, almost all of which are wild, except for farmed salmon.
So it's clearly political, and the record of the funding is there for everybody to see on the Internet — where the money is coming from.
G. Robertson: Just to be clear, you're not alleging that the actual Alaska fisheries — the fishermen, the industry there — are in fact trying to pull apart the B.C. salmon-farming industry?
P. Moore: Oh, I certainly am alleging that. Frank Murkowski will tell you to your face that's what he's trying to do.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much. It's been an interesting, somewhat passionate and heated
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debate. I'm coming back to the screening comment that was made by one of our panel members with respect to peer-reviewed science. If I get this right, then, it's a screen. But peer-reviewed science does not make the conclusions an immutable law of science. Is that a fair…?
P. Moore: That's absolutely correct. Peer review is not about saying that this is now a conclusive fact. Peer review is about allowing it into the literature as a study that has some legitimacy to its methodology.
Even then, if you look at when the Attorney General was sued by Alex Morton because of the waste from fish farms…. That paper was reviewed on the Attorney General's request by Mr. Whoriskey, an expert in salmon from the east coast, and he had a long list of criticisms of the methodology used by Alex Morton in her peer-reviewed papers. Then he could publish a peer-reviewed paper criticizing her paper, and she could come back with another peer-reviewed paper. That's how it works in science.
It is a screen that keeps out junk as best as possible from the peer-reviewed journals. But that doesn't keep it all out. There are classic cases where fabrications have been published in peer-reviewed journals, where doctored data has been used for publication in peer-reviewed journals. There are all kinds of examples of that. I'm not suggesting that's the case here, but there are lots of examples of that.
The point I'm making is that just because a paper is peer-reviewed does not guarantee its legitimacy or its accuracy.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So our struggle is to keep an open mind. To be clear now, keeping an open mind, you're a declared advocate for the fish-farming industry. Let's be clear about that. Is that a fact?
P. Moore: Have been ever since I understood what it meant to the world's food supply and the world's wild stocks.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): We're clear on your motivation. Also, your credentials — I didn't quite catch at all, Dr. Moore, so if you wouldn't mind telling me again. I know it's in the record.
P. Moore: I have an honours bachelor of science from the University of British Columbia in biology and forest biology. I have a PhD in ecology from the University of British Columbia resource ecology centre, and I have an honorary doctorate in science from North Carolina State University, which I received last year.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So you consider yourself a qualified critic of papers, if not somebody who does research. Is that…?
P. Moore: Yes, sir, I do.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Now I have to take some exception, if I may, with one of my colleague's comments, who takes passionate offence, I understand. But earlier in the day Mr. Orr came forward and suggested — and we didn't take offence then, apparently…. His words were that you were up to some sort of…. Mischief was the word. Do you know what he might have been talking about?
We apparently weren't offended by that, but that was the allegation he made of you. Do you have any comment in response?
P. Moore: Well, I don't know. I guess it's a kind of denigration of character or something, like calling people names. I find that is a common reaction to my pronouncements, as opposed to actually debating the subject of the matter. I don't know what he means by mischief, but I can assure you that I am entirely sincere and trying to give the best of my understanding of the situation, having studied the fishery all my life.
I also have an award from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for my work in salmon enhancement. I've been involved in the coastal community in fishing and logging and mining all my life as well as environmental — mostly to do with environmental around those industries.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I just have one last comment too. I've seen this graph before. In fact, this is a graph that was part of Dr. Beamish's study dated April 2006 where he states, as you alluded to, a 34-percent marine survival rate. That is a copy that I received and that has been received by all members of this committee. I have read it. I'm perplexed. Maybe you can guide me on this.
My interpretation — and I'll look for your scientific comment on this — is that the one side is not exactly glass-half-empty, glass-half-full; it's one disaster versus survival. He relates to marine survival. The Morton study, on their methodology, overlays a mathematical model that, according to Dr. Morton's interpretation, predicts disaster for the industry. So who do we believe?
P. Moore: The fish are not in a disaster. They've actually recovered from 2002 to 2004 by over five times, in numbers of fish. Now, if the farm salmon were destroying them, surely they would continue to decline rather than bounce back to over five times as many as there were the previous year?
I just don't get it. The fish farms were still there. It is beyond me that people could actually believe this idea when the facts are there for them to see. Even though this year, which is an even year, has very low pink numbers in the Broughton by the sounds of it — we don't have the numbers yet — it's the same in Alaska where there's no possibility of salmon farming interfering with the pink returns.
It's just a known fact that pink salmon returns on the B.C. coast are one of the most wildly fluctuating of any. They come in huge amounts, and then they collapse down to small numbers, whereas many of the other populations are more steady in their population,
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although they all go through gyrations of considerable magnitude because that's nature for you. They have good years, and they have bad years.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much, Dr. Moore, for your presentation.
P. Moore: Thanks for your time.
R. Austin (Chair): I'd like to invite Sean Nixon to the witness table, please.
S. Nixon: Good afternoon, committee members. I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to present here to your committee. My name is Sean Nixon. I'm a staff lawyer with Sierra Legal Defence Fund here in Vancouver.
Sierra Legal is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to strengthening and enforcing the laws that protect our environment and our health. In the interests of openness and transparency, I should say that Sierra Legal does work closely with members of B.C.'s and Canada's environmental community. But we also work closely with members of the public and landowners, and we aren't being paid by any particular group to be here today. We're appearing on our own behalf.
I've been spending a fair chunk of my time for the last two years looking at aquaculture laws and at some of the environmental problems associated with open-net-pen salmon aquaculture. I was a co-author of a handbook for B.C. citizens who want to get involved with decision-making about proposed or existing open-net-pen fish farms near their communities. In the course of writing that citizens handbook Sierra Legal has taken a careful look at federal and provincial regulation of the industry.
Now, as I personally worked my way through the current regulation on aquaculture, I was struck by two things. First, aquaculture regulation in B.C. is complicated, as members of this committee will know from looking into it yourselves. My view was that it was a dog's breakfast of legislation and policy, licensing documents and confidential, proprietary corporate documents that are incorporated by reference into the regulatory scheme, which in my view makes it unduly complicated.
Second, when I cut through those complications and got to the bottom of it all, for the most part I found that there's really no substance to B.C.'s aquaculture laws. My strong impression was that B.C.'s laws are designed to make it look like the province is regulating the aquaculture industry while, in fact, government is doing little or nothing to protect the wild fishery and marine environment. I'll go on later in my talk today to give you a specific example of that.
The problems with aquaculture in Canada are hardly new ground. They've been covered by many commentators. Many people have sat in rooms like this over time and listened to people like me giving comments about aquaculture. I might mention the B.C. Attorney General, who's looked at it, the federal Attorney General, the Senate standing committee on fisheries and Justice Leggatt's inquiry.
All of these committees and groups of people, who've listened to people like me and the others you've heard today and all throughout British Columbia, have agreed that there's a problem, that we need to move forward. There are problems with the current regulatory system. There are problems with the way that aquaculture is managed by the federal government, and there are problems with the way it is managed by the British Columbia government.
All of those commentators have gone on, though, from discovering that there are problems to giving specific recommendations about how to move forward. Those recommendations are still out there at large; many of them have never been implemented. They have just sat there collecting dust. I hope that's not what happens to the work of this committee. I would charge you, I would ask you as legislators to look at this problem, address some of the concrete proposals that have been put forward, and implement them.
It's not a case of not knowing what to do. There are all sorts of people who have prognosticated on this at length. Listening to some of the other speeches today, I think there are actually huge areas of common ground. I think all people in British Columbia, all members of this committee, want an industry that actually creates jobs in the long term. They want a healthy coastal economy. They want a thriving wild fishery and a healthy marine ecosystem. I think that's common ground.
The question is how you get there. Again, I would point you to some of the specific recommendations that have been made by prior committees. I'll address some of those in my talk later on today.
To give you some idea of what I plan to go through today, I thought I'd start by trying to set up a general framework for how we'd recommend you approach regulation of fish farming, sort of a framework for how we'd recommend you actually look at the current regulatory framework in B.C. I'll then get briefly into one or two of the glaring problems I see with the current regulation of industry in British Columbia. Finally, I'll get to some of the solutions that we endorse that have been brought forward by prior committees.
Because of the nature of this presentation and the limited time that has been made available to us, I'm going to leave more detailed comments to written submissions that we'll be submitting towards the end of this month. I would say that Sierra Legal would welcome further engagement with the committee as you get to the point of actually formulating specific recommendations about how to move forward. I put that out to all members and to the committee at large.
Starting with the general background. I'd say that the starting point for regulation of the aquaculture industry is that the wild fishery is a public resource. The Supreme Court of Canada held in a 2002 case called Ward v. Canada that the wild fishery is a source of national or provincial wealth, a common property resource to be managed for the good of all Canadians. The question is how to regulate that common resource
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and how to regulate aquaculture in a way that avoids harming the public resource.
Aquaculture is a relative newcomer to this coast. People have been relying on the wild fishery for thousands of years as a source of food and as a foundation for coastal societies and economies. I think the big issue is that you have to avoid killing the golden goose that the wild fishery has been for thousands of years in the course of bringing a new industry in. I think there have been some good proposals made to the committee already about how you might be able to do that.
I note also that salmon farms in B.C. are leasing another public resource, namely Crown lands. Fish-farming companies don't actually own the land that they situate themselves on. It's owned by the B.C. public. It's owned by the Crown. Fish farmers are brief tenants, and we have to make sure that their brief stay doesn't harm public resources in the long term.
Another sort of broad principle that I think should frame the way we look at regulation of the industry is the importance of precaution. We are, of course, land-based creatures, and that affects our knowledge of the ocean. Our knowledge of the way that marine ecosystems work is incomplete and rudimentary. Because of that, we have to be careful when we introduce a relatively new industry like salmon aquaculture or a new species like Atlantic salmon to our Pacific coast.
I won't get into the specifics of what Dr. Moore was going through. I'd only mention that the UN has actually identified the introduction of non-native species like Atlantic salmon to our coast as one of the greatest threats to marine biodiversity.
The precautionary principle is an established tenet of international and domestic law. Part of what not only I think…. International law has implied that precaution implies a shift in the onus of proof. That is, those who want to undertake a new industrial activity should have the onus of proving that their activity won't actually harm the ecosystem. In practical terms on this coast the onus should really be on the fish-farming industry and not on the public at large or on government. The onus should be on the fish-farming industry to prove that they aren't harming the fisheries resource. They should be required to prove that their activities are safe through established scientific methods using peer-reviewed and published science rather than through press releases or through informal scientific opinions that are posted on websites.
Now, with respect, Dr. Moore's comments…. Dr. Moore has no qualms casting doubt on some of the scientists who've done work in this area, including Alex Morton. He has no qualms casting doubt on their credibility and doing it when those people aren't here to defend themselves. The difference between Mr. Moore, as some of your questions pointed out, and those scientists is that those scientists have actually published peer-reviewed research in reputable journals, and Dr. Moore has not. Dr. Moore says he's not a research scientist, but surely if he's trying to talk about the state of scientific knowledge about something, the idea would be to refer to other peer-reviewed journals that cast some doubt on the conclusions that people like Alex Morton have come to.
Dr. Moore wants policy decisions based on good science, and I would applaud that absolutely. There's an appropriate, established way to go about scientific debate. If somebody publishes a paper, you don't just show up and issue a press release casting doubt on their credibility. You go out and do the hard work. You roll up your sleeves, you go out for a year, and you put your dip net in the water and do a little bit of science yourself. You can't just take potshots from the side and sort of snicker in the aisles and expect that to be a legitimate public debate about scientifically based policy.
This brings me to my specific comments about the current regulation of salmon aquaculture in B.C. I thought I'd focus on sea lice and fish diseases generally. As I read through B.C.'s aquaculture legislation, I was again struck by what wasn't there. You won't find mention of any obligation for fish farm operators to report a disease epidemic or a sea lice infestation to government. That's not mentioned in the legislation. That's in these policy documents or in licensing documents and corporate proprietary documents that are much further down the chain and aren't publicly transparent or available to either the government or to members of the public. Nor is there any obligation in the legislation for fish farm operators to do anything if fish in their farms become infected with sea lice or with another fish disease based on a virus or bacteria.
We know from the published, peer-reviewed science on this topic — or certainly that's the current state of knowledge — that sea lice and fish disease epidemics from open-net-pen fish farms threaten juvenile wild salmon. There's simply no way to avoid it. If farmed fish are diseased, the disease will inevitably spread from the open-net pens where the fish are contained to the open ocean.
B.C. has somewhat remarkably chosen to address this threat to the wild fishery by requiring that fish farmers create their own confidential fish health management plans. Government assures the public that one of the terms of all fish health management plans is that companies have to notify authorities when there's a fish disease outbreak — in accordance with existing regulations. That's the key phrase there. However, when you actually look into it further, there are no provincial or federal regulations that require fish farmers to report disease outbreaks at fish farms. The B.C. animal health legislation and the federal animal health legislation — neither of them actually require fish farmers to report a disease outbreak.
This is a typical example of what I found as I went through B.C.'s aquaculture legislation, that when you get to the bottom of these layers of complexity, you discover that it's really all smoke and mirrors. It's designed to look like a coherent regulatory system, but it's designed to be complicated enough that nobody will get to the bottom of it.
I should mention that in B.C. there is a policy and often a licensing requirement that fish farmers consult
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with a veterinarian if they find a disease or a parasite epidemic on their farm. But this consultation itself can take weeks, while in the meantime that disease or parasite infestation is spreading to the marine environment. Compare this to Norway, for example, where legislation actually requires immediate action within two weeks to deal with infestations of sea lice above a certain trigger level and where authorities actually have the power to force treatment on fish farms, with the cost borne by the owner. No such provisions exist in B.C.
The other obvious difficulty with B.C.'s regulation of fish health is enforcement, as other commentators have no doubt noted. The fish farm operators are responsible for self-reporting sea lice numbers at their farms to the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association. The government, in fact, isn't even allowed to see the raw data on lice numbers from individual farms, because that's considered confidential proprietary information. To me, that boggles the mind. The wild fishery is a public resource.
Can you imagine if food health, for example, was regulated in the same way — instead of actually having a law that says in the legislation, "Thou shalt maintain a clean restaurant; thou shalt take steps to avoid making people sick," government asked restaurants to develop a confidential human health management plan and self-report any infractions of that health management plan to the B.C. Restaurant Association?
I would mention here, while we're talking about sea lice, the recent private prosecution brought by Alexandra Morton against a farm in the Broughton. The conclusion of the independent special prosecutor, who was hired by the province of British Columbia, was that sea lice from B.C. fish farms are harming wild salmon, even though those farms are complying with existing federal and provincial laws. That's a clear indication that we actually need better laws that safeguard the marine environment. We clearly also need some kind of independent monitoring and surveillance, rather than industry self-reporting, as the key compliance method.
That brings me, finally, to some of the solutions that various commentators have suggested. I'd say in the short term — as an interim or band-aid solution — the first priority is that there should be no new farms unless they're using some kind of technology that can be proven not to be harming the marine environment. We don't want to encourage further investment in a technology that clearly has some problems with it.
I'd say, beyond that, there should be no farms at all on the north and central coast until we've dealt with some of the problems that are emerging. Some would say that it's gone far beyond emerging. The status quo is that there's definitely a problem there until some reasonable scientific doubt is cast upon it. There should be no further movement to the north and central coasts until we've actually dealt with some of the problems further south.
A second short-term solution would be to relocate all existing farms away from known juvenile pink and chum salmon migration and rearing areas. Again, that would be a band-aid solution for this two- to three-year time frame while you investigated other options.
If you don't know where those juvenile salmon migration routes are at this point, clearly that's something that we should be identifying. If that's the key problem right now, that these farms are located right on those routes, that's easy enough. Tow them to some other location where they're not going to threaten the public wild fishery.
Third, community should clearly have a say in what happens locally. There shouldn't be any farms located where local first nations and communities are saying no. If the point is to help the local community, and the local community doesn't want it, then what are we doing there?
In the longer term, I think what this committee and what the province needs to look at is a full-scale revisioning of B.C.'s aquaculture legislation and of our approach to the entire issue.
It doesn't need tinkering. You need to start from the ground up and look at actually developing technologies and developing a law that doesn't cause less harm to the environment but actually protects that marine environment entirely so there's no net impact on the marine environment. The key to that, as several commentators have already mentioned, is to keep the fish and their by-products physically separated from wild salmon and from the marine environment.
I won't get into a debate about whether it should be closed containment or flow-through, but clearly if you have a tank system, you're able to actually do something with some of the water that comes out of it. There are known ways to treat the sewage, and there are people much better than me to talk to you about that. It's a semantic debate. The idea, whether you call it closed containment or flow-through, is that it can't harm the local marine environment. That's the bottom line. Whatever you call it, that's the end goal we're looking for.
I guess the question is: what can legislators do? What can a committee like this do to encourage closed containment? That's where I'd be willing to get into a much deeper, more detailed conversation with this committee further down the road. I'd only say that one example would be to implement what's widely called the polluter-pays principle. If current fish farms are actually known to be causing some damage to a public resource, you gradually increase the rents that we're charging them to the point that you're capturing some of that back. That naturally will divert some of the industry's attention to other technologies that aren't harming our wild ecosystems.
Those are my only prepared remarks, but I'd again say that I and Sierra Legal are more than willing to come back to this committee at a later stage or to address specific recommendations later down the road.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks, Sean. You mentioned that you also have a more detailed presentation that you're going to be giving to us.
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S. Nixon: Yes. I believe the deadline is October 31. We'll be responding by that date.
R. Austin (Chair): Okay. I'll open the floor to questions.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, I'll be brief, then. You're a lawyer, I understand?
S. Nixon: I am, yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): That's right, so I'll confine my questions to the legal aspects, to try to narrow this down a bit. I'll stay away from what you alluded to as potshocking — potshots and snickering — and try to elevate the debate a bit.
Have you done any work with respect to comparatives? That's one of our requirements here: "(4) B.C.'s regulatory regime as it compares to other jurisdictions." Now, if I understand you, you're certainly arguing more for transparency, and you have a submission on that, but have you done any comparative work with other jurisdictions — Sweden, Norway, Chile?
S. Nixon: Yes, and that's something that we will be addressing further in the written submissions that will be coming to you. I referenced the Norwegian regulations on sea lice, which actually impose specific, hard requirements on fish farmers to do something within a certain time frame. That's one example where I think B.C.'s regulatory system doesn't stand up to the comparison.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Legally speaking, isn't there a Fisheries and Oceans regulation — I think HADD is the acronym — for not…? Isn't that a law? Is that a law, or is that a principle? Can you comment on that? Do you know about that?
S. Nixon: I think you're referring to the federal Fisheries Act. I believe that it's section 35 or thereabouts that talks about it. HADD stands for harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So there are some laws in place.
S. Nixon: There are, and that's a whole other question: what is the federal role here? I think aquaculture is one of those…. It's a textbook example of what happens when you have two overlapping jurisdictions, where both guys are going like this. DFO is saying the provinces are governing that, and the provinces think that DFO is covering things. In fact, both have backed off, at least in some cases, and it leaves significant regulatory gaps, and the wild fisheries suffer because of it.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, if you haven't commented on that in your submission, I'd invite you to comment on that too. It would be useful for us.
S. Fraser: Thanks, Sean, for your submission. To be fair, you said earlier that if somebody's going to be challenging that recent report that came out of the Academy of Sciences journal, they should roll up their sleeves and use a dip net themselves. They actually used, I think, a beach seine system. It wasn't a dip net. This was part of the criticism that was there.
S. Nixon: That's why I'm a lawyer, not a scientist.
S. Fraser: I just thought, for clarification — and touched on already by Ron's question — of the role of DFO and, obviously, the role of the province in, maybe, conflicting regulatory issues. What's come up with this committee in a number of our submissions, travelling the province…. It's been raised that DFO itself may have a conflicting role in the sense that its mandate is to protect the wild stocks and the marine environment, of course, but also to promote the industry.
It's a quandary that's been thrown up to us. I don't have an answer to it. Do you have a legal kind of take on how that…? Are there any jurisprudence examples of how this can work?
S. Nixon: I think it probably comes more from external commentary. The idea is that a regulatory system works best if you separate the ministry that's responsible for endorsing an industry, or helping them get going, from the one that's responsible for enforcing environmental laws.
Now, the Ministry of Environment in B.C. has had its jurisdiction to enforce environmental laws clawed back for the last half-decade, anyway, as those powers have been given back to resource ministries. There's always a problem there. The resource ministries are often much closer to the industry they regulate. It's called "industry capture," and I think the response is to move it back to a ministry that's at least sort of one or two degrees of separation from the industry that they're regulating.
S. Fraser: Okay. Just to finish off that train of thought, whether it's the DFO federally or the Ministry of Environment that has had its teeth…. It's been declawed to some extent as far as its objective oversight role. Maybe that has been weakened at DFO because of a conflicting role.
It would also be in the best interests of the industry to make sure that that was crystal-clear and separated — would it not? There's a credibility issue that comes about when there are questions of the legislative bodies — whether or not they're being objective or able to do their job. When they say something, the public may not buy it, and that can be a problem. Or it can even be ambiguous for industry, too, if they're getting mixed messages.
S. Nixon: Absolutely. I think there was a report in the paper this morning talking about recent polling, essentially saying that Canadians and British Columbians no longer trust their government to be the one that regulates the environment on their behalf.
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Commenting on salmon aquaculture in particular, there certainly has been a move for industry to self-regulate or to move enforcement powers to the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands rather than to a more independent party like a ministry of oceans. As of, say, ten or 20 years ago I think there was a healthy tension between the province pushing ahead with aquaculture and DFO being the one who put the brakes on. That tension no longer exists, because as you say, DFO has been given the endorsement or…. Part of its duty is now to champion the salmon-farming industry, and there's no longer that tension that helps with enforcement of our public environmental laws.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation, Sean.
I'd like to call Denise Reinhardt up to the witness table, thanks.
D. Reinhardt: Good afternoon. My name is Denise Reinhardt. I live on Okeover Inlet, which is north of Powell River. I am the president and speak on behalf of the Association for Responsible Shellfish Farming.
First of all, we thank the hon. members for their time, their energy, their attention and their patience through these hearings and the deliberative process that we're sure you'll be engaging in.
We're an association of community organizations from areas of intensive shellfish aquaculture operations, and we say that shellfish farming is one of B.C.'s most unregulated industries, despite its profound impact on the environment and on the rights of coastal residents and visitors. We do not blindly and in a blanket way oppose shellfish aquaculture. Rather, we oppose shellfish aquaculture carried out in inappropriate places and in an irresponsible manner, without accommodation to the environment and to other existing and growing and valid uses.
My brief remarks are based on the longer submission from the association, copies of which you've been provided with. There is a lot more detail in that submission about the shellfish aquaculture industry and the regulatory climate or the lack thereof.
In 1998 the province launched what it called the shellfish development initiative as a way of addressing the jobs crisis in resource-dependent small coastal communities. Without performing any baseline studies of the existing environment and without doing any economic or social investigation of possible future impacts, the province proposed to double the amount of Crown land available for shellfish aquaculture in existing coastal communities in the ten years following 1998.
Most of this expansion has occurred in areas of great natural beauty and in existing residential and recreational areas because they are near to roads and ferries. In the course of this expansion the ownership and character of the industry has changed dramatically.
What used to be small-scale operations with minimal and gentle visual, social and environmental impacts are now businesses run by absentee corporations and often by foreign corporations using new industrial technologies. These create massive disturbances where there were few or none before.
The regulations, such as they are, date from the old era of the small-scale operations and do not address these new industrialized developments. The needs of local residents, businesses and recreational owners have been subordinated to the demands of the shellfish industry, causing direct and serious conflicts in our small communities. That's our first big problem.
The second big problem is that while the province expressly assumes that shellfish farming is benign and environmentally friendly — the phrase "environmentally friendly" appears in the province's website explaining what the shellfish development initiative is — there is, in fact, no peer-reviewed science to support the claim that shellfish aquaculture is environmentally friendly. As other people have told you, studies from elsewhere suggest that shellfish aquaculture has a massive impact on fragile shoreline and water-bottom ecology. So that's our second big problem.
Why are we in this state? We're in this state because the province has abdicated its responsibility to regulate the shellfish industry. There is very little or no control over the impact of industrialized shellfish aquaculture on many aspects of life in British Columbia. We are concentrating here on two major types of gaps. The first is that there are no siting criteria for shellfish aquaculture operations. On the one hand, there are no rules of practice for how shellfish aquaculture shall be carried out, and on the other hand, there is no ongoing environmental monitoring of the impact of the shellfish aquaculture operations that have been allowed to develop.
What it means in practice — that there are no provincial shellfish siting criteria — is that when the integrated land management bureau and the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands are deciding whether or not to grant the licence of occupation or tenure on Crown land and, on the other hand, the licence to raise this crop of shellfish, the only question they are asking is whether the site is appropriate for aquaculture. That is, is the location suitable in terms of physical features, water flow and other factors bearing on whether shellfish will grow there?
No one looks at or cares whether new and expanded shellfish operations — including huge, noisy, unsightly industrial operations — will cause adjacent tourist businesses to suffer, will interrupt the quiet enjoyment of some of B.C.'s most beautiful coastline by recreational users and by existing residential communities. Every objection on these grounds that we have raised over the past six years in the public consultation process before the tenures and licences are granted was rejected.
We are losing our coastline to an industry that in economic terms is channelling profits away from our communities and to other countries. We have effectively no public access to the beaches that belong to us all because they are covered with rebar, anti-competitor netting, berms, Vexar fences and other obstructions and often hostile oyster and shellfish farmers who seek to
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keep us from crossing these lands that we have a right to cross.
We cannot enter or navigate bays or inlets that are virtually filled with huge aquaculture operations piled with structures and noisy machinery that extend over hectares and hectares of blue plastic barrels. The industry is turning a previously undisturbed coastline into a vast industrial wasteland with little return for local economies and with severe adverse impact on pre-existing businesses and communities. In an area such as where I live in Okeover, we're talking about a few handfuls of jobs that pay $20,000 a year per capita at best, and that's before the expenses of the operation of the farm, before taxes, before everything else that comes out. That's not a living wage.
Our communities, which were here long before the shellfish industry, are suffering. Why is that? It's because, without any economic or social impact study, the province decided and still holds to the unfounded presumption that shellfish aquaculture is the highest and best use of these Crown land coastal resources.
We think it's time to look closely at that presumption and to figure out whether shellfish aquaculture should really have been given the licence to destroy existing communities and businesses and whether it should keep that licence. We think it is time for a new presumption, one that preserves our existing communities and businesses.
We think it is time for new, stringent and equitable terms of operations and regulations that are enforceable, including siting criteria that respect existing activities and visual mitigation and size requirements and limitations on use of industrial equipment in residential and tourist areas. We also want those regulations to include requirements to control industrialized waste at the source. We don't see why foreign corporations should be allowed any longer to externalize their labour and transportation costs onto the people of B.C.
The second big gap in regulating is the environmental monitoring. Before the shellfish development initiative, as I said above, no one conducted any baseline studies of the existing shoreline. There is no ongoing research funded by the province that looks at an entire system where intensive shellfish aquaculture is carried out, such as Gorge Harbour or Baynes Sound. We know from research elsewhere that commercial shellfish cultivation changes the environment in many ways, including dropping tonnes of waste from each raft; exhausting oxygen and nutrients in the water column, which is needed by other organisms; and promoting monoculture.
While there is no question that there is life under the rafts and longlines, the question is: what kind of life? Observations elsewhere say that that life is not the same species and is not in the same proportion and balance as before industrial operations commenced.
We call now for industry-funded baseline studies of areas under cultivation and of comparable areas not under cultivation and for thorough investigation of current environmental impacts of shellfish aquaculture before any further expansion. We call for limits on future expansion based on a holistic approach to the entire environmental and social system into which aquaculture is being introduced or expanded.
To do all these things, we need thorough and honest social and environmental studies of the industry and regulations that provide for, among many other things, siting criteria that respect existing uses and that strictly control the size and manner of shellfish production and provide for a truly sustainable industry.
We're calling for an enforceable, binding and meaningful code of responsible shellfish aquaculture practices that keeps pace with the headlong industrialization of the industry. There are more details of our requests on pages 12 through 14 of my submission. We think these steps will keep the shellfish aquaculture industry from trashing our coastline and continuing to turn it into a vast industrial wasteland. Finally, we're asking for a moratorium on all newer amended Crown land tenures and shellfish aquaculture licences until these steps have been taken.
We also support the recommendations that were given to you this morning by the David Suzuki Foundation with respect to shellfish aquaculture.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Denise.
Do any members have any comments?
G. Robertson: I am curious. If you could just give us a rough sketch of who is part of your association.
D. Reinhardt: Sure. We represent community organizations in Baynes Sound on Denman Island, in the Cortes–Gorge Harbour area and in the Malaspina–Okeover Inlet complex, which are the three main areas where shellfish aquaculture has been promoted, as well as other individuals and organizations up and down the Georgia Strait area.
G. Robertson: Okay. Are you in any kind of dialogue at this point with industry or the government around changes and your recommendations?
D. Reinhardt: We're not in dialogue with government. We have had dialogue in the past, and we have essentially gotten nowhere. We are considering, at this point, entering into a serious dialogue with the B.C. Shellfish Growers Association, who have contacted us and have indicated that they at least want to talk. I don't know what the terms of those discussions would be, so I can't really speak further on that.
S. Fraser: You mentioned the multinational corporations. Who would you be referring to there?
D. Reinhardt: Actually, I am not the person in my organization who is most familiar with those, but I could provide you with that information. I do know that in my area it's a corporation called the Taylor Shellfish Co. They're from Washington State. I know that in Baynes
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Sound, in particular, we're talking about European corporations and other U.S. corporations being involved there. I can provide you with that information.
S. Fraser: Just secondly, you mentioned issues around impact with the industrial activity. What are you specifically referring to with the industrial activity?
D. Reinhardt: Again, I'm not the person who's the most knowledgable about that, but mostly it's cranes, pumps, machinery for moving the shellfish, machinery for cleaning the shellfish. It's noisy, big and there — in your face. On the water, of course, the noise carries quite a bit.
S. Fraser: Oh, yeah, I know that. Thank you.
D. Jarvis: Just a quick question. Is the whole industry like this?
D. Reinhardt: No, not all of it. In fact, we're very happy to coexist, and we do coexist with the smaller operations that are still family-run or small local corporations. It is just the new, larger owners that are coming in and using these larger ways of doing the production.
D. Jarvis: Have you contacted them? Have they given you any thought that they might change or wish to change or will change?
D. Reinhardt: Do you mean the corporations?
D. Jarvis: Yeah.
D. Reinhardt: No, we have not. Up until now we've been directing most of our energy toward government and toward the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands — the integrated land management bureau and its many, many predecessors.
D. Jarvis: I imagine they have a pretty good organization — would they not? — where they all sit around and talk about how well they do and how bad they don't do. So you haven't tried to contact them.
D. Reinhardt: I believe we will be talking very soon to the B.C. Shellfish Growers Association. I know that the executive director of that organization, Roberta Stevenson, did address you up in Campbell River, I think.
D. Jarvis: Yes, that's right. Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks very much for your presentation.
I'd like to call Ross Grierson and Jason Mann, from EWOS Canada, to the witness table.
R. Grierson: Thank you for the opportunity this afternoon. My name is Ross Grierson. I'm the president of EWOS Canada. On my left is Jason Mann. He's our director of nutrition and purchasing for the company. Both of us have worked in EWOS for over 18 years. I was also first a salmon farmer — or in management of salmon farms — so I have some experience there as well.
We'd like to give you a little insight into our company, something about its affiliates and the parent, its impact in the province and address some of the issues commonly raised in feed production.
First, EWOS Canada is one of the major suppliers of fish feed to the local aquaculture industry. We supply over 40 percent of the total feed requirements in British Columbia.
In addition to the local farming industry, we are a supplier to the Pacific salmon enhancement operations from California to Alaska. That includes Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. We are also supplier to marine farming operations in Asia.
The EWOS manufacturing facility is located in Surrey and has been a producer of fish feeds at this location since 1986. From 1986 to 1997 EWOS manufactured feeds for the developing aquaculture industry and for the poultry industry in the Fraser Valley. At that time we were the largest producer of poultry feeds to the broiler industry. In 1997 the poultry feed business was sold. Since that time EWOS manufactures only fish feeds.
EWOS Canada is one part of the EWOS group of companies. EWOS has production facilities in each of the four main salmon-farming areas, major markets in Norway and Chile and much smaller markets in Scotland and western Canada. The EWOS group is one of the leading producers of salmonid feeds globally. We expect to produce in excess of 750,000 tonnes of feed in 2006. The EWOS group employs approximately 845 people.
In addition to the production facilities, the group is supported by EWOS Innovation, comprised of two research and development facilities located in Norway. These centralized R-and-D facilities are dedicated to furthering our knowledge of fish nutrition requirements, feed ingredients and formulation development, testing and production technology.
In regard to ownership and other affiliates of the group, EWOS is owned by a company called Cermaq AS, a Norwegian-based public company traded on the Oslo stock exchange. The largest shareholder of the company is the state of Norway, which is kind of interesting, holding 40 percent of the company ownership.
Besides feed production Cermaq is a significant salmon-farming company through its ownership of the Mainstream group of companies, which have operations in the same major farming areas. Combined operations of EWOS and Mainstream employ approximately 3,400 people.
Getting a little more local, EWOS Canada has 80 full-time employees year-round, with an annual payroll of approximately $4.2 million. These are well-paid jobs in a union facility. The plant operates five days a week, 24 hours a day. Total raw material purchases are in excess of $50 million annually. We are a big customer to local transportation companies, both truck and rail, and to several agriculture, protein and oil suppliers.
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To get another scale, Cermaq has invested in excess of $175 million in British Columbia in the feed and farming operations. EWOS Canada has been a contributor to a number of salmon enhancement initiatives, in addition to its own business: a fish ladder development in Campbell River, our involvement in Tynehead Hatchery in Surrey, beaver loop trail creek fishway, the Nature Conservancy of Canada's Return of the River fund.
In addition, we are a major sponsor for local community events — the Newton Community Festival, local sports teams, local school fundraising events — and charitable organizations — the Surrey Firefighters Charitable Society, the B.C. Cancer Foundation. We have supported the Surrey Memorial Hospital in acquiring equipment for its emergency room. We have invested in wild fish as well as farm fish in our local community.
As regards the sustainability of feed composition, Cermaq's vision statement is sustainable aquaculture. To quote part of it: "…to be one of the global leaders in the sustainable production of feed to and farming of salmonid species." This includes a respect for the communities and environment in which we operate.
To deliver this vision of sustainable aquaculture requires a large commitment in resources. What has EWOS done, you might ask, and how effective has it been? These are questions. The main driver to our activities here are our research-and-development centres — an essential basis. I have alluded already to our R-and-D division in Norway. These facilities employ 70 highly skilled people — scientists and technicians. The facilities include research farms, experimental tank and sea trial facilities, analytical laboratory facilities, a pilot production plant for technology development and trial feed production.
Additionally, EWOS Innovation has established a network with academic and third-party R-and-D facilities. EWOS Innovations spends approximately $10 million to $12 million annually in these activities. The development of new ingredients and feed formulations to replace marine ingredients is a top priority for EWOS Innovation.
On a local basis what do we do? Locally we have worked with many groups such as DFO, Pacific Biological Station and many universities — UBC, SFU, Guelph, Sasktchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and the U of Davis in California. In areas of diet development for enhancement hatcheries — white surgeon and emerging species such as black cod and Atlantic cod, broodstock diets and diets to reduce the levels of contaminants in the fish. Development of projects with prairie farmers and grain elevator groups have produced new ingredients from traditional agriculture farmers.
As regards output of R-and-D activities, we can look into the history and development of feed composition from 1986 to the present. Many times we have heard estimates of the number of kilograms of pelagic fish required to produce one kilogram of salmon flesh, in reference to the sustainability of the pelagic fisheries used to produce fishmeal and oil used in the feeds.
There has been a substantial change in the formulation and the amount of marine ingredients used in current feed formulations. Going backwards, in the 1980s, when the salmon-farming industry was starting, the first generation of feeds was almost entirely fishmeal- and fish oil–based. At that time we estimated that it would have taken six kilograms of pelagic fish to produce one kilogram of salmon.
By the mid-1990s this ratio had reduced to approximately 3.5 kilograms of pelagic fish per kilo of salmon produced. The decrease came as a result of improvement in a number of factors: the nutritional knowledge of fish requirements and feed formulation to replace a portion of the main ingredients with alternative protein sources — for example, poultry by-products and vegetable protein; improvement in feed management techniques; improvement in the technical quality of the feed — there's less waste from dust and particles; and improved survival of fish on the farm.
Improvements in these areas have continued, where now the approximate conversion is less than two kilograms of pelagic fish per one kilogram of salmon produced. Fewer and fewer marine ingredients are being used in today's feeds. In their place there is greater inclusion of alternative proteins and oils from poultry by-products and vegetable sources. With continued commitment to R and D, the conversion efficiency will improve.
There are economic, sustainability and biological incentives for the industry to continue in this direction. In order to develop feeds which are sustainable long term, our approach to feed formulation is to maximize the use of local co-by-products from primary, human-destined food processing as an increasing diet fraction; to maximize the use of ingredients which create the smallest ecological footprint; and to optimize the biological and economic conversion efficiency — feed to fish production.
With regards to ingredients from sustainable resources, frequent questions I receive from the public are: what are our feeds made from, and are the ingredients sustainable? As for the feed ingredients, the diets are formulated with protein sources from fishmeal, poultry by-product meals and vegetable sources, mainly canola, legumes, wheat and corn products. The lipid source is primarily from fish and vegetable oils and micronutrient ingredients such as vitamins and minerals. Astaxanthin and canaxanthin are added to these ingredients. These fishmeals and oils are predominantly a source from South American fisheries — Peru and Chile. By-product production from local fisheries is also used, such as the herring fishery.
The other proteins and oils are a source within North America, predominantly Canada. The vegetable-source ingredients are clearly renewable and sustainable ingredients. The utilization of by-products is an efficient use of what would otherwise be waste.
The sustainability of marine-based ingredients is more complex — well, at least to us. The fishmeal and oil is produced from pelagic fish, such as anchovy and sardine. The information on global, annual landings of these fish shows a fairly stable fishery, ranging between 20 and 25 million tonnes. This production yields about five to six million tonnes of fishmeal and 1.2 million tonnes of fish oil.
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The pelagic fisheries in Peru and Chile are very important industries in the economy. Peru alone produces about one-third of total fishmeal production globally. As such, government-imposed and management-controlled measures to protect the future of the fishery — including area catch limits, seasonal bans, minimum fish landing size, type of fishing gear, minimum mesh size, vessel registration and satellite tracking, following the guidelines of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Compared to salmon, the fish have a short life cycle and are more able to recover rapidly from adverse effects such as an El Niño.
Moving to pink colour in the salmon. There's been a reference here today, but we will confirm what was said. The general understanding of how farmed fish obtain this pink colour is not understood by those who are certain that the flesh has been dyed. The connotation here is that the fish has been immersed in a colourant. Wild fish obtain their pink colour through the bioaccumulation of astaxanthin from plankton being ingested directly or from their prey. Farm fish similarly obtain the colour through ingestion of astaxanthin and canthaxanthin incorporated in the feeds we produce. These micronutrients are synthetically produced by the same manufacturers as vitamins for human consumption. The micronutrients have the identical molecular structure as the natural source of the wild fish. In addition to producing the pink colour in the flesh, these micronutrients have other benefits, such as being an antioxidant, immune system stimulation and pro–vitamin A function.
Turning your attention to medication, another area that draws considerable attention in the assessment of the farming industry is the use of antibiotics and treatment against sea lice in the feeds. We have heard and read about the concern industry critics have in this area and the negative aura placed over the fish produced. We do not agree with the negative comments made in relation to the information we have as feed suppliers to the industry. We are the ones who produce the feed.
It is important to note that the production of medicated feeds is firmly regulated. Medicated feeds can only be produced pursuant to veterinarians' prescription. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducts annual audits of our plant and reviews this area thoroughly, including a review of our production records against prescriptions, reconciliation of our inventory of medications and the security of our storage area. During the year the CFIA frequently takes samples of medicated feeds and tests the medication content against the prescription and samples non-medicated feeds to ensure that there is no presence of medications.
A record of medications added to feeds from 2001 to date shows a declining trend in use. Feed containing medication as percentage of feeds produced in this industry was at its highest in 2002 at 3.2 percent and has declined to 1.7 percent of feeds produced in 2006. In 2006 only 0.3 percent of feeds produced have an antibiotic added, less than 20 percent of the 2002 percentage. The balance relates to feeds including treatment against sea lice.
In comparisons to poultry feeds we once made, this is a very small amount. At the time approximately two-thirds of feed supplied contained antibiotics or like additives, such as coccsidiostats to control microbial infection in the birds.
At EWOS innovation in the development of feeds containing natural additives to promote the health and well-being of fish during periods of stress is also a priority. Such feeds are not a replacement for antibiotics but mitigate the need for them.
In relation to food safety and contaminants, EWOS Canada has a thorough system of quality control and assurance. We are ISO 9001:2000 certified. External audits are performed twice a year to maintain certification. We have implemented the principles and controls of hazard analysis critical control points. Annually we are audited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which enforces the Feeds Act. Additionally, we have been audited by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
Our quality assurance laboratory, where incoming ingredients and final feeds are quality tested, is a member of the Association of American Feed Control Officials. As part of EWOS Canada's quality control system, we frequently screen samples of feeds produced for contaminants including PCBs, dioxin, flame retardants, microtoxins and heavy metals to determine compliance with the applicable regulation and to develop an in-house database of results.
Contaminants cannot be eliminated, but increased use of non-marine proteins and oils and purchasing marine ingredients from areas proven to have the lowest levels of contaminants have reduced the presence of contaminants in the feeds produced today.
Turning your attention to our production facility again. U.S. and Canada have had two production lines since the early 1990s. These lines are maintained and upgraded for improvements in technology, but we are static in our development in the business in British Columbia. We had to look to export markets to utilize available capacity. The U.S. group would like to invest further into this industry but is unable to do so until there is a clear decision to move the farming industry forward.
We have already secured property adjacent to our current location for expansion of production facilities. We look with envy and local disappointment at our sister company in Chile, which since the early 1990s — starting from nothing — has received capital to build new facilities to the point where they are producing six times our annual output. They have, in fact, what we think is the largest production amount in the world in this regard.
In conclusion, we are committed to sustainable aquaculture. I hope we have provided you with more insight into our efforts in the area of research and development and formulation development to ensure that this is achieved for the long term. Substantial progress has already been achieved in the production of marine ingredients used to produce a kilogram of salmon. Further progress will occur without significant
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change in the biological performance and composition of the fish.
Greater use of non-marine protein and oil will be acquired in Canada — one of the world's largest bread baskets. This will add to the cost-competitiveness of this industry compared to other producing areas and the amount of energy required currently to transport ingredients from South America, for example.
There will also be spin-off benefits to supplier industries. The asta- and canthaxanthin incorporated in the feeds is not a dye but a rather a nutrient which also produces pink colour. The use of antibiotics is already at a very low level as result of good farming practices and health-promoting feeds. The level of contaminants is already a fraction of permitted levels and will decrease in the future due to further use of non-marine ingredients and careful selection of fishmeal and fish oil.
Again, a reference to the article you've heard about today — that Harvard study. The thing I think about the most having read it is that the avoidance of a modest fish consumption due to confusion regarding risk and benefits could result in thousands of excess coronary heart disease deaths each year and sub-optimal neural development in children. That's quite a thing. That's something to think about.
We believe that we are in a sustainable business. Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks, Ross.
D. Jarvis: I can't pronounce it as well as most people can, but these, as you say, nutrients that you put in that create the pink colour…. Can you go into that a little bit further? In what way is it a nutrient? Are there no antibiotics in it at all, whatsoever? No toxins? What we hear all the time is that it's not good to be put in there.
J. Mann: Maybe I can comment on that. Antioxidants are something that are identified more and more in human nutrition as a critical area to improve health and avoid getting sick as easily. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E are more understood in human nutrition. Things such as selenium, which is a micro-mineral, have been more recently identified in human nutrition as key ingredients that we need to take more of. It was regarded as a toxin 15 years earlier.
As we learn more, we're understanding that the right amount of these micronutrients are actually critical for improving our health. Animal health is similar.
One of the most powerful groups of antioxidants when we start looking at the scale of antioxidants is the pigments that are identified: astaxanthin and canthaxanthin.
In between that range of, for example, vitamin C, vitamin E and asta and cantha — we call it for short — there are other things coming from herbal or plant extracts: rosemary, etc. There's a large group of components from Asian countries that have been identified.
Astaxanthin is a natural product that is licensed in the U.S. by the FDA for direct human consumption. This is coming from algae or phaffia as two sources. In nature it exists in phytoplankton or the algae that are in the sea. It's the most prolific, most common pigment in the marine environment. In the phytoplankton or plant form it's consumed by zooplankton or krill or crustaceans. Typically, these crustaceans are consumed by, for example, sockeye salmon. In other salmon they may feed on herring or other smaller fish which have fed on the krill. So it's a food web chain.
It's existing in nature and companies such as DSM. Hoffmann–La Roche, which we know is one of the largest vitamin manufactures in the world, have developed these products for use. Initially, canthaxanthin was developed for the poultry industry, where it's used for giving an antioxidant effect, but also the yellow colour in the yolk of eggs, and also the yellow colour in the skin of chickens. Some cultures like to see a yellow bird, but also have the antioxidant effect.
Salmon feeds have been supplemented in the early days with krill, krill by-products or crab shell extract from the crab and lobster–type of industry. That also contains astaxanthin. It's a very natural product, but in one form out of about half a dozen that exist. It's made in the synthetic way on production lines very similar to vitamins that are also made — vitamin A for example — a very similar process.
They are not a dye. They primarily are a nutrient that gives health-promoting effects. In human medicine this is something the natural food industry first…. It's being promoted now as sustaining health and increasing life and preventing disease.
C. Trevena: You raised the question about the sustainability of the resource, the sustainability of the feed. I just wondered: is the fish feed that you make certified sustainable by anyone?
R. Grierson: No.
C. Trevena: Is there any organization that is certifying the fishmeal as sustainable?
R. Grierson: I don't think so.
J. Mann: There are no formal certification bodies, as such, but the FAO guidelines are the most stringent guidelines that exist for the fisheries around the world, and these are being followed. Under the FAO website you can actually see tables of fisheries that summarize what kinds of restrictions are placed, what type of fishing gear, etc., on each on these fisheries.
Those are guidelines that are used by industry to control the amount of fish taken, as well as local scientific bodies in each regional government. For example, in Peru a scientific organization called IMARPE is responsible for doing a scientific fishery prior to determining the quota for each fishing season. At that point they set a quota based on the percentage of juveniles, the size of the school, etc. It's not a quota that's set on a permanent basis. It's set approximately every four months when there's a fishery opening in Peru.
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C. Trevena: But there's no body, then, that is saying that the fishmeal you use is sustainable. You're looking at the FAO guidelines. That's what you're using as your guide.
J. Mann: Yes, at this point that is what is available — the most strict form — voluntarily.
If I can just comment, the fishmeal production in the world predominantly has been done, if we go back in history, largely for the poultry and pork industry. Still to this day about 60 percent of the total fishmeal produced in the world is used in pork and poultry feeds. Aquaculture is still a minor user of it.
What we're finding — if I could just give a bit of a sidelight to it — is that animals don't need ingredients. They need nutrients, as do we humans. Nutrients come from a whole host of different sources. It can be plant proteins. It can be animal proteins. It can be fish proteins.
What we are learning as we do more research is that you can mimic and simulate, or make empirical profile of fishmeal that has the same nutrients provided. So we don't need fishmeal as such. Over time, we have been using it at only one-third of the level that we started out at approximately 18 years ago.
The pork and poultry industry uses most of this fishmeal, mainly because it provides employment in Peru and Chile, which is producing about one-third of the world's production. It's used mainly in China and Asia for these feeds. They are also finding with nutrition knowledge that they can substitute this and replace it with soybean, etc.
C. Trevena: Using the beans, canola and so on. Is any of what you're using genetically modified, or is just what has been harvested at the moment — what you use there?
J. Mann: We use whatever the regulations permit us to use. In North America approximately 80 percent of the plant proteins produced are modified genetically. Canola, as the name canola implies, is modified rapeseed. This was produced about 30 years ago. The Green Revolution in India was based on GMO and having more yields, etc.
The soybean industry in the U.S. is about 85 percent based on GMO technology. The last frontier, in a larger scale, Brazil and Argentina, which were initially GMO-free, are now, also — at least 50 percent in the case of Brazil — GMO; and Argentina is over 90 percent.
To feed the world's increasing population with a decreasing land base as well as food safety issues, there is a general availability issue. Certain feeds can try to source a non-GMO type of product, but trying to isolate plantations in the Prairies…. You can imagine that you can't put a wall around the neighbour's crops. You have this issue of crossing over of GMOs.
I think the GMO plant world is here in a large way, and it's been here for many years. We may or may not be aware of it, but most of the foods we are eating have some degree of modification.
C. Trevena: I've got a couple of other questions, which are a bit broader, on the operation of EWOS. I received — as I mentioned, last week we were in Campbell River — a number of copies of the submissions to the committee from various companies and various individuals working for companies — quite a lot. I got a number from EWOS. They were all dated May 29, and I wondered if you could explain why.
R. Grierson: We asked the employees to send the committee what they thought — their feelings.
C. Trevena: All the employees decided to do this on May 29?
R. Grierson: We asked them to address it about that time, and they did.
C. Trevena: The letters that I have copies of weren't signed. I wondered if you had facilitated these letters in any way.
R. Grierson: I have no comment about the non-signing. As management, we did not assist.
C. Trevena: You did not assist.
R. Grierson: Yeah — some assistance may have been provided, but we did not assist. I mean, some of these people…. We asked them: "Exactly what are your feelings?" They were helped, I guess, to write the letter — yes — but not as management.
C. Trevena: Who were they helped by, if I might ask?
R. Grierson: There was some assistance provided from a third party through the Salmon Farmers Association.
C. Trevena: Might I ask who the third party was through the Salmon Farmers Association?
R. Grierson: I don't know the fellow's name, to be honest.
C. Trevena: But it was somebody employed by the Salmon Farmers Association.
R. Grierson: Yeah.
C. Trevena: And did they come to your company to work with the staff?
R. Grierson: We asked them to.
C. Trevena: Right. I'm just intrigued, because all the letters I have…. I can read a few of them: "I believe that the aquaculture industry is sustainable and would like to see it grow and expand to meet the demand for this healthy product."
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"I believe that the aquaculture industry is sustainable and would like to see it grow and expand and contribute to the economy." "I believe the aquaculture…." And so they go. They're all, I would say, 90-percent identical. I wondered whether this is something that you've been encouraging your staff to do.
R. Grierson: Well, we did in fact think it was a good idea to voice their opinion. This is their life. This is their job.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I'm so happy you're here, because there have been a lot of numbers thrown around about the conversion factors and the fact that we're harvesting in farms at the top of the food chain. Now, pelagic…. I'm just seeking a clarification, because a term that was used by one group referred to the food source as wet and wild, versus dried sources.
I have to say that I think one of the books I read gave you sort of a credit for the amount that went at chicken feed and gave you a conversion factor of 1.1. Now you're saying two. Is that the weight of the dried pellet, to conversion to one kilogram? So we can just compare apples to apples when we're confronted with these….
J. Mann: Yes. They are comparable, if you compare wet with wet. For example: wet pelagic fish or a sardine swimming in the sea versus one kilo of farmed salmon swimming in the sea.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So that's probably where one of the variances is. You're saying a conversion of two kilograms of wet fish compared to one kilogram of farmed salmon. Is that fair, then? Or wet to wet?
J. Mann: Yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): All right. Thank you for that. That helps that part.
Now, clearing up the percentages. If I do my quick math on it, in the 80s you used about six kilograms to a conversion of one kilogram, and now you're down to two. Does that mean you're using two-thirds other ingredients now and one-third pelagic input? Is that about right?
J. Mann: It's approximately correct.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): And you see the future of that, to convert it even further. Is that correct?
J. Mann: Yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Is there research being done about different food types and soybeans or other…?
J. Mann: Yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Another comment that comes up very frequently is that we're taking human feed — that is, the pelagic fish are. We're diverting human food into this food chain. Of course, you point out that 60 percent is going to fish and poultry now. Is that a fact?
J. Mann: The pelagic fishery is a general statement of schooling fish, and within that class there are, I would say, higher-value species such as jack mackerel or horse mackerel. For those species which used to be converted into fishmeal, they now have a food aspect — processing for humans or canning or exporting to parts of Africa.
There are also programs in the Peruvian school system where they are smoking and drying fish for the kids. They have tried to promote anchovy and sardine, which are the remaining industrial pelagic fishery, which is about 90 percent of the total volume. There are no developing markets. People are not interested to pay the amount of cost involved even to process or move those fish to the markets. It's an industrialized fishery with a fairly short life, and it's very prolific in that part of the world.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay. A question. I think the comment in the paper is that it's a stable industry of 20 million to 25 million tonnes. My inference there is that unless you continue to develop alternate components to fishmeal, you have a fixed amount of fish food in the world that you can produce. Is that a fair observation?
J. Mann: Right.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Unless you rob it from the poultry, the chickens.
J. Mann: That is what has been happening, actually. The poultry and pork used to be an even greater percentage of the total usage, but over time aquaculture is a higher-value, more efficient converter of protein, and it has been taking up some of that into feeds. But the aquaculture industry worldwide has been growing about 8 percent, globally, per year — by far the largest flesh-producing sector.
To continue that sustainable growth, the future proteins and oils must come from renewable resources on top of this fishery product. The fishery product is a straight line. The pressure will not mount on this. Rather, demand will be met by plant proteins, plant oils — linseed, flax, canola — corn products, distillers' by-products.
There are a dozen good proteins and oils. What we need is secondary concentration of some of these protein products and oil products to make the profile similar to fishmeal. So when we have a cocktail of these alternative proteins and oils, we can do a fishmeal analogue or a fish oil analogue, which gives the same profile.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Are a lot of these plants and plant material local? Are they Canadian-based?
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J. Mann: Predominantly Canadian-based. We are quite fortunate to be sitting where we are, especially on the west coast, because a lot of the grains and oil seeds pass right by us in the railcars. Canada is producing about 60 percent of the world's flax, which is another human food that is, again, being rediscovered in the west, even though the east uses this. That's another key omega-3 source for oil replacement.
Further, single-celled algae, etc., in the future will provide the same type of fatty-acid profile as fish oil — the long-chain fatty acid that we all talk about, EPA and DHA. If we realize that these EPA and DHA are produced in the ocean by algae, why not grow the algae and use that directly, rather than going through the chain? There are a lot of plans of which way we can go to develop new sustainable ingredients further from where we are.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Just out of curiosity, do you know what the conversion factor is in pork and chickens of this type of food?
J. Mann: In chickens, when we made poultry feed — and we were the largest poultry feed producer west of Alberta till we sold the business in B.C. — conversion rates ranged from 1.8 to 2.3 approximately, but the yield…. Let me just explain that a little bit.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): That's not the yield, though.
J. Mann: Exactly. The conversion rates are kilograms of feed given per kilogram of round-weight bird, but the yields are maybe 60 percent of edible flesh.
For pork, it's about 3. It's higher. For beef, it's about 6 to 1.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): On the point, I think Claire raises a reasonable point. I presume you'd make available your facility if we wanted to visit and meet the staff ourselves?
R. Grierson: Absolutely.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): The other question I had was with respect to wages. Again, a general comment we hear is that low wages are paid in the industry. I wonder if you could comment on the wage rates within your area.
R. Grierson: Sure we can. Like any business, we have a base start in the order of $14 to $15 an hour and go as high $23-$24 an hour. In addition to those base salaries we have a very good benefits program. We have 100-percent coverage on dental care — the routine stuff — so it's the Cadillac of plans. We have life insurance. We have something of a pension scheme, a matching RSP system. We also supply services. If there are family troubles, there are counsellors. There are all sorts of things that we are providing — wellness initiatives.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): We've visited the processing plants, and of course, all of the fish are gutted and so forth. Is there any possibility or is there any option of using the remains of the harvesting of our fish? Is that useful to the process — or no?
J. Mann: It's an excellent question. We targeted the answer more about pelagic fish in our feed, but also the local fishery — all the way to Alaska…. There's a lot of by-product from seafood as well as farmed fish. That by-product from the seafood industry is being maximized more and more to include in our feeds in the local fisheries: hake, herring, bottom fish. All of these are being rendered, and they are utilized by the industry. It's not as large of an industry to make us fully satisfied.
The raw material is out there in Alaska, and it is being discarded into the sea, so there's a lot of potential there to turn this into meal and oil.
On the question of farmed seafood by-product waste, that's a resource we can use. But what we ideally need to do is farm other species — for example, black cod or rockfish. We don't want to be feeding salmon back to salmon, just as a precaution. But the ideal situation would be having some of these carnivorous marine species. You could turn those into ingredients. Some of the farmed fish by-products are being converted into meal, and these are going for pig feeds, pet foods, etc., and are exported to Asia as well.
J. Yap: I want to get back to the astaxanthin. In your presentation you say that these are synthetically produced by the same manufacturers as vitamins. When you say synthetically produced…. Are they produced from raw chemicals, or are they produced from a natural source of this nutrient?
J. Mann: It depends on which of the several types that are available. There can be yeast products, which are basically containing astaxanthin. These are cracked enzymatically or physically, so that's just providing astaxanthin in that form.
There are krill extracts or krill products, which also have that astaxanthin present, so that can be added in the feed. Algae is also produced, which, again, has a natural content. It's the first step in the chain.
The products — astaxanthin in the chemical form — are made very much like a vitamin. There's a precursor. Chemical ingredients are used, and there's a stepwise organic chemistry. It is very much, as are the other vitamins that are made — predominantly the fat-soluble ones: A, D, E, K…. The B vitamins are mainly of microbial origin for humans, so it's using very similar technology. The steps are a little bit different.
J. Yap: But the end result is the same molecular structure as we find in the natural states in the plankton?
J. Mann: Yes. Correct.
R. Austin (Chair): Great. Thanks to both of you for that presentation.
I'd like to call Butch Sloan from CPX.
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R. Austin (Chair): Oh, he's not here?
I'd like to call Rodrigo Pizarro.
R. Pizarro: Good afternoon. I'm sorry for that. I was expecting somebody else to go before. My name is Rodrigo Pizarro. I'm an economist from the London School of Economics and also the executive director of an NGO based in Chile. For transparency's sake, I have been invited by different environmental organizations to present to you here today some of the conditions and situations of the salmon-farming industry in Chile in order to compare and contrast the industry for your information and benefit, and to help you compare some of the information given to you today by the industry. I think my presentation will be particularly relevant, considering the previous presentation and the questions you asked.
Most of our information, unfortunately, is in Spanish. I have, though, prepared a translation of one paper, which is an English version of a paper we prepared in Spanish on precisely the feed issue, which is something that you are concerned about.
Let me begin then by just stating that our NGO is a non-profit. It receives funding from international funders — not the Packard foundation, unfortunately. But it does get funding from other NGOs, and it doesn't have any funding from industry or government.
I will briefly mention some of the issues in Chile, and perhaps it will help you and enlighten you in terms of what the situation is here in Vancouver and B.C.
Today Chile is the biggest salmon producer in the world. This is an incredible statement for a country that practically didn't produce salmon in 1990. In the last 16 years Chile has become the world's largest producer, and that is mainly because today we have a major salmon-farming industry. As you can see from this diagram, we have a fairly constant production of wild salmon, and you can see there the growth in the salmon farming industry.
That growth has been led mainly by Norway and Chile. You can see Norway there in the blue line, which has had a constant growth, and below that in the red line you can see Chile and how it's grown. Chile today is producing over 600,000 tonnes of salmon a year — these are figures for 2005 — and it is producing in 2005 around 37 percent of world production. This year it will be the biggest world producer, around 40 percent.
Chilean production mainly, and also the Norwegian production, are the main industries responsible for the lowering of the price of the industry. You can see here in this diagram the tendency of the price as it goes down from 1992 and 2000 and the export volume of Chile. Real prices, as you can see, have gone down significantly. That is in real prices — prices from 1992, I believe. You can see that the fall is around 20 to 30 percent of the price, in real terms.
Chile's production is based in the south of Chile. This is the Puerto Montt area. It's an area similar in coastline to the Vancouver and British Columbia area. We have over 400 farms. You can see there the Chiloe Island, which is just in front of continental Chile. This is the tenth region, where most of the industry is based. Basically, Chile has no physical or territorial limitation to continue its production.
As you can see there, further south, next to Argentina, there are no salmon industry farms from the tenth region to right down there in the south to Antarctica. Basically all of that area could — we believe will — have salmon farms and aquaculture farms in the near future. That means that world production, which today stands at around 1.2 million…. The future demands will be covered, we believe, essentially by Chile, which will have a major impact on prices, in our view, and a major impact on some of the environmental issues that you've been discussing.
By 2013 — these are industry projections; not ours — Chilean production, on its own, will be around 1.2 million tonnes of salmon. This implies that what is currently being produced today by the whole of the salmon industry will be produced by Chile by 2013. May I add that all the projections that we had on the salmon industry have been below what they actually were. So it wouldn't be strange for these statistics to be even more than that.
What will be the implications for that in terms of price? Well, we would probably expect the price to go down significantly, and we would probably expect some of the issues, which I will refer to now, to worsen as well.
Another thing that has happened to Chile — and one of the reasons why production has increased — is a process of transnationalization and a process of concentration. The main industries that Chile has had and has today are the main international industries: Marine Harvest, Pan Fish, Mainstream. You know them as well.
If you recall the previous graph, the graph at the beginning, Chile had a very steady growth, but then after the year 2000 had a very significant growth rate precisely because of the transnationalization process due to the distribution chains. That's why we have — this is an estimate probably on the low side — 35 percent of foreign capital. But mainly all companies have some degree of transnational capital involved.
Here are the main industries, the main companies. The ten biggest ones hold about 65 percent, 66 percent of Chilean production. So we have a process of transnationalization, a process of concentration and a process — in the case of Chile — of extending the frontier of the salmon industry in order to continue the territorial expansion and, therefore, to continue the production which is expected in the next years.
What are the issues? The first issue is the feed conversion. I was not surprised by the previous presentation, but to tell you the truth, we've had the same conversation endlessly in different dialogue processes with the industry. To date we cannot get the right figures. I do not believe the industry figures. I think they tend to mislead and confuse. I will not suggest
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that I have the right figures, but using the actual figures which the industry has made public…. These are some of the figures that at least we have come up with.
Today a third of the fishmeal production of Chile is going to the salmon industry, and all of the fish oil production is going to the salmon industry. There are different terms here used interchangeably by the industry, and one must be careful of those terms.
One term is called the "feed conversion rate." It has taken us years to be precise about this. The feed conversion rate is the rate of feed per fish. In effect, the feed conversion rate has decreased in these last years and has increased for all the different industries in different countries. As you can see there from that diagram, in the case of Chile, the feed conversion rate — that is, the amount of feed per fish — went down from 1.7 to 1.4.
Now, a different conversion rate is what is called the "feed conversion efficiency" — that is, fish per fish in equal units, pounds or kilograms. Typically, the industry measures feed conversion efficiency just by using fishmeal, not using fish oil. I implore you to ask them to clarify that point. In the case of Chile, that is what they do.
In effect, feed conversion efficiency improved significantly in Chile in the last 16 years. Why? Because they were decreasing, per unit of feed, the use of fishmeal. However, parallel to that, they have been increasing the use of fish oil. If you sum fish oil and fishmeal — not double-counting; not counting the fish oil produced by that same fish oil — we think you obtain the correct fish feed conversion efficiency. If you do that in the case of Chile, you probably have to do that in the case of Canada.
Our estimate, with the industry estimates and the published conversion figures, is an amount of nine kilos of wild pelagic fish for one kilo of salmon. We presume that the difference is similar for other countries. But you must be wary because of the following things.
Feed changes for each country. It changes due to the costs. In the case of Chile, fish oil and fishmeal are much cheaper than in other countries. In the case, for instance, of Canada, canola and other kinds of products are probably cheaper. This is one reason.
The second reason is that consumer markets require different types of feed. The Japanese market likes its salmon greasy, fatty. The European market likes its salmon less fatty, cleaner. That's another reason why there is a whole range of formulas to produce feed. It changes for the regulations of which market it's going to, and it changes for the consumer tastes.
On average, in the case of Chile, we cannot find any other estimate at all or any other conversion with published figures that disagrees with a figure of around 1 to 9.
Second issue around fishmeal and fish oil. Again, we have heard the figure, which I heard today, about the consumption of feeds in the agricultural industry in general. These are figures from the IFFO, the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization, and the estimates for 2002 of the consumption of fishmeal and fish oil in different industries. As you can see from the diagram, in the year 2002 the estimate for fishmeal for aquaculture is around 46 percent. In the case of fish oil, it's around 56 percent.
If current production trends continue and if price changes — expecting prices, more or less, to stay the same — the projection of the IFFO — at least the information we have; you can check the references in the paper — is that aquaculture will be consuming around 56 percent of total fishmeal production and around 97 percent of fish oil production.
These figures are very important, and you shouldn't be confused and compare aquaculture and the others as — in my view, misleadingly — the previous speakers did, because the conversion rates, the feed conversion efficiency, in the porcine and aviculture industries are completely different.
You don't require six kilos, as I think I heard, of fishmeal or feed to produce one kilo of meat. That is absolutely impossible. The conversion rate is much smaller. The meat and pig industries require very small amounts.
The issue of the sustainability of the industry has to do with the conversion rate. Carnivorous aquaculture is considered not to be sustainable precisely because it consumes more food than it produces. In fact, in the case of Chile, each time we produce one kilo of salmon, we reduce world food supply eight times.
This is the major problem, the major issue, with carnivorous aquaculture. It in fact decreases the amount of food available in the world. I have heard today that one of the benefits of aquaculture is precisely the improvement in the amount of food in the world. In fact it is the opposite.
Since carnivorous aquaculture — you call it finfish aquaculture here — is the one that's being projected, then what we have is a serious concern about food security, and a serious concern in terms of the overall food availability in the world. In fact, may I pose to you that the major risk today to wild fisheries is, in fact, salmon farming and carnivorous aquaculture.
Before I go into the environmental issues, let me just mention a couple of things which you asked. There is an international certification system which is called Marine Stewardship Council. It's just across the bay. It's based in Seattle. It does certify fisheries; it doesn't naturally certify fishmeal or fish oil industry.
We have dialogued with the industry, asking them to introduce certification of the fish oil and the fishmeal they produce. Why is that? Well, because today over 50 percent of world fisheries are over-fished or over-exploited. In the case of Chile that's around 70 percent — and those are mainly pelagic fisheries — precisely because of the demand and precisely because of the Chilean and Peruvian incapacity to regulate those industries adequately. As these pressures continue and as the price of fish oil goes up, as I showed you, and the price of fishmeal goes up, because we have an elastic supply of fisheries available, then the pressure on those fisheries would increase very much, with the risk of collapse.
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Why is there a risk of collapse? Well, the industry correctly suggests that as the prices of these fishmeal and fish oil go up, as the biomass is more scarce, the price will go up, and they will switch. The first problem with that analysis is experience. We've had experience, and that hasn't occurred. Secondly, it's because it doesn't consider the biological thresholds of these biomasses. These biomasses generate some minimums, and when you reach those minimums they collapse suddenly. That concept of market prices giving the signals perfectly does not consider these collapse possibilities.
The other issues — let me just mention them briefly — are environmental issues. In the case of Chile we have estimated around 1.5 of the biomass escaping. In our case we don't have the problem with native salmon, but we do have an environmental risk: a reduction in biodiversity — quite significant. There is an indiscriminate use of antibiotics through the fishmeal. Just one bit of information: in September 2003 in Japan exports of Chilean salmon were returned precisely because antibiotics were found in the fish.
There is significant nutrient impact. The phosphorous and nitrogen produced by the salmon is an organic waste. It's quite significant. We have estimated that it is comparable to human waste. This morning somebody mentioned that this was a major environmental problem. Nitrogen and phosphorous coming from carnivorous aquaculture, like salmon, is equivalent to human waste. We have estimates, in the case of Chile, of it being between six million and eight million people's human waste during a year.
There is the use of chemicals. Malachite green is one of those chemicals. We have little information about the carrying capacity of the coastal system.
The major problem is an issue of compliance. We have rules, we have a democratic government, and we have well-meaning officials, but the capacity to comply or force the industry to comply — the enforcement — is limited.
This year 13 salmon farms were fined for overproduction, producing over 20,000 tonnes in all. Most had signed voluntary agreements, and the industry had, in fact, received a prize for complying with those voluntary agreements. So there is an issue of trust as well.
There are also work issues, and I will briefly touch upon these. We have, unlike the case of Canada, a large employment industry. About 50,000 Chileans work in the industry, mainly in plants. In effect, in salmon farms, employment has gone down, but overall, employment has gone up because of the plants, which you can see there. We have many, many issues: low wages, subcontracting. Sixty percent of the companies use or abuse some kind of subcontracting. There are companies that have up to 40 subcontractors, precisely as a form or way of paying low wages.
There is a high rate of work-related accidents. In fact, the industry has the highest work-related accidents in industry in Chile. Of the fines that were placed for non-compliance, 35 percent were on work-related accidents, and in the years 2005 and 2006, 20 workers died in work-related issues.
There is a high rate of work-related diseases, and many, many anti-union practices from many transnational companies. Let me just give you one example. One company, which is a transnational company that is here, has a psychological test for its workers. The psychological test asks them if they consider themselves to be a leader, if they consider that they would be interested in working collectively and asks a series of indirect questions identifying them as possible leaders in unions.
There is a high level of gender segmentation, precarious conditions for women, high levels of sexual harassment, and there is an issue of compliance. Again, of the 572 individual enforcement monitorings that the Labour Ministry carried out, 70 percent of the companies concluded in fines because of non-compliance, mainly in issues related to protection of workers. It is the highest non-compliance denouncing rate in the country.
There are other issues which will be mentioned today. There is a conflict with our artisanal fishermen. They have seen their catches reduced. There is a correlation. Today people were talking about correlations and causality. There is a very high correlation with algae blooms and red tide in salmon farming today, but still, there is no information of causality. But at least the artisanal fishermen are very clear that the algae blooms and the red tide are related to the salmon industry. Tourism, local communities and our native Indian communities are affected by the industry.
The reason I'm here is twofold. First, I want to put some of the issues before you in terms of industry. Secondly, I want to insist on the fact that industry tends to play off different regulatory agencies, different countries and different NGOs in the sense that we are forced into a false dilemma, in my view, that high environmental standards are not acceptable in Canada because you'll have lower wages, because you'll have an influx of Chilean salmon. In the case of Chile, we cannot have high labour standards because then we cannot compete in the international market. I think that is a false dilemma. I think it's unacceptable. We believe that a global industry requires global regulation and requires global cooperation. In our view this is not occurring at the moment.
Just a few issues, and let me just pose a few possible things you can deal with. The salmon-farming industry is a product of globalization. We have globalized rights in terms of industry's opportunities, but we have not globalized rights in terms of workers or environmental conditions. Without a doubt, the environmental condition is worse today in the south of Chile, and in my view, the biggest environmental risk to coastal environment is salmon industry.
There are $2 billion in exports, 50,000 employed. It is considered the ultimate success story of globalization. However, we are feeding the overfed world with a salmon that reduces world production of food eight times.
There is significant environmental impact. There is a significant health concern — especially the antibiotic use — precarious labour conditions and significant
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social and economic transformations in these areas. Many of the conflicts have been mentioned today. These are all conflicts which have been present in Chile.
Let me just finish with one thing. Ten years ago Canada signed a free trade agreement with Chile. That free trade agreement has an environmental chapter and a labour chapter. Chile committed itself to comply, to ensure that industry complies with Chilean labour standards and Chilean environmental standards. I think Chilean labour and environmental standards are not sufficient in this globalized world, but today there is evidence that Chile is not complying even with those standards.
I pose to you that you do not live in a false dilemma. You raise environmental standards, and you maintain employment by ensuring that other world industries raise their standards as well.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Rodrigo.
I'll open the floor for any comments.
S. Simpson: Just one comment. You mentioned that you had a number of other pieces of analysis that are in Spanish.
R. Pizarro: Yes.
S. Simpson: Maybe there's a way for us to get those and get those translated. If we could get them, we might be able to make arrangements to have them translated.
R. Pizarro: I can do that for you, yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much for coming. We certainly appreciate getting a more global perspective on issues, and I thank you for taking the time to do this.
I do want to clarify one thing. Some of the things you put up, in case people misinterpret…. You mentioned malachite green as an example. As you know, it isn't used in Canada; it's illegal.
R. Pizarro: It's illegal in Chile too.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): It is? Well, it's illegal, isn't it. It's still used in Chile. It isn't used here. I just want to clarify that you did, in those environmental…. Those were with reference to Chile — weren't they?
R. Pizarro: Everything is in reference to Chile. I would not….
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): No, of course not.
R. Pizarro: It's not, in my view…. I don't know that kind of thing.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): But as you proceed, people might….
R. Pizarro: Yes. Everything is with reference to Chile.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you. Now, from what I gathered, I didn't see a bright future globally. You're talking about regulation, but you didn't seem optimistic. Is this an industry you think should be shut down?
R. Pizarro: No. Again, when one is put in this position, one has to put the other argument forward. An unbiased and more objective argument would say the industry has, in effect, generated income in Chile, has generated 50,000 in employment and is a very interesting industry. But it has to change significantly in order to deal with some of these environmental and labour conditions.
We are not in favour of closing the industry in any case. We are in favour of more regulation and ensuring that the standards are raised.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): If I may, then, following my colleagues' questions…. One of our mandates is to compare regulations in various jurisdictions, so if you're able to supply us with any of that information, that would be helpful to us. It's sometimes very helpful to get that with an interpretation from a third-party source.
Could you tell me more about your organization and its purpose, too, just so I can put that in perspective?
R. Pizarro: Yes. Our organization is an environmental, sustainable development organization. We consider ourselves less environmentalists than economists. I am an economist myself. I have a degree from the London School of Economics and a master's from the University of North Carolina.
We're a small organization. Our funding comes essentially from consulting work. For instance, we did the environmental accounts of Panama, outside Chile. We have funding from different funders in the United States like the Ford Foundation. The Hewlett Foundation has funded us, as well as other funders.
We are mainly a policy-advocating organization rather than just advocacy. We deal with policy issues. We have a webpage with many of these papers. You can have a look at that.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Two quick ones. One thing we didn't see in that, which is certainly hot here, is sea lice. If you could comment.
Secondly, the other trend we're going to — this is a question to an economist — is closed containment, putting them in tanks of some sort. Now, in your experience, how does that play on the world scene? What more have you heard about that? Chile is the biggest producer. Are they heading in that direction?
R. Pizarro: Well, sea lice aren't a major issue, because we don't have native salmon. The information is very scarce on sea lice. There are sea lice, but the problem is not considered as relevant because of the native salmon.
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Our major problem there, in terms of the impact on biodiversity, is the escapes. We have a small Chilean fish there that tends to be eaten by these big North American salmon, so when they escape they wreak havoc there.
On closed containment, it's difficult for me to say. In the case of Chile, I don't see it as viable economically, basically, because the salmon farms are very far away. To get that kind of technology to how far these farms are would be impossible.
I wouldn't like to comment in the case of Canada, because I don't have that information. What I would like to say is: I would take with a pinch of salt the argument that closed containment is not viable because of the economic conditions of the market. Part of the reason why that is true is that countries like Chile are not complying with their regulations on labour and environmental issues. So if this occurred, then I would expect Chilean supply to reduce significantly and prices to go up. Perhaps, then, self-containment is viable.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): But it's not a hot item of research and development there?
R. Pizarro: It's not an issue in Chile.
C. Trevena: Just a couple of questions. One is on the location. You're talking about the industry looking to expand, but down in Chiloé, is it not too harsh a climate down there, with storms and such issues?
R. Pizarro: No. In fact, the further you go south, the more similar it is to the climate of the natural habitat of salmon. The problem is the lack of people, I would say, rather than the environmental conditions. The environmental conditions are optimal for Chile. It's a major environmental problem, because there are fjords there, and they have a big environmental importance. Unfortunately, our government is permitting that expansion without further information. So, no, it can continue further, and it can go all the way down.
C. Trevena: There are 50,000 jobs, and as you say, fewer on the farms themselves — more in processing. Is the processing located in Tierra del Fuego, Chiloé or further north?
R. Pizarro: The processing plants are in Chiloé and Puerto Montt.
C. Trevena: Okay. One of the things that we're obviously looking at is sustainability for our coastal communities. I represent North Island, where there's been longtime ups and downs of resource communities, and this aquaculture is seen as very much the saviour. It's creating a lot of jobs. Comparatively, were there many jobs in these areas in Chile?
R. Pizarro: No, there weren't so many jobs. It is an industry which has generated a lot of jobs that weren't there before. Before, we had basically an agrarian and forestry community based on artisanal fishing. Today this industry has generated a lot of jobs, and one of the ways it has generated jobs is by giving women employment. So I have to admit that that is the case. Also, it has generated a lot of export income — over $2 billion. Today the biggest export in Chile, after copper product, is salmon. In 1990 there was no salmon being produced.
So it is a big industry, but we have all of these issues. There are very contradictory statistics. For instance, Chile has information on poverty by region, and in the last ten years, poverty has been reduced significantly in all the regions.
The industry argues that it has reduced poverty in the tenth region. Total poverty has been reduced significantly, but if you rank poverty — if you look at the ranking — then, relatively, the tenth region is poorer now than it was before. Before, it was, say, the sixth-poorest, and now it's the fifth-poorest. So what the impact of the industry actually is and what the impact of the general economic situation is, is difficult to say.
I would pose to you that it has changed communities significantly. There is a significant conflict between these different communities. There's a conflict between the Indian community. There's certainly a conflict between the artisanal fishermen, who see this as a threat. But, again, to get jobs, they moved towards the industry. So it's a dual process.
What the causality is there is difficult to say.
Let me just finish by giving you something we produced. It's a video of some testimonies of local communities and workers.
R. Austin (Chair): Is that in Spanish, though?
R. Pizarro: Spanish with subtitles, so if you're interested then you could….
R. Austin (Chair): Before you go I think that Dan had a comment or a question.
D. Jarvis: Mr. Pizarro, thank you for your report there. I see that your fishing industry has knocked out most of the mackerel. Was that your major indigenous fish at the time?
R. Pizarro: The pelagic fishery is mainly in the north of Chile and has been in cycles. There are three fish: anchovies, jack mackerel and sardines.
D. Jarvis: Perhaps you could tell us how you got rid of the mackerel, because we're having a problem with the mackerel coming up from California and eating our fingerlings that go to sea.
R. Pizarro: There is a debate on these fisheries. Some say it's El Niño. Some say it's cyclical — that when mackerel go down, anchovies go up.
I would say that, in general, we have a major problem, as does Peru, in adequately regulating the sustainable capture of these fisheries. But it's difficult to say at the moment. Mackerel is a notoriously migrating fish.
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D. Jarvis: Well, we see them up here now. Probably this winter, because of El Niño coming on again, we will see them up here north and…. I haven't any evidence of that, but I keep hearing that they cause havoc to our fingerlings that go out to sea.
R. Pizarro: Well, they've also been seen in New Zealand. I think it's interesting in terms of the food issue, because mackerel is a perfectly edible fish — whereas, perhaps, anchovies are not so edible — and this is a fish which is, in fact, being threatened.
D. Jarvis: Seeing that you don't have salmon as an indigenous thing, maybe you could give us a commission on your $2 billion market. Send it up to B.C.
R. Pizarro: Intellectual property.
D. Jarvis: Yeah.
R. Pizarro: Salmon is not indigenous to the whole southern hemisphere. Again, the problem with these exotic introductions is not so much being introduced, because in effect a lot of things we eat in the south, in Latin America and in the Americas in general, have been introduced. The problem is the speed, you see.
We have no experience in history of introducing a monoculture with this speed. The environmental impact in Chile of…. We're talking about 600,000 tonnes. That's a lot of fish. Just 1 percent of that is, we estimated, between two million and four million fish, depending on the size of the fish that escape.
The impact of that is absolutely inestimable. Typically, ecosystems can receive and perceive an introduced species if it's done slowly, as we have done, in effect, with cattle and chicken and so forth. But at this speed, it's impossible to say.
I would suggest to you that salmon farming, and aquaculture in general, is the biggest threat to our coastlines in the future unless it's regulated significantly.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
I'd like to call Rick Routledge up to the witness table.
R. Routledge: My name is Rick Routledge. I have been working at Simon Fraser University for 26 years. I'm currently professor and chair of the department of statistics and actuarial science, an associate member of the department of biological sciences and a member of the Centre for Coastal Studies. I have been director of environmental science, and I was a member of the Fraser River Sockeye Public Review Board in 1994-1995 and a founding member of the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council in 1998 to 2001.
I have been active in research on sea lice in the Broughton Archipelago, Rivers Inlet sockeye salmon and fire history in the south Okanagan Valley.
I have a thesis to put to you. The thesis is that sea lice from fish farms pose a clearly established, serious threat to juvenile pink and chum salmon, particularly wherever farms are active near where the salmon emerge into salt water. I would argue that there is a consensus of opinion amongst independent scientists on this matter.
There are two questions that are associated with that thesis that I think have been fairly thoroughly addressed in recent years. The first is: do sea lice spread from salmon farms to wild, juvenile pink and chum salmon? The second question is: can these extra lice cause an increase in marine mortality in these wild fish, and is it a serious increase?
First of all, the global evidence. You've seen a fair amount of this before, so I'm going to rush over this rather quickly, I think. Sea lice do regularly spread from farms to juvenile wild salmon and sea-run trout. People have observed that all over the world, and it's not a surprise. Motile lice — the older lice stages, just before they become adults and as they are adults — are particularly lethal when they can crawl over the fish.
More importantly, smaller fish are more vulnerable. That's where I feel we have a particular concern here on our coast. Lice loads found near the Broughton farms have frequently been in the European lethality range, leaving aside the fact that our pink and chum salmon are noticeably smaller.
A key point to keep in mind is that pink salmon emerge from the gravel and travel out to sea as soon as they possibly can. They do not wait around in fresh water like Atlantic salmon do or like sockeye salmon do. They emerge into the salt water as very small, very vulnerable animals. I've heard people liken pink and chum salmon to light infantry compared to armoured tanks that the Atlantic salmon are.
Farms provide a natural overwintering source. I'm sure you've heard this discussion before, so I won't go over that.
Early local evidence. I have been working with Alexandra Morton. I do not have any directed funding from any organization to put to this project. I do have a general research grant from the federal government, which I have used to help support my work, but I am not funded directly by any interest group.
We found increased lice abundance on juvenile pink and salmon near farms — far more abundant after the fish pass the farms than before. When the farms were fallowed, the abundance of lice on these sites near the farms dropped. Not a surprise, in my mind.
[R. Cantelon in the chair.]
They increased again when the fallow had ended, and the pink salmon returns were generally anomalously weak following years of heavy juvenile lice infestations, with a big notable exception. That was the year when the farms were fallowed along what people perceived to be the main migration route for pink salmon coming out of the Broughton Archipelago. That is the year that you hear Patrick Moore talking about. It's the year that you see Dick Beamish's graphs referring to. That was the year that, in my opinion, proved that
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fallowing is a successful strategy for dealing with this, and it's one that ought to be pursued. It is not evidence, in my opinion, that the fish farms and fish can easily survive together in the wild — quite the opposite.
Early reaction to this study was quite legitimate — that this was just based on correlations. So Alex and I — largely at her initiative, with some guidance from me as a statistician and scientist — ran a holding study to get some direct observations on fish. We caught pink and chum salmon in the wild, sorted them into flow-through containment facilities built off Alex's dock, actually. We sorted them by lice infestation level. The study was properly randomized and replicated, and we observed the fish for up to a month.
Some of you may not realize that Alex Morton is an incredibly dedicated person. She camped on her dock for about three months solid to protect these salmon in these holding facilities from a marauding otter. She is not a fly-by-night scientist by any means.
I have a graph that I guess you have in front of you there showing what I think is the most significant of the three runs of this experiment that we made. You see on the horizontal axis "Lice infestation category," ranging from zero up to three, three corresponded to five attached lice in the first or second stages, when they can do that. On the vertical axis there's the percentage that died over the month, roughly, that we ran the study. You can see that for pink salmon — the solid line graph there — the death rate was near zero in the lice-free containment facilities, and it rose to 100 percent.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
You don't need to have any sort of fancy mathematics or some fancy model to describe what might happen out in the ocean afterwards. These fish are dead within a month. We made some more conclusions from that holding study: a substantial impact, obviously, of the lice on salmon survival. We found that a single, early-stage louse was enough to increase the mortality rate significantly on these fish. We found that if those lice survived to the motile stage where they can crawl around the fish that was a particularly critical event for these very small and vulnerable pink and to some extent chum salmon. If the lice can survive to that stage, there is very little likelihood that the fish will survive very long.
You've heard, undoubtedly, lots of reports in the news about the Krkošek, et al, study that just came out. I was intrigued to hear Patrick Moore's comments about — not that particular study; I wasn't here to hear those comments — refereeing and peer review in general. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences represents far more of a thorough review than I think most people recognize. That is one of the top science journals in the world. I would be very impressed with myself if I managed to get a paper in there. It would be subjected to a very thorough review, not just something cursory that gets it into the public domain for debate.
That is a very demanding process, and it speaks very highly of what I, too, agree is a very strong product they produced. Nor is their conclusion particularly surprising, because if you look at the short-term mortality we found it's not at all surprising they should find, with a more complicated and complex analysis, roughly the same kind of conclusion.
I have some quotes in the written submission I've made to you about a campaign of doubt that has been raised against us. I don't think I need to go through it in too much detail. A lot of the efforts to try to undermine the credibility of the work that many of us have been doing are not based upon proper scientific arguments. One might call them smear campaigns — attempts to undermine our credibility without any substance to them. In scientific debates, if you feel you have, as a scientist, an objection to a published paper, the normal protocol is to write the editor of the paper with a statement of your concerns. That, in turn, will be reviewed by other scientists, and if they feel that it has some merit, they will publish it. To date no one has done that with our research.
I'd like to conclude with some recommendations. The first one is…. We are an embarrassment here in British Columbia in not recognizing we have a serious problem. Norway has recognized it. You have heard the Sierra Legal Defence Fund lawyer talk about what they've done to try to counteract these things. We need to affirm the existence of this as a serious problem. I would also encourage you to make some recommendations along the lines of re-imposing a moratorium on expansion. I would encourage you to persuade people to institute new siting procedures that pay full attention to threats to wild salmon and, in particular, to identify key coastal areas for permanent exclusion of fish farms.
In particular, I've been doing a lot of work in Rivers Inlet with a very depressed, once very important sockeye salmon stock. Those fish come out into the inlet very small and very vulnerable. They are severely depressed. A fish farm in there could absolutely destroy the chance for recovery of that stock.
Fallowing programs. I would argue the fallowing program that was conducted in one year was a big success. It pointed to a tremendous opportunity to try to make this industry fit in well with the wild stocks and to keep the wild stocks and the fish farms active.
We need to have a better fallowing program in place, following adaptive management principles so we can experiment — turn it off, turn it on — and see if we see the same response coming again and again. If we do, then we know we've got a good strategy, and we can deploy it.
Finally, I have one more recommendation about the management side. We have to try to deal with this in a timely fashion, in my opinion. I think we need to impose a deadline for reducing these threats to wild salmon to an acceptable level. If that deadline can't be met, then we have to start ratcheting down fish production to the point where eventually, I hope, we can solve the problem. If not, I would recommend that if we can't protect the
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wild fish, we have to shut the operation down. I don't think it'll come to that, but I think that has to be the bottom line.
I also have some comments in my written submission about objective science and how to achieve that. It's not a simple matter. I have three suggestions. One is to solidify the scientific independence and financial base for supporting scientific research. The BCARDC process, in my opinion, has not worked terribly well. People with an interest in doing truly independent science have not been well-funded by that.
I would also argue that we should direct all funding decisions for scientific research through panels of independent scientists who don't have a vested interest in the outcome. Vested-interest groups have to be involved, but they have to be kept at arm's length from the funding decisions. In particular, they cannot have a role to play in overturning the decisions of the panels of independent scientists. Thank you.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much. I really do appreciate your coming here. I have some questions. Forgive me for an opening comment. You've heard this phrase. I think it was Churchill who said: "Lies. Damn lies and statistics."
R. Routledge: That was Disraeli, actually. It was Disraeli.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Oh, Disraeli. And you'd be the latter, then. Certainly, it does present perplexing problems for us in evaluating the different things, and I know that you had a role to play in it. I have a high regard for statistical analysis. I guess one of the comments I would ask you about…. You mentioned that the fallowing reduced it. The fallowing was in 2002, so that impacted 2004. Is that right? Just so we're on the same number, the same years.
R. Routledge: Yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): All right. Now, Beamish's report indicated that in 2003, when the fallowing was, only four farms were done and that there was higher fresh water — which of course, as Alexandra Morton well acknowledges, kills lice too. So it begs more study, perhaps, there.
Is there a study of those specific farms in Morton's further work or in your statistical analysis that would tell us that where those farms were fallowed, specifically, there were fewer incidents of sea lice?
R. Routledge: Yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Because only four of 16 were fallowed, as you know.
R. Routledge: An important point to keep…. Yeah, I know. It might be sort of surprising that it succeeded as well as it did. Maybe the fallowing wasn't the real cause. I would argue that it's certainly a possibility. That's why I support this notion of redoing that experiment in a very thorough way — fallowing farms again and trying different strategies. Let's see what works and what doesn't work. Every year will just give you one more little data point, but eventually we'll get an understanding if we do that. We've missed several years of opportunity right now.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, that would be one point. The other question. On the statistical analysis, of course, we know the study showed a range from 9 percent — I think it was 9 percent — to 95 percent mortality rate, depending on the proximity of the farm. I guess my question is: was there a modal? What was the most prevalent percentage among them? It was quite a range. In salmon escapement…. You know, at the same time Beamish's study said 35-percent high marine survival rate. So one projected deaths, the other monitored survival, and they came up with opposing views. Within that 9-percent-to-95-percent range, what should we hang our hats on as the actual effect?
R. Routledge: Well, I would suggest that the results from our holding study are really important in that they are direct evidence. That direct evidence points to a very high short-term mortality rate if you have five chalimus 1- or 2-stage lice — the first two stages that are actually attached to the fish — on the fish, and if they're small. It really depends on the fish size. Some of the studies that are being done now are being done with larger fish and different species, and of course, you can get lower mortality rates that way. One has to be very careful of that.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, one does. It seems — if I read the study — if the emerging fish runs into the fish farm, the rate is 95 percent, but if somehow they swim on the other side of the channel and escape close contact, it may be 9 percent, which might be acceptable in terms of salmon survival.
R. Routledge: I would be surprised if that were the case. The reason why I'd be surprised is this. The immature lice, when they first hatch out of the eggs, float around in the water freely, with some ability to move. We don't know much of anything about what they do in that stage. They're very hard to capture. We've tried and not had very much success yet. We're just getting to the stage where we're starting to find some techniques. We work with flashing lights and so on. It's quite intriguing, but it's a difficult thing. We don't know what those lice do there, but they're going to be drifting around in some very turbulent tides.
You've probably seen some media comment about how those currents would have to carry them right out to the Queen Charlotte Strait, and hence the data that Alex Morton and I and others have published must not be right somehow. That's a simplistic point of view.
In fact, if you read very carefully the paper that Dario Stucchi and others have put out, you'll find that
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early in the migration season, the currents actually travel back up Tribune Channel, and they hold the water in there. Presumably, these lice are essentially drifting around at the whim of the currents to some extent. They won't be drifting out into Queen Charlotte Strait. They'll be hanging around in there but not right beside the farm. That would be very surprising if they could do that.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So, if I hear you, we need more information about the lice themselves too?
R. Routledge: Yes, but not insofar as concluding, for management purposes, that we have a serious problem. In terms of trying to figure out how to solve the problem, there are lots of things we should be doing.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So is it 9 percent or 95 percent? Where are we headed as far as the overall impact on mortality?
R. Routledge: If the abundances are as high as they have been in some of the papers that Alex Morton and I and others have published recently, if the lice are that abundant, then I would suggest the holding study provides the best evidence on what the mortality would be. It would be massive, and it would be short-term. Goodness knows what happens out in the ocean.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I guess, the last question. You're familiar with the salmon foundation of course. Is that a model that you would say is objective science? Quite a bit of funding has been put into that. The Chair and I sat together when it was quite an interesting discussion with varying scientists.
R. Routledge: The Pacific Salmon Forum? Yup. The Pacific Salmon Forum has an excellent science advisory council. My only plea would be — I haven't followed the details of what they've been doing — to make sure that that science advisory council has independence to make decisions about who gets what money and that they not just make recommendations to a board of stakeholders, because the objectivity could be called into question then.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): It was a panel of all of them, and they are doing quite a bit of science now. So we look forward to those results as well.
Once again, thank you, and I appreciate your statistician's perspective. It is important for us to try and evaluate because, essentially, we're trying to evaluate probabilities and what the impacts are.
R. Austin (Chair): Great. Thank you very much for your presentation.
I'd like to call Brad Hicks.
B. Hicks: Good afternoon, lady and gentlemen. At least gentlemen is still plural.
C. Trevena: It's always singular here.
B. Hicks: It's always lady. I understand that.
My name is Dr. Brad Hicks, and I'm a veterinarian. I also hold degrees in fish and wildlife biology and a master's degree in veterinary pathology. I've been involved in the aquaculture industry in Canada for about 30 years. I have worked extensively in British Columbia, on the east coast and in Ontario.
When the NDP brought the moratorium in here in the mid-1990s, I went down to farm fish in Chile and took a bunch of our money out of here, because we couldn't use it here. But I could grow fish. That's what I do. So I have got quite a bit of experience in Chile. It was interesting hearing from Rodrigo. If it was my talk, you'd hear a different story, but it's not my talk today.
I'm currently a partner in a feed company in Chilliwack. We have about 25 employees. We produce feeds for the aquaculture industry here. We produce salmon feed, tilapia feed and trout feed for here. Bruce Swift, who was here this morning…. I actually produce his feed, for instance. We also supply feed to farmers in the U.S. and to tuna and bream farmers in Japan. We've supplied feed to them. We're not currently doing it, because, of course, the value of the Canadian dollar has excluded us from that market. We also produce a variety of animal feeds.
In addition, I am the chair of the Pacific Organic Seafood Association. There's a group of farmers in British Columbia who are striving for organic certification. It's too bad that Gregor Robertson wasn't here to hear this, but it will be in my submission.
I'm also the only provincial employee who ever wrote a book on fish diseases in B.C. I did work for the provincial government for a brief period in about 1987. I was the original fish health veterinarian for British Columbia.
I actually thought I would follow along on the sea lice thing today. It seems to be quite popular. The title of my talk is "Sea Life: Duelling Mathematical Models."
As you're aware, there's certainly been a lot of discussion about the Krkošek paper that has come out recently, which is one of the mathematic models. There's quite a variety of opinion on that paper. It is peer-reviewed. "Epizootics of Wild Fish Induced by Farm Fish." That's in a peer-reviewed journal, which isn't actually in a publication. It's just on line so far. It's a rushed publication, so it would be available for the people on this committee, which is fine.
There are other peer-reviewed pieces out there. Reviews in Fisheries Science — it's a peer-reviewed journal. There's a paper by Ken Brooks. And just as a summary, the Krkošek paper says that farm salmon contribute significantly to sea lice infestation in wild salmon. You could say, it goes on further to say, that it actually causes mortality in wild salmon. The duelling paper, by Dr. Kenneth Brooks, says that farm salmon do not contribute significantly to sea life infestation in wild fish.
You folks as a committee have a very difficult situation to deal with, because the scientific literature, peer-reviewed or otherwise, is not unanimous in its conclusions. If I were in your shoes, these are the things
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I would have to deal with and the things that I think you're going to have to address. Which model is correct? Are both models correct? Is neither model correct? Do either wild fish or farm fish care about either model? Are they relevant?
Mathematical models of biological systems are quite limited. They require a lot of assumptions. If you read those papers, you'll see tons of assumptions in there, and a lot of the rhetoric you hear or a lot of the discussion you hear is about whether the assumptions are accurate or not. The fact is that they require a lot of assumptions.
The variables in the models are easily inappropriately weighted. For those of you who can remember your calculus, most of these models have exponential equations, which simply means that a small error in the data going in is magnified into a large area in the information coming out, or, depending on how the equation's set up, it can be the reverse. Good data going in can come out quite variable at the other end.
I am not a mathematician. I spent six hours on Sunday trying to get through Krkošek's paper, and I failed. But what we do know is that the model is only as good as the data placed in it and the assumptions in the model.
I'm just going to read you this. This is from the recent paper — the 2006 paper. It's the one that just came out a couple of weeks ago. It says in here:
"The only confounding source of error would occur if the population of natural hosts was aggregated around the farm, producing spatial distributions we attributed to the salmon farm. For this to occur, our calculation indicates such aggregation of wild population would have to be either four orders of magnitude" — ten thousand times — "more dense than anywhere else in the study or four orders of magnitude more infested than other wild hosts.
Furthermore, the spatial distribution of the data requires a point source that is stationary for at least two louse cycles. For L. salmonis, that is approximately 100 days at 10.8 degrees Celsius. Therefore, not only would such a population be unrealistically dense or infested, it would also be unrealistically stationary.
Now, this is actually their paper. This is not lawyerese in a contract, although I understand how it would get confused. At the end of the day, what this means is that they are saying that such occurrences could be unrealistic, so they've put them into their assumptions.
One of the things in peer review…. This may have been brought to their attention, so this is how they manage the peer review. I haven't seen the criticisms in the peer review. The peer review process is sent to referees. The referees write comments. You address their comments. This may have been put in there to address a comment from a referee. I don't know.
In fact, there's a paper in a refereed journal, Hydrobiologia, published by a fellow named Dempster in 2004, which showed that you could have an increase of wild fish accumulating around farms that are three orders of magnitude and have a residency time of up to seven months. If, in fact, this observation was happening at a salmon farm, it would effectively exonerate farmed salmon from the lice equation.
We've got two mathematical models. We have some assumptions. And if you read the Krkošek paper carefully, you will find there is no information in there about the residency of fish around fish farms. They made an assumption. Yet we do know from the refereed literature that you can have high concentrations of wild fish around fish farms.
What do we do? What do we know? One of the ways of looking at this — because there are a lot of assumptions; there's some complicated mathematics that not a lot of people understand — is indeed to look at how fish are performing in the presence of farmed fish.
The next slide — you've all seen enough of today. There are two camps. One says that the fallowing brought back the 2004. The other camp says that fish are naturally resistant. That's an endless, circular argument that'll go on forever, because we have no proof of either being the case. What we do know is that fish are resistant. Pacific salmon would be long gone if they weren't. We've made lots of perturbations in the environment in which they live. We've harvested the snot out them, and yet they're still around. So we do know they are pretty resilient.
This is another example. This is the Adams River run in 2002. The Adams River run was a century-high run. Sockeye in the Adams River run in 2002 — this is a slide I use. If salmon farmers were responsible for all the ills in the salmon business, then maybe we should be responsible for all the good stories too. Sorry. In my view, wild fish tend to operate primarily independently of farmed salmon. There are two examples from the B.C. coast.
On the east coast, still in North America, where there is salmon farming and there are sea lice, they have now opened up the Penobscot River after a seven-year ban. That's this year. Salmon farms are still present on the east coast. Wild salmon are coming back. They had a tough time in the mid-90s. There were lots of things that were going on in the mid-90s in the Atlantic Ocean other than salmon farming, but they're back.
On the BBC on October 5…. Catches of salmon in Scottish rivers last year were the fifth-highest on record, according to new figures. My guess is that data goes back to the mid-1800s. Those Scottish rivers have been under private control for a very long time. One of the things you'll see frequently referred to in the sea lice literature are the problems in Scotland. McVicar is one of the primary publishers on that. Despite that fact, people talk about it. People suggest that salmon farming is a problem. This is the fifth-highest in a century and a half.
Norway: big salmon-farming country, folks. Now, this is 150 fish. You have to appreciate the biology. In numbers, Atlantic salmon are dramatically different than they are in Pacific salmon; 150 fish in a stream can be a lot for an Atlantic salmon — enough to lead this journalist to call it "former glory" and "staggering results."
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This is a salmon farm in wild production in Norway. The red line on top is the wild production. It fluctuates a lot, just like here. That's a trend line through it. The statistician might not like it, because it's not farly enough defined. That's just a Microsoft trend line, but the reality is that it certainly isn't going down — the wild fish in Norway.
The blue line is the production of farmed salmon in Norway — same species in Norway as the wild salmon. It is essentially 1,000 farmed fish for every wild fish harvested. Now, on the B.C. coasts those would be pretty spectacular numbers, and yet we see that after all the debate, after all the arguing, after all the publications in refereed journals, the wild fish are not diminished.
The next thing I'd just like to mention on the use of mathematical modelling is that for those of you who remember the collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland, that wasn't the function of greedy fishermen. That was the function of a mathematical model — by an old buddy of mine from university, as it turns out.
They were using mathematical modelling to model the fishery. I wrote to DFO numerous times saying, "Get some biologists out there. Put the mathematicians somewhere else," because you know the famous model issue: b.s. in equals b.s. out. That's not being impolite to the committee; that's a quite common phrase. Models are very subject to error. I would not want to be making a decision based on a mathematical model that has a lot of assumptions in it that are not sound.
A lot of controversial data on the interaction between farm and fish, just as they say. Duelling models are also controversial, and I think you probably will see, as Dr. Routledge said: "Will there be a rebuttal on this current one? Yes." There will also be a rebuttal on it by capable scientists in refereed journals. Wild salmon and farm salmon seem to be acting independently of each other in several major salmon farming regions.
I was actually going to do something on closed containment because I have a tremendous amount of experience on closed containment, but because of the time of day, I think we'll just pass. Thank you for listening.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, I wouldn't mind if you went back one slide and talked. If you have experience in closed containment, this might be your chance.
B. Hicks: Okay. Part of my history is when I was in the aquaculture industry. We were a small company — Pacific Aquafoods. We didn't have a lot of major capital. The way we developed our business — and we took it from zero sales to $40 million dollars' worth of sales in the space of ten years — was by mergers and acquisitions. We took companies that were not functioning — companies that I could figure out a way to make them solvent companies, to make them work as fish farming companies. We turned around about 14 different companies. That's how we built our company.
Because we were very good at it, we were also asked to turn around a number of closed containment facilities. I'm guessing well over $100 million has been spent, easy, on trying to develop closed containment. They have been universally unsuccessful. I still have, currently, a $60,000 scar on my back from the last attempt I did. So I've supported it. I've worked on it. I have not found it to work.
I was reading some of your transcripts earlier. I believe Living Oceans mentioned somebody…. Sargo eco-farm has been mentioned as having farms in France and the Faroe Islands. There are another number of companies which have also been reported to have closed containment systems. I would challenge anyone to show me a closed containment system on the globe raising salmon.
As I say that, I have raised tilapia in closed containment systems. The reason why tilapia work in closed containment — because we sold them in the round — is because they needed heat. This was in Ontario. By closed containment we could manage our heat bill. And you can grow them in much higher densities. Those are the reasons why you can do tilapia.
If you have a product with a high enough value, yes, you can grow it in your bathtub. But closed containment for commercial salmon farming or, for that matter, commercial tuna farming or commercial bream farming — there are many species that are not adaptable to closed containment. There are several species that are adaptable to closed containment. They include turbot, tilapia, trout, Arctic char, to name a few. I'm sure there are many others.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): The main reason salmon doesn't work in closed containment is…?
B. Hicks: It's not financially viable. It costs too much money. You lose money when you do it. I think you heard Richard Buchanan say he wouldn't invest in a land-based one. Well, I can tell you, there are no sea-based ones working either.
I think the other issue with salmon — and one of the reasons why tilapia kind of works and salmon doesn't — is that closed containment systems are subject to catastrophic failure. Despite the fact that we put in alarm systems, double backups on pumps, etc., they are subject to catastrophic failure. There are many, many tales of catastrophic failure in closed containment. The water goes off; the oxygen goes off; the pump fails; the drain gets plugged.
The reason why something like tilapia works is that it's fairly inexpensive to grow, and it has a much shorter life cycle. So if it fails, the value of the crop you lose is not death for you. In salmon, the problem is that if it fails, typically you're going bankrupt.
If you look at the Cedar facility in Nanaimo, if someone could actually stand back with a calculator and calculate how much money has gone into that thing, it's been a tremendous amount. Almost every one of the failures has been a catastrophic failure. If everything works well and you get your fish to market, they're expensive but may be doable. But what you
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have is catastrophic failure that booted everybody out of there. Now I believe they're growing algae there.
S. Simpson: Just a question. You talked about the duelling science and that. What do you think we should do about the science? Do you think we should be looking at peer-reviewed science? And if we do look at science, should we be looking at that which is peer-reviewed?
There's always informed opinion by people who are knowledgable in the industry and who bring a lot to the table when they bring their advice. There's that, and then there's science. They are two very different things.
B. Hicks: I've published quite a bit in my life in peer-reviewed journals. I support the process. I think the process has value. Having said that, the process of peer review does not necessarily give you conclusions, which I think is what you're trying to get out of it.
For instance, in these two papers I showed today — and that's only two; we could show a whole lot more — you can see they are duelling, and they're quite opposite in their conclusions. As a committee I don't know how you deal with that, because unless you have the background to understand it, it becomes very difficult. You end up with opinions.
What the court does, in my understanding, is that…. They have expert witnesses help them. Expert witnesses fall on peer-reviewed literature, they participate in the industry, and they become experts. That's one way to solve it.
I've been at this for 30 years. I read the literature every single day of my life. There is no possible way you can stand a chance, that I can see, of understanding the literature — even peer-reviewed.
S. Simpson: I appreciate that. Picking up on your comment about what the courts do, it's my understanding that in the court case that Alexandra Morton brought, which did not go forward because the prosecutor made the determination that no laws had been broken where they'd have any possibility of winning….
I also did read material in the media primarily where the Crown prosecutor or the special prosecutor, whatever it was, had brought those independent experts in to look at the work that she had done, and they had provided information to the prosecutor that became public, saying that her conclusions around the correlation between lice, fish farms and wild salmon in fact was warranted.
B. Hicks: That would have been Dr. Fred Whoriskey from the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
S. Simpson: I don't know who did it.
B. Hicks: I do. Sorry. Yeah, and I think if you were to do that, you would need more than one witness. I know Fred personally. I've known him for years. He's from the east coast. He works on the east coast. I think you would also have to find somebody from here with his credentials. If you actually go through the testimony, you'll find he also made a number of remarks about the inadequacy of the experimental process.
Again, the trouble with reading the press is that you've got sound bites. You guys are politicians. You know what it's like. You pick up the paper one day and you think: where'd that come from? I didn't say that. That's right out of context.
The court process is that you try and have the same judge and jury so they hear the whole thing — not get the sound bite. I've dealt with papers. I've dealt with radio and television, and I'm very skeptical of that as a mechanism to get information, quite frankly.
I think if you were to interview Fred or his equivalents…. I think Dick Beamish on this coast would be a good witness. Simon Jones. There are capable people here that know a lot about it.
I'm going to read you one more thing from that Krkošek paper. This is not the 2006 one; this is the 2005 one. But the 2005 one makes up half of the 2006 one. I don't know whether you know how detailed this all is. This is what he actually wrote in his previous paper. "No general conclusion can be made on the transmission dynamics of lice from farm to wild salmon based on this study…." Now, that's in his paper — okay? That's in the guts of his paper. That is not in the newspaper headline. That is not in the context of the newspaper's six column inches or ten column inches — whatever they got on it.
S. Simpson: To pick up on that…. I appreciate that. I don't know if it would be interesting to know if that conclusion changed at all in '06, but here's the dilemma that we have. We do have a significant amount of peer-reviewed science that suggests there is a problem. Whether it's accepted or not, there's a fair amount of it there. We do have these results of this independent review.
Yesterday we were in Sechelt, and the mayor of the district of Sechelt, who had been on the trip to Norway and who was a pretty enthusiastic supporter of the aquaculture industry and who came to make representation to us as an enthusiastic supporter of the industry…. One of the things he told us when asked was that without doubt, in Norway and Scotland, officials there, both in industry and government, acknowledge the correlation and the connection between lice and farms and the wild fishery. They are working to make it better, because they know it's a problem. That's what he said, and he certainly was enthusiastic in his support of the industry and hoped that it would grow.
At what point do we deal with this growing evidence? We're not seeing that much peer-reviewed evidence on the other side. We're absolutely talking to a lot of people who are very bright people who say: "We don't buy this." No doubt about that.
I'm just wondering. The advice…. How do we deal with that issue? We're getting a whole lot of folks, including people who are proponents, saying: "Yeah, there's a problem here, and we've got to fix it."
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B. Hicks: I understand. I mean, I've been watching this closely for years too, and I've read the literature. That's why sometimes I say, with mathematical models or other pieces of information…. I used to lecture quite a bit at the university. One of my favourite lectures was: listen to the fish; they have a lot to say. You have these duelling arguments or discussions or whatever you want to call them, peer-reviewed and otherwise, but how are the fish actually performing?
I always have this fear of people sitting in their laboratories, bent over their computers and over their calculators, without actually going and looking at the fish. What I tried to illustrate today was that if you go and look at the fish, despite all the noise, the fish are doing fine.
In Newfoundland the fishermen were saying: "We have a problem." The academics and the mathematicians were sitting in their offices saying: "No, you don't." Why? Because the fishermen were looking at the fish. So when I get data or information that tells me that fish are performing differently than people think they are, I have to say: "Okay. What's actually happening?"
The Adams River was supposed to be extinct 15 years ago, if you picked up newspaper headlines. In 2002, a century-high run.
You guys have a very, very difficult job. You have my empathy or sympathy or whatever. It's an extremely difficult job because you have very strong information in two different camps. How do you meld them? How do you understand it? How do you make a decision? It's very, very difficult. I don't know what else to tell you.
S. Simpson: One last question, then I'll quit, because we want to get done here. But I'm going to ask it anyway.
We've heard a lot about the precautionary principle. I'm sure you know all about the precautionary principle. How important is that? How much weight do we put in that?
B. Hicks: The precautionary principle? Okay. You guys are responsible. The risk is a political issue, not a scientific one.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks, Brad, for your presentation. Thanks for staying all day to make it.
I'd like to call Bev Ramey, Anne Murray and Elaine Goulds. One of you has probably left by now.
B. Ramey: I'm afraid so.
Thank you, Chair Austin and members of the committee. Thank you for your perseverance, and especially thank you for your very thoughtful consideration and your clear determination to get to the pieces of this. It's a very complex topic, so it's very much appreciated.
I'm going to turn our presentation over to Anne Murray, who is our conservation chair, and at the same time pass on the regrets of Elaine Goulds, who had to leave for another meeting. Anne is the major author of our paper, which I think is being circulated to you along with our newsletter, B.C. Nature, which explains a little bit about our organization.
A. Murray: You'll notice that our name has actually changed since we put in the request for a hearing. For a good many years we have been the Federation of British Columbia Naturalists, but we've now become just B.C. Nature, to better reflect what we do.
I think I'll just start straight in on my presentation. In one or two places I may sort of move a little bit faster, because we've been listening here for some time as to what you've heard, and one or two topics have been well covered by people who are probably much more qualified than us.
B.C. Nature, previously the Federation of British Columbia Naturalists, represents over 4,000 members in 48 member clubs. We're a real grass-roots organization. We have clubs in lots of communities around the province. Our motto is: "To know nature, and to keep it worth knowing."
We're concerned with the conservation of all wild species, including animals — large and small — plants and habitat. We've seen with growing concern the degradation of our marine environment, our rich and biodiverse ecosystem. Overharvesting, the proliferation of toxins, the introduction of alien species, the impact of destructive coastal land uses and the deterioration of inland water courses, with resulting impacts on anadromous fish, have all played a role in this degradation.
Fish species are in decline. Shellfish beds have been compromised. We are gravely concerned about the damage open-pen fish farms have been causing to wild salmon populations and other marine species. Flawed government policies, lack of enforcement of the Fisheries Act and a disregard for human and ecosystem health have brought us to a critical period in our coastal history. It's time to take a stand and choose a better path for the future.
Pacific salmon are a superb and valued feature of B.C. waters. These iconic species sustain much other wildlife as they move through the various stages of their life cycle. They also sustain whole ecosystems, contributing to the health of rivers, estuaries, oceans and forests.
The Fraser River is the greatest salmon river in the world, and the Pacific coast has high biodiversity for salmonids. Wild salmon are important for people, too, providing livelihoods and a huge economic benefit to our province through first nation fisheries, commercial fishing, sport fishing and ecotourism.
Just as an aside — I didn't have this in, but I just read it this morning. Whereas aquaculture, salmon farming, was providing, I think, in the year 2000-2001 about $800 million worth of benefit to the province, the sport fishery alone was contributing $1.2 billion for salmon. So it's worth comparing sometimes.
Salmon are much more than just a resource, though, particularly to the people. Think of the unforgettable sight of a grizzly bear wading into the river to
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snatch out a spawning salmon. This is what we stand to lose. Wild salmon species must be given priority over farmed salmon.
Our concerns regarding salmon farms are not new. In 2003, B.C. Nature unanimously adopted a resolution at our annual general meeting, and we have attached that at the end of our document here. The resolution called upon the federal and provincial governments to halt the issuance of new fish farm licences, close farms that were spreading sea lice and move towards complete closed containment farms within five years. The resolution was prompted by the lifting of the moratorium in September 2002.
We had then, and still have now, serious concerns that escapees, pollution and the spread of diseases from fish farms would have negative environmental impacts on salmon populations. We knew then that sea life proliferating in fish farms were strongly suspected to have caused the collapse of certain wild pink salmon stocks in the Broughton Archipelago. The migratory life cycles of salmon normally keep adult fish separate from the juveniles and thus keep the risk of parasite transfer to a minimum.
You've heard all about that, and I'm going to move on from there. But Elaine Goulds did want me to stress the importance of the fact that the recent study was in PNAS, which is a highly respected scientific journal. Elaine Goulds, who's actually Dr. Elaine Goulds, has a lot of experience in peer-reviewed studies. We understand that you have had a chance to hear from one of the authors of that article. I hope so.
This research on sea lice is only the latest in a series of studies from Canada, Ireland, Scotland and Norway coming to the same conclusion. Sea lice are fatal to young salmonids was the conclusion. We've read that 50 of Norway's wild salmon populations became extinct. The west coast of Ireland lost incredibly valuable sea trout because of sea lice. The reason the numbers have picked up, as the previous speaker was showing you, is because those places have taken action against sea lice.
If Fisheries and Oceans Canada were not in an apparent conflict of interest with regard to the farmed salmon issue, they would surely have considered the siting of fish farms along wild salmon migration corridors to be harmful alteration, disruption or destruction, i.e. HADD, of fish habitat and thus constitute an offence under section 35 of the Fisheries Act.
Diseases, especially viruses, grow rapidly in the close confines of fish farms and pose a major potential source of infection for wild salmon. The disposal of waste and dead fish from fish farm operations is not consistently handled in an effective and ecologically sensitive way.
We'd also read that the cost to the marine environment is further exacerbated by the fact that the equivalent of 2.4 pounds of wild fish are needed to produce one pound of farmed salmon. It was interesting to hear the Chilean experience, where it was 9 to 1. I'd variously heard 6 to 1 and had understood it was down to about 2 to 1. This is something that there is not a lot of clear information about. Either way, we feel that the growing of carnivorous fish is not a sustainable operation, and it's not a wise use of a diminishing global fisheries resource.
We were also concerned with regard to the permitting of fish farms that both provincial and federal levels of government are underfunded and understaffed and cannot adequately carry out the appropriate reviews as required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
In the three years since our resolution, little has changed to settle our concerns — in fact, quite the contrary. Despite reassurances that farm fish would not escape, would not enter rivers and would not spawn, introduced domesticated Atlantic salmon did all three.
The introduction of invasive alien species is globally recognized as one of the most damaging and disruptive activities that can occur in an ecosystem. It's the height of irresponsibility to do it unwittingly, but surely it's criminal to do it on purpose.
Again, just to add there, we've had a lot of experience with alien species on land and in the intertidal. It's something naturalists are very active and very concerned about, and it is something we feel very deeply about.
Open-net cage farms have become sources of disease and pollution affecting areas all around them. We're especially concerned about the increasing use of medicated fish food and the impacts these chemicals have on the marine environment around fish farms. In particular, SLICE, which is a registered trademark for emamectin benzoate, has been used for several years to control sea lice despite it remaining an unregistered chemical in Canada. In B.C. the use of SLICE has increased approximately fourfold since 2000, although it's supposedly only available for use on an emergency case-by-case basis.
Emamectin benzoate is known to reduce moulting success, reduce fecundity and cause deformities in copepods, which are critical components of the marine food web, especially for salmon and sea birds. It's known to be toxic to nematodes and a variety of crustaceans, causing, for example, premature moulting of lobsters. Despite the lack of research to document all its impacts on the marine environment, such as its potential long-term chronic toxicity and the effect of repeated applications, it continues to be used on an emergency case-by-case basis. Studies in Scotland showed that the small mycid shrimp is poisoned by a concentration of emamectin benzoate equivalent of only half a drop in an Olympics-sized swimming pool. Why are we allowing this chemical to pollute the marine ecosystems of coastal B.C.?
Other chemicals used by fish farms for parasite control or as antifoulants or occurring as bio-accumulates through fish food are lethal to aquatic life, and even when discontinued, they persist in the ecosystem. Antibiotic use may lead to resistant bacteria, a serious problem not just to the ecosystem but for public health. Apart from all these considerations, there would appear to be little monitoring of the use of such toxic chemicals.
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One thing I haven't heard anybody talking about this afternoon is the following: fish farms attract natural predators of salmon, which are then considered to be nuisance species that must be managed. These predators include orcas, seals, sea lions, herons and so on. The use of acoustic harassment devices to discourage marine mammals has prevented them from using their normal feeding areas and interfered with migration patterns.
In some instances these animals have been killed. For example, between 1990 and 2000 more than 5,000 marine mammals were reported to have been legally discharged by the salmon-farming industry. We remain concerned that attempts to control predators around fish farms is not properly monitored or publicly reported and could be having undetermined impacts on wild populations.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans pro-aquaculture policy has repeatedly led to coastal communities' concerns about fish farms being dismissed. It's led to fish farmers receiving sizeable subsidies and grants and having considerable Fisheries staff and resources allocated to them instead of wild salmon. Protection of wild fish and habitats is the duty of the federal government under the Fisheries Act, but the act has frequently not been enforced when fish farms are at fault.
Many people dislike the insipid taste of farmed fish as compared with wild ones — me included. I've got to change the next sentence because apparently, farmed fish are not fed a red dye but a red nutrient so that their flesh turns an artificial pink to meet the expectations of buyers. They have higher levels of PCBs than wild pink salmon. They're routinely fed antibiotics and chemicals — or nutrients, I guess — for anti-lice treatment and other diseases that could cause human health hazards. The very relaxed use of antibiotics in some of our meat and fish-growing industries always worries me because I have two daughters who are highly allergic to antibiotics — many of the common ones — and it could be a severe problem for them. It makes us wonder which fish consumers would choose if they knew about the chemicals routinely used to treat farmed salmon.
It's time for a change, and we hope that this special committee will be the opportunity for some key improvements. It was wise of the provincial government to originally place a moratorium on fish farms, and it was a very bad idea to lift this moratorium.
We would like to support the David Suzuki Foundation, the Georgia Strait Alliance and other environmental non-government organizations and call on the government to impose immediate mandatory transitioning of all existing farms into closed containment technology.
Clearly, this is something that is going to take a little while, but in the meantime we would like the government to reinstate the moratorium on any new open-net-cage salmon farm licences, immediately remove all open-net-cage salmon farms from wild salmon migration and rearing corridors, stop the emergent use of SLICE and undertake research to determine its impacts on the marine environment, and require public reporting of the taking and deaths of any predators around salmon farms.
We further recommend that the committee — and I'm sure you've already done this — read A Stain Upon the Sea. It's a very interesting book.
Thank you for your attention to our submission.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Anne. Thank you, Bev.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I have read that book too.
I don't know if you're correct in this…. I appreciate you correcting the other comment about the red dye. It is a carotene-like thing. It's like feeding them carrots, I suppose. You indicate they're routinely fed antibiotics, and I don't believe that's the case. My understanding is they can only administer antibiotics if prescribed by a veterinarian. That is in sharp contrast to regular use of antibiotics in chickens and other things, which concerns all of us, probably.
A. Murray: Yes. I noticed one of the earlier speakers talking about that and saying: "Oh, it's all monitored by our government." I think public trust in government monitoring of foodstuffs has severely sunk in recent years. There's a real concern that there isn't somebody watching over the quality and condition of our foodstuffs.
I would love to be reassured that it's not a problem, but we've had a number of cases where chemicals or feed…. I mean, I'm thinking of things like mad cow disease, the poultry problems, and just recently we've had the E. coli problems further south. There isn't the reassurance these days that it's okay and that the government is monitoring this. All too often these things are left to the industry itself to sort of self-regulate and self-monitor. Even if the foodstuffs are going out the door with everything correct, there's still the human error between it leaving the source and actually being fed to the fish. So there are a lot of slips there that can occur just in the same way as the mad cow disease problem occurred.
R. Austin (Chair): I'd like to call Dr. Larry Albright up to the witness table.
L. Albright: Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to talk to you about several things, but I should disclose what my background is and where I'm coming from. My training, professionally, is in agriculture, microbiology, research in fish diseases and, latterly, in aquaculture. On a professional basis — I'm now retired from Simon Fraser; I'm 65 — I'm a professor emeritus.
I'm farming. I have a third of an interest in a trout farm in the Fraser Valley. It actually produces trout and sockeye. The production is about 500 to 1,000 pounds a week, year-round. Our product goes into the best seafood restaurants in Vancouver. The chefs have come out and seen our production and what we're doing. They like it, and they take it in. They specify our fish for some of their menu items.
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I'm also chair of the Freshwater Aquaculture Association of B.C., but I'm not representing them today. I'm here as a professor emeritus. The Freshwater Aquaculture Association of B.C. is farms throughout B.C. in fresh water. Our sales are probably about a million dollars a year. The production is probably 300,000 to 400,000 fish a year, mainly trout. There's some salmon — sockeye. Some culture coho. Some have cultured chinook in the past, but I don't want to get into that, particularly right now.
What I want to do is talk about freshwater aquaculture and aspects of it that you may find quite interesting. The product in the freshwater situation has been produced over about 50 years in B.C., and indeed, one farm is over 40 years old in one location. You don't hear much about this industry, but it's there. It doesn't cause a problem. People are not unhappy with it. I want to go through it with you and explain how it's being done.
As we go through it you'll see it's more akin to other intensive agricultural situations on land, rather than the salmon farms on the coast of B.C. It's produced in discrete units. I'm going to go through each step with you.
The public perception of freshwater aquaculture is good. People have a positive perception of it. Most people, when they come in contact with it — for example, with you-catches, where they'll go in and they'll harvest the fish in a you-catch situation…. Other than that, they usually don't think about it, because in a lot of areas it's located where people just don't see it, and they don't have a bad perception of it. So I'd say the public perception is good, or they don't even think about it at all.
The ecological footprint is small. It's in discrete units, and the farms are five hectares or five acres, let's say, in size. Of that, maybe one acre or one hectare is being used. It's a combination of various things. It could be ponds, raceways. It could be tanks, maybe a small hatchery, maybe a slaughter facility and housing for the owners.
The water supply is usually groundwater. It's either pumped or artesian. Usually the farms will be limited to around 500 to 1,000 U.S. gallons per minute coming out of the ground. So it has a relatively small footprint.
The important thing, and one of the things I want to emphasize, is the water supply. In this type of industry, in the freshwater situation, the water supply is critical. The big advantage of freshwater farming, as it has developed in this province, is that the water supply is usually groundwater. With the big producers it's groundwater. It's low in microbial content, and it simply does not contain the common pathogens that we find in the sea water situation.
There are no parasites. The viral content is not low, so viral pathogens are not there. The fungal content is low, and the common bacterial pathogens are simply not there. The reason is because it usually comes from snow melt or glacial melt from the mountainous regions through the ground where it's filtered, and it's then used.
The water supply is actually one of the things that has made this industry one which is non-controversial, because it simply does not have the disease organisms in it. If the farmer cultures the animals appropriately, which are disease-free to begin with, it can be rather successful. But it's limited in its culture situation to a small footprint.
With the amount of water which the farmer will get in the freshwater situation, we usually find that the farms don't go more than about 50 tonnes a year out of the situation. Because of that, the water that is effluent tends to have a small imprint on the environment as it flows from the farm.
Because the groundwater has very low content of microbes, the pathogens simply aren't there. If a farmer uses a good stock which is disease-free to begin with, the antibiotics and chemotherapeutant simply are not used. They simply are not used in the industry.
The occasional farmer will mistreat his or her stock. Sometimes it's required for antibiotics, but it's not a general pattern that it has to be used. Indeed, in B.C. there are four farms that are certified disease-free by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. These are schedule 2 disease-free fish. These farms, of which we are one, provide the seed stock for much of the remainder of the industry. Therefore, the young fish which come from these four certified disease-free farms pass the young of the fish to the other portions of the industry, which also helps to keep it disease-free. This is a very important point. If we culture them appropriately, we simply don't have the problems with diseases in B.C.
In summary, this portion — the B.C. freshwater farm industry — has a distinct advantage of using pathogen-free groundwater and mainly certified disease-free fish and an extensive history of appropriate culturing of finfish, mainly rainbow trout. So we simply don't need therapeutants in the industry. They don't use them. Very rarely do they use them.
In the industry, on a farm there'll be a combination of ponds, troughs, raceways and tanks — depending upon the farm. Each one of these is screened. It's either a quarter-inch screening or half-inch screening, depending upon the size of the fish, so escape is not an issue. The fish don't escape unless there's been gross mismanagement on the farm. The characteristics are such that it is very difficult for an animal to pass through a screen which has got a hole of a quarter inch, and it's half an inch or a quarter of an inch thick. It's simply not an issue.
Let me address sustainability in the industry. The big advantage the industry has for sustainability is that the farmer owns the land. This is a very important point. When you own the land, you're going to take care of it. It's to the advantage of the owner to maintain that farm in a sustainable fashion so that the land and the water is not misused, so it can be a source of income in the years to come and the value will be enhanced if a resale ever occurs.
The sustainability, if you wish to use the term in the sense that I'm using it, is excellent to good with the land-based freshwater aquaculture.
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Now, the economics. With regard to the economics of the industry, the most recent document that I've been able to obtain is the estimated costs and returns for rainbow trout production in the Thompson-Okanagan region in 1990, which is a B.C. government publication. I've given that in the literature cited, which you can look at.
As illustrated here, if 26,000 one-pound fish are cultured, the profit margin varies from 17 to 26 percent. So it's a profitable industry. It's an industry which some people have done very well at.
The numbers have changed since 1990, and you may be able to drag that out of the industry. I would say that with the sale of fish — trout or freshwater aquaculture fish — from the farms, generally speaking, if you're not overloaded with too much debt, you could probably make about 50 cents a pound for the product you're producing. What that'll do is really support a family, as I've indicated in my paper right here.
What it does…. It's more like the chicken industry, where the small production units are around the province and there are sufficient funds within that particular one to support a family. Therefore, we find that much of the industry is family-based. Because it's family-based, they have a vested interest in making sure it works, it doesn't screw up the environment and it's sustainable over the long run.
In addition, one of the objectives of the freshwater association of B.C. is to move into the culture of other animals — rainbow trout and even salmon and burbot as examples. Perhaps sturgeon is another example.
Pacific salmonids can be readily cultured in fresh water. I've grown them up to 12 pounds. They grew very well in fresh water. One of the reasons they're limited — you may have the sense that they're limited for culture in fresh water — is because we tend to pack our fish in fresh water more densely. Therefore, they don't have the space that the coastal pens will have. But they can do very well.
In my view, we should be enhancing this section of aquaculture in B.C. It has so many positive aspects. We do have a competitive advantage vis-à-vis much of the world with regard to this because we've got the water. We've got a certain type of water. We've got water flow from our mountainous regions year-round — from the snowfields and glaciers — that comes out as well water, either artesian or surface flow.
It's extremely low in disease-causing organisms. The flow is rather uniform year-round, and it can be intercepted — either as groundwater, which is preferable to surface water from the flow from the snowfields — used for aquaculture to culture disease-free fish and put back into the environment. It can then be used as it flows into the creeks and the streams. The important thing is to make sure the fish that one is culturing are disease-free.
Another positive aspect of this is that these areas are scattered throughout the province. One of the areas in which they tend to be rather heavily located is in native reserves. Many of the native reserves are in areas adjacent to lakes. They're adjacent to mountains, and their aquifers occur in the mountainous areas, flow into the lakes oftentimes in a subsurface manner. The water can be intercepted and used for the culture of the animals. You have an area of high unemployment in much of these areas as well, so it's a win-win situation.
I recommend that your committee seriously consider the use of freshwater farms for expansion to commercially culture a variety of finfish and to avoid the problems such as we've had in aspects of farming in this province in these latter years.
I know this will require a paradigm shift in your thinking away from perhaps coastal farming as an exclusive option, but you should consider freshwater farming as an option as well. It's going to require an inventory of the type of water available, the appropriate rural labour pools, access by vehicles. It's going to require electrical power sources, and it's going to require some thought on the economics.
I can tell you, from my involvement in the industry and as chair of the association, that our product is in demand. We can't keep up with the demand for freshwater production right now. It could double, and we still couldn't fulfil it.
It goes throughout western Canada without restrictions into the restaurants, the markets and to individuals who just want it. It doesn't have the problems that other aspects of aquaculture in this province have.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Dr. Albright.
S. Simpson: Just one question: how long have you being doing this?
L. Albright: Five years.
S. Simpson: You said you've grown some of them up to 12 pounds.
L. Albright: I've grown the sockeye up to 12 pounds. In that case, if you're going to do 12-pounders, you'd better make sure to take three years, and you'd better not load them in too high a density.
S. Simpson: So that's a three-year process to get them up to about that size?
L. Albright: In aquaculture, sockeye takes three years. Generally, we sell our sockeye from one to two pounds, and that's about two and a half years. We sell them in the off-season, so we supplement the wild fishery. We sell them from November. We start off as a two-pound fish in November. We'll end up as a four-pound fish in May, and then we stop selling them.
S. Simpson: That's the size that works for restaurants.
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L. Albright: It would work a lot better if we had a six-to-ten-pound sockeye.
S. Simpson: That would be their optimum size, would it?
L. Albright: Definitely an optimum size. The problem right now is going to be marketing for us.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
L. Albright: You're really pushing us through, aren't you?
R. Austin (Chair): We missed our flights earlier, and now we might miss the ferry.
S. Simpson: We've got to do this again in Victoria tomorrow morning.
D. Millerd: Well, I'm the guy you've been waiting all day to hear, and I'll try to be brief.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. My name is Don Millerd, and I'm the owner of Brown's Bay Packing Co. in Campbell River and the co-owner of Englewood Packing in Port McNeill.
My presentation today is very different from what you've heard of these technical presentations and the controversies over this or that. I want to share some of my personal history and experiences with you, because I believe they illustrate something of the history of salmon in B.C. In doing that, I invite you to step back from the immediacy of this controversy and consider how salmon farming might fit into the evolution of coastal British Columbia.
It's important that we take a long-term view of this controversy to determine how it fits into the history and the future of our coast. We tend to focus on our problems at a certain point in time, but we must remember that we are on a continuum. It is the responsibility of our generation and those of us in positions of responsibility to make wise decisions to preserve our coastal environment and enhance our coastal economy for future generations.
It's important to remember that the coast of B.C. and its economy and its relationship with the salmon industry have been evolving for a very long time.
Now we're undergoing one of the most profound changes that our coast has ever seen as we supplement the capture of salmon with the culture of salmon. It's not surprising that such a profound change would evoke strong feelings, but we must take a long-term view of this as we make short-term decisions.
For 100 years my family history parallels that of the salmon industry in B.C. My grandfather was one of the early pioneers of the salmon-canning industry when salmon was caught in large traps, in weirs and by rowboats. There were many small canneries scattered all over the coast. At one time over 65 canneries operated, providing employment and a way of life for thousands of people. Salmon seemed endlessly abundant. Because vessels were small and refrigeration was rudimentary, we would build canneries in coastal locations close to the runs of that area.
Post-war technology in the form of diesel engines and refrigeration, among other things, led to a consolidation of that processing. Gradually one after another, coastal canneries closed as processing was consolidated in Prince Rupert and Vancouver. There was an inexorable transition to fewer but larger canneries. Many communities would lose their heart and soul, and many disappeared altogether.
Technology changed more than just the canning of salmon. It also expanded logging activities further up our watersheds and gave us efficient ways to seek and catch salmon. We became extremely efficient at doing that, and the rate of coastal change has increased just as it has in all other endeavours.
I grew up in a salmon cannery. It was a cannery that was opened in 1891 on the shores of what would eventually become West Vancouver. My grandfather bought the cannery in the early 1920s, and my family operated it until it closed in 1968. My earliest memories were of the summer excitement of the boats coming and going and the summer excitement of the salmon fishing season.
I was ten when I first connected salmon abundance with economic prosperity. That was the year of the legendary 1958 Adams River sockeye run, and in an act of unprecedented generosity, my father gave me a whole two dollars to go to the PNE.
When I was a teenager, I was old enough to go up north on the boats where my love of the coast blossomed and grew. For the next 20 years I spent a lot of time on the central coast, much of it around Smith and Rivers Inlet.
At the time, Rivers Inlet was the third-largest sockeye run in British Columbia after the Fraser and the Skeena. Although its 13 canneries were largely closed by the late '60s, some 700 gill-net boats made a living fishing these abundant runs, and thousands of people relied on those returns.
The runs numbered in the several millions, and there were 500,000 to a million spawners and sometimes more in the Owikeno system on cycle years. It seemed endless. Now, there hasn't been a fishery there for 20 years. A few years ago the spawning population bottomed at 3,500 fish. I believe that logging impacts and fishing pressures largely led to this decline.
As I reflect on my early years in the salmon business, I remember things that seemed very normal at the time but now make me pause. I remember as a deckhand in Rivers Inlet having to pitch large steelhead into the scale bucket before their transport to the cannery. I think these beautiful animals that were a nuisance bycatch in the sockeye fishery are now subject to strict catch-and-release regulations.
I also remember packing fish out of northern Johnstone Strait as a young man when Area 12 would open in late June or early July. In those days there were few local
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boundaries to protect specific stocks, and the whole area between Seymour Narrows and Queen Charlotte Sound would open as one. Without local boundaries, a few wily seine boats with intimate knowledge of the area would duck into Parson Bay on certain tides and load up on the large spring salmon that schooled there. I remember having to drag those salmon that were too heavy to lift. I now shudder to think of how many of those fine trophy fish we lugged off to the cannery. But this is a part of our history, and it's a part of our history that I'm not particularly proud of.
By 1980, finally free of university, I was in business on my own — buying, processing and selling salmon. I had started my own company and had built a small cannery in North Vancouver. Business was going well, and I was in Denmark in the fall of that year on my annual sales trip. I was at the smoking plant of a customer who always bought my chum salmon. While on that fish floor, he showed me salmon that I'd never seen before. While the wild chums had the odd bruise or bloodspots or gaping, each one of these new fillets was perfect. I had never seen such fillets, nor could I recognize the whole fish. "What is it?" I asked. He told me: "It's Atlantic salmon, farm-raised in Norway."
This was one of those seminal moments in my life, because I realized that this fish was so fresh and perfect and so readily available to the Danish smoking industry that it would be very difficult competition for my wild chums to sell into that market. I determined to keep an eye on this experiment they called salmon farming and read all I could.
In the mid-'80s salmon farming was coming to B.C., and I travelled to Norway to see how differently they processed the fish than the wild fish processing methods we used in B.C. They live-hauled the salmon to their plants and bled them for better flesh quality. The fish were handled throughout the year in small batches, with great care. Everything was sold fresh; nothing was canned or frozen. These methods were very different from what we were doing in B.C.
Nevertheless, if salmon farming could work here, this would be a great opportunity for me to utilize my canning plant that was closed for most of the year to process fish for the salmon farmers. We were among the first people to live-haul salmon in B.C. and to use Norwegian processing methods.
The salmon-farming business moved largely from the Sechelt area further north, and soon there was an opportunity to build a plant in the Campbell River area. Salmon farming was growing, and there were few processing plants, so in 1989 I started Brown's Bay Packing Co. Although our initial expectations were modest, our volumes and employment grew and grew.
As the industry continued to grow, in 1996 I joined with our then largest customer, Stolt Sea Farm, to build Englewood processing on northern Vancouver Island to service their farms in that area. I never in my wildest dreams thought that one day these plants would be shipping 15 semitruck loads of fresh salmon a day, which is enough to feed one million people each and every day.
When I saw my first farm salmon, the worldwide production of wild salmon was 750,000 to 800,000 tonnes, and the total production of farm salmon was about 4,000 tonnes. Today the wild production remains the same at 750,000 to 800,000 tonnes, while the production of farm salmon has grown to about 1.3 million.
While I had seen an opportunity for farm salmon to supplement the wild salmon processing in my plant, I never dreamed that someday it would become even larger than wild production.
I never would have predicted that the B.C. production of farm salmon would exceed that of the wild, but it is more than two times the volume and three times the value. Even at that, B.C. is a bit player in the global salmon business with about 1 percent to 2 percent of the world production of salmon.
At present the salmon industry is very different from the one I grew up with and spent most of my career in. When I sold my cannery in 1999, the average canned salmon pack was a little under 1.5 million cases a year. The last few years have averaged about 500,000 cases, and this year will only be about 250,000. This is not just a reflection on some lesser salmon abundance in B.C. but of changed markets as well. There is a preference for fresh over canned salmon.
The processing of farm salmon is very different from the wild processing business I grew up with. Firstly, we work all year round. This allows us to make significant investments in capital expenditures of labour-saving devices and in training of our workforce.
The workers in the processing plants are highly trained and very skilled. Our people make a very good living, buy houses and cars, and raise families. Wages are over $18.50 an hour, plus a wide range of benefits. In the cannery business we had seasonal employment supplemented by off-season EI benefits.
This consistent rather than seasonal employment, when combined with large volumes, has allowed us to make huge strides in the cost and efficiency of what we do.
When I started Brown's Bay, we charged our customers approximately 34 cents a pound for processing, and we were paying our people about $12 an hour. Now we charge less than 17 cents a pound, and we are paying our workers over $18 an hour.
Our revenue per pound has gone down about 53 percent while our wages and benefits costs have gone up over 50 percent. Yet we're still profitable because our labour cost per pound has come down by almost 60 percent. This is because we are processing much more salmon than in 1989, and because we've invested in automation.
These figures illustrate how efficient we have become in my company and in our industry. Our business is driven by volumes and consistency.
Of course, these plants have a significant impact on the coastal communities in which they reside. It is not just the number of jobs they provide, but the type of jobs that are important. Our industry provides a
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mixture of entry-level jobs; semi-skilled jobs, such as machine technicians and the like; and highly skilled jobs, such as computer programmers. This allows coastal communities to attract and retain a diverse population.
What of the future? I've related some personal stories in order to illustrate a few points. Firstly, coastal communities in the salmon industry have been constantly changing for a hundred years that my family's been involved. Change will continue.
Secondly, changes in salmon abundance and marketing are not caused by the salmon-farming business but by other conditions and by global impacts. Salmon markets have been changed by salmon farming, but this change would have occurred whether or not B.C. was farming salmon. The salmon business is a truly international one, and we must continually remind ourselves that the world, British Columbia and its coast are not static.
I've read many of the transcripts of your earlier proceedings. Many of the presentations are a lament about change on the coast. A way of life has been lost. People who lose their livelihood in communities are understandably hurt and angry and upset. There is a sadness and anger in the voices of the people who have lost their way of life, and many of these people are first nations for whom the loss of coastal salmon activity has been particularly devastating.
For example, where there were once probably 50 seine boats fishing out of Alert Bay and salmon buyers and canneries providing employment for all, there are just a few boats left. A way of life and a village are lost.
Coastal changes hurt a lot of people. Where do these people put this loss and frustration? Much of it has been directed at Department of Fisheries and Oceans and salmon farming — a new industry. But DFO alone and salmon farming did not cause this disruption. This would have occurred in any event. We cannot hold off the inevitability of global technological and market changes any more than we can freeze time. It's our responsibility to respond to them. If we continue to focus our anger on DFO and salmon farming, we'll miss the opportunity to revitalize our fabulous coast. We cannot find the solution to problems if we're looking in the wrong places.
It has long been my core belief that B.C. can have a sustainable salmon commercial capture fishery, a sustainable aboriginal fishery, a sustainable sport fishery and a sustainable salmon-farming industry. Each can make the other better if we can move beyond the conflict and isolation of our different approaches. I believe this as strongly now as I did 20 years ago.
The salmon-farming industry can and does take pressure off wild stocks so that those big springs can bring big sport bucks. The salmon-farming industry can help the capture fishery get better and get more value. Methods of live-hauling, bleeding and holding salmon can extend market opportunities. Filleting equipment, pin boners and the like can enhance value. Wild salmon can enjoy a seasonal market in the summer, allowing the farmed salmon to grow bigger. Salmon farming can and should be an important part of an integrated salmon strategy and should be an important contributor to coastal communities.
It has been pointed out that salmon farming has neither produced all of the social and economic miracles that its early promoters promised nor created the environmental Armageddon that its critics charge. Does the salmon-farming industry have an environmental impact? Of course it does. Name me one kind of food production that doesn't. But if it can be shown that salmon farming has a significant detrimental impact on wild salmon, we should stop it now. And if, as has been alleged, some 95 percent of salmon smolts are killed by the presence of farm salmon, it must stop.
I believe that salmon farming is as logical as raising beef, and I hope this committee will be bold enough to see that the way forward is not found simply by counting the yea or nay suggestions, seeing who can shout the loudest or make the most newsworthy claims. Leadership is more complicated than that. This is about people's lives and the lives of future coastal communities.
Where once technology gave man an unfair advantage over wild salmon, new technology is being found and used every day to improve salmon farming. It is a rapidly evolving industry, and things are never invented and perfected in the same day.
The world is changing. There are more mouths to feed and no more fish being discovered. Now fully one-third of the world's seafood is cultured. This trend will continue. Just as the culturing of cattle has displaced the hunting of buffalo and deer for food, the British Columbia coast is also changing. Where once there were salmon canneries, now there are salmon farms. Let us embrace this change. Let's go forward with it, not afraid to make mistakes, less afraid to correct them.
We have a wonderful opportunity in B.C. to restore the salmon industry to the coastal significance it once had. We are blessed with some of the best salmon-growing conditions in the world next to the best markets in the world. We should take advantage of this natural opportunity. It is the responsibility of our generation and of your committee to ensure that this opportunity is available for future generations of coastal British Columbians.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I have only one comment. Do you also process wild salmon in either of your processing plants?
D. Millerd: No, not any longer. I sold my interest in the salmon cannery about five years ago. We do not process it in the farmed salmon plants for two reasons. Principally, we're so busy we can't disrupt a steady schedule with it. Also, some of our customers would have concerns about disease coming in from the wild fish.
C. Trevena: You talked about wonderful things — responsibility and leadership and that this is about
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people's lives. You talked about people's anger as things have changed. You have seen a lot of change from your father's cannery to your business today. You're also talking about the possibility for fish farms to work alongside wild salmon and aboriginal fisheries and so on.
I raised this when we were in Campbell River last week, with Dave — about your workers' response to our committee and the issue of leadership there. We're getting a lot of people very fearful, very loudly fearful — I get lots of letters, and we're getting a lot of people standing up — for their futures and fearful that our committee, for some reason, is going to end their futures. We saw this in Campbell River. We saw this when we were up in Port McNeill. Outside the hearing, people from Englewood were there, and they were protesting us.
I wondered whether you could show leadership to your workers, who clearly enjoy working at Brown's Bay and Englewood, to give them the confidence that we are part of working towards a future that does have, as you envision it, all aspects of salmon in B.C.
D. Millerd: Well, I truly hope, Claire, that that will be borne out in time. You must understand. We have no interest in fearmongering or raising people's concerns. We struggle to attract and retain workers in an industry that has been under a lot of attack for a long time. Our people get anxious about it and worried about it. They get in discussions in bars and coffee shops that they probably wouldn't like.
We are constantly trying to assure them that there is a future, that our company is continuing to invest money in the industry and that we believe it has a future. It is true that this committee is not seen to be particularly friendly towards the industry, but that is not coming from us. I promise you that.
R. Austin (Chair): Great. Thank you very much for your presentation.
I'd like a motion to adjourn. These hearings are now adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 7:29 p.m.
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