2006 Legislative Session: Second Session, 38th Parliament
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE
MINUTES AND HANSARD
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Present: Robin Austin, MLA (Chair); Ron Cantelon, MLA (Deputy Chair);
Daniel Jarvis, MLA; Scott Fraser, MLA; Shane Simpson, MLA; Gregor Robertson,
MLA; Claire Trevena, MLA; John Yap, 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 10:04 a.m.
2. Opening statement by the Chair, Robin Austin, MLA
3. The following witnesses appeared before the Committee and answered questions:
|1)||Raincoast Conservation Society||Michael Price|
|2)||BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences||Dr. Valerie Funk|
|3)||BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences||Dr. Sonja Saksida|
|4)||Syndel Laboratories Ltd.||Dr. Jim Powell|
|5)||Northern Aquaculture||Peter Chettleburgh|
|6)||Dr. Stephen F. Cross|
|7)||Grieg Seafood B.C. Ltd.||Tim Davies|
|8)||United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union – CAW – Local 15||Garth Mirau|
|9)||Environmental Law Centre, University of Victoria||Chris Tollefson and Adam Driedzic|
|12)||Aboriginal Aquaculture Association||
Richard Harry, Moses Martin,
Ted Williams, and Alvin Sewid
|13)||Denman Island Marine Stewardship Committee||Pat McLaughlin and Shelley McKeachie|
|15)||First Dollar Alliance||Leanne Brunt and Barb Walker|
|16)||Canadian Sablefish Association||Leslie Budden and Dr. John Volpe|
|17)||University of Victoria, School of Environmental Studies||Dr. John Volpe|
4. The Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair at 6:01 p.m.
Robin Austin, MLA
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2006
Issue No. 26
|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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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2006
The committee met at 10:04 a.m.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
R. Austin (Chair): Good morning. My name is Robin Austin, and I'm Chair of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture and the New Democratic member for Skeena in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome everyone here to the committee's public hearings in Victoria. It's our pleasure to be here, back in the city, to hear from people on this important issue.
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 this meeting, will be printed and will be 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.
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. The committee will be empowered to examine, inquire into and make recommendations with respect to sustainable aquaculture in British Columbia and, in particular, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, to consider the economic and environmental impacts of the aquaculture industry in B.C.; the economic impact of aquaculture on B.C.'s coastal and isolated communities; sustainable options for aquaculture in B.C. that balance economic goals with environmental imperatives, focusing on the interaction between aquaculture, wild fish and the marine environment; as well as to look at B.C.'s regulatory regime as it compares to other jurisdictions.
The 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 as an opposition member holds the Chair, while a government private member holds the Deputy Chair. The majority of members hail from the opposition as well.
Beside me is the Clerk of Committees, Craig James. At the front of the hall there is Dorothy Jones, who will assist anybody who has questions about the work of this committee.
I would now like to invite members of the committee, starting on my right, to introduce themselves.
D. Jarvis: Good Morning. My name is Daniel Jarvis, and I am the Liberal member for North Vancouver–Seymour.
R. Cantelon: My name is Ron Cantelon. I'm the member for Nanaimo-Parksville. I'm Deputy Chair. Thank you.
C. Trevena: Claire Trevena, North Island.
S. Simpson: Shane Simpson, Vancouver-Hastings.
G. Robertson: Gregor Robertson, Vancouver-Fairview.
S. Fraser: Scott Fraser, Alberni-Qualicum.
R. Austin (Chair): Prior to calling the first witness, I would just like to make some comments in regards to the timing of these proceedings.
Yesterday we had a very interesting day in Vancouver, and it resulted in us having numerous submissions, many of which went way beyond the allotted time, which created some problems for people who were scheduled to speak before the committee at a certain time. We found ourselves at one point about two or two and a half hours behind time. As it was, we stayed until around quarter to eight yesterday when we were supposed to have finished around quarter to six.
Unfortunately, we don't have that flexibility here today. We will wrap up these hearings in Victoria today by six o'clock. If by any chance we get as far behind — and I hope that won't happen — then anybody who's still left on the witness list will come to another hearing which we will have here in Victoria. We do have a wait-list of people who wanted to speak today, so we would take that wait-list plus any people who were unable to speak today.
Just for the sake of the witnesses here, who are present, I'm going to try to limit people to 20 minutes. I will let people know when their time is up. But I also am going to be a little flexible. Some of the presentations yesterday created a lot of questions from members, and I let that go as well.
I want to create some flexibility. I don't want to suggest that people's voices won't be heard, but I also want to put out there right at the beginning of the day that we do not have the flexibility to carry on till eight or nine o'clock tonight.
That being the case, I'd like to invite the first witness up to the witness table — Michael Price.
M. Price: Good morning. My name is Michael Price. I'm a fourth-generation Vancouver Islander and a biologist. I work with the Raincoast Conservation Society. I would like to thank the committee for allowing me this opportunity to speak and be heard. I would also like the committee to know that I take this opportunity to speak before you very seriously, and I hope you listen to my words with the same level of respect.
I wrote a letter to your committee on behalf of the CAAR science team that outlined the published science
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to date on the impacts of salmon farms on wild salmon and the marine environment. I would like to begin now by reinforcing the weight of scientific evidence that exists on the impacts of salmon farms.
Independent scientists and academics in Europe and British Columbia produced overwhelming evidence identifying several risks salmon farms posed to wild salmon. Parasites and escaped Atlantic salmon are among the most immediate of these threats. Numerous studies have correlated local salmon farming with lethal sea lice infestations in wild juvenile salmonids, including a recent study published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, whose findings provide definitive proof.
So severe have these infestations been of wild salmon that population crashes of 98 percent have been recorded in high-farm-density areas on B.C.'s coast. While these parasites occur naturally in B.C. waters, the actual prevalence of lice found on juveniles in the areas remote from salmon farms, such as the Skeena region, is 2.7 percent compared to 95 percent in high-farm-density areas like the Broughton Archipelago.
Wild fish are highly mobile and disperse over wide areas, minimizing the opportunities for parasites to find a host. However, sea lice thrive in the factory-like conditions of salmon farms where up to a million fish are densely packed at any one site. Repeated infestations are transforming the farms into year-round sea lice reservoirs. As wild juvenile salmonids migrate past farms on their seaward way, they swim through swarms of sea lice and become lethally infected. A single louse is enough to kill a scaleless juvenile salmonid.
This is not a new story. Sea lice infestations of wild salmon have closely followed the development of the salmon-farming industry globally. Dr. Patrick Gargan, the senior research scientist with Ireland's Central Fisheries Board, warned B.C. of the impact that sea lice had on populations of wild salmon and sea trout in Ireland and other European countries in the year 2000.
Moreover, many studies have correlated salmon farming with sea lice infestations on wild juvenile salmonids in Europe — for example, Scotland, Ireland and Norway.
The scientific community regards these studies as irrefutable, the most thorough of which sampled a total of 3,166 sea trout from 42 estuaries throughout the entire Irish coastline over five years. This study found significantly higher sea lice infestations of juvenile sea trout in estuaries containing farmed salmon. There are countless other publications correlating salmon farms with sea lice infestations and subsequent declines of wild salmon and sea trout.
Despite public denial by government officials of sea lice transfer from farm to wild salmon in B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada researchers were among 25 local scientists to agree that, based on the weight of evidence: (1) salmon farms contribute sea lice to wild fish, (2) in B.C. there are more sea lice on wild fish near farms, (3) sea lice can kill juvenile fish even at low infestation levels, (4) evidence suggests that levels that appear to be lethal are found near fish farms, and (5) there is suggestive evidence of population impacts on wild salmon.
Farmed salmon have been escaping from net pens since 1987 due to the precarious nature in which they are kept. More than 400,000 Atlantic salmon are reported to have escaped in B.C., although the true number of escapes is unquantifiable. Most escapes are not reported but are unaccounted-for occurrences, with small fishes leaking through nets at a semi-constant rate. In the present year, 2006, it is conservatively approximated that for every 300 salmon in a net pen, one escapes. The truest estimate of escapes is more than 200,000 every year in B.C. waters.
Escaped Atlantic salmon have been found as far north as coastal Alaska. Now found in all major drainages on Vancouver Island, Atlantic salmon compete directly with wild salmon for habitat and food, prey on wild salmon fry and eggs and are successfully reproducing in wild salmon spawning rivers.
Impacts on wild salmon and their marine environment as a result of salmon farming in B.C. extend far beyond parasite infestations and escaped exotic fishes. Scientists have revealed the transfer of diseases from Atlantic salmon to wild Pacific salmon, aversions of marine mammals to regions where farms disperse high-amplitude sound and elevated mercury levels in rock fishes near farms. Many studies in Europe have also identified extensive nutrient and chemical contamination on benthic communities beneath farm pens.
A more focused research priority would enlighten us as to the actual impact of industrial salmon farming on our local marine environment.
The committee must realize that scientific research results are always suggestive, never conclusive, and it's the weight of evidence from several studies combined that's important. This weight of evidence has enabled the scientific community to conclude that sea lice from farms are lethally infecting wild fish, escaped Atlantic salmon are competing with wild Pacific salmon and salmon farming in B.C. is significantly impacting wild salmon and their marine environment. That is what we know scientifically.
What is most frightening, however, is all that remains unknown with regard to the full impact of aquaculture on our marine environment. What are the impacts of IHN disease, transferred from farms, on Pacific herring? What are the impacts of the biocide SLICE on benthic invertebrates like shrimp, prawns, krill and other planktonic larvae from rockfish to sand lance that drift with the currents through farm net pens?
What are the effects on marine life of the copper antifoulant used on farm nets? How are bottom fish affected by farm waste and biocide use? What are the ecosystem effects of nutrient loading caused by farms? What's the cumulative impact of numerous farms in a confined area, like the Broughton Archipelago? All of these questions remain unanswered, and many more have yet to even be considered.
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This has been acknowledged by your committee in previous meetings. This is really about wild salmon and the impacts imposed on them by the aquaculture industry. I'm the first to admit that salmon farming alone cannot be held responsible for the decline of wild salmon along our coast. Responsibility falls on the repetitive decision-making by our provincial and federal governments to allow industrial activities such as mining, logging and commercial fishing to exist over the interests of the environment. It is the repetitive decisions that place economics over ecology that is leading to the degradation of our environment.
For context, wild salmon populations along our coast have been heavily impacted and are in serious decline. They are but a fragment of their past. Over 142 salmon stocks are known to be extinct as of 1993, with the number unquestionably higher today. Salmon have lost much of their original spawning habitat on the south coast due to logging and urbanization and are poised to lose 80 percent of their spawning habitat throughout the north and central coast to future logging.
Repeated overfishing of salmon by an increasingly industrial commercial fleet coupled with the heavy extraction of foraging fishes, such as herring and oolichan upon which salmon species depend, have forced once-abundant salmon populations to the brink of collapse. Salmon farming has become yet another industrial activity that is showing all the warning signs of having the ability to degrade the marine environment and impact wild salmon to a similar degree as have logging and overfishing.
Now the productive nearshore habitat of juvenile salmon is deteriorating in the face of increasing parasite loads, diminishing food supply and ecosystem disruption. When observed in the context of the cumulative impact of all of these industrial-scale activities — clearcut logging, bottom trawling, seine-net fishing, mixed-stock fisheries, hatcheries, salmon and shellfish farming — it is no wonder our wild salmon are in the troubled state they're in.
Again, salmon farms are not solely responsible for the overall decline of salmon populations, but the industry could prove to be the final blow. This is especially disconcerting given the forecasted reality of climate change and the predicted consequence for wild salmon — warmer ocean and stream temperatures, shifting ocean currents and unpredictable feed patterns.
This cumulative impact must also be assessed on a scale within the industry of salmon farming. It's the cumulative impact of multiple farms along productive nearshore habitat which serves as a most profound threat to marine life and wild salmon along our coast. For example, juvenile salmon may survive the adherence of a single louse as they migrate past one salmon farm along their nearshore corridor. However, if that same school of juveniles is forced to pass ten farms, the chance of lice loads being fatal increases dramatically.
This is the very reason the Broughton Archipelago is witnessing the sea lice infestations they are. It's the cumulative impact of multiple farms in a confined area that needs to be addressed. It is the cumulative impact of an industry poised to expand along our entire coast, occupying the most biologically productive marine habitat, which needs to be quantified. Yet to date, it has not.
Shellfish farming and the cumulative impact of multiple farms on the marine environment also need to be assessed.
Research to date identifying impacts of individual shellfish farms is minimal at best. We know the intensive farming of oysters can effectively sieve entire bays clean of phytoplankton, the primary food on which all marine animals depend. Yet we have little idea of what specific impact they have on benthic communities or the effect multiple farms have on our coastal environment.
Further situating shellfish and salmon farms in nearby areas have the potential to decrease the fitness of salmon through diet deficiency while increasing their vulnerability to parasite infestation and disease. Again, the cumulative impact of the aquaculture industry as a whole remains an enormous unknown.
The Strait of Georgia has been a case study by which we have witnessed how the impacts of separate industrial activities multiply to generate catastrophic effects. This region along Vancouver Island's east coast has felt the impact of mining, clearcut logging, overfishing, shellfish and salmon farming. The biological community within is now but a relic of its former richness. The area exists now as a heavily fragmented and utterly diminished natural wonder in desperate need of reviving. To be certain, industrial aquaculture will not improve this situation.
Recommendations to the committee are extremely difficult to articulate, unless it is understood that every life form abides by fundamental ecological principles. The marine environment consists of a complex web of organisms existing in reliance on one another. We need to consider all marine users before allowing the aquaculture industry to expand. We need to assess the cumulative feeding efficiency of shellfish and the subsequent loss of direct feed for young salmon — herring, sand lance — and other extremely important fish that constitute the base of the marine food web.
We need to understand what effect the local harvest of krill in the Strait of Georgia to produce fish feed has on wild salmon, sea birds and whales. The removal of these food sources by the aquaculture industry shows the utter ignorance and ecological irresponsibility they have for our ocean's biological communities.
We need to accept that salmon are in trouble in this province, and we must have the courage to help them rebound.
This said, we will never witness the return of healthy wild salmon populations by simply building more hatcheries that produce more fish while continuing to allow industrial-scale degradation of their habitat. The health of wild salmon will only return by restoring their existing degraded habitat, by refusing to
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log intact valleys of salmon-bearing streams, by refusing to allow the overharvest of salmon in mixed-stock fisheries, by refusing to replace a healthy marine environment with industrial-scale aquaculture.
Although our south coast has been heavily impacted over the past century, it is extremely important that the committee realizes how fortunate we are to have an area as vast and wild as the central and north coast. Many pristine valleys support healthy salmon runs and intact biological communities, where predator-prey relationships intertwine as they have for more than 10,000 years. This is an area yet to be fully exploited, and hence a biological richness resides that is globally unique.
It must be noted that Norway has banned the presence of salmon farms along fjords with significant salmon runs because of the impacts they impose. We must forbid salmon farms and industrial aquaculture from expanding into the pristine central and north coast, a region that remains a wild salmon stronghold.
As for the farms presently operating on the central coast, I strongly urge you to accept the recommendations outlined by the Heiltsuk people of Bella Bella. The salmon farms located near Klemtu, considered Heiltsuk territory, are dividing the two communities. The Heiltsuk sent you a very strong message that they are utterly opposed to fish farms occupying any portion of their territory, a demand that the Kitasoo farms stop operating immediately while their respective chiefs — the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo and Xaixais — decide amongst themselves whether the farms should stay or leave.
For the south coast I strongly recommend that migration routes and rearing areas for juvenile wild salmon remain free of salmon farms immediately. The small body size of juvenile wild salmon leave them highly vulnerable to parasite infection during March to June as they migrate through farm areas en route to the open ocean.
As an interim measure, and at minimum, salmon farms that presently occupy migration and/or rearing areas must be fallowed of fish over one year in age during March to June. Farm fish over this age carry significantly higher levels of sea lice, and the present use of SLICE or other chemical therapeutants is simply not an adequate or sustainable method of protection.
There must, then, be a transition of the entire industry to closed containment systems within the immediate future and within a reasonable time period to eliminate all risks presently posed.
We need honesty, accountability and complete transparency from the aquaculture industry if we are to allow them to operate in our coastal waters. The fact that our government and the salmon-farming industry continue to deny a sea lice problem impacting wild salmon is a global embarrassment.
We are continually being lied to. Although salmon farmers have made many changes for the better over the years, we simply cannot trust this industry with one of our most precious resources. They do not deserve our trust, and until they are completely open and honest with the public and willing to make the necessary changes to ensure the protection of our marine environment, they should not be operating — period.
Ultimately, we the people of this coastal province need to ask ourselves whether we wish to live amidst a wild and healthy marine environment, rich with life, or live amidst a suite of industrial activities like salmon farming that refuse to obey the laws of nature. I guarantee you that it is impossible to have both, for every new aquaculture licence is a decision against the welfare of our ocean.
I will conclude with a first nations fundamental principle, mentioned by Rod Burns in Campbell River, who asked this committee to consider seven generations behind us and seven generations ahead so that our great-great-great-grandchildren will look upon us with pride and not shame. I am ashamed of my father's generation, and I pray that future generations will not be ashamed of mine.
Thank you for your time.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks, Michael. I'd like to open the floor. Shane has a question for you.
S. Simpson: Michael, I just want to ask a question in regard to escapes. Clearly, the issue of sea lice is a critical issue and the issue of escapes, and the relationship is there as well. We have been told, based on reports from the industry, that escapes in the last couple of years have been negligible, if at all. We've seen reports that show almost no escapes.
You've presented, in your documents today, upwards of 200,000 escapes a year or something in that range, as a conservative estimate. I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about where those conclusions come from.
M. Price: I should state, to begin with, that John Volpe is certainly the specialist in this field. Speaking with him and understanding the industry that takes place in Norway, where there is much greater reporting and transparency with salmon farms, there is a reported one in 300 escapes.
At this semi-constant rate of fishes leaking through farms — not escape due to ripped nets or jumping over the edges, but that simply leak from farms — the number of fish they initially put into a farm pen and then actually come out after they've been raised…. The number has been estimated at between one in 250 or one in 300, so multiplying that by the number of fish in farm pens in B.C. waters would equal 200,000.
S. Simpson: One further question. I appreciate that, and if you don't have the detail, I'll ask Dr. Volpe when he speaks to us a little bit later on. You talked about the transparency of reporting in Norway. Do you know: is there monitoring by government there, or is there more direct reporting that makes those numbers more evident than we have here? What is that reporting situation? Do you know?
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M. Price: As far as I know, it includes government; it includes non-governmental organizations, so environmental groups; and it involves the industry. There's a more collaborative effort to understanding the impacts and trying to quantify the number of escapes that take place in Norway.
G. Robertson: Michael, a question on the transition of industry on the south coast that you're proposing here and, just to be clear, how you envision that happening. Are you saying that a transition is acceptable as long as those farms are outside of the migration routes and there is movement to closed containment taking place at the same time?
M. Price: Yes, if there's consensus amongst everyone involved and within an appropriate time period. First off, if industry proves that they will fallow their pens that hold one-year-olds or more from areas that occupy juvenile migration routes, that would be the most immediate step.
Once that is done, then yes, I think a transition to some form of closed containment system would be accepted. I know that CAAR has outlined that. They're affiliated with nine or 11 groups that Raincoast is a part of, so yes, I support that recommendation.
G. Robertson: Okay. Thanks.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation, Michael.
I'd now like to call Dr. Valerie Funk to the witness table, please.
V. Funk: Thank you for inviting me here today. My name is Valerie Funk, and I'm a researcher at the B.C. Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, located in Campbell River, B.C. I completed a bachelor's degree and master's degree in biology at the University of Victoria. For my master's degree I investigated temporal changes in the carotenoid content and composition of the euphausiid, Euphausia pacifica, found in Saanich Inlet, B.C.
After completing my master's I transferred to the biochemistry department and began studying protein and carbohydrate structures and functions at the host-parasite interface. I completed my PhD in 1995.
My industry-related research began in 1997, when a consortium of companies hired me to determine best methods for fish transport and harvest from a fish wellness point of view. The objective was to minimize stress throughout the transport-harvest process with the goal of improving product quality.
In 2001 I was hired full-time by Pan Fish Canada to find ways to improve fish health. In January of this year I continued this research at the B.C. Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences. With the support of BCCAHS and Malaspina University College I received an aquaculture and environment innovation award from the B.C. Innovation Council. I was one of four recipients. Shannon Balfry, Stephen Cross and Yomi Alabi were the other successful candidates. While our research areas are quite varied, we share a common goal, and that is to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the aquaculture industry.
My focus has not changed since I started working for Pan Fish in 2001. My goal was and is to improve fish health in an environmentally sound manner. My approach is to improve the immunocompetence of fish.
Fish are exposed to many pathogens, and the majority of the time they're able to fight off the pathogen, much like a healthy individual can fight off a cold. But fish will become susceptible to pathogens, just as people become susceptible to colds when they get stressed, because stress has a negative impact on immune function.
The importance of immune function is perhaps best illustrated by looking at the emergence of diseases in patients with HIV. HIV is a virus that specifically targets cells of the immune system so that immune function is compromised. The result is that these patients become susceptible to opportunistic diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid, amoebiasis, bacterial pneumonia, toxoplasmosis, microspridiosis and leishmaniasis — just to name a few. The organisms causing these diseases are generally not a problem in a population of healthy individuals. This illustrates how important the immune system is in maintaining a healthy population.
Applying this to any agrifood business, including aquaculture, means that a healthy population really means an immunocompetent population. Now the question is: how do we ensure immunocompetent fish in the aquaculture industry?
The first approach is to apply good husbandry practices in rearing conditions so that fish are not stressed. Therefore, aquaculturists have limits on rearing densities. Fish are grown in large nets, as the perception is that fish are happier in larger nets. Fish are handled as infrequently as the sea lice monitoring program will allow. Fish are fed good diets. The pen systems are surrounded with predator exclusion nets so that the fish are not hunted by seals or sea lions. All these things reduce the stress and result in healthy, immunocompetent fish.
Industry continues to move forward in developing improved fish husbandry practices. To this end, a research project is being initiated to identify stress indicators for fish that can be readily and accurately measured. It is only through the development of such tools that the aquaculturists can evaluate the effectiveness of different husbandry strategies.
Another approach to improved immunocompetence in fish populations is through vaccinology. Use of vaccines is a responsible method of disease prevention. Where would human health be today without vaccines to protect against measles, mumps, rubella, polio, hepatitis, influenza virus? Fish are no different. Vaccines essentially educate the immune system, allowing rapid identification and destruction of pathogens, thus preventing disease. All fish entering sea water are vac-
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cinated against five pathogenic bacteria. This vaccination regimen has greatly improved the economic and environmental sustainability of the salmon aquaculture industry.
Work continues to develop new, efficacious and cost-effective vaccines to protect farmed salmon from diseases present in wild fish on this coast. The development and use of efficacious vaccines decreases the potential interactions between wild and farmed fish and decreases the need for therapeutants, thereby enhancing the economic and environmental sustainability of both wild commercial fisheries and the salmon-farming industry. In this way a healthy salmon farm is just another part of a healthy environment.
My role at the B.C. Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences is to bridge the gap between industry and science. It is important to work with industry so that areas of concern or relevance can be addressed through research. In the past I have accomplished this by actually working for a salmon-farming company so that all research directives were approved by the company and therefore relevant. Now, through my affiliation with the B.C. Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, I will continue to carry out industry-relevant research.
The centre is well-respected by industry and recognized as having research capacity. However, it must be acknowledged that my research projects have not been accomplished single-handedly. All of my research has been accomplished through a broad, collaborative network that I have developed over the years and that I will continue to develop and expand upon as new research projects are initiated.
To date my network includes salmon-farming companies, vaccine companies and research scientists. The salmon-farming companies that I have worked with include Marine Harvest, Creative Salmon, Pan Fish, Grieg Seafood and Target Marine. I've worked with the vaccine companies Microtek International and Maine Biotech, as well as Novartis.
The scientists that I've worked for are numerous: Dr. Kristi Miller, Dr. Simon Jones, Mr. Henrik Kreiberg, Mr. Garth Traxler — all at the Pacific Biological Station of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Dr. John Robinson at the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands; and Dr. Scott LaPatra at Clear Springs hatchery in Idaho. I also have affiliations with Malaspina and the University of Victoria.
All of these people have been brought together to work towards the common goal of improved fish health. The ultimate goal is to sustain rural coastal communities economically and environmentally.
Thank you for your time.
S. Fraser: You mentioned that one of the main realities you deal with, with fish or any animal, is the stressors — the stress they're put under — and minimizing that, which minimizes the need for…
V. Funk: Anything.
S. Fraser: …anything.
With temperatures increasing in the ocean with climate change issues — well actually, someone debated that to us yesterday, but let's assume for a moment that climate change is a reality — at what level can salmon be reared in these waters? Is there a temperature maximum? If it goes up a degree or two, will that necessarily create stressors that are going to be daunting for people like yourself, or create new challenges? Have you ever touched on that?
V. Funk: My research has not dealt with temperature effects specifically. In fact, the farms that I have worked with mostly have an average temperature of 10 degrees — plus or minus one — for the entire year, so temperature fluctuations are not frequent.
There are temperature effects with any organism. I am probably not the expert to answer those questions.
S. Fraser: Okay. I have jumped into the Pacific in the summer and the winter, and it didn't seem to make a whole lot of difference. It was cold. Thank you.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I'd just like to question you about the vaccinations. There's been a lot of discussion about fish health and the diseases in the Broughton. Firstly, are the diseases brought by the farm salmon, or are the diseases brought to the farm salmon once they're in the pens?
V. Funk: It's a complicated system. The fact of the matter is that when fish enter sea water, they have been checked at the hatchery for diseases. So they're entering sea water, for the most part, disease-free. I don't work at a salmon farm at this point, but those checks and balances are in place.
There are diseases on this coast that are endemic and that you can be assured are not in those fish when they hit sea water. Yeah, they come from the environment, and that's reasonable. All diseases come from the environment, whether it's aquatic or terrestrial.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): All the fish are vaccinated for five different pathogenic…. How is that done, and where's that done?
V. Funk: It's done at the hatchery. It is an intraperitoneal injection administered with adjuvant. It occurs 400- to 500-degree days prior to sea water entry. Degree days can be defined as the average water temperature multiplied by the number of days. It's a way to monitor consistent time.
We're homeotherms. We can regulate our body temperature. With fish, immune processes and that sort of thing occur on a temperature basis. In order to develop an immune response for using a vaccine, it has been documented to take approximately 400-degree days. So if your water temperature is 15 degrees, it's going to take a whole lot less time to have that fish immunocompetent against the pathogen that you vac-
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cinated against than if that fish is reared at 8 degrees or 10 degrees — 400-degree days at 10 degrees is 40 days.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay. That was certainly a very complete answer.
We want to differentiate between vaccinations — in my mind and, I think, in the public's mind — and antibiotics. One of the complaints is that antibiotics are overly used, and I presume that's what you call therapeutants. What is the extent and usage? Could you differentiate: vaccination versus antibiotics?
V. Funk: Vaccination is what we do. It protects us without any harmful effects to anybody. It is just a way to boost that immune system so it can recognize that pathogen when it first enters the body. No therapeutants; it's just your natural immune system. It's a way of educating that immune system.
Normally, when we get a cold, the first time our body sees that particular virus, it takes two weeks to get rid of it. But once we've experienced that virus, we have memory cells that are rapidly expanded, so therefore it can act on that pathogen as soon as it enters the body.
We're doing the same thing for fish. I'm not talking antibiotics. I'm just making these fish immunocompetent, much as we're immunocompetent against smallpox, against all those nasty things that we vaccinate our kids for.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): What about the use of antibiotics? Is it widespread in the industry? We know about….
V. Funk: I don't have the values for the antibiotics. That's not where I fall.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): That's fine.
D. Jarvis: Thank you for your report. I've got before me a chart showing the pink salmon returns from 1952 to 2004. It's quite a variance in the returns, especially in the odd years.
You were talking about the natural diseases that are in the sea. To the best of your knowledge, has there ever been an instance that you are aware of where a disease has affected and devastated returns?
V. Funk: No.
D. Jarvis: It never has.
V. Funk: The problem is that I'm not an expert in that area, and I would choose not to speak to that area specifically. The fact of the matter is that as aquaculturalists we can monitor when diseases occur on our farms so that we have an idea of when and how that might have occurred.
When it goes the other way, nobody knows. You can't monitor that. You can't have a controlled experiment whereby you have a situation where you've got fish swimming down one stream and fish swimming down the other and then catch them on the other side of the stream, and say: "Okay. These guys are positive; these guys aren't. Therefore…." We don't have that kind of data.
D. Jarvis: All right. I was just wondering that. Thank you.
S. Simpson: A couple of questions. Just before I start — because I won't go down this road if this isn't your area of expertise — issues around antibiotics, SLICE and those things are not your area of engagement or expertise?
V. Funk: No, but my only point is that I want everybody to recognize that the aquaculture industry is carrying out research to minimize the use of those.
S. Simpson: Well, we'll get to that. The question that I would like to ask is: the Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences — how much investment of time in the centre goes into looking at the impacts of activities of the farms on the wild fish?
V. Funk: Currently probably none. Our….
S. Simpson: So none? I'll let you finish — sorry.
V. Funk: Our centre is a non-profit organization, and research dollars are required before any research can occur. So if you have money and you want that sort of thing — those studies — to occur, we would welcome you at our door to carry out that work.
S. Simpson: Let me just take this a step further. So currently there is very little or no research being done on the impacts of the farms on wild salmon and wild stocks. Am I to assume that the majority of the dollars that come to the centre come from industry?
V. Funk: No.
S. Simpson: Where do they come from?
V. Funk: They come from other granting agencies. The centre was founded with provincial and Western Economic Diversification money. So at this point in time, that is where the majority of the funding has come from.
S. Simpson: Maybe one last question on that, and then I'll save my other questions for other folks.
When you get dollars, are the dollars…? Do people come to you and say, "I want to give you X amount of dollars to do work in a particular field," or does the centre say: "We would like to do work in a certain field, so government or industry or funders, will you fund us to do work in a certain field?"
V. Funk: It works both ways.
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S. Simpson: It works both ways.
V. Funk: Absolutely.
S. Simpson: Then has the centre ever asked for dollars to look at the impacts on the wild fishery and wild salmon and then maybe not had anybody fund it?
V. Funk: Currently we are building capacity. Much of how that capacity gets built is through people walking through our door and saying: "We really want this done." That depends on who walks through our door and who takes the initiative to get that research going. You can only do so much, and at the end of the day, it all takes research dollars.
We welcome researchers and interested parties to come to us. That's what we're supposed to do. We are supposed to be the unbiased, scientific adviser.
S. Simpson: I appreciate that, and I'm very pleased that you're there and you're doing the work that you're doing. I would encourage you to broaden your horizons and make the linkages between wild fish and the farms, because that clearly is the debate at hand here. The support or the information that research facilities like yours could provide, if you did that work, would be extremely valuable. So thank you.
C. Trevena: I just wanted to go back to the specifics of vaccination — very much from a layperson's point of view.
Fish go into the ocean vaccinated, ready to deal with whatever is out there. Am I right?
V. Funk: Yes and no. There are five bacterial pathogens that are out there that have a huge impact — or did have a huge impact — on aquaculturists that are now of no concern, because those fish are effectively vaccinated. But there are other things out there whereby further vaccine development may improve overall survival of a particular year class.
C. Trevena: So it's a matter of then doing the research on the vaccination to create that sense of…. We are all, as kids, vaccinated, but we can still catch cold. It's to try and find a vaccination to combat….
V. Funk: Well sure, but we didn't used to be vaccinated for hepatitis — right? We didn't used to get flu injections. Now, just through continued research, every fall we can be vaccinated against influenza.
So again, with us as well as aquaculture, it is a continual process to find and develop new vaccines.
R. Austin (Chair): Dan has another comment or a question.
D. Jarvis: Yes, going on to Mr. Simpson's questions here, I'm going to assume — and you can say yea or nay — that your job is basically to look after the health of the fish that are in the pens and to make sure that they don't get diseased and spread elsewhere.
V. Funk: Well, yes and no. I like to think of my role as somebody who can help fish health in general and not specifically the industry. My role is to better understand immune mechanisms. My role is to develop vaccines to minimize disease in the ocean.
D. Jarvis: Are there any diseases that are being transferred from the penned fish now to the wild stock?
V. Funk: Again I would have to say that I'm not the person to speak to that.
D. Jarvis: Can you give me a name of someone I should speak to?
V. Funk: Well, I'm not sure that it has been well studied, because of the difficulties I've already pointed out to doing those sorts of studies. You can say maybe. An epidemiologist would be able to address those concerns much more readily than I.
D. Jarvis: Yeah, but to your knowledge, there hasn't been any disease spread from the penned fish to the wild stock.
V. Funk: Well, I'm saying it's a complicated environment. There's no doubt that disease comes from wild to farmed. If we can minimize that transfer in the first place by vaccinating those fish against those endemic diseases, then we are just preventing further interactions between wild and farmed. That is the responsible way to go.
D. Jarvis: I'd say, then, that any possible disease to the penned fish comes from the wild.
V. Funk: For the most part. That would be my feeling, yeah.
D. Jarvis: All right. I would just worry that there could be a situation where it'd be the reverse. But there's no evidence to show that at the moment, or research to even look into it, I guess.
V. Funk: Probably there is research to look into it, but I'm not an epidemiologist.
S. Fraser: Just a quick… An issue that came up around immunocompetence of fish and the injections. You made a comment that there was no adverse effect, that we all get inoculated, so it's just like…. But I know naturopath doctors, for instance, that have a different take on that. They agree that in the short term, with people, inoculations are of course preventing some horrendous diseases. At the same time, there is a longer-term potential effect, where the pathogens themselves can actually adapt to that.
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V. Funk: No, absolutely not — not to a vaccine.
S. Fraser: Okay. Then the immune system is…. There's no downside effect to…?
V. Funk: There's no downside to vaccinating. Honestly.
S. Fraser: Okay. Now, just to be fair, though, I have read reports of other takes on that. Certainly, I don't want to say it's just hearsay, and I don't know whether it's peer-reviewed or anything else, but…. I certainly have heard less definitive opinion of that.
V. Funk: There are always different opinions. And you know, in human medicine there are many people who choose not to vaccinate children. You know, I still remember my children, six months old, three months old, getting their first vaccination. Six hours after that injection they were screaming for the next 24. Did I still continue to vaccinate them? You bet.
In Canada there's herd immunity. Everybody's vaccinated. There are no pathogens anymore. We don't even get vaccinated for smallpox, because we've eradicated that disease. Humans have the ability to piggyback on everybody else's responsible nature of getting vaccinated. If a parent decides, "Oh, no, we don't want to vaccinate. That's bad," then their children are still protected because the whole herd had been protected. There is no way for that pathogen to get into our environment.
S. Fraser: Okay. But where I was going with this is that…. Agreed — whether we've been inoculated or been exposed to the pathogen naturally and survived it, our immune system is accommodated for that. It may be true that, as a group, the herd is then pretty much protected. So if the herd is pretty much protected — as, for instance, Europeans were from a lot of exposure to things…. When they came here, it was devastating for the first nations.
Again, you've got a herd of fish that you've inoculated and basically made them immune to the pathogens. There is a whole whack of wild fish out there that haven't had the benefit of that. I don't know if it's a similar analogy.
V. Funk: It's not.
S. Fraser: Okay.
V. Funk: It's a win-win situation. We have now introduced a group of fish that are vaccinated. Therefore, there are no pathogens in that group. There are no pathogens to go from that group to the wild.
It's not like…. I see what you're saying. The smallpox came over here and eradicated…. So there was still enough smallpox being carried by those people that came over here. But in general, you've reduced the number of pathogens that are going to be carried in the environment by preventing any disease outbreak within that population.
S. Fraser: Yeah, okay. Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
I'd like to call Dr. Sonja Saksida to the witness table.
S. Saksida: My name is Sonja Saksida. I have a BSc in marine biology, a doctorate in veterinary medicine and a master's of science in epidemiology. Epidemiology is the study of diseases in populations, so I might be able to answer some of your questions.
I have been an aquaculture veterinarian in B.C. for over 12 years. As a veterinarian working with salmon farmers in B.C., I have found them to be very receptive to suggestions or criticisms and have found them to be continually modifying their practices in order to improve. Others who have presented to your committee may have other views, but I can only speak based on my own experience with the industry.
In addition to being a clinical veterinarian, I have also been involved in epidemiological research and have published a paper on fish health issues. Last year I joined the Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences in Campbell River as their epidemiologist. This morning I would like to comment on, and hopefully clarify, some specific issues regarding B.C. farmed salmon health and welfare.
First, I would like to comment on fish health and antibiotic use in farmed salmon in B.C. In British Columbia all antibiotics used in farms can only be obtained through a prescription, and that is written by a veterinarian such as me. Antibiotic treatments are used for the treatment of bacterial infections.
As a veterinarian, I go to the farms and assess if there are any health issues. If I determine that there is a problem and it is bacterial in nature and it is treatable with an available antibiotic, I then write a prescription. This prescription is forwarded to one of the feed companies, where the antibiotic is added to the feed. Special attention is put into calculating the right dosage and ensuring that the antibiotic is incorporated into the correct size and type of feed for the fish being treated. This isn't a haphazard process.
The overall amount of medicated feed fed to B.C.'s farmed salmon is easily less than 3 percent of the total feed fed. This is very little, and overall there is probably less antibiotic usage in farmed salmon in B.C. than in any other commercially farmed animal sector. Furthermore, with the introduction of better vaccines and improving biosecurity and husbandry practices, I have seen the usage of antibiotics decrease and suspect that this trend will continue. I do, however, think that it's very important to have access to efficacious antibiotics in case unforeseen problems arise.
The second issue I'd like to address is sea lice on farmed salmon in British Columbia. I am very aware of the concerns and the problems that farmed salmon located in the Atlantic ocean in regions such as Nor-
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way, Scotland, Ireland, New Brunswick and Maine have had and are still having with sea lice, particularly the salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis. I travelled to Norway in the mid-'90s, visited farms and saw firsthand the sea lice infestations and the damage inflicted by the sea lice on the farmed salmon.
I received my initial training on identifying sea lice in Norway. Based on what I saw, though, I did not think that we had a problem in farmed salmon in B.C. I would like to show you a graph of the kind of sea lice levels that were occurring in Europe during the '90s. This is published data from Scotland, and it shows the average number of pre-adult and adult Lepeophtheirus salmonis on farmed salmon in their second year in sea water. Farm salmon are normally reared in sea water for two years, so this is showing the mobile stages. I'm sure you're aware of sea lice life cycles now. There's the chalimus, copepodid, and then there are the mobile stages. This is just showing the mobile stages.
As you can see, over the five-year period the average number of sea lice range from 11 to 20. These levels were even though the farms treated on average 6.9 times in those age classes. Most of those treatments back then were bath treatments.
I've been going out routinely to the farmed salmon in B.C. since the 1990s to monitor health. I have seen Lepeophtheirus salmonis, the same species that this graph is showing, on farmed Atlantic salmon in B.C., but I did not see the buildup to the high numbers or the reinfestation as what was being experienced in Europe. I also did not see any real damage on the farmed salmon in B.C.
I did notice that there were some regional differences in B.C., some seasonal differences and some annual differences in sea lice levels. Some farms did have to treat for sea lice on occasion, but in general, most farmed salmon never needed to be treated for sea lice in B.C.
I, along with the other veterinarians in the industry and fish health biologists, did counts only when we had a concern about sea lice levels. As a result, there is very little record of sea lice levels on farmed salmon in B.C. prior to 2003.
You know, there really wasn't much incentive to do monitoring when we didn't see a problem. We were dealing with other issues, and we did not consider this a problem, so we did not monitor. In hindsight this was unfortunate, since when the concern was raised regarding sea lice on juvenile salmon and the possible link to farmed salmon the salmon-farming industry did not have any hard data to support their claim that sea lice were not a problem on their farmed salmon.
Since 2003 the farms have been regularly monitoring and reporting their sea lice levels. During this period I have also seen an increase in the number of treatments due to sea lice. However, most of these treatments are still not prescribed not because of health problems in the farmed salmon, but because the salmon farmers are required to treat. The provincial government has set out sea lice treatment trigger levels similar to those set in Norway. This is being done as a precautionary response until more is learned about the impact or the possible impact of sea lice on wild juvenile salmon and an assessment can be completed on the role played by farmed salmon.
The sea lice data that has been collected on the farmed salmon since 2003 has been examined by me and several colleagues. I presented a summary of the data at the International Symposium on Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics Conference this past summer. A paper has been published in the proceedings, and I've actually given you a link on your paper to the presentation so that you can find the paper.
The general conclusions made in the study are similar to the observations I made on the onset of regular monitoring or prior to the onset of regular monitoring. In general, there are regional differences within the farming regions of B.C. — seasonal differences and annual differences. The sea lice levels on farmed salmon are lower than those levels historically reported in Europe, and the number of treatments to maintain these levels is less than in Europe.
Here's the same figure, and I've added the data from the B.C. farmed salmon populations that have been in sea water, again, for greater than one year. You can see it's less than three.
Another interesting finding from the data is the number of treatments required to maintain the sea lice levels at this level. In Scotland the historical data, as I said…. It was an average of seven treatments in the second year of seawater entry. So this is actually 6.9. In B.C. it's less than one SLICE treatment.
Now, I have recently spoken to the author of the original Scottish data as well as veterinarians from both Norway and Scotland, and it appears that the sea lice levels in Europe have dropped considerably in recent years. This is as a result of better management and availability of more efficacious treatments. Indications are that the levels now may be similar to the levels we are seeing in B.C. However, what still continues to be significantly different is the number of treatments.
As I said, we treat…. Basically, the average number of treatments per farm, from the time that smolts are entered in sea water in B.C. to the time that they are harvested, is less than two in British Columbia. In Europe they treat at least twice to three times the number of times as we do to maintain the same levels of sea lice. Furthermore, the farms in Europe are still treating, because if they don't treat, there will be severe health implications for the farmed salmon.
The fact that we are seeing so many differences between the B.C. and the European sea lice infestation patterns and in the pathology of the louse, as well as in the control efficacy — even though we're dealing with the same species of sea louse, the Lepeophtheirus salmonis, on the same species of salmon, the Atlantic salmon — makes me realize that the European literature cannot be directly applicable to the B.C. situation.
This also makes me think that we really have to be very careful when we're transferring the European data
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that's based on Atlantic salmon onto a totally different species of salmon, the Pacific salmon — and in a completely different environment, the Pacific Ocean — because they, too, could be very different. It is very important to conduct proper research, proper B.C. research, to determine what is really going on in our environment and to find solutions that work for us. Unfortunately, good research does take time.
Just to complete the summary of the other sea lice projects that I'm involved with, I have two papers being submitted to scientific journals for review that examine the sea lice situation on farmed salmon specifically in the Broughton Archipelago. I am hoping that they will be published early next year.
I am also part of a project that is planned to compare actual farm sea-lice data collected in the Broughton with the juvenile wild salmon data collected in the Broughton by the DFO researchers. We are also including oceanography data in that. The data set that will be used in the analysis has been collected from over 30,000 juvenile pink and chum salmon, over 5,000 sticklebacks and almost 24,000 farmed Atlantic salmon. The data was collected during the out-migration period — basically, March to June and July, between 2003 and 2006.
This data set is not only substantially larger than any other studies that have been published on the matter, but is also containing farmed-salmon data, which has been omitted in the previous studies. The data set will hopefully be able to determine if there is an association between sea-lice levels found on the farmed salmon and on the wild juvenile salmon in the Broughton Archipelago. However, we do appreciate that assessing association is only the first step in determining causation.
In conclusion, let me say that it is clear that the food needs of the world are increasing with our increasing populations. We have to beat that with farming. With the recognition of the health benefits of farmed salmon, this has also increased the demand for farmed salmon. We just can't depend on our wild stocks to fulfil this requirement. Continuing to fish heavily will result in the depletion of the wild stocks. I'm sure you've heard that lots. But it's not only going to have an impact on the wild salmon themselves, it will also have an impact on the other species that depend on wild salmon as a food source. To me, the only sustainable way to meet the demands is to farm the salmon.
Farming locally is also very important for several reasons. The obvious one is the availability of fresh product, but the more important reason is food safety. Locally grown food provides us — the public and the health authorities — the ability to monitor quality and control the quality. Farming locally also provides us the opportunity to ensure that acceptable rearing conditions are used.
I would like the committee to be very cognizant of farm-animal welfare when evaluating sustainability of a farming method. I personally think that the current system of net pen rearing is a far better option than the closed containment system that is being proposed. Closed containment would likely result in the type of intensive farming that the SPCA and other organizations throughout the world are trying to move away from with other farmed animals.
As a fish health professional, I am responsible for the health of the animals that are put into my care. In my case it is the farmed salmon in B.C. Because of the regular monitoring that I and others in the field do, I think that we have an excellent understanding of fish health issues in our farmed populations, and it is continually improving.
I believe that the current practices as they pertain to fish health, management and biosecurity make this industry very sustainable. In my opinion, the level of regulation and management systems in place in B.C. for farm salmon aquaculture make it one of the best systems around. Thank you.
S. Fraser: Just a couple of issues. Thanks for that — a lot of information. First issue is antibiotic use. I know this has been an issue that's come up again and again. Of course, it's been pointed out that other farmed animals also are treated with antibiotics, so I'm mindful of that.
This has to be done only by prescription.
S. Saksida: That's correct.
S. Fraser: Is that done by individual injection, like the actual fish is…? Is it done through feed or through…?
S. Saksida: Yeah, as I presented, it's all through feed.
S. Fraser: Okay. So if it's done through feed, and these presumably already are fish that have had their immunofunctions enhanced by injection previously…. Up to five pathogens, I think Dr. Funk said.
S. Saksida: That's correct. Obviously, there are vaccines that are developed for specific pathogens. But if there's something else that comes up, and it's treatable by an antibiotic, then we do it.
We're not talking about the treatment. The pathogens that we're vaccinating for….
S. Fraser: The inoculation that happens prior to….
S. Saksida: The vaccination?
S. Fraser: Yeah. That inoculation does not cover all…. There are other bacteria out there that can potentially kick in there, or can it be one of the pathogens that the fish was originally inoculated for? Has that ever happened?
S. Saksida: Normally it's other pathogens that are around or other bacteria that are around in the environment.
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S. Fraser: Just secondly, if I could. On treating for sea lice, you mentioned, and we've heard this already, that there is a level — is it three per fish in B.C.? — that treatment is required. Is that correct?
S. Saksida: There's seasonality to it. During the out-migration we are required to treat when there are three or greater mobile stages on average for the salmon monitored.
S. Fraser: So spring would be…?
S. Saksida: Spring, yeah. The rest of the year the action…. That level of three elicits an action, which could be increased monitoring as opposed to just direct treatment.
S. Fraser: All right. You mentioned that we're following suit with Norway. Is that the same? I thought Norway was lower than that.
S. Saksida: The Norwegians have used three mobiles, or 0.5 gravid females, which is just one of the stages of mobiles. Then they go up to, I think, six to ten during the rest of the year. They have seasonality as well. Then they have different treatment trigger levels.
S. Fraser: Okay. Just to finish this off, SLICE is the treatment that we use in B.C.
S. Saksida: It's the only treatment available in B.C.
S. Fraser: But it is not available by…. We heard that it isn't actually okayed by Health Canada. I know that it is in other countries. How's that…?
S. Saksida: It's still undergoing the final registration. What we have to do in order to get SLICE is actually put in an emergency drug release request.
S. Fraser: Emergency drug…?
S. Saksida: Yeah. We put in a letter. We fill out the documentation, and we send it to the vet drug directorate in Ottawa. They approve it. Then the specific amount of antibiotic — or SLICE — that is required is sent to the feed mill, where it's incorporated into the feed.
S. Fraser: That's requested by a veterinarian on behalf of the company?
S. Saksida: Yes.
S. Fraser: Just to finish off. One issue that we've heard — and it came up in Sechelt; prawn fishermen raised it — is that prawn larva is potentially impacted by…. Being biologically very similar to sea lice — I'm not a biologist — there is potential for impact on that particular species, especially in the larval state and, it was suggested, maybe even crustacean. There was fear by the individual and the organization involved that this might be having an adverse effect.
We've heard it before from prawn fishermen who we've gone to visit out on the boats, out on the sea, who say they've seen this impact, equating it with the use of SLICE. Do you have any evidence of that?
S. Saksida: I have no evidence. I do know that part of the registration dossier that any company that wants to register a product must submit to Health Canada includes environmental impact. I know that has been completed by the company that produces SLICE. I also know that the Scottish environmental protection agency did a complete review of SLICE several years ago, and they concluded that the manner that was used was an effective and safe manner.
S. Fraser: And that was tested around prawns on the west coast?
S. Saksida: It was tested in Scotland in the species, and they've got shrimp. I'm just saying that there is that assessment that was done, and the company does have to actually do environmental assessment prior to registering any product.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I appreciate your presentation. We had certainly heard a lot about antibiotics and a lot of fears, concerns, myths and probably misinformation. Unequivocally, you cannot administer antibiotics without a veterinarian's prescription. Is that correct?
S. Saksida: That's correct.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): And it's administered through the feed up to 3 percent. Unlike the beef and cattle industries, it is not administered as a regular part of the diet. Is that true?
S. Saksida: No, it's not used as a feed promotant whatsoever. It's not added to the water.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Maybe we can at least put that myth to sleep.
With respect to determining disease, what's the process? What are the mechanics? How does it work?
S. Saksida: Basically, each company has its own system. I supply services to several companies. I go out on a regular basis. Most companies also have a fish health technician who goes out even more frequently. We do mortality dives, or we actually have other kinds of systems where we bring up the fish that are dead. We look if there are any slow swimmers, fish that are…. I'm sure some people would call them loners.
We would take those out, humanely kill them, open them up. We would grossly examine the fish, and then we would also take samples for histology. If we suspect it's virology, we would collect the appropriate samples for that diagnostic test. Then we make our determination.
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Sometimes we can do it just by visual examination. Sometimes we need additional information through bacteriology and histology. Once we know we have a diagnosis and an assessment, if it is bacterial, we do bacterial sensitivity. We determine if there is any antibiotic that will be effective in treating, if it's a bacterial problem. Then we make that decision.
If it's something else, then we usually manage it through…. It can range in the decisions that we choose on how to manage other issues, and that may be not handle them. It may mean that we just change some of the biosecurity parameters.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): It isn't as simple as a fish farm fellow saying: "My fish aren't feeling good, Doctor. Give them some antibiotics." You have to actually diagnose specific pathogens.
The other question. It's a very small amount, 3 percent, but there are concerns raised about what happens once it's ingested into the fish and what happens on the other end of the fish when it goes out, and what residual effects these antibiotics might have on the environment. Could you comment on that?
S. Saksida: Basically, there's the pharmacology of the antibiotics. The antibiotic is absorbed, and it goes into the bloodstream of the fish. Then it usually gets somehow manipulated in the liver. It may actually change and become a different compound altogether. It sort of breaks down, and then it gets excreted.
That doesn't happen all the time. Sometimes a small amount of antibiotic or SLICE is actually excreted directly through the feces, and that does go into the environment.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Quickly, on SLICE. We've heard that up to 50 percent of SLICE goes through the animal's system. Is it changed in compound, or does it still go through and retain its…?
S. Saksida: Some of it is changed. Some of it is retained.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Is the 50-50 a reasonable…?
S. Saksida: I can't remember what the actual breakdown is. All I know is that there is some that is maintained in emamectin benzoate.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Easy for you to say, and I didn't try it. Thank you for helping me out on that.
One last quick question. Our lice counts, then, are fewer than one per fish. Is that what you're…?
S. Saksida: No, it's less than three.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Less than three, which is substantially less than we've heard. I take your point that the infection is quite different in how it impacts our different species than how it might affect the Atlantic salmon.
We have heard, though, from research that — I guess the deadly goalposts keep getting moved — one fish per 100 is lethal. Would you comment on that? One louse per 100 farmed salmon represents a lethal concentration — lethal was the word — of sea lice. Would you comment on that?
S. Saksida: I'm not aware of any actual science that's been published to really base that estimate on. I'm aware of a lot of conflicting published data. There is Simon Jones' work, where he experimentally infected pinks and chum salmon. What he found was that there was absolutely no mortality, and actually, the lice seemed to shed off the fish over a period of time during the experiment.
I'm also aware of a field trial that was done. Now, granted field trials are quite complicated things, because you have no control over the environment, and you have no control over the fish you're dealing with. Based on reading that material, I question the conclusions set by the author on the mortality estimates associated specifically to lice.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, it was quite a range. I hope you'll make us, speaking of it…. We keep hearing: "Weight of evidence. Weight of evidence." So we need more weight.
S. Saksida: Okay. Do you want me to go through this?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, if you would give us where we can find those papers, I think that would be useful.
S. Saksida: Okay. The Simon Jones — I have a copy.
S. Simpson: I just want to get these numbers right. So when you talked about lice — and I want to talk a little bit about sea lice — you said that there are variations depending on regions and time of year.
S. Saksida: Yeah.
S. Simpson: Would these numbers, the two to three lice per fish average, be consistent, say, in the Broughton during those migratory periods? Would that be a good estimate in that period of time?
S. Saksida: It's actually probably lower, based on my data during that period.
S. Simpson: So it's down there. When those fish with lice…. Part of the issue here, I take it — and correct me on this — is you have the lice on the fish.
The argument of people who make the case that this is a significant problem for our wild salmon is: you have the lice on the fish, the lice lay eggs, the larvae are
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floating around, and they then need to find a host. That becomes part of the challenge. They then attach themselves to juveniles. That would be the argument that's made?
S. Saksida: That's the argument I've heard, yes.
S. Simpson: Right. With a louse, when they're laying eggs, how many eggs might they lay that actually survive?
S. Saksida: I can't answer that specifically. I know that when there are certain lice…. An ecologist can probably answer that a lot better, but my general understanding is that there are different strategies for different species, and it basically depends on how much maternal effort is put into taking care of the offspring.
S. Simpson: Is it tens, or is it hundreds? Do you know?
S. Saksida: As a proportion, I would say it's a fairly low percentage.
S. Simpson: Right. I guess what I'm trying to get at here…. Part of the issue that I get presented to me is that the issue is not around lice per se because we know there are lice in the wild fishery in the ocean. There are lots of them. It's around the question of concentrations in the farms.
You take an area like the Broughton where there are about 20, 22, 23 farms, whatever, at any given time, with a half a million fish in a farm on average. So you've got a million sea lice a farm, if you're averaging two per fish. It's simple math. I'm just trying to understand here what we're talking about. That's the argument that gets made to me: if you've got ten million lice at any given time floating around in there, what's it producing? I'm trying to get my head around that.
S. Saksida: Okay. When I say two lice, I'm talking mobile stages. Gravid females are only one of those stages, so you can't assume that if I'm saying two mobile stages, that's including pre-adults, males and females, adult males and females plus gravid females.
We're talking about potentially five or six different life stages or sexes that are incorporated in that number, so to make that kind of statement is erroneous.
The other thing is that you're right. There are other sources of sea lice out there. I mean, there's been a lot of data to show…. The big problem is that there isn't enough wild-fish-health monitoring done, and it's always done as a reaction, as opposed to having a baseline. I think that's my big concern. There was an issue in late 2000, 2001, 2002 where sea lice were found on juvenile salmon, and people were making these statements that they had never seen sea lice on juvenile salmon. Yet there is no evidence that anybody ever looked, because nobody does wild-fish-health monitoring.
S. Simpson: Just to follow up on that…. I appreciate that. The number is something less than that, and that's good to know.
When people look at the science…. We, of course, have seen the recent studies that have received a fair amount of attention. I'm very interested — I think part of that is maybe what Ron was talking about — in looking at peer-reviewed science that presents the other side of that debate, and I look forward to seeing more of that. But is anybody looking at cumulative impacts? Obviously, it's not about one farm if you have areas where there are a number of farms. How do those cumulative impacts work?
S. Saksida: That's the project that I was telling you we were in the process of doing, where we actually have the sea-lice data collected from these farms in the Broughton. We're talking about all the farms that are active in Broughton during the out-migration period. We're looking at all the data that's been collected from the wild salmon, juvenile salmon. We're looking at all the data collected on the stickleback, and we're looking at oceanography. So, yes, that work is being done.
S. Simpson: When is it going to be completed?
S. Saksida: I don't know. Hopefully soon.
S. Simpson: Soon? Are we talking months or years?
S. Saksida: No. I mean, it wouldn't be years. We have…. The data's present.
S. Simpson: So it's a matter of just doing the analysis now.
S. Saksida: The complicating thing is how to figure out how to best analyze it.
S. Simpson: Love to see it before May. Thank you.
D. Jarvis: Do you need money?
S. Saksida: We're having some problems with this project.
R. Austin (Chair): Speak to that side. They can get you lots of money. Don't worry.
C. Trevena: I just wanted to pick up on something you just said at the end on your research. You said that you were trying to work out how best to analyze it. Could you explain what you mean? I'm not a scientist.
You get data, and you analyze it. You process it. What do you mean by you want to try and work out how best to analyze it?
S. Saksida: You know how there are ten ways to skin a cat? There are ten ways to analyze data. Statistics is an art.
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We actually have an excellent statistician who came up with an approach. We had a second excellent statistician who came up and agreed with the approach and also came up with suggestions to improve the approach. This approach was sent to three other statisticians who disagreed with the approach. Because this is such a sensitive issue and, obviously, it's so politically driven, we have to make sure that we choose the most appropriate and most accepted method of analysis to come with answering the question: is there an association?
C. Trevena: I'm sorry to be working on semantics, but when you say "appropriate" and "accepted" because it is so divisive, how would you interpret appropriate and accepted?
S. Saksida: I would define that as having a consensus among statistical experts in agreement of how to best approach the data set.
Obviously, from the point of making sure that the results are accepted, we have to have an acceptance among the statisticians that the approach that is going to be used is the most acceptable way.
C. Trevena: Statisticians are generally mathematicians — mathematics background. Are you getting people to look at this who are coming to what is a very divisive debate from different approaches, from different areas?
S. Saksida: The original statisticians that we included in the project…. One actually has a lot of experience with analyzing wild fish data. The other statistician we used has a wide amount of experience in analyzing epidemiological studies. We took both approaches. There is straight statistics — you know, number-crunching but not understanding biology or processes. Then we have the epidemiological side, where it's understanding the processes and that.
We're trying to widen the berth so that we have both epidemiological and ecological understanding and obviously the data.
C. Trevena: It sounds like you are actually getting closer to it if you have these two areas, the people who understand the ecology and the people who understand the data.
S. Saksida: I would hope. Yes. Now we just have to study the reviews from the statisticians who reviewed the potential analysis. I don't know who looked at the data. I don't know what their background or expertise are. I don't know if they're straight statisticians or if they have an understanding of ecology and epidemiology.
We have to look at what they thought of the data, try to understand where they're coming from and then, from there, either adjust the analysis to recognize that maybe they're correct and maybe adjust the analysis to recognize their issues, or defend why we took the approach we took. This is all happening before we even do the analysis.
C. Trevena: Will this debate and the people whom you have chosen to use as the statisticians and those who have reviewed it in your early stage of peer reviewing…. Will that be public and part of your report in the end — just how you got to the stage of choosing that? It sounds to me, as I say, that this is as problematic as doing the study.
S. Saksida: It is. I think what we'll have to do…. Obviously, we will have to address it somehow in the materials and methods, but we don't want to have a report so thick that it takes up a whole journal, as opposed to being just an article.
I suspect what will probably happen is there will be the materials and methods that describe the whole process. Then there will be the materials and methods that go into the scientific literature that describe what we did and maybe sort of a small snippet of why we chose the way we did it, why we chose the methodology we chose.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Dr. Saksida, for your presentation.
I'd now like to call Dr. Jim Powell to the witness table, please.
J. Powell: Firstly, I'd like to thank the hon. members and the House in general for the opportunity to come here and present to you today. It's my sincere belief that through dialogue and understanding we are going to gain clarity on these issues that we are addressing.
Secondly, permit me to qualify myself, my company and my position on the aquaculture industry. I grew up in Burnaby and have been an avid fisher for as long as I can remember. I was educated at Simon Fraser University with a BSc, and I took a job as a fish culture technician immediately following that degree.
This segued into a master of science program, and I studied the effects of acid rain on the seaward migration and adaptation in coho salmon smolts. I graduated from that in 1984. My supervisor at the time suggested that I look into salmon farming, because there were two operations near his vacation home on Nelson Island. That's just north of Sechelt. I think you're aware of that.
I met with the operators of the farm, which at that time had eight net pens that were 20 feet by 20 feet and an annual stocking density of about 20,000 smolts every other year. I fell in love with the remoteness of the B.C. coastline and its beauty and especially with the opportunity to work with fish on a full-time basis. I graduated, got married and moved to Nelson Island, all in a period of three weeks. We homesteaded on Nelson Island in the Jervis Inlet area for the next three years. My starting pay? Room and board. By the end of
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six months I was pulling in a hefty $500 a month. Everything we owned fitted in our pickup truck.
That company grew and became public in 1986. I moved up the ranks to become the area manager for fish production, the health manager and the brood stock production manager. Now those are departments in some of the companies. I then left to work as the area manager in Tofino and established nine marine sites in the Tofino area, six of which are still in operation 20 years later. Farming life took its toll on my back, and I moved to Denman Island. I ran a feed research farm for EWOS Canada, and we lived there for two more years.
There came a downturn in the fish-farming industry when the supply of farmed salmon was starting to catch up with the wild salmon harvest and salmon became a worldwide commodity. The farmed salmon industry was not yet large enough or efficient enough to support itself, and a market correction resulted in the restructuring. It's about this time that Chile came on board with production increases to compete with us in the U.S. market.
At this time I saw the writing on the wall, and I returned to school. I entered UVic in the PhD program and studied molecular endocrinology of reproduction. Those are 25-cent words for the evolution of spawning in fish. I was supported through a grant in my graduate program and a scholarship from the B.C. Science Council under the GREAT awards program, and I moved to Victoria at that point.
Nine peer-reviewed publications later and with a Governor General's award nomination for my thesis, I took a National Sciences and Engineering Research Council grant for an industrial post-doctoral fellowship with a local consulting firm. The aim of this project was to develop the spawning methods for underutilized species such as sablefish, also known as black cod.
We were successful in developing a method for induced maturation of several species, including salmon. My present company, Syndel, was an industrial partner in this project, and after the term of the post-doctoral fellowship, Syndel took me on to further develop the new product, now called Ovaplant.
Syndel Labs is a small B.C. company that manufactures and distributes pharmaceutical chemicals to finfish aquaculture operations. We've been in business for 29 years and operate in over 40 countries worldwide. I first heard of Syndel over 25 years ago when I was doing my master of science and two B.C. Science Council–supported graduates were working in that lab whose industrial partner was Syndel Labs.
Our product line is built on Health Canada– and FDA-approved products, including anaesthetics, sedatives, parasiticides, fungicides, disinfectants and vaccines. We also sell and distribute spawning agents, transport aids and non-regulated chemicals involved in finfish culture.
Syndel is the world leader in products for induced maturation and spawning. Let me give you an example of the impact of one of those products. It's called Ovaprim. Ovaprim induces spawning in fish. It contains an analog of a brain protein and another chemical that inhibits anti-spawning behaviour. It's mainly used in carp and other related species.
The global impact of Ovaprim is that carp farming can be carried out in provinces in India, Malaysia and other areas of Southeast Asia where it was not possible before. The end result of this is that disadvantaged people in developing countries have access to high-quality protein sources on a sustainable basis. The bottom line here is that we feed people. Ovaprim is a made-in-B.C. product, born of local talent of which we can all be proud.
Here's my big point. Syndel is an international company, and we play a key role in aquaculture here and abroad. We serve the producers in B.C., but half of our salmon farming business is international. Because of the conditions in B.C., we have to sell globally. Not that I mind doing that, but we're forced to sell globally.
I've been to Chile over 25 times in the past eight years with Syndel, and I've met more and more B.C. companies and B.C. people every time I go. Quite frankly, I love Chile, but what I'd rather do is stay home. If this industry grew, I could do that.
Let me tie this all together for you. I spent the last 20 years in salmon farming, and I've seen it grow from a cottage industry to an industrial, global industry. It's offered my family a good living, from living out of my pickup truck to owning a house in Oak Bay. The B.C. government has enabled me to get an education by providing fellowship money to complete that education. That support, in addition, has resulted in the production of made-in-B.C. technologies.
I've been to salmon farming operations in Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Chile, the U.S., New Brunswick and all over B.C. Half of our business in Syndel is exporting B.C. technologies to other salmon farming countries — not because we want that business, but because we have to. The industry here has been hamstrung, so we have to sell our competitive advantage abroad.
The salmon farming industry supports more than just direct jobs. It supports education, development and technological innovation. Most of all, it supports opportunity. My final plea as a scientist, registered professional biologist and businessman — as you alluded to earlier, I am the founding board member of the B.C. Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences — I implore you to reconsider and to consider unbiased scientific representation on these issues. I ask you to help develop dialogue with all of the stakeholders, as you are doing, and not to support celebrity scientists and leaked information that rule the day.
Look at the hidden virtues of salmon farming: the education, technological advancement and third-tier employment opportunity. Look at the positive opportunity that salmon farming brings for other nations that's helped develop here. When you do this, you'll agree that we can solve the scientific, social and political problems and continue with an industry that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Thanks for your time.
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R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Dr. Powell. Ron has a question for you.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I just wonder, Doctor….
J. Powell: Don't call me doctor; you can call me Jim. Nobody calls me doctor.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay, Jim. I'm sure those words cost you more than 25 cents — to get those letters.
Is it a fact, then, perhaps because of our regulations — maybe I'm leading you a bit here — that we do more research here because our rules are tighter? Why does research seem to be blossoming here in B.C.?
J. Powell: Well, it comes from a long history — in my field, anyway — of fish reproductive endocrinology. If you read all of the germane papers in the study of fish reproduction, reproductive physiology and how spawning occurs, those are all Canadians. All of the germane work done in fish reproductive physiology — I shouldn't say all, but the majority — is by Canadians. We have a very long history of studying salmon, in particular, and other finfish species and their reproductive capabilities. So, in my field, yes. That's where that has become. We've developed a lot of that through work in the DFO, the provinces and the universities.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So our history in marine sciences, particularly in salmon, is long and world-leading?
J. Powell: It's terrific, yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Now, what other products does Syndel make? Do you make a range of products, or what other things?
J. Powell: I'll have to clarify that. In the drug industry, as Dr. Saksida alluded to, those are high-quality drugs. They have to pass such stringent requirements. There is a move to go to good manufacturing practices, which is called GMP. All drugs that go into any veterinary purpose or any human purpose have to be manufactured by a facility that meets absolutely tough and rigorous standards.
As well, the testing of those drugs has to go through areas that conform to GLP — good laboratory practices — and are certified to do so. You've heard of ISO and things like that? It's a very stringent procedure, so we have to contract-manufacture a lot of our production, and we do that through these GMP facilities. Syndel itself is GMP, but we don't have that depth, obviously, because of demand and the size of our industry, to produce drugs on site, so we contract-manufacture with larger drug-manufacturing firms.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): What other range of drugs are you researching or producing, though, besides…?
J. Powell: Only those that are involved in finfish aquaculture. That's our core competency, and we stick within that. It is for fish health management, if I can make a broad statement like that.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, that's fair. I'm heading towards SLICE, which we know has some problems. Are you involved in any research to develop alternatives to SLICE in treating sea lice?
J. Powell: Alternatives to SLICE. Well, SLICE was an alternative to other veterinary forms that came out. That's run by Schering-Plough, and compared to them we're the pompom on the toque of life. We're just something that is a very small drug company compared to them. They produce that, and they run it through their company.
D. Jarvis: By the way, the salmon in Chile were imported from B.C.
J. Powell: Some of them, yes — and Norway and Oregon and Washington.
R. Austin (Chair): Okay, thank you very much, Jim, for your presentation.
I'd like to call Peter Chettleburgh from Northern Aquaculture.
P. Chettleburgh: Good morning, and thank you very much for the opportunity to make this presentation. My name is Peter Chettleburgh, and I'm the publisher-editor of Northern Aquaculture. That's a trade journal. It's for the Canadian fish and shellfish farmers. We have a staff of four. We're based in Metchosin, just outside Victoria.
Along with Northern Aquaculture, we publish another trade journal, Hatchery International. It's distributed to fish hatchery managers in over 40 countries worldwide. I'm also co-publisher of a magazine for small independent terrestrial farmers, called Small Farm Canada. Prior to this I edited a yachting magazine, Pacific Yachting; a magazine for coastal cottage owners, Cottage Magazine; and a trade journal for the commercial fishing industry, Western Fisheries. I grew up on a sports fishing resort south of Campbell River and spent many of my younger years fishing for wild coho at that mouth of the Oyster River.
In total our business contributes to the B.C. economy about $400,000 in staff wages and printing expenditures to freelance writers, etc. Without the salmon farming industry and its suppliers, our advertisers, we certainly wouldn't exist.
I've been editor-publisher-owner of Northern Aquaculture since 1985, when some of the first salmon farms appeared on the B.C. coast. Over those 21 years, I have
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had a unique opportunity to chronicle the development of the industry from its genesis as an enthusiastic group of pioneering farmers and small businesses to the multinational-managed agribusiness it is today.
I've tracked the successes and the failures, the biological and technical challenges, and incredible talent and innovation that characterize the individuals that make up this fascinating business. I've also witnessed successive federal and provincial governments alternately encourage and discourage its development. I've seen how this has thwarted salmon farming development, discouraged farmers, chased away vital capital investment and caused this province to miss incredible opportunities for coastal development and jobs along the way. I'm sure you've heard about the 4,000 jobs created by this sector. The real shame is that it could have been 10,000 jobs.
Today I would like to touch on two themes. One is what's become known as closed containment, and the other is about the need to maintain and even encourage economic diversity in coastal B.C. In the two decades I've been editing Northern Aquaculture, we've covered the installation of no fewer than 12 closed containment seawater salmon farms. They've been located on both coasts and in several provinces and states. These include Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Washington State and, of course, here in British Columbia.
Some of these have been land-based pump-ashore installations and some floating installations with solid sides and water pumped from the outside. The common factor that connects all these systems is that not one of them is in business today. Few lasted longer than two years, and in several instances millions and millions of dollars of taxpayer money had been wasted trying to make them viable.
By viable I mean financially viable. All of them were able to produce salmon. For the most part, the biological side works fine. But none of them could produce fish economically. The combined capital and operating costs make them uncompetitive in the face of salmon grown in net pens both here and abroad.
It's my belief that for closed containment systems to be financially viable in British Columbia, we'll first have to convince our competitors in Chile, Norway and New Brunswick to follow the same path. What's more, I seriously question the wisdom of moving to closed containment, even if it was economically viable. It flies in the face of everything good and progressive that is happening in terrestrial agriculture, where the trend to organic farming calls for larger, more natural enclosures for livestock. Closed containment, with its high fish densities, pumps, generators and oxygen supplementation, is hardly going in the right direction.
I would also like to take a few minutes to talk about the bigger picture as it relates to aquaculture. There's a prevailing mindset in some parts of British Columbia that the coast of British Columbia should be left untouched, preserved solely for recreation at the exclusion of all other uses — a conservation economy. I personally believe that this is at the root of most opposition to the aquaculture sector, both finfish and shellfish. There are some vocal opponents who just don't want to see any industry on the coast and will go to extreme measures to make it go away.
I disagree with these opponents of aquaculture. I believe we're fortunate enough to have sufficient coasts in B.C. to satisfy the needs of all, be they kayakers, sailors, cottage owners and industries such as fishing, logging, fishing resorts, marinas and, of course, aquaculture. It's been a working coast for 200 years, and there's no reason it can't continue to be a working coast.
Before closing, I'd once again like to thank the committee for this opportunity to speak and to add that I'm particularly looking forward to the time you've put aside for expert witnesses and the opportunity it may allow for researchers to quiz each other about their science. I believe this could be the best thing to come out of this process and could go a long way to clearing the air in this never-ending debate between conflicting science. I hope you have a good turnout for this session, and I hope you've allowed sufficient time for the scientists to tackle each other. This could be a very interesting session.
Lastly, I'd like to provide the committee with copies of our annual buyers guide. It's been published every winter since 1987. It provides the names and contact information for hundreds of suppliers of products and services which supply the aquaculture industry. It's a national publication covering aquaculture right across the land, but you'll find the names of many B.C. businesses, many of which earn their revenue from this industry. All of them hope to remain in business, and some even dare to hope that there might be opportunities for expansion. I certainly do. Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Peter.
I'm looking forward to any questions.
S. Simpson: I think you are right. That science session should be good. Some have suggested we could sell tickets for that and potentially make some money.
My question relates to your comment about closed containment and, more particularly, where you talk about looking at more organic approaches and, really, that that is the direction we're going — sort of more open and making things as natural as possible. In that vein, one of the things that we've heard about as an alternative or an option, and it's a form of aquaculture, is ocean ranching, which I guess is the form of aquaculture that occurs in Alaska.
Have you looked at that and done any investigation of that? It seems that in its way, it is maybe the most natural of all approaches in that it has a hatchery component that then releases the fish, and they come back. Some percentage of the revenue stream off that comes back to the companies that participate in that. I wonder whether you've looked at that and whether you think that's a viable thing for us to look at in British Columbia.
P. Chettleburgh: Well, we've certainly covered that in both our publications, specifically in our Hatchery
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magazine, which goes to most of the enhancement hatcheries around the world, and not just salmon enhancement. Yeah, it's possible. I was at an enhancement forum in Seattle — a sea ranching conference — last month, and there were people from around the world and people from Alaska who discussed ocean ranching.
It's got opportunities. It also seems to have a lot of problems. There was a lot of discussion about the problems with ocean ranching. It doesn't always work as well as people think it's going to work. There are questions about the genetics of ocean ranch salmon. There are a lot of people who think that it's sort of one step different from escaped farm salmon. Really, it's the same. They're growing fish and letting them purposely into the environment. There are potential problems with that that certainly were discussed.
I guess it's another opportunity that could be explored. The economics of it still puzzle me.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Just further on that, what I understand is, basically, it's quite parallel in many ways to farm salmon, in that you grow them in a hatchery, grow them to a certain stage in the pen, but then instead of rearing them to maturation in pens, you release them to the wild. Is that basically…?
P. Chettleburgh: That's right, yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Then they compete for feed out in the wild, and hopefully, they come home and you net them. Is that…?
P. Chettleburgh: That's right.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Have you heard any comments, or do you have a comment editorially, on the fact that I think it was a billion and a half fish that were released by the Alaskans — how might that be impacting our wild salmon? Because certainly that's very much a concern we've heard: impacts to our wild salmon.
P. Chettleburgh: By released fish from Alaska?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Yeah, a billion and a half, we hear.
P. Chettleburgh: I don't know their migration routes. I don't know if they come down through British Columbia. I know they sort of cruise around in the North Pacific. Certainly, there's no doubt that those fish are taking food from what you might call true wild fish, and yes, I'd definitely say you'd have to say it has an impact.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay. The other question, going back to closed containment briefly: you've covered a lot of these, and none of them ever worked in the long run basically because of economics?
P. Chettleburgh: Yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): We've heard costs as high as two to three times for raising them in closed containment.
P. Chettleburgh: Yeah. I mean, it's all over the map. I guess it depends on how successful management was or…. Gosh, there are so many variables. Certainly, 25 percent to 30 percent higher is a number that I've seen published in our publication.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Now, are most of these on land or in the sea?
P. Chettleburgh: Mixed. We've covered, I think, several on land: one in Prince Edward Island, one in Washington State, three iterations of the one in Cedar. I think that one has gone up and down several times. Financially, it just hasn't worked, but biologically it's fine.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): We talked to the last guy who went under with the Cedar program. Do they keep trying, or do you see a trend? Is there a trend toward closed containment?
P. Chettleburgh: I don't personally see it's necessary to keep trying. A number of people, obviously, in this session and others have encouraged that. I haven't yet seen anything from any research that makes me think it's necessary.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): We've heard a lot of people, perhaps with some encouragement, encourage us to spend government money on funding another study on closed containment.
P. Chettleburgh: I don't think it's necessary.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay. Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks very much for your presentation, Peter.
I'd like to call Dr. Stephen Cross to the witness table, please.
S. Cross: Good morning, everybody. Thank you for the opportunity of addressing you this morning.
We're a little late, and I'm sure you want to have lunch. I'll try to make this as quick as I can. I've got some slides we threw together here a few minutes ago.
I come to you with a unique perspective. I have dedicated my career, the last 22 years, to studying the environmental impacts of salmon aquaculture on our coast. I can state for the record that I'm probably the only person in British Columbia that has done an environmental impact assessment of every farm on this coast, bar two of the newest ones.
I've been a consultant up until about a year ago. Our company continues to do environmental compli-
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ance work for the industry and also work for the provincial regulatory agencies in developing and revising the finfish aquaculture waste control regulation. We've also done work for the federal government in looking at the siting and operating of salmon farms in Canada.
[R. Cantelon in the chair.]
More recently I've sort of left the consulting business and returned to the academic arena, where I was recently awarded a B.C. Innovation award for sustainable ecological aquaculture research. I've joined the department of geography, the aquaculture research group there, as an associate professor, and I'm continuing my research into the environmental effects of aquaculture, looking at SEA system R and D.
I'll go through some slides here and let you know what I mean by sustainable ecological aquaculture systems. Basically, what we're looking at is a new look at a very old sustainable approach. It was first started in 470 B.C. by the Chinese, and basically it's a polyculture. What we're doing is looking at it in the context of open-net-cage aquaculture and a way to mitigate some of the effects of the organic waste discharges.
B.C. fish farming. Of course, I'm not going to deal with all of the issues. You've probably heard a countless number of testimonies on the science behind escapes and sea lice and the use of chemicals and exotic species, etc. My area of expertise has been the impacts of organic waste discharges on marine habitats, both locally and cumulatively from salmon farm operations on this coast.
Sustainable ecological aquaculture, again, is an approach looking at using some of that organic waste — rather than collecting and treating it pretty well as waste — as a resource. In British Columbia we have addressed the issue of organic waste by applying technology to it, trying to develop new technologies to contain the fish, to capture the waste, to remove it from the marine environment — closed containment being an example of it that you were just discussing.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
Again, an ecological approach to dealing with the organic waste discharges would be looking at polyculture facilities, where you're looking at using various species to assimilate various components of that organic waste — basically creating your own ecologic system, if you will.
Of course, in our present time we can't call it polyculture. As scientists, we have to have a long-winded acronym, so we call it integrated multitrophic aquaculture. It refers to the fact that we're not just putting a number of species together, but the species are selected so that they actually use the various waste streams. It's not just two fish, but it's a fish and a kelp or plant that would dissolve nutrients, or a fish and a shellfish that would absorb particulates. It's very selective in the way this system is designed.
Integrated multitrophic aquaculture is a Canadian initiative now. SEA-system research started about four years ago on both the east and west coasts of Canada. On the east coast my colleagues at the University of New Brunswick and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans started looking at the potential of using kelp to absorb nutrients next to salmon farms and mussels to absorb some of the finer particulates.
They started that research in about 2001. We were very successful in demonstrating that you could produce enhanced beds of kelp around the farms.
On the west coast my initiative started at about the same time, about 2001, but my focus was on the shellfish component. I was looking at the actual seafood safety implications of growing shellfish right next to salmon aquaculture facilities. I heard you earlier today discuss and express some concern about antibiotic residues and other potential contaminants being released from salmon farms downstream on non-target organisms.
My research, conducted over a full three years, was looking at that very same issue. I've selected two farms on the coast, one Atlantic farm and one Pacific farm, and suspended shellfish downstream of these facilities and monitored their tissue and health over the entire production cycle of the salmon as well as the shellfish themselves, as well as quantifying the amount of waste material coming out of the farms and the characteristics of that waste material. A prelude to designing a SEA-system, basically, is to find out whether the organic material that we want to use is actually safe to use.
Some of the key findings of the research. We found that about 6.8 percent of the material entering as feed to the system was lost directly below the farm as settleable solids, as waste that settled straight to the sea floor.
What we hadn't had a handle on was the amount of dissolved material or very fine particulates that would be suspended in the water column and released downstream. That represented about 8.1 percent of that feed going in. That 8.1 percent is a valuable resource if you're looking at polyculture, because that what's going to become available to the animals that you place downstream to mitigate the effects.
Again, our study looked at suspending two species of shellfish, the scallops at a lower depth and trays of oysters in the upper surface waters within that plume. We actually suspended them directly within the cages themselves to make sure that we did get a signal from the salmon farm — not that you'd ever grow shellfish right amongst the fish, but we wanted a worst-case scenario — and then downstream.
Key findings. Although there are micronutrients added to the feed for salmon farms — trace metals, if you will; small amounts of zinc, for example, for cataracts — no concentration of the trace metals occurred with the shellfish, either within the cages or downstream. However, in the treatment of antibiotics, if the fish were treated, we did get a signal occurring within the shellfish immediately downstream of the farm.
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That occurred detectably within about 125 metres of the farm, downstream of the farm itself.
Those levels were all less than USFDA standards for human consumption, and they completely disappeared from the shellfish within two weeks post-application during the summer months, when the metabolism was higher, and about a month in the winter, when water temperatures are cooler, etc.
The final stage of our two-and-a-half-year test done at this commercial level was an organoleptic test — basically looking at the taste, the texture, the odour of shellfish grown immediately downstream of salmon farm operations. We used 22 members of the Ka:'yu:'k't'h'-Che:k:tles7et'h' First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island, plus one RCMP officer who happened to float into the meetings, so he was seconded as well — our positive control there.
The first nation group, of course, have always expressed concern about their clam beds and their shellfish resources being impacted by salmon farms, so it was good to have them involved with this particular study. They were involved in both the preparation of the shellfish as well as the data recording and verification and the tests themselves. Happy to say that they're all still standing, and the results were positive. There was no effect at all, growing shellfish immediately downstream.
That led the way to what we now call our Pacific SEA-Lab research site — SEA-Lab, again, being sustainable ecological aquaculture. We have a tenure up in the northwest side of Vancouver Island, have purchased some small, older steel cages that are used for salmon aquaculture on the bottom left there, and are converting it into a small commercial-scale R&D facility to test the concept of integrated aquaculture at levels that we need to test at. You can't just use the odd suspended basket of animals. You need to do it at a level where you can look at the hydrodynamics of cages and larger densities of kelp and shellfish, etc.
This is our site, and we call this the Pacific SEA-Lab initiative. We've seconded a development society and a board of directors that represent both institutions. The Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, North Island College — Dr. Lou Dryden is the president of North Island College — DFO science, aboriginal aquaculture, B.C. salmon farmers and shellfish growers are all represented on our board of directors. So they can be involved in the research into this new type of aquaculture that we hope will continue the improvement process to waste mitigation of salmon farms.
In brief, to let you know what the SEA system involves, this is a cross-section of one of the cages. We place fish in these cages as a source of the particulates and dissolved material. Again, one half of the steel system's going to be converted into bloom mussels in the surface waters to absorb some of those fine particulates.
Down a little lower where the temperatures are cooler and more stable, we're growing Japanese scallop, and they'll also intercept some of that fine particulate plume. Further downstream yet, we'll intercept any of that dissolved material that drifts downstream of the farm by Laminaria kelp.
Not to miss that 6.1 percent that falls directly below the salmon farm, we propose to test sea cucumber aquaculture down below. That's been shown in the literature to use some of that organic material.
Selection of species is important not only to remove the waste — selecting species that will actually use the various waste components. Sustainability also has an economic component to it. So the species selected have commercial value, as well, so that our system, if successful, is going to be a model that will be attractive to business as well as coastal communities looking for diversity in jobs, etc.
My MT research program over the next few years, through my innovation award, is going to look at this site in terms of preoperational conditions. This is a unique opportunity in that the site we selected has never, ever had shellfish or finfish or kelp or anything grown on it before. It's fairly shallow, but it allows us to provide very detailed information on the preoperational conditions so that we can actually measure the impacts of growing fish independent of these other components and vice-versa — so a very good opportunity.
On the bottom left, that yellow buoy system is a university buoy that includes 19 different water quality parameters including fluorometry for phytoplankton, temperatures, light, reflectivity, current speed direction. It measures these things every 30 minutes and relays it back to the university via satellite.
We're starting an instrument network up there to measure preoperational and then postoperational conditions. We're going to be looking at husbandry issues, system balance, component performance, economics, policy and regulatory issues involved with this over the next five years as well.
Again, our east coast colleagues are also gearing up to do this at a commercial level. They're looking at a three-tiered salmon, kelp and mussel system at three existing salmon farms — all polar circles, larger, more extensive salmon operations. We're focusing on a more intensive system, the steel cage system typical of British Columbia, and looking at a four-tiered component.
Jointly we have started a Canada SEA-Lab initiative. DFO in Ottawa is interested and will be funding us to coordinate our research and keep DFO apprised of our respective research results etc., in this development.
I'm sorry to rush that really quickly, but thank you for the opportunity. I think I've provided each of you with one of our new summaries of the Pacific SEA-Lab initiative and what we hope to do.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much, Dr. Cross. Ron has a question.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): A couple of questions. This is fascinating.
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To be clear, the 8.1 percent that floats away and the 6.8 that goes down, we're talking about the fish feces, essentially. Is that it?
S. Cross: Yes, that's right.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): We're not talking about leftover food.
S. Cross: No. Not at all. It's very difficult in ten minutes to summarize my 20 years of experience in this. Over the last 20 years what we've seen is a dramatic decrease in the amount of waste generated by salmon farms. In the early 1980s we had three times the amount of waste being discharged by farms. There was excess feed, inefficient feed conversion with the diets that were used at the time.
But there have been substantial improvements over the last two decades. Every cage on the coast now has a camera system at the bottom of the cage looking at discontinuing feeding practices when fish are satiated. We have FCRs, which are a function of new diets for the fish at the various life stages, that have reduced the fecal material discharge. I'm guessing. Feed conversions are 2.8 down to 2.2 now.
We have very efficient systems in place for reducing that waste lost to the environment, but there is still some loss. What we're saying is that that's not a waste, in my mind; that's an actual resource. It's not a contaminated amount of material. It's something that we should be using.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, it's been reduced because they are more efficient in how they administer it, and the better feed. You raise a very good term here: contaminant. We've been told that the far-field effects are killing clam beds, and here you're proposing to feed it to clams and mussels.
S. Cross: That's right, and that's why the previous three years of research that I did, which was funded by the National Research Council and DFO, was to look at the constituents of that waste material. Is it truly contaminated, or would it pose a threat to something grown directly adjacent to the salmon farms?
It also addresses the question of far-field effects and contamination of the beaches. If you're intercepting that flow of organic material right at the source and downstream a couple of hundred metres and not detecting anything of concern, it's certainly not going to reappear at a beach and pile up. That's just common sense.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Again, to differentiate. The fecal material itself is food for these clams, mussels and oysters, so it's being used by them.
S. Cross: Yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): It's not killing them.
S. Cross: No, no.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): It's being used by them.
You did mention, though, antibiotics. What distance were the antibiotics not detected? How far away?
S. Cross: About 120 metres, I believe, we could detect it.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Detect?
S. Cross: It occurred within analytical detection at very, very low concentrations that far out. Beyond that we couldn't detect it at all, either in any of the waste material we collected or in the bivalves, mussels, oysters or scallops that we deployed. We used shellfish because shellfish are bio-accumulators. They actually take in water, filter particles and accumulate it.
So in the environment that material is in very, very, very low concentrations. You use shellfish, actually, to concentrate that material so you can detect it, and we're not detecting it beyond those 120-some-odd metres downstream.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): But even where you are detecting it, you're finding that the levels are way below health standards.
S. Cross: Yes — very, very low, and they disappear very quickly.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): You mean they dissipate?
S. Cross: They're retained if a salmon farm…. It appears that when a salmon farm applies an antibiotic residue or an antibiotic to its fish, a proportion of that material will be released through fecal material. It will be dispersed downstream.
If there are shellfish downstream of that, they will accumulate that material. When the antibiotic treatment is discontinued, within two weeks to a month the shellfish will also release that material, or it will be converted into some sort of other….
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So there aren't long-term effects of it either.
S. Cross: No, no.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well, that's interesting.
So this totals roughly 15 percent of the fecal material that goes out. Where does the other 85 percent go?
S. Cross: Into the fish. I mean, into creating the fish. That's not meant…. No, that's the actual feed going in. So 100 percent is the feed coming in.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I see. Oh, I've got you.
S. Cross: It goes to build the fish, and then the….
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S. Cross: That's released as fecal material, as what's left over.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): You didn't know that, Shane. Don't give me that look.
A Voice: Any logical person….
S. Fraser: The work of looking for a symbiotic relationship to work — it's an interesting one. I've seen that before with what was happening in New Brunswick, I guess.
S. Cross: That's right.
S. Fraser: I thought polyculture was the cultivation of parrots prior to this, so that's good.
Two questions, actually, one around the…. We've had a number of deputations around shellfish farms. They were referring to…. I've had some experience with this, but I'd never really heard the issue before. The issue was shellfish feces. I mean, they're filter-feeders, so they're dealing with microscopic stuff as they feed.
S. Cross: Yeah.
S. Fraser: What are shellfish feces? Would that be an issue or…?
S. Cross: It's the same type of material. I mean, they basically take in phytoplankton or very fine seston, like organic material that's in the water column. They take in what they need, and then what they can't use goes out the other end through the exhalant siphon, and it's released in the environment.
S. Fraser: Okay. There's a difference, obviously. Aquaculture is shellfish, finfish. We've already heard that finfish — salmon farms — in some cases use…. I mean, they always use feed, so there is an issue always, concern about what's in the feed, because that could be a….
S. Cross: Yeah.
S. Fraser: And/or if they're treated — they're inoculated; they're given SLICE; they're given antibiotics — that can be a portion of the feces. But that isn't an issue with shellfish. I mean, if they're filter-feeding, they're taking what they get anyways, and then they're just removing what they get.
S. Cross: That's right.
S. Fraser: The second question, if I may: have you done any work with studying the effects — close- or far-field effects — on prawns, prawn larvae with the use of SLICE? Since we're talking about SLICE being targeted at sea lice, then the larval prawn, of course, being susceptible to that….
S. Cross: No, we haven't done anything on the larval component as of yet. I mean, it's part and parcel of our ongoing research because we want to look at…. In the next five years we're going to be looking basically at what proportion of the waste stream is being used by these other polyculture species. What proportion is from the wild? What are the interactions between all of those components? We'll be looking at that.
The study I referred to over the last three and a half years that we did here on the uptake from shellfish did include the emamectin benzoate, the SLICE. There was one treatment on one of the farms that I studied, and it couldn't detect it at all downstream in the shellfish. That's not to say that it might be taken up by larvae in the near-field, but again, all that stuff is very near-field; it's not far-field effects so far as I can see.
The concentrations of SLICE are an order of magnitude less, typically, than the other antibiotics that are used, like oxytetracycline. It's used in very, very minute amounts. So the amount used is less. The discharge rate and the dilution is probably one of the factors that determine its bioavailability to other non-target animals, and the fact that it breaks down very, very quickly.
I'm not a chemist, but if you look at the literature on the ivermectin family of pesticides, which emamectin is within, emamectin benzoate was basically developed due to the fact that it was environmentally more friendly than the others. It has a very quick breakdown, very fast half-life, etc., within the environment.
S. Fraser: Understood, but the issue…. It was explained to us that about 50 percent of the SLICE actually doesn't get digested, or it goes through the fish. This was earlier today. Another day it was the same statistics we were given.
S. Cross: Yeah, I'm not aware of the percentage.
S. Fraser: Okay. Well, let's assume that that's the case and, also, that it's in the feed. Some of the feed doesn't get consumed also. I know that's being mitigated to some extent, but we have an 8.1-percent flow-through, presumably downstream. At least in the near proximity, there would potentially be SLICE residue if there were…. Is that a study that could be done? We've had, certainly from commercial prawn fishermen, concern that if the timing was all wrong, the moons were lined up, it could have a….
S. Cross: It's certainly a study. You could certainly look at that type of an issue and address it through a nice, neat study like we did with the shellfish. The study, again, that I did on the two salmon farm sites…. The sites were selected not only because there was a probability that we might be looking at a SLICE application — because we used an Atlantic and a Pacific
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salmon farmsite — but the sites were also different in terms of oceanographic conditions. One had a stronger tidal flow, and one had a very weak tidal flow, so one would anticipate a residency of that waste in the slow currents, just hanging around the farm, and be able to measure it.
The site where the higher flow was unidirectional…. It was at the edge of a bay, so the tide was always coming in one way, going right out the other, and it was much, much stronger. Despite that, the actual collection of waste, the measurable detection of that waste — that's 8.1 percent — could only be detected 100 to 115 metres downstream of the farms — both of them. That suggests to me that most of that particulate material where you're going to find either emamectin or antibiotic residues is still confined within the near field, and its accumulation and effects are going to be felt within that near field and not at any measurable level beyond that.
S. Fraser: Beyond that, is the dilution effectively complete?
S. Cross: Yes, it's so far removed. And we're talking parts per billion to start with from the farm, so dilution of that and the decay rate of the chemical — I just can't imagine. We're talking molecules floating around downstream beyond that.
S. Simpson: Just a quick question. I'm going to ask you this one because it has kind of come to me, and because you're the last person, I think, on the list for a while who gets "Dr." before their name. So you're going to get the question on this, and I'll probably ask it to John Volpe later when he comes up.
S. Cross: Oh, no.
S. Simpson: The question is this. We've heard today from yourself and Dr. Saksida and Jim Powell and a whole group of people who obviously bring real credentials to this and who have taken a perspective that generally is quite supportive of the industry as it currently operates and have stated that you've done analysis that shows the impacts are minimal or benign or whatever, and it's good.
We've heard previously from Neil Frazer, and we'll hear from Marty Krkošek and John Volpe and Alexandra Morton, who will tell us something quite different — both groups of people with lots of credentials. Both groups of people, presumably, have done peer-reviewed science.
The question I have is this. Has anybody, to your knowledge, ever tried to put some of you together from the two sides of this to say: "Can we get some science where you both agree on the methodology and the approach and some science that there might be some consensus on?"
Not necessarily that you'd all like the result, whatever it is. But some consensus on the methodology and the science that gets done rather than the environmentalists or the folks on one side have their scientists and their academics who support their position, and the industry has their folks that support their position, and never the twain shall meet.
S. Cross: I highly agree. I have no problem with participating in research with virtually anybody.
S. Simpson: But has it ever been proposed?
S. Cross: Has it ever happened? It's about to happen. As far as I know, the B.C. salmon forum has arranged a two-day workshop, of which I was an invitee — so was John Volpe, and so were a number of people — to deal with the Broughton Archipelago issue. We're all sitting down in a room discussing research for the Broughton Archipelago regarding the sea lice, migratory salmon and interactions with salmon farming, etc., etc.
If it hasn't happened, it's certainly about to, I believe.
S. Simpson: It's going to happen with us at some point too.
S. Cross: Yeah.
S. Simpson: In terms of a research project where you've come together, put the dollars together, got the methodology and gone and said, "We're going to look at sea lice, try to agree on the parameters, and see, at the end of the day, what the result of this is" — or on antibiotics or any of these handful of given issues.
S. Cross: No, I'm not aware of any collaboration at that level in the recent past anyway.
S. Simpson: I didn't think so. Thanks.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): A couple of questions about the far-field effects. We're hearing a lot about that. Does it have either a deleterious effect — fish feces — on eelgrass, or does it help grow it?
S. Cross: No. We just recently did a B.C. innovation project that summarized all of the environmental regulations of all the salmon-farming countries around the world — basically, all of their regulatory framework. We stand pretty high in terms of siting and operating criteria for salmon farms.
Both the federal and provincial governments require a great deal of environmental assessment in siting farms, ensuring that there are adequate buffers between where a farm is, where the probable dispersion of waste material will be and where the sensitive habitats are in relation to that projected plume under worst case scenario.
We don't really have any farms, given my experience and some of the mathematical modelling that has been done, that will intersect eelgrass. What we do
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find, though, along those lines is that the release of the nutrients from the farm does enhance some of the macrophyte communities around — maybe not eelgrass, although it probably would if it were in close enough proximity.
The anchor lines themselves, you'll often find covered in bull kelp, if you will. It'll stimulate growth of that kelp, and you'll get secondary reef communities growing off, like within 50 metres of the farm all the way around.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So it would actually encourage the growth of organic….
S. Cross: Absolutely, yeah.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): As far as detecting 8 percent as it dissipates, how far away can you detect — or have you tried to do this? — particulate matter? I'm not talking about chemicals within the particulate matter. I'm talking about the particulate matter itself — the remains of the feces.
Have you tested to see how far it is dissipated or absorbed or diffused completely as far as measuring amounts?
S. Cross: In that study we detected that…. We had collection equipment downstream to a few hundred metres. We were only able to detect it to about 115 metres — 100 to 115 metres. That was a measurable above background assessment.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So you're telling me that you could only detect the remains 115 metres away.
S. Cross: Yes.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Not miles and miles away. We've anecdotally been told that this will drift forever. Does it break down, or what happens?
S. Cross: It's particle physics. The heavier material goes straight to the bottom. The lighter it is, the further afield it goes. It's not a continuous matter. You're talking about a tidal cycle that increases velocity, decreases velocity of water movement, and you'll get particle settling down.
It's fecal material. It's actually quite sticky, so during a slack tide, you'll get most of that material falling to the bottom. When it hits the bottom, it sticks to the bottom. It doesn't get resuspended — that sort of thing.
You do have a finite downstream range of dispersion and accumulation for those particles. The dissolved material is something different. It is likely going a little further. But of that 8.1 percent, I couldn't tell you the exact proportion of the dissolve versus the fine particulates.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): What's the chemical nature of this material?
S. Cross: It's just nutrients. Phosphorus nitrogen components, that sort of thing — fertilizer.
G. Robertson: Just a quick question on the total budget of the research project on proof of concept. Can you give us some sense of what it's going to cost to do this work?
S. Cross: We're exploring different avenues of getting funding. The only funding in place at this point in time is my partial salary through the University of Victoria to sort of direct the research and get it going. We are looking at trying to get funding through western diversification for proof of concept.
The National Research Council is interested in continuing our funding. They did the first part of it. After that, hopefully, the private sector or somebody — or myself — will dedicate the system and site, etc.
The total budget is somewhere in the order of $750,000 to get it going for the two years, 2½ years. We're looking at one full production cycle and hoping to actually supplement the ongoing research by the sale of whatever we grow there, just to keep the research going. So I'm trying to do some sustainable research.
I'm actually the registered owner of the actual farmsite. It's been a shellfish farmsite and my hobby site for the last five or six years. I just see it as an opportunity of testing it. It's hard to convince a businessman to release one of their tenures to commercial-scale scientific investigation for a period of five years. I basically figure that using our site is a good way to do it, and we'll balance the budget somehow.
Certainly, we'd be open to provincial input. The ministry of ag and fish have said they don't have any money right now. But we're certainly open as a society to anybody that wants to participate. We've even had interest from California as well — the sustainable aquaculture committees down there.
G. Robertson: Okay, so at this point, $750,000 is roughly your anticipated budget for a scaled project that could be potentially applied to industry.
S. Cross: Yes.
G. Robertson: I don't know that we have numbers in front of us on a comparable project on closed containment, but it seems like there are a couple of scalable sustainable aquaculture approaches here that are out there waiting to happen with proponents. And there has been no interest from B.C. government to date in helping fund those?
S. Cross: Interest but no dollars. Certainly, the concept is of great interest to both of the ministries involved with the industry. Yeah, there's always interest. It's getting it going.
As far as the site goes, we've got a lot of interest as an educational site as a well as a node, because it doesn't only offer an opportunity to look at the integration. It
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allows us to look at species-specific issues of new species developing and offers educational value, because you've got all the species in one site. You can bring students, grad students, first nations trainees or whatever and teach the various aspects of the industry there, from environmental management to economics to whatever. It's an interesting opportunity.
R. Austin (Chair): Dan has another comment.
D. Jarvis: The first one to you, Doctor. I wanted to know if you're familiar with the Broughton….
S. Cross: The Broughton Archipelago?
D. Jarvis: Yeah.
S. Cross: Yes.
D. Jarvis: I was of the opinion — I've been told by someone else — that there were insufficient currents, or what have you, to flush out anything that falls into the water or that's in the water in the Broughton Archipelago. Is that right — that it just washes back in again?
S. Cross: At the scale we're talking about, these are very, very small point source inputs of nutrients. I mean, a salmon farm isn't very large, when you talk about the Broughton Archipelago as a whole. All of the research monitoring I have done is on the point itself, looking at the actual individual farm as the cause of the release and looking at that effect around it.
We found that if you select the site appropriately, you will have sufficient currents to assimilate those wastes naturally, either biologically, physically or chemically, what have you. They'll be assimilated. Again, they won't start piling up, etc., if you pick the sites.
D. Jarvis: I know it's a tough question for me to ask you, but are most of the sites well picked in that sense?
S. Cross: We've certainly seen the transition over the years. I started this in 1987 when, in my mind, the sites were very poorly sited. We've got photographs of sites that were some of the first salmon farms ever on the coast, and by today's standards, it's night and day.
Nowadays, yeah, most of the sites are well sited. Some have issues, and they have to deal with the constraints and limitations of the site in terms of the hydrography or whatever by altering production levels.
The good thing about the provincial and the combined federal approach now to regulating the industry is that they're looking at performance-based, so they've set thresholds of acceptability in terms of environmental impact, in terms of the waste. That puts the onus back on the industry to say: "We can't overinput organic wastes, or we're going to exceed that threshold, and we'll have to close down." There is that balance. That's an ongoing improvement process as well in terms of the regulatory framework.
I think most of the sites are fine. Some need tweaking and altering. We were involved in that in the mid-'90s — some of the relocations. There was new oceanographic instrumentation that came on to the market back in the early 1990s. We applied that to the salmon farming issue and demonstrated how even simple reorientation of the entire farm would benefit the environmental assimilation of those wastes. Most of the farm companies even at that time were willing to make adjustments or whatever to deal with that.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Dr. Cross, for your presentation.
I'd like to call Tim Davies to the witness table.
T. Davies: Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today.
To give you some background, my name is Tim Davies. I work for Grieg Seafood B.C. Ltd., which is based out of Campbell River. My background is a fisheries and aquaculture degree from Malaspina University College in Nanaimo. I recently completed an MBA at Royal Roads University in Victoria — Island-trained in this industry.
It was during the last moratorium on finfish farming and during the environmental assessment across the province that I graduated from Malaspina and found no work available in the industry because of it. So I turned to the forest industry and was a consultant in the forest industry for the Forest Practices Code with reference, in particular, to fish streams.
Interestingly enough, that's what brought me back to aquaculture. It was the new siting criteria that were developed by the province after the SAR process, which required aquaculture companies to gain expertise in fish and fish habitat inventory work to identify fish streams so that companies could adhere to the one-kilometre buffer, which was a requirement for significant streams.
That brought me back to the industry in 2000. For the first two years I worked in the Broughton Archipelago and was present for some of the first research that was done on sea lice in the Broughton Archipelago. I was witness to the huge out-migration of smolts in 2001. Then I moved to Grieg, and that took me to the west coast and took me back in time about ten years, because Grieg had acquired a company called Scadic, which was essentially being run on a shoestring. Since then Grieg has upgraded the sites to the point where they are completely conventional with regards to size and production.
To give you an example, when I first visited these sites, there were old feed bags full of gravel being used to hold down the nets around the side. So there was an immediate action by the new management to change that situation.
I came here today wondering: what am I going to talk to you about? There is such a myriad of items that
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I could speak towards. It wasn't until I sat in on the session in Campbell River that it came to me what I should probably speak towards today, and that is about my experience over the last six years and what I have observed.
It was comments by Mr. Fraser during that hearing when Mr. Pirie made the comment that there are onerous regulations that this industry must follow. Mr. Fraser, your comments were: "Yes, onerous, but are they effective?"
I thought I would speak to you today about my experience with what I see as effective regulation. Then perhaps we can discuss a bit about what my thoughts are on how industry can be a part of developing effective regulation that sees us move to the future, that meets the needs of the general public.
Probably one of the most important pieces of regulation that came into play was the aquaculture regulation of 2000, which was revised again in 2002. That piece of regulation was primarily focused on escape prevention. Actually, one of my first jobs was to go around to the sites that I worked at in the Broughton and bang everybody over the head with this new piece of regulation and all the controls that are required under this regulation to ensure that fish do not escape from sites.
From the ministry website, I was able to download the absolute numbers of fish that had escaped from farms, going right back to 1987. The peak was 1989 when 390,000 fish escaped. In 2005 there were 64. That speaks to me about effective regulation.
Just from 2000, when the regulation was brought in, there were 68,000 absolute escapes. Again, by 2003 there were 40.
Now, grant you, we did have a blip in 2004 at one of Grieg's sites where 33,000 juvenile fish escaped from the site. I make the point of mentioning that life stage of juvenile because it does affect the potential risk that those fish may have on the environment. I did some research on what the survivability of those fish might be.
That's the report that I've handed out to you where they've done research in Europe looking at what the difference is between wild Atlantics, hatchery-reared Atlantics and farm Atlantics and their survivability in the wild. What they found was that farmed Atlantics in their home territory only had a 2-percent rate of survivability when compared to wild salmon. If you apply that ratio to those 33,000 juveniles that escaped in 2004, you're actually looking at 660 adults. That's a very different number, and it's a very different risk.
On that note, I would encourage that the province report escapes in a different manner, that the province report escapes in a manner related to risk — not just absolute numbers, because absolute numbers get used in the media to alarm people. That doesn't do anybody any good. I think everybody's idea here is to find a way to create sustainable aquaculture. If we're continually alarming people, we're not really moving forward.
I was encouraged by Mr. Simpson's comments about: "How can we get everybody in the same room and find some way forward with regards to research?" I really do encourage that type of thinking.
The industry has definitely been thinking along those lines, because the industry has been actively engaged in developing the aquaculture regulation. What use are onerous regulations to us if they're not effective in satisfying the public demand for effective regulation? It's in our best interest to have effective regulation in place.
It has to be cost-effective as well; otherwise, we are not sustainable. Nonetheless, it does have to be effective, so we do buy into that. We do meet with provincial regulators on a frequent basis in order to fine-tune even existing regulations. In that regard, I'm speaking towards the waste control regulation under the Environmental Management Act.
That's another piece of regulation that I believe is effective. Case in point: we have had, as Dr. Cross pointed out…. In his experience he has seen farms that have had to change production based on that piece of regulation. I can speak towards that point as well. We at Grieg have had to alter production at two different sites in order to meet that regulation. It's being effective.
Some other processes are effective right now and are getting even better. They're not regulation, but those are initiatives such as the coastal land use planning initiatives that the province has undertaken. We've watched it go up and around Vancouver Island, starting in Clayoquot, moving up to Nootka and then Quatsino. Then we had the north Island straits and, most recently, the Johnstone-Bute coastal land use plan.
I've watched it become more and more sophisticated in process and have more and more stakeholders get involved and more and more buy-in from those stakeholders, to the point where with the Johnstone-Bute coastal land use plan, you had agreement from about 20 different stakeholders at the table that there were two fish farm sites between Cortes and Windy Point, which is just south of Port McNeill, that were available for application by a new finfish company.
That whole planning unit was divided up into about 20 different units. Out of those 20 different units, only two units had an opportunity for new sites. Grieg secured application to those sites about a year and a half ago and since that time undertook a process with the regulators of reviewing those applications and recently went through rezoning applications on those two sites.
Unfortunately, the sites were still denied at rezoning — even though they were designated as appropriate sites for application on the coastal land use plan, and the area director from the regional district chaired that committee, and the sites received positive CEAA screenings, and the company had guaranteed the processor on Quadra Island a two-year extension to their contract to guarantee jobs, and even though we had partnered with UBC on a proposal to Western Economic Diversification for a closed containment project in response to the regional district's resolution and request
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to the federal minister for such work within the regional district, and even though we reduced the area being requested for rezoning in half in order to give the regional district control over any future expansion.
I was astonished when I heard the reasons why. One of the major reasons why five people voted against it was because this committee sent a resolution to our minister asking that no sites be licensed prior to your recommendations. Because the rezoning isn't in place, that two-year extension guaranteed to that processor becomes null and void on December 31, 2006, and 150 jobs at Walcan on Quadra Island are at risk.
One of my reasons in coming here today is to ask you to rescind that resolution and request that you made to the minister, in order to reverse this risk. Sitting here right now, you have the opportunity to guarantee 150 jobs at Walcan for the next two years, plus another 25 jobs on the farms in associated services.
Those two farms will contribute $40 million to the north Island coast over the first five years of operation. So I encourage this committee to reconsider that resolution and request that you made to the minister and to rescind it in order to send a clear message to other regulatory bodies that we can move forward.
Here's why we can move forward. Thirty percent of our industry right now is on land. We don't get credit for that. The whole first year, from egg to smolt, is on land. The next year is the first year that the fish are in the water.
Research — which I haven't handed out to you today, but which the ministry staff could provide you — indicates that sea lice are not a risk at all during the first year that fish are at sea. What we're really talking about is that second year, or last year of production, when there might be any risk to wild stocks passing by farms.
What I'm talking about is allowing us to enter fish. Well, now we've missed the window on this spring because of this rezoning decision. The next window is next year, a year from now, for us to enter fish.
If you make the decision to rescind that request to our minister, we will not be entering fish for a year from now. There will be time for the recommendations to come from this committee, and there will be time for the government to make decisions on what recommendations they will accept.
There are a full two years before there may be any risk to wild stocks that pass by the farm. There's plenty of time here to allow us to enter fish and to still meet the work that this committee needs to do.
I'm asking you: please consider that seriously, to allow this to go forward, to allow the economy to still grow, to allow the economy to still occur, rather than putting in place not an official moratorium but an unsaid, unofficial — a backroom — moratorium.
As I said to you when I first opened up, the reason I didn't have a job when I graduated from university was because of the last moratorium. Claire, you weren't in the room at the time, but when I graduated from Malaspina, it was during the SAR review, and there was no job available to me after graduating from the aquaculture program.
You will see the same thing happen as long as this uncertainty continues. You will see jobs drift away from aquaculture.
I'm finished with my presentation, if you have any questions.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you. I'll open up the floor for questions.
S. Fraser: The issue that you began with — talking about escapes — is one of the myriad of issues that we're dealing with on this topic, as you know.
We've seen the numbers as they've dropped very dramatically, and you point out that there could be a different formula for the government to list those escapes. The escapes are reported to the public by government, but they're reported to the government by industry — right? The government isn't on site, so the level of escapes as they occur now would be coming from the farms themselves — right?
T. Davies: Yes, and an employee who fails to report a potential escape, as it's written in the regulation, is liable to prosecution. The employee is, not just the company.
S. Fraser: Okay. That's fair enough. I don't know if you're aware, but we've travelling the coast. You've obviously been reading Hansard. We've had a number of submissions from a number of different people — individuals, groups — catching escaped salmon, which if you look at the numbers…. I don't know them exactly, but we must be approaching the 60 that got away.
Assuming the reports are true, either these escaped salmon are surviving, or they're maybe not being reported. These are just based on what we've been…. From sport fishermen, commercial fishermen, from all over the coast….
T. Davies: I think the important point there is that we need to encourage all parties — commercial fishers, environmental groups, first nations — to be sending all these fish to the Atlantic salmon watch program. Then we can get a clear understanding that yes, these fish were caught. They can do identification on the fish.
S. Fraser: Be it DNA?
T. Davies: Be it DNA. That DNA can also be used to track where the fish actually came from. In many instances companies maintain records.
C. Trevena: One of the things I wanted to pick up on is the Grieg involvement or encouragement of the issue of closed containment. You're as well aware as we are about the whole pros and cons debate about closed
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containment — whether it's viable, whether it's economic and so on.
I wanted to know why you did decide to go ahead, if you got the zoning, with closed containment in the two sites.
T. Davies: It was in direct response to rezoning. It was a request that was made to the federal Fisheries Minister by the regional district for research to happen within their jurisdiction. It was something we were in communication with the regional district about as a potential means to see our sites go through to get positive rezoning.
We were willing to put up $6 million in kind in cash, in partnership with UBC, for this proposal to go forward to Western Economic Diversification.
C. Trevena: The two sites you were applying for would have had partial closed containment? Or it would be as a deal to get the sites that you would have put the money into the closed containment?
T. Davies: As I said, it was in direct response to the regional district's request for research to happen in their jurisdiction — right? They felt it was important to them. We made the effort to make it happen in response to that.
The research would have happened on one site. It wouldn't happen on multiple sites. It was as close as you can get to a full commercial site and stay within reason. It was going to be 250,000 fish. It was going to be full waste collection, on which no research has been done yet in B.C. It was going to attempt to clearly answer the cost-per-kilogram question. That's really what it comes down to for us as industry — what is the cost per kilogram to produce this fish?
The other aspect of the research was going to look at the husbandry side of it.
When you move to closed containment, you're taking fish and you're squishing them closer and closer together into a closed containment facility. Fish are animals. They can only take so much as far as increasing the density. Imagine in your head looking at a cattle field, and then making that smaller and smaller but keeping the same number of cattle in that field. There becomes a point where it doesn't work anymore.
That was the other aspect of the research — to look at the fish health and the fish husbandry aspect of it.
C. Trevena: Grieg has interests on the west coast as well. Would the company still be interested in looking at closed containment as a test in this way that you're looking in Comox-Strathcona?
T. Davies: Possibly. But since we didn't get those two sites in Sunderland Channel, we are stocking those sites on the west side with the fish that were destined for Sunderland Channel. So we may not have a site to put it.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Just a quick question, coming back to escapements. We were told earlier that the escapements, I would say, might be as high as 300,000 fish a year, which doesn't seem to coincide. Now, would you say that's a supposition? How does that compare with what you understand the facts to be?
T. Davies: It's certainly not a fact for our company. We count the fish in the hatchery. Each individual fish is counted during the vaccination stage. Every fish is handled at the vaccination stage before they go to sea. Then those records are maintained at the farmsite.
Any mortalities that happen at the farm are deducted from that inventory number. Then you get your final number when each individual fish is handled in the processing plant. You can look at those numbers and ascertain what error might be present with your mortality or with your counts.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So it's basically subtraction. A minus B minus C equals escapement. That's how you keep track of it. What is the value of a fish? Do you know that offhand, Tim?
T. Davies: For an adult fish these days?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Yeah.
T. Davies: Probably $40 to $45 a fish.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): So certainly, the salmon farmer has a pretty much vested interest in not losing any out to sea.
T. Davies: Very much so.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation, Tim.
I'd like to call Garth Mirau.
Then, seeing as we are running a little bit behind time, we were thinking about taking a half-hour lunch break, not an hour, after this presentation and then meeting with the Environmental Law Centre immediately after the recess for lunch.
G. Mirau: I want to make a couple of comments before I start. I don't have a written presentation as such. I am going to stick to my notes as much as possible. One of the problems that presenters face by coming in late and listening to the earlier presenters is a tendency to want to either support what they've said or try to pick it apart. I'm not going to do that. But I will follow my notes.
The only presentation that you're going to get from me on a piece of paper today is a little bit of background. I've given you four pages out of a report that was done by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives from 2003, which I believe gives the most up-to-date figures that are actually available — in real figures that you can back up from Statistics Canada and the provincial government around fish farming, commercial fishing, recreational fishing and marine tourism.
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I'm presenting today on behalf of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, CAW Local 15. I'd like to thank the committee for giving us this opportunity to present our opinions and positions on salmon farming in British Columbia.
At the same time, at the outset I would like to encourage the committee to consider extending the hearings, at least in those communities most affected by the emergence of aquaculture. The reason I say that is because — at least in the last three days that you've been hearing in Sechelt, Vancouver and here — there's commercial salmon fishing going on. In Campbell River in the last session you had there, there was a commercial fishery happening, and I know people that wanted to attend that meeting and couldn't go.
Also, the fact is that the committees, I believe, have been loaded at the very beginning in most places so people who come in late and have really serious interests can't find a place. The reason I'm in Victoria is because I couldn't present in Nanaimo because the places were all taken up.
Our presentation will be focused on the jobs and economic benefits that the fish farm promised and that the industry purports to bring to coastal communities and the real and sustainable benefits of the commercial and recreational fishery. Because of the very short time allowed, of course, we're only going to be able to skim the surface.
My personal background is of being a commercial fisherman for 25 years everywhere on this coast and then as a union representative on Vancouver Island for ten years. As a commercial fisherman, I am familiar with all aspects of fishing and have at various times participated in all of the fisheries in British Columbia, with the exception of bottom trawling and salmon trolling.
While on staff at the union my responsibilities included servicing all of our members on the Island, including those on a fish farm and two farmed fish–processing plants; negotiating collective agreements; and working with federal, provincial and municipal governments on issues that affect our members in coastal communities in general. As well, I maintained close contact with many first nations pertaining to our mutual concerns, including those of aquaculture.
I was elected vice-president of the union in 2002. What I don't say there is that I didn't run for re-election in 2006, and I'm currently retired. However, I'm still a member of the union. I'm the secretary-treasurer of this local and am interested and active and perhaps will fish on the herring.
I'm not going to talk about environmental issues. I'm not going to talk about the colonization of our rivers by the escaped Atlantics. I'm not going to talk about the fact that Atlantics are showing up in the Skeena River and in Alaska, and the nearest fish farm, until very recently, was in Queen Charlotte Sound.
I'm not going to talk about the effects of the high incidence of sea lice on smolts and what that might mean to rivers that are particularly close to farms. I'm not going to talk about what happens to other marine species that are near farms and the terrible effects of those farms on some of the marine species.
I'm not going to talk about the fact that at no time in our history have we been able to raise carnivores for human consumption successfully. And I'm not going to talk about the feed that goes into salmon farms, which is affecting Third World countries — and, in fact, some of our own communities — around the world because of the fishing out of scrap fish to feed those farm fish. I'm not going to talk about that.
I'm not going to talk about the inability of the farms to deal with a huge amount of morts when we have a situation like happened in Shelter Inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island two years ago. Every single fish had to be removed from a farm, and they had no way to deal with it except to take them out to the ocean and dump them, but they didn't go far enough. They didn't go where they said they were going to. They didn't follow the regulations.
I'm not going to talk about that because you've heard about that. You've heard from the environmentalists, and you've heard from the fish farmers about what a good job they do. You've heard all of that stuff. We've heard about the effects of industry on the environment and wild fish.
I only want to talk about jobs and the economic benefits that the industry has promised and that they've bamboozled everyone with ever since they started to move into British Columbia. Our experience with salmon farmers goes back previous to salmon farming starting in British Columbia.
We sent a delegation to Norway before there were any salmon farms in British Columbia and before the public hearing happened to look at what happened there. We came away shaking our heads and saying: "Are they really going to let this happen in British Columbia?" The rivers were devastated, and they had to actually poison everything in the river because of the escapes from the fish farms that took diseases and parasites into the rivers. "Are we really going to do that here?" But we did.
In the 1990s the union organized a food-manufacturing plant in Nanaimo that had operated there for quite some time. The employees came to us because of the poor wages and working conditions. They subsequently moved on to Campbell River. We got a collective agreement with the company that was running that. It was Prince Rupert Fishermen's Co-op at the time, subsequently forced out of business by the multinationals that have moved into all of the fish farms.
We organized a fish farm in the mid-1990s that was owned by Agrimarine Industries. They had a fish farm in Kyuquot. They had 42 employees on that fish farm. By the way, that farm was also taken over by Nutreco. By that time they were down to about eight because of the mechanization that's happened on the farms — the automatic feeders and stuff like that.
They did decertify, by the way. You may hear of that from someplace else. That farm did decertify. They
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decertified simply because we couldn't service it. By the time they decertified, there was only one person from the west coast working on the farm. That was a person from Kyuquot. And there was one person from Campbell River, who was a maintenance person.
Everybody else came from somewhere else, mostly from Ontario. They came through colleges that taught aquaculture and were promised jobs in management if they could work out there. There was no local employment there at all.
In 1997 we organized a farmed fish plant in Campbell River — Agrimarine Industries again. They processed their own fish from Kyuquot — we had the farm certified at the time — as well as outside fish. After the sale of the farm they continued to process the production from Kyuquot for a further five years. They also did processing for other companies but eventually were forced to shut down because their ability to operate under the ever-increasing demands of the industry to cut costs, and therefore wages and benefits, could not be sustained by that company.
We worked hard with that company to keep them alive. We gave a lot of concessions over a period of time but simply couldn't save the company. For a period of time that company actually provided real jobs in that community, with wages and good working conditions. If you got injured on the job, went and reported your injury to the first-aid person and then you went to the doctor and were on WCB, you had a job at the end of the day to go back to. You had that expectation.
We negotiated a pension plan so that the people could continue to live in their community if that company had lasted long enough, and they could have lived in the community that they worked in with some measure of dignity. No longer available.
The following year we organized a plant across the road. That was Omega, otherwise known as Pan Fish, a huge multinational with headquarters in Norway. They shut down after six months and moved all that work to Port Hardy, where today there are about 200 or 225 processing jobs that directly come from Pan Fish's Omega operation.
There are 200 or 250 jobs in Englewood and Brown's Bay. We looked at organizing the plant at Walcan four or five years ago. There were about 50 people there. I heard there were a larger number there now, or a promise of more, but those are hardly the kind of jobs that sustain communities.
About a hundred jobs in Tofino at a farm fish processing plant. We also attempted to organize that plant — very, very low wages, very poor working conditions. We didn't have any trouble signing people up, but by the time we got around to the point where we thought we had enough to go to the labour board to make an application for certification, the people we had signed up had already left. They weren't interested in staying, working under such terrible conditions.
We were successful, however, in one aspect, I guess. They built a fence around the place and put a gate on it, a locked gate. I don't know whether that was to keep us out or keep the employees in. I was never clear about that.
There are some jobs — a small amount on the farms and a few on the vessels that transport the fish to the processors. It's not a lot of jobs when you consider the number of jobs in wild fishery. In fact, we have over 1,000 members on our seniority list in Prince Rupert. This year not all of them worked because it was a poor year in the north. Nevertheless, we have more members in our union than the total workforce in the aquaculture industry. We do not have the wild fishery industry unionized 100 percent by any means.
If you measure the amount of jobs in this fish farm industry against the misery caused in the coastal communities on this coast, I say that the cost of those jobs is very high. In large measure, the people that worked in the commercial fishery and in the processing sector have been displaced because when the fish farm industry expanded, they dumped a lot of cheap fish on the market.
The expectation of the buyers was that they could get fresh fish year-round very, very cheap. The companies, frankly, didn't have a very good strategy of how to deal with that. The reality was that the fish farm companies dumped fish on the market very cheaply and drove down the price of commercial fishing, to the point where suddenly we had a restructuring in the commercial sector, which affected jobs. There was also a huge restructuring in the farm fish industry because of that. It became more consolidated, with fewer owners, and now it is virtually owned by multinationals.
When they first came to British Columbia, they came with a promise that these were going to be mom-and-pop operations, and these were going to be jobs in communities that people could actually work in — not multinationals and not owned by so few people.
I'm going to talk about commercial fishing for a minute. In 1988 Patrick Chamut, who was the Assistant Deputy Minister of Fisheries at the time, said in a presentation to the minister that the average person working in the commercial fishing industry in British Columbia earns 20 percent above the average wage in British Columbia and that it's a significant contributor to the economy of B.C. and the major employer in coastal communities.
It's no longer the case. There's been restructuring, privatization and consolidation in the commercial sector too.
It's not too late to go back, if the will of the federal and particularly the provincial government is to say that we want to turn the privatization around, have less consolidation of ownership. Turn fishing back over to the people that live in the communities and that for at least a hundred years sustained themselves through commercial fishing — a village like Kyuquot, where there are now two commercial salmon licences, where the whole village depended on salmon fishing in the past and places like Ahousat, Tofino, Ucluelet, Sointula, Alert Bay. You name, on this coast, a community that hasn't been affected on the south coast by farm
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fish. I can't think of one. They've all been affected in a bad way.
The infrastructure in those communities is starting to come apart. If you look at Sointula — and I think you visited there — they're talking about closing down the oldest co-op store in British Columbia because they can't sustain it any longer.
You can't buy fuel in these communities anymore, can't get good medical care in these communities anymore. The whole community is coming apart, and it's because of the removal of the commercial fishery. The idea that fish farms are somehow going to take its place — it's impossible. It can't happen.
You've heard from the aquaculture industry that they're concerned about unfair competition from Chile. Well, let me tell you that the fish farms are our Chile. They're the commercial fishermen's Chile. They're the recreational fishermen's Chile. They're marine tourism's Chile. That's what they are. They drive down prices. They drive down the ability to stay in our communities. They drive down the ability of people to earn a living.
Each of the three sectors delivers more jobs that are sustainable and that sustain communities than the farm fish industry does. Recreational and marine tourism are at the same risk. You can see from the excerpts in this paper by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that my remarks have not been exaggerated.
I recognize the value of the jobs to those people who are working on fish farms and processing farm fish in our communities. It's difficult to say to those people: "You're working in an industry that's doing a hell of a lot of damage to our province, a lot of damage to our environment." But the truth of the matter is that that's what's happening.
I'm not one who thinks those jobs should necessarily be removed. I think they should be enhanced and that people should have the right to work in a place where they're treated with some respect. But that's not what's happening there.
I want to end by relating what happened to me at a joint Kwakiutl Territorial Fisheries Commission meeting and a meeting of the bands in the north Island, which I was invited to take part in. They were talking about the effects of fish farms on their communities and their ability to set their table. I'm not sure if you heard that at any of your hearings.
What they have depended on for eons for food, the places they've gone to gather clams, to gather their food — they can't go there any longer because there are fish farms there. It's not safe to eat some of that food any longer, and some of it simply isn't available. It's died off. They were talking about that.
In the middle of the afternoon one of the people from one of the bands excused himself. He said: "I'm sorry that I have to leave." He had to excuse himself because here was a person whose entire family had worked in the fishing industry, had a hundred years' history in the fishing industry, which had been taken away from him. He had a job on a fish farm, and he was ashamed of that.
The reality is that that's the only job left in that community. Also, the reality was that they needed somebody from Alert Bay working on that farm so they could say: "We are employing people in the communities." They had one first nations person on that farm.
The promises of good jobs and economic benefits are, I think, still to be seen. The question you must ask yourselves as a committee is, I believe: are you willing to put wild fish on the line for some questionable, at best, economic benefits that so far have not been delivered by the multinationals who promised so much and have delivered so little? What are the real costs of fish farms in British Columbia? Is there a future for our marine environment if fish farms remain and expand?
I think that you have to have, at the end of the day, a recommendation from this committee to go to land-based, closed containment farms so that the fish that are raised in a farm environment are no longer raised in a septic tank, raised in a sewage system that isn't treated, because that's what the farms are now. I personally wouldn't eat a farmed fish because of that — one of the reasons.
The other reason is that I think we have to be very concerned about the amount of antibiotics and drugs that are being used in these fish farms and what the long-term results are to our total environment. We don't know what they are yet, but we hear warnings all the time from the medical community about the overuse of antibiotics. I know that they use a lot of antibiotics in pork barns and in cattle feedlots. That does not excuse anything. It's as wrong to use antibiotics there as it is to use antibiotics in the fish farm industry.
I wanted to make one comment on what I heard here this morning. There was a comment about whether or not we can expect to leave the coast pristine. Industry, including the logging industry, has done a lot of damage to the coast, frankly. I think we have a responsibility to leave the marine environment — all of our environment — as intact as possible for our children, for our grandchildren, for those who come behind us, because we're using up way too much.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Garth.
I'll open the floor for any questions or comments that anybody has.
S. Fraser: First of all, you said you weren't going to be talking about it, but you mentioned an issue of morts being…. Did you say brought out to sea? Can you elaborate on that?
G. Mirau: Some fish farms in Shelter Inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island, north of Tofino, lost all their fish two years ago. I think it's two years ago now. They couldn't deal with them. All their fish died, and they couldn't deal with them, so they got a permit to dump them. They did go offshore, and they dumped them at sea.
They didn't go as far as they were told to go. My understanding is that they had more than they said they had. They only went about 15 miles offshore and
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dumped them, and they — not all but many of them — came back on the tide, which is the reason that anybody found out in the first place that they didn't do what they said they were supposed to do.
The inability to deal with large amounts of morts has been documented a few times. There was a farm up in the archipelago three years ago that lost all its smolts — spring salmon. They pumped them out and were going to unload them and dispose of them in Vancouver. The Suzuki Foundation, I believe it was, went and got an injunction against unloading there because they couldn't contain the water.
They subsequently went to French Creek, because French Creek said: "We can contain the water, and we can make sure that nothing out of this load gets into the water." On the very first pump — and I think there were three TV cameras there from Victoria TV stations filming this — the hose broke, and all of the water and all of the fish went straight into the harbour. There was a DFO biologist there from the research station in Nanaimo, and she just shrugged her shoulders and said: "Well, it's not really going to hurt anything. It's no big deal."
I think it is a big deal, because I think it points out the fact that they can't deal with those kinds of issues, and they're not responsible corporate citizens. Those kinds of actions are simply unforgivable. Now it's one thing for an accident to happen, but to shrug it off and say it doesn't matter points out what kind of corporate citizens these people really are.
S. Simpson: Thanks for the presentation, Garth. Quick question. In the discussions we've had, we've heard comments relating to DFO, to Fisheries and Oceans. The comments we've heard are about the conflict DFO has between its mandate to protect the wild fishery and the wild salmon and its mandate to support aquaculture.
I'm wondering whether the union has had discussions, considering the position of the union, with DFO officials or has made any comment about that. Is that a challenge?
G. Mirau: We have attempted to do that. You're right. DFO is caught between a rock and a hard place on this. DFO has an inability to deal with day-to-day issues anymore because of two things. Lack of funding, which means that they don't have the resources to do the things they're tasked to do — that's one of the huge problems that we see there.
Many of the scientists there are faced with a conflict of interest to start with and the inability to speak out about the dangers they're aware of that are around fish farms, because they have their life invested in their jobs. They're at risk of either finding themselves sidelined and moved to God knows where — the Stikine — to spend the rest of their career or simply being moved out the door. That's the history around DFO, so that is a huge problem.
If DFO would divorce itself of responsibility for aquaculture, I believe that both the aquaculture industry — I don't think we necessarily want to shut it down, but they've got to be responsible — would have someplace to go, and people and communities who depend on wild fish could be assured that the best interests of those fish are being taken care of. That's not the case now.
S. Simpson: One further question around that. It's on a couple of areas that we're finding. The wild fishery, obviously, is primarily a federal responsibility. We continue to hear from people who talk to us and have concerns about the wild fishery and express some concern about the relationship to aquaculture. More often than not they also talk about the issues related to the wild fishery and say: "There's a whole series of concerns that have created some of the challenges that the wild fishery faces today."
Is there a role for the provincial government to play in encouraging the federal government to deal with questions around the wild fishery differently?
G. Mirau: Unequivocally, the answer to that is yes. But the reality is that for the last four or five years the provincial government has not been supportive of people that depend on wild fish for a living. Individuals and communities have been left by the wayside.
Yes, certainly the province can play a huge role.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation, Garth.
The committee will now recess until two o'clock for lunch.
The committee recessed from 1:29 p.m. to 2:02 p.m.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
R. Austin (Chair): Good afternoon. I'd just like to reiterate some of my comments earlier in the day. The plan is for us to listen to witness presentations until six o'clock. If we get further behind and there are some people who do not get to present today, that's not going to be a problem. We will have another public hearing in Victoria. We already have a list of people who couldn't get on this one.
We don't have the flexibility today, unfortunately, to carry on like we did last night until a quarter to eight, so we will go to six o'clock and see how many people we can listen to before then.
At this point, I would like to call Chris Tollefson and Adam Driedzic to the witness table.
C. Tollefson: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, committee, for this opportunity to make submissions this afternoon.
My name is Chris Tollefson. I'm the executive director of the University of Victoria environmental law centre. I'm also a professor of law at the faculty. With me this afternoon is Adam Driedzic, who is a student this term in the environmental law centre clinic. In a few minutes he will be making some submissions, partly because that's part of our clinical program and
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partly because, as you've probably guessed, I'm nursing a bit of a sore throat.
Before we turn it over to Adam to address some of the substance of our submissions, which focus primarily on shellfish aquaculture and its future in British Columbia, I wanted to tell you a little bit about our organization and our interest in this subject matter.
We're an ELC — that is, a non-profit incorporated society that partners with the faculty of law at UVic to offer the environmental law clinic program. Through this clinic, for over a decade now, the ELC has provided advice and representation on environmental and resource law issues to a broad range of clients around the province, including community groups, first nations and conservation organizations.
We also regularly publish research papers, handbooks and other discussion papers on various environmental law and resource law issues. As we're doing today, we also regularly appear before courts, tribunals and various public bodies and committees.
The clinic runs year-round under the full-time supervision of a senior lawyer, Calvin Sandborn, who is here in the audience today. Through this clinic program, our students gain supervised hands-on opportunities to be exposed to public interest, environmental lawyering and gain legal skills while at the same time — we like to think — providing an important pro bono service to the community.
For some time the environmental law centre as well as myself in my own personal capacity have been focused on the question of shellfish aquaculture. In our view this is a sector, an industry, that could be a key driver in terms of developing a sustainable coastal economy for British Columbia. So over the last three or four years through a variety of means, we've been tackling this problem through direct client work, through hosting workshops and symposiums, and through doing peer-reviewed research.
For instance, in terms of clients, we've worked with the Comox Indian band, with the Hul'qumi'num treaty group. We've worked with the Shellfish Growers Association, providing them with research and advice. Later in November, on the 17th, we're hosting a summit-style workshop that addresses the topic of the future of shellfish aquaculture and the New Relationship — for which I have invitations, incidentally, if anyone is interested in attending.
As well, of course, we try to back that up by doing credible independent research. An example of that has been provided to you, which is a peer-reviewed article that is just about to come out in the interdisciplinary journal B.C. Studies. It is a culmination of four years of research that I did, funded through the AquaNet Centre of Excellence, looking at shellfish aquaculture both in British Columbia and New Zealand, particularly with a view to the very complicated but important issues of indigenous rights and title that have been and will be confronted in both jurisdictions.
I just want, before passing it over to Adam, to identify what I think are the four key points in our presentation — the four simple points that we would like you to take away and reflect upon.
First of all, we would submit that the B.C. government can and should do more to promote this sector. To date it has not received, in our submission, the priority that its potential fully deserves.
Secondly, we would argue that the potential of this sector is highly significant. Whether measured in terms of economic development, social or cultural values, or environmental outcomes, we would argue that there is a huge upside to developing this sector. To glimpse into that potential, I would suggest you have a look at the article and reflect upon the experience over the last decade in New Zealand, a jurisdiction which has a lot in common with British Columbia and which, as a result of the growth of that particular sector, has seen significant broad social benefits as a result.
The third point is this. As with any opportunity, there's a range of challenges that present themselves on the horizon. In this case we would argue that those include building up the capacity of this sector so that it can be competitive on a world market; dealing with regulatory duplication and regulatory hurdles that in some cases are unnecessary; and most importantly, dealing with the complex and unresolved issues of indigenous rights and title that are a prerequisite to this sector and in fact — I would argue — any coastal-based economic sector moving forward.
That ties into my fourth point, which is a simple one, really. For this sector to flourish, for it to achieve its potential, we would argue that the natural vehicle for the issues we're talking about to be addressed within is a vehicle that this government can take some credit for being part of creating, and that is the New Relationship. We would argue that under the auspices of the New Relationship partnership, there is very significant potential for this sector to grow and flourish in a way that benefits the whole province including first nations.
The government has, in some other sectors — most notably forestry, I think — taken some strides in this direction. The paper talks about that. Not all first nations are 100 percent in favour of the programs that have been introduced in the forestry sector, but I think a lot of first nations are supportive of at least the intention behind those programs.
It is time now for the government, we would submit, to embark on a similar program in the context of shellfish aquaculture. I think that the benefits, if the government were to invest in that direction, would be very significant.
With that, I would like to pass it over Adam, and when his comments are finished, we would certainly like to entertain questions.
A. Driedzic: Thank you, Chris, and thank you, committee. We're happy to be bringing you a good-news story. The research we're presenting here shows that shellfish aquaculture has the potential to be win-win for the economy, for the environment and for first
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nations. If government makes wise decisions, it is possible to encourage a shellfish industry that will produce major economic benefits for the province, increase the economic capacity of first nations and become a major driver towards environmental cleanup.
Shellfish aquaculture can take place in harmony with other coastal zone activities and values. This is a green industry. It requires clean water, and it cleans the water itself. There is an economic incentive for addressing foreshore pollution. This industry can provide sustainable economic development for small coastal communities.
Its values are compatible with those of other new growth industries. In particular, ecotourism shares these same values: environmental conservation and respect for indigenous cultures. The New Zealand experience shows us the power of this synergy. In a country with a coastline much shorter than ours, this industry has grown 700 percent in ten years and is currently sustainable at $150 million a year.
Now returning to first nations. This industry can exist in harmony with the activities and values of coastal indigenous communities. First nations have long traditions of culturing and harvesting shellfish. Shellfish aquaculture provides a commercial activity that allows for the maintenance of a connection to the sea and to the land. First nations have shown a strong desire to participate. The Comox Indian Band, for example, in only a few short years has seen its production of clams and oysters increase by leaps and bounds.
What better foundation could there be for a commercial activity than an existing cultural practice? In New Zealand, aboriginal people are the leaders in the growth of this industry. Over half of the New Zealand shellfish aquaculture industry is owned or managed by Maori interests. Many of those Maori businesses are integrated with other Maori enterprises — wineries, for example, and ecotourism. By statute, 20 percent of future shellfish tenures in New Zealand must be allocated to the Maori.
Shellfish aquaculture has not yet received the attention it deserves from the provincial government. The multiplicity of regulators — federal, provincial, local — made regulatory compliance difficult and costly. This is particularly damaging to an industry whose primary producers are small local operators like first nations. This industry really needs smarter, simplified integrated regulation that will encourage small operators, particularly first nations.
There's a precedent. In New Zealand during the fledgling years, their industry suffered from a bifurcated regulatory regime and confusion over the roles that aboriginal people should play in the industry. The result was damaging to the industry as a whole. New Zealand has aggressively streamlined its licensing system and integrated its coastal marine plant. The results have benefited all operators in this industry.
The future of the shellfish industry must include the participation of first nations in a manner that recognizes and respects aboriginal rights and title in the coastal zone. We need a New Relationship vision for shellfish aquaculture. This is an industry in its infancy, and the earlier this new relationship is implemented, the easier it will come.
The New Zealand experience does provide reason for optimism about growing this industry, but it also highlights potential pitfalls. In particular, it provides a warning about the detrimental effect of rights disputes on economic growth and on social acceptance of the industry.
The alternate lesson, however, is of the great potential that emerges from a synergy of economic, environmental and indigenous interests. If government acts wisely, the industry can be enhanced at the same time as the environment is protected and at the same time as first nations increase their economic capacity.
For all these reasons, we feel that shellfish aquaculture merits focused government attention. In fact, because the shell fishery is not fully allocated, there may exist more opportunities for creative, productive problem-solving, perhaps more strikingly so than in other sectors.
We urge you to read the paper. It elaborates on all the points that I've outlined. There are lessons in here which will be helpful to you as you develop your vision for shellfish. Plans have already been developed to implement a new relationship in other sectors, and we feel it is time to develop a positive, creative new relationship for shellfish in British Columbia. Thank you for your time, and we welcome all questions.
S. Simpson: Thank you very much for the presentation, both of you. When we started this process, I think the committee was of the belief that almost the entirety of our attention would be placed on finfish aquaculture. But I will tell you that over the time we've been out, we've heard from many proponents of shellfish aquaculture. We have equally heard from numbers of people who have concerns about shellfish aquaculture.
I want to raise a couple of questions based on the vision that you lay out in your presentation. What we've heard from those people who have concerns is that the industry has been shifting from small local operators whom most of the people in these communities didn't view as intrusive — they were quite supportive — to larger industrial operators. We have seen — and I'm sure you, too, have seen — the photos of the waste and the trash and the barrels being left. It's a pretty unsightly situation.
We've been seeing a fair amount of that and folks telling us not that they don't want the industry, but that they want significant regulatory controls on the industry to ensure that that doesn't happen. They say, quite rightly, that nowhere else would we allow anybody to mess up the environment in such a visual way as that. Why do we let the shellfish aquaculture industry do that? It is industry.
We've also heard from first nations, many of whom were very engaged and have been for a very long time. They saw this as part of their culture, not so much as business. They're seeing the business opportunity now.
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The question I have for you is: how do we deal with what seems to be occurring in the industry much as it occurred in the finfish industry? That is, where we had smaller operators in the province, it has now become industry, and it's consolidating very quickly to a group of multinational interests who basically control the finfish industry around the world.
Are we starting to see that in shellfish aquaculture, and is that the experience we're going to have? And will that ultimately challenge your view of this being an integral place for first nations to engage the new relationship and find a cultural, industrial or business opportunity for themselves?
C. Tollefson: I'll take a first stab at that, Shane. We're an environmental law centre, so of course we're concerned about the need for effective environmental laws. To some extent our hypothesis here — and I think that gets borne out by the evidence — is that this is a bit of a forgotten sector. It's a sector that's in the process of change. So as it grows and as those visual and other impacts increase, obviously there will be a need for more regulation.
The sector has tried to grapple with that to some degree through a code-of-practice exercise that they've gone through. But government, as it wakes up to the potential of the industry, will also have to step into the role of regulating the industry.
Our view — certainly my view — is that the range of issues that people bring forward are issues that relate to location, scale and intensity. They don't go to the fundamentals of the industry as a green industry. It is actually an industry where the positives hugely outweigh the negatives, no matter what sort of scale or period you're looking at.
In terms of what we're seeing, I think we're still at the very beginning of this process that you described in terms of the change from the ma-and-pa to a more concentrated, more corporate style of management. Some of that is going to be inevitable. We talked to ma-and-pa's who would like to have a chance to sell their interest that they've invested their lives in. They'd like to be able to retire and not work as hard. These are hard-working people. This is a very tough business, and to some degree I think the changing of the guard would be a good thing.
At the same time, I think the New Zealand experience is instructive. To be able to be competitive in a world market, there has to be a certain degree of mechanization. There have to be certain economies of scale. There have to be opportunities for these companies to integrate with other businesses. For instance, in Marlborough Sound, which is a little bit like Baynes Sound in terms of its central role in the industry, the tourism industry has grown up around mussels. They'll take you out to mussel farms, and you'll have the whole experience with a great Sauvignon Blanc that's grown in the Marlborough area. There are various other kinds of ecotourism opportunities in that same area. To a large extent, having visited there, these are all compatible.
I guess what I'm saying is that there will be a change from the ma-and-pa. To make this industry grow, we'll have to move to a different model. Hopefully, it won't be a model where monolithic companies from beyond Canada or North America are controlling it. I don't see that happening. That's not happening in New Zealand. What you're seeing is a highly efficient, competitive world industry evolving, which is doing it in a smart way.
S. Fraser: Thanks for the presentation. I apologize for running late.
We did get the message Shane mentioned when we were up north. First nations, almost in every representation, were supportive of getting support for this new industry, and they saw a future for themselves with the industry.
I think you touched earlier on one of the challenges around how to stop it from becoming monolithic, and it is the regulatory regime, which is something you can deal with in an economy of scale a lot easier if you're a great big company. The little ma-and-pa companies have a hard time dealing with that. Streamlining that was one suggestion you made. Besides that, I think it fits into the New Relationship model well.
When you say support by government…. Streamlining the regulatory regime — you mentioned that. What else? I know there are challenges of marketing. In B.C. we're a small player in the big world of this industry, and it's hard to break into the marketing. The high Canadian dollar has been an issue, I know, for some of the farmers I've talked to. Where do you see the role of government best being placed here?
C. Tollefson: Well, I would put marketing at close to the top in terms of representing the industry and helping it negotiate access to sometimes difficult markets, as we know when it comes to other commodities. I think government can play a role both within and outside of the New Relationship in terms of investing in research and development and training.
Malaspina University College is probably the centre on our coast for all of those things. It's really only become the centre of shellfish research and training over the last half a dozen years. I think its leadership and its development are very encouraging, and government could do well to examine ways to support its work and look at ways to get that work out to the communities.
The other thing I think we observe in the paper a little bit is that the north beyond Vancouver Island, up in the true north, is an area which — both in growth of the industry and potential for investment by government, in terms of building capacity — is ripe. A lot of growing areas in the north have not been surveyed and have not been opened to shellfish operations simply because the federal government, whose responsibility it is to do that, hasn't had the resources to allow for those areas to be approved. As a result, private consultants and first nations have tried to step in and undertake some of that work on their own. I really think it
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is the role of government to provide, at the very least, the sort of basic infrastructure for an infant industry to get started. In the north, I think it has been a case of the federal government falling down.
D. Jarvis: Thank you for your presentation. Are you suggesting that we put more rules and regulations in, and try to have — instead of export — more consumption locally? You're not talking about an export business now. You're talking about a B.C. homegrown industry where most of the consumption would be here, similar to what's happened in New Zealand. I look at it here and see that after that court challenge there, the aquaculture reversed itself.
C. Tollefson: Well, first of all, I think we could do well to imitate the New Zealand model in terms of encouraging local consumption. I think the statistics with respect to how much Kiwis consume of their own shellfish products are impressive, and government can play a leadership role in promoting that in various ways. I'm not a business planner, and I don't profess any expertise in business, but we are close to a very sought-after market — namely, the western coast and, in fact, pretty much all of the United States. What the appropriate mix between domestic and international is, I don't know, but I do think there is a huge opportunity there, given our proximity to that market. I would certainly hope that government could help us access that market.
D. Jarvis: Do you foresee a challenge in the courts by B.C.'s aboriginal groups, similar to the Maori?
C. Tollefson: Well, a good chunk of the paper is devoted to exploring the story of how that challenge arose in the New Zealand context and, in a sense, trying to show why it wasn't necessarily desirable for the issue to have been resolved through the courts. There was a better way. The government failed to identify that this was an issue that should have been dealt with proactively and then subsequently, after the court decision — without being unduly critical, I think — were somewhat clumsy in dealing with the response of the Maori to the proposal that they legislated on the topic.
There are huge differences legally and constitutionally between New Zealand and British Columbia that we have to bear in mind, but what the paper provides in that regard is a bit of a cautionary tale for a government that is committed to trying to move the industry forward without attending to this other issue first.
D. Jarvis: Do you have any figures — and maybe you did say them — as to what our industry is like now by way of volume? Is it predominantly export?
C. Tollefson: I can provide you with the statistics with respect to the footprint of the industry and the revenues. Those are set out at page 21 of the article. It's interesting that in New Zealand, roughly measured as of the same date, their shellfish industry is roughly ten times larger — that's using Canadian dollars as the comparator — yet its footprint is less than three times larger.
So you're looking at a more intensive use of the marine space there. I can say, having been down there, that it is a more mechanized — and maybe a little bit more corporate — model than we're used to here. I think that accounts for the difference in terms of the footprint.
D. Jarvis: Has there been any organization, or even yourselves, that has set up a more correcting or tentative rules and regulations that they feel should be put forward?
C. Tollefson: To be honest, I know that there are people that come forward and have complaints about the industry, and I don't mean at all to belittle those. I think to a large extent those kinds of complaints can be addressed through codes of practice.
In terms of the number-one priority, if the government were to rank things, I think we can move forward using a relatively cooperative, non-prescriptive regulatory approach for a long time before those issues rise to the level of importance that other things on the horizon are at, at this juncture. I could be wrong, but that's certainly my impression. There is a significant demand for leadership on other fronts before we even start to consider the issues of regulation.
D. Jarvis: Just one little quick question. Does the shellfish industry feel that they can live with and in proximity to the salmon farm?
C. Tollefson: I think you might have to ask them that question.
D. Jarvis: Okay. I thought I could get you.
C. Trevena: I'll be brief, seeing as we are tight on time. We talk about finfish and we often mean salmon farming. When you talk about shellfish, which shellfish is the predominant one that you're thinking about here?
C. Tollefson: Oysters and clams principally. In New Zealand it's mussels, of course. They have clams and oysters as well. But there are other cultured species that potentially are on the horizon. Again, I should probably caveat that I'm a lawyer not a biologist, but by far the dominant species in terms of British Columbia is oysters, and in New Zealand the comparator would be mussels.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much to both of you for that presentation.
I'd like to call Janine Wood up to the witness table, please.
J. Wood: I'd like to start by thanking you for allowing me this time to be here. I'm a little nervous. It's my first provincial public speaking engagement.
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I'd just like to start by introducing myself. I'm a resident of Tofino, where I've lived for approximately 14 years. Prior to that, I lived in Victoria for about eight years, so I've been a resident of Vancouver Island for a total of 20 years. I'm a mother, and I'm a dancer. I'm a teacher as well as a businesswomen. I run a bed-and-breakfast in Tofino so I see many people come through my doors. Therefore, I have many different conversations on a number of different issues. I'm a founder and co-director of a new home school, Her Story Alternative School, that we've begun in Tofino. I guess I'm just a concerned citizen of both British Columbia and Canada.
I've come with a very short submission. I'm sure you've been bombarded with a lot of paperwork. In my research and preparation for today I've spoken with a few scientists, and I've read a number of reports on the various issues that weigh on this issue. I suppose I'm a kinaesthetic person in that I feel a great deal, and I feel quite passionate about this issue and a number of issues.
My principal concern is the environment. However, I do recognize that this matter is also an economic matter. I know that you have a great responsibility on a lot of levels, so I don't envy you your task. I also feel that it is a human rights issue as well, because we are discussing a non-treaty area where the first nations people had many challenges to deal with over the last century, the first being the Indian Act of Canada which outlawed for a time the potlatch.
I've had the good fortune to be present at a number of potlatches in the area, and it is one of the most impressive cultural events of my life. The whole first nations culture of the west coast…. The Nuu-chah-nulth people base their system of wealth on what they are able to give away, which I think is commendable. It's a beautiful thing. I can't understand why it was banned except to say that it gives them such strength culturally by maintaining their food traditions, culinary traditions, as well as their dancing and songs — which have a long history — as well as their language. You can sit there for days on end and listen to the elders speak in their native tongue, and it is a beautiful thing.
Fortunately, that's been changed. However, a number of my friends in the community of Tofino…. I'm privileged to call some of the first nations people my friends. What I've learned from them as well…. A number of these people did experience life as students in the residential school system, which I consider to have crippled, in some cases, a generation or two of people. They're still recovering from that.
The decision that was made in 1993, when the NDP government opened Clayoquot Sound to clearcut logging, also had a very grave effect on the first nations people in that they went into a number of the watersheds…. Again, I'm speaking specifically for Clayoquot Sound. I know this occurred in many other parts of our coastline and many other parts of the world. However, I can only speak for this area that I now reside in. The effect that has had on the wild salmon stock is quite substantial.
Some of the young elders…. One of my friends specifically, who is perhaps in his 50s at this time, used to be able to fish and, when it was in its glory days, pull in enough salmon, just himself and his brother — $2,000 worth of wild salmon a day. That is no longer the case. He considers that to be largely due to the clearcut logging and the damage to the salmon streams where the salmon can no longer spawn in these areas.
I'm sure you've all seen the reports from the recent studies done by the University of Alberta. They just released their studies on the sea lice issue, which has been somewhat controversial in that the industry research has assured us that it's not a serious issue. It's nothing to worry about.
However, I've included in my submission just a brief summary and press release from this study which actually says that the sea lice are decimating the wild stocks. That is primarily because where the present farms reside, it's in direct line with where the juvenile fish — once they spawn in their natural stream — have to come out. They enter the ocean past the fish farms, which means that they are being basically attacked by the sea lice. Their estimates are that 95 percent of the future wild stocks each year are being killed. Because the juvenile salmon, when they leave the stream, are only a couple of inches long, if they're attacked by one or two sea lice, they die. It's a very serious issue.
Once again, going back to my brief submission, I have six major points that I'd like to address. First of all, I see also two sides to the lifting of the moratorium by the present government. I see the benefit of this is that it has opened these conversations so that we can really look at the situation. The scientists are doing their studies. The industry is putting its best foot forward. You're putting in your time and gathering as much information as possible. So I see that as a benefit.
However, I also see that until the issues and the problems have been solved, I think it would not only be folly but would mean possibly the end of the existence of wild salmon, certainly in any recognizable size, on the coast of British Columbia. We've seen that in many other parts of the world.
Once again, my main points can mostly be resolved by closed containment systems. However, I'd also like to consider that moving into industries, such as the last gentleman has suggested by moving into a cleaner type of industry, because we do, obviously, have the reality of economics…. People need jobs. We need to be able to support ourselves as individuals as well as a province. If we can spearhead that by looking at alternatives that are more environmental, I think that would undoubtedly be the best way to go.
What I'd like to see, personally, is the fish farms move inland. I think that keeps the oceans clean and clear of these numerous problems. However, that's not my decision to make. If they stay as they are, my concerns are the contamination of the surrounding waters and the other marine life due to untreated effluents and leftover feed. The David Suzuki Foundation did a great report many years ago. As well, I've included a report
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from the University of Victoria which addresses the methylmercury contamination of rockfish and shellfish in the areas. Once again, the closed containment system will solve that problem for now.
The second point: the use of Atlantic salmon. It's a non-indigenous species. I know from my understanding, my research, the two major companies in the Clayoquot Sound area are Mainstream and Creative Salmon. Mainstream is still using Atlantic salmon, and I think that needs to stop. I think there's no one who would dispute that having an introduced species is causing serious problems, and there's no reason why they can't make the change if another company is successfully rearing Pacific salmon. I think that should be made a priority.
The third issue: the use of open-net-cage systems. That's, again, my major point. Obviously, closed containment systems will get around that one.
My fourth point: the health of the fish in the farms themselves and then the health, or lack thereof, of the juvenile fish, which they develop in the hatcheries. I understand that sometimes they're introduced or even dumped if they're diseased and they want to get rid of them. I'm sure there are lots of things that happen that we don't know about.
However, one my sources of information is — well, for lack of a better term — a spy. He works on both of the farms, and he sees firsthand what happens. I can't mention his name, obviously, whether that's relevant or not. He sees it all. Some of the information that came forward was pretty shocking. Again, I doubt that it's anything you've haven't heard, because I'm sure you've had a lot of environmentalists sharing it with you.
At any rate, we have in that list — my fourth point — the sea lice. Again, with a closed containment system that problem will be solved. Use of the antibiotics. The methylmercury contamination. The farm fish in the surrounding marine life. Also the PCB contamination in farmed salmon, and we're seeing that in the wild stocks. Some of the reports, although they're inconclusive because one reads one way and the other reads the other, tell that if you're a healthy, active, normal adult, one a month, maximum. That's as many times as you should have a farmed salmon per month.
If you are a woman expecting a child, a nursing mother or a child, you should not eat farmed salmon. To me, that is one of the major issues as well, because if we're looking at the end result, it's a toxic food at the end of the day. Then we need to have much stricter regulations as to what these fish are consuming as well as stricter guidelines for testing and also for monitoring.
The fifth point is the detrimental effects to the marine mammals and other species. I'm sure that you've heard about the mass graves of the sea lions and seals. I've heard of herons being shot and, basically, anything that is a threat to the farm, depending on what farm it is, who's working that day and who's around and who's not around. But I assure you that these things are happening, and quite frankly, I think it's wrong. Again, that's my personal opinion, but I know there are many people that share this opinion.
Closed containment and banning the use of firearms on the farms, as well as…. I understand, too, there's a toxic chemical that's used on some of the nets, which actually acts as a deterrent to the marine mammals. It needs to stop because that has obvious effects on contaminating the water. I understand, recently, that there are acoustic devices and explosive charges that are used to try to deter the sea mammals from getting into the net cages. More studies need to be done on that account, but it's obvious that for the navigational devices of the whales and so on, that is a very serious issue.
Lastly, the physical location of the sites themselves…. This was one of my main concerns because the story that impassioned me enough to bring me here today…. I'm a very busy person, and I'm not driven by a group or a committee or anything else. I'm just here on my own.
I understand there's an issue regarding the herring and the spawning capabilities of the herring because the salmon are a predator fish. They are a predator to the herring, which are a substantial food source for a number of species in the area, as well as for the salmon themselves. So when they smell the salmon in those areas in March, where they have no business being because they're not naturally there at that time, they go and leave the streams and head out to sea. They won't go into these areas to spawn.
Again, that lends itself to the fact that what we as humans, and the scientists that go in and do the studies, perceive as problems and issues…. I believe that we're only scratching the surface. We think we understand, and we think we know, but from what I've observed in my 39 years of life on this planet, there are a lot of things that happen that are wrong. I think that we have the ability and the intelligence to make the right decisions. I ask for you all to open your hearts and your minds and to try to do your best to look at all the facts and information because this is a very serious issue that is going to affect generations to come.
Going back once again to the issue of human rights of the first nations people…. I think that by making them a part of, not only this decision-making process but a part of the industry, monitoring and maintaining and correcting the problems that presently exist before anything goes forward…. We need to revisit and audit the present farms. There needs to be more control. There needs to be a higher standard. Otherwise, this problem is going to get far worse. Until the waters are clean, we need to question the health of the existing shellfish farms as well.
One last thing. I've got a brief paragraph, and this, again, is information that's come to me through scientists. They did some studies, and they found that to convert to a closed containment system will cost approximately ten cents per pound of salmon at the end of the day. That's amortized over seven years to make the change.
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I know the industry is probably grumbling over making these changes. However, if there's that much money being made, that they're so anxious to push forward, I think that we need to question what our priorities are here. Are we looking to make jobs for the next 20 years, or are we looking to support an industry, both wild stock as well as farm stock, for millennia?
The first nations people in the traditional ways look and make decisions based on the year and life span of the cedar tree. I've heard the seven generations of other traditions. Well, the lifetime of a cedar tree is thought to be 2,000 years, because the tree may stand for 1,000 years. Even if it falls to the ground, it still lives on for another thousand years. So I would like you to consider that when making your decision. Thank you very much for your time.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Janine.
Do you members have any comments or questions? Seeing none, I'll thank you very much for your presentation.
I'd like to call Bruce Watson up to the witness table.
B. Watson: Hi, everybody. I wanted to thank the panel for being able to listen to what I have to say today. I was one of the overflow speakers from the Nanaimo meeting quite some time ago. I sat in on that for four hours and listened to what everybody had to say.
I'm an average guy here. I don't have any real connection with the aquaculture industry. I don't make a living from it. Actually, I work in a paper mill. I was born and raised in Port Alberni. I have a wife and two young girls, 11 and 13 — beautiful girls.
I spent four hours listening at the aquaculture in Nanaimo. For an hour I listened to a fellow talk about sea lice on pink salmon — for an hour. I really respect you guys for sitting through a lot of this stuff. I guess your job is separating the wheat from the chaff. That's an hour of my life I'll never get back again. I really feel for you. So I'm going to try not to bore you today.
My daughter is trying to take me high-tech today. I'm a millworker — right? Be patient with my presentation. There's a quick movie in here that I'd like to show. With the IT people, we can make it happen.
I'm going to speak about one particular shellfish lease. There's my point. I'm just the average guy, the average Joe. I'm not connected. It's important to say that I'm not an expert. So when it comes to the questioning, just take it easy on me. That's your clue — okay?
My experience is with one particular shellfish lease. I know a lot of your input is with finfish, and you've got your challenges cut out for you. But I just don't want anybody to forget about the shellfish part of it. It's really touted as low impact, and I don't see that, at least in this specific instance.
This lease — number da-da-da — has negatively impacted mariners and sea life in the area. I believe in responsible aquaculture in the right locations for the right reasons. I'm not against it. I'm just saying we've got to be responsible. You've got to watch where these things go. That's important for me to get my point across.
I just wanted to bring you up to speed on Robbers Passage. Some of you may know where it is; others may not. This is the Barclay Sound. To the top left is Ucluelet harbour. The bottom centre of the screen is Bamfield. The first group of islands above Bamfield on the bottom of the screen is called the Deer Group. The larger of the islands is Copper Island or Tzartus Island.
My exposure is because I own a float cabin for the family. We're located between Fleming Island and Tzartus Island. I'll show you a little bit closer here. Tzartus Island's on the right, and Fleming's on the left. We're in that little passage between. It's Robbers Passage. There's an aerial view. It's a beautiful area.
Here's some of the history of Robbers Passage and where it is. In 1972 the Port Alberni Yacht Club moved in there. That's where they are today. They have a foreshore lease as well as an upland tenure. They're basically kitty-corner from our cabins.
Two float cabins that are in the area moved in, in '78. One of the reasons we purchased the cabin was because there was quite a bit of documentation on it and whatnot — permits from nav waters and a few different things. They've been there a long time — a beautiful area.
In 1986 a mussel lease started in the area without any input from people in the area. So letters of objection were then sent to both parties — to the province about the shellfish lease. Nothing was really done.
In 1998 a letter of complaint and pictures from the cabin owner were sent to the province regarding the sunken equipment. This was before we purchased the cabin. We purchased the cabin in 2004.
In July 2005 some new equipment showed up. Basically, there was no lease there when we purchased it. In 2005 some new makeshift kind of equipment showed up, and we were under the impression from rumours that this was a new mussel lease starting up by the previous leaseholders — by the same leaseholders.
In February 2006 we got some trespass notices for the cabins. It took us quite some time to really track down why we got the notices. The phrase "wild goose chase" really comes to mind, because it was hard to pin anybody down as to why we got this notice.
The notice, to sum it up, was that there was a new 125-metre boundary around shellfish leases that is for protection from grey water. Obviously, we're within that 125-metre boundary. When we tried to talk to the government about whether we could have holding tanks or whatever, there was no moving. We just had to go. We went from different offices to different offices, and finally, that was where we were at.
My daughters were saying: "Dad, we've got to move. They're calling us polluters because we use our sink to clean the dishes once in a while." Yet they're backing the leaseholders, which have all this sunken equipment on the bottom — or so it was rumoured. We
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didn't know, but I kind of got angered by it. I thought: nobody's paying attention to what we're saying. So we hired a diver.
On March 3, though, the lease was reapproved. So on the 26th of February we got the trespass notice. On March 3 the lease was reapproved, we found out through the Courtenay office.
In April we hired a diver to take some underwater pictures and some samples of what we had heard was down there. We didn't want to be pointing any fingers until we knew for ourselves what was happening there. Then, when we approached the government with what we had for evidence and whatnot, they finally took the bull by the horns and forced these leaseholders to start doing some cleanup.
This slide here sort of gives you an idea. The cabins are circled in green — the two green dots on the left. The Port Alberni Yacht Club is at the bottom of your screen in green. There are lots of wharves there. The red is the existing lease or the footprint of the lease which was there up until 1998. The yellow line is the 125-metre boundary which is supposed to be restricted because of grey water.
My point with this slide is that Robbers Passage is a passage. The Lady Rose and Frances Barkley…. A lot of traffic goes through this area. I don't know how they can possibly protect a 125-metre boundary when boats drive ten feet from the lease. That's just my point for this slide here.
This is back in 1997, and this is the MV Frances Barkley in the background. It's a huge operation that was there. It was a mussel lease. There were two sections of these nets — basically, suspended nets. They're like gill-nets that are held suspended between barrels by sections of pipe.
This was back in 1997. Now, this is after a storm, and as you can see, some of the pipes and whatnot are starting to fall down into the water, and some of the barrels are sinking and whatnot. This gives you an idea of what has been happening with it — not very well looked after.
This is before we arrived on the scene — some pictures that were taken by the previous cabin owners. These are the ones that were sent to the province to say that it had disappeared.
Now this is 2004, and this is the same area. Our cabin is on the right-hand side. No evidence of any mussel lease at all on the surface.
This is in July 2005. This is what shows up on scene — pretty makeshift-looking rafts and whatnot. That's the first that started.
Right now we're just sort of narrating. I wish we would've had sound, but that didn't happen.
Port Alberni Yacht Club. You're looking at it straight ahead there — a little hard to see. This was April 1, 2006, and it basically shows the yacht club there, and we're panning over, standing on the float cabin looking towards Tzartus Island now, and that's the south tip of Tzartus.
It is a main thoroughfare for boats such as the MV Frances Barkley or MV Lady Rose. The Seaway Express goes through, which also goes between Bamfield and Ucluelet quite often. We've seen whales coming through this passage at times, so it is a main thoroughfare.
To the left — we're going to pan — that's going to be Imperial Eagle Channel on the left-hand side, and to the far right is Trevor Channel, which is near Bamfield. It's quite a deep passage, on the far side, for boats to pass.
We'd come to a point when we decided to hire the diver. We got him involved. We loaded him up with some underwater cameras and asked him to take some samples for us if he could.
At the yacht club, generally there are lots of boats on anchor out here in the summertime. This is April, you have to remember.
Here's our diver, a local guy that we hired. He's just basically describing what he sees, and it's two huge sections, literally thousands of square feet, of this netting that is lying on the bottom. The poles that are two-and-a-half-inch pipe are sticking up off the bottom as much as 15 feet. So it's not just lying on the bottom; it's 15 feet in the air.
We had asked them to take some samples and cut some stuff off here. Here's some of the netting that he has brought back, and it's quite heavy — thousands of square feet. Here's a closeup of it there.
I'll show you some underwater pictures. This is what he's seeing under there. This is like… It reminds me of chain-link fence, all this netting that's hanging up off the bottom. The bay itself, or the passage in some places, wouldn't be any more than, let's say, 35 or 40 feet deep. You've got to remember that if this stuff is sticking up 15 feet off the bottom, there's not that much clear water above it.
We've had letters from boaters who have had their anchors caught in this stuff and spent hours trying to cut it off. Robbers Passage has traditionally been a safe haven for boaters. You see a lot of commercial boats in there coming in out of the weather.
Here's some of the netting sticking up. This is right on the bottom. The two sections that you saw there were basically sunk. The leaseholders didn't do anything about it for eight years. Eight years it sat there, and I'm sure caught fish, mammals or whatever came along, with nobody knowing it.
Here's the Port Alberni Yacht Club. Now this is August of this year. This is some of the debris that's come back off the bottom. You can see the nets piled up there. There are a lot of barrels, but we haven't seen any pipe come up yet. They're 30-foot sections of two-and-a-half-inch steel pipe.
They have been doing some cleanup. The government — the province — has told them they have four months to clean up. After they've done their cleanup, they've told us they'll be in compliance, and, chances are, they'll be allowed to continue.
This is just some of the stuff that's come off the bottom. I'll just show you guys this netting here that came up.
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It wouldn't really be right for me to do a bunch of complaining without having some recommendations. I'll just fast forward here to some recommendations.
Anybody who has a formal complaint about an aquaculture site, the provincial government should take the complaint seriously and investigate by going out to the site.
Before a new lease is approved, the person or panel should investigate the area thoroughly by going out to the site and getting feedback from other people or businesses in the area that might be affected by the new lease. As well, do a thorough background check of the applicants to make sure they are good stewards of the environment. That's important.
Before any leases are reapproved, they should be reviewed thoroughly. An audit should be done approximately every five years to make sure that the lease is running a viable business.
Finally, some strong penalties, such as losing their lease and paying for their cleanup — not the taxpayers of B.C. — should be in place to discourage any improprieties.
Conclusion. The two parties are ourselves and our next-door neighbour float cabin. In conclusion, we two parties support responsible aquaculture and feel there are many hard-working men and women in B.C. who work hard to operate a viable and sustainable business. We have spent endless hours and a fair bit of money to gather this information, and this all could have been prevented.
We believe the provincial government needs to get a handle on monitoring and enforcement of shellfish leases. We believe the B.C. government should review what is going on in this industry.
Don Mallon is the president of the Port Alberni Yacht Club. They feel as strongly about the situation as we do. The yacht club is obviously a larger organization than the two little cabin owners. They've been there for a long time and have been affected by this whole thing. He's volunteered his contact information, if you're interested in talking to Don.
That's it for the presentation.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much, Bruce. I'll open the floor for any questions, queries or comments.
S. Fraser: As you're aware, Bruce, I did contact the ministry — more than one; various ministries. My understanding, according to the position of the ministry, is that unless there is ongoing use of the site for what it was intended, it would lapse. It would cease to exist. Obviously, in this case, it didn't happen. Obviously, the monitoring didn't happen, because the environmental issues are simply not allowed. That's not just provincial. That would be federal.
The last I heard, you were still engaged in this with the ministry. Has there ever been any talk of you being compensated for the costs associated with a diver and everything else? Obviously, you were doing ministry work that presumably should be done by some sort of oversight in the system.
B. Watson: No, there's been no word of compensation at all. I took a day off today to come in. It's not just the missing work; it's the hassles. It's been a big heartache for the family. The kids were in tears at points when the trespass notices came out and a lot of sleepless nights for my wife and myself trying to deal with this whole situation. I really feel it could have been avoided if people would have done the monitoring enforcement. It's really too bad.
S. Fraser: I agree, and I don't believe we've heard the end of this either.
You know, this stuff really smells.
B. Watson: You should smell it in July and August. Those wharves were loaded, and depending on which way the wind blew, it was pretty nasty.
S. Fraser: Obviously, you've been ordered to move — with the regulations — as a floathouse. On a shellfish lease, if it's going to be reactivated, presumably the grey water could be a problem as far as contamination. Having a yacht club there….
I've been around enough docks and boats, and lots of times boats come in that don't have holding tanks or do have holding tanks and they're full. If they're coming into a yacht club, they often pump. It's terrible, but they don't want to do it while they're in the yacht club.
There are a lot of issues around potential contamination of a site that would far eclipse the grey water system from a floathouse. It seems a little hypocritical. Just a comment.
D. Jarvis: Bruce, obviously rules and regulations had not been applied in your area. The committee or myself will bring it to the minister's attention.
B. Watson: Okay. I appreciate that.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation, Bruce.
I'd now like to call Richard Harry, Moses Martin, Ted Williams and Alvin Sewid to the witness table.
R. Harry: Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with an update and a presentation on behalf of the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association and the member first nations along the coast. My name is Richard Harry. I'm the president and executive director of the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association.
A. Sewid: Alvin Sewid. I'm with the Mamalilikulla-Qwe'Qwa'Sot'Em Band.
T. Williams: My name is Ted Williams. I'm with the Cowichan Tribes.
M. Martin: I'm Moses Martin. I'm current elected chief of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, Clayoquot Sound.
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R. Harry: I have with me today a document that I have forwarded to the committee in the Victoria office here. I'm going to read some notes and information from this. The individuals with me may also wish to address this committee.
If I can, I'll start by talking about the opportunities that aquaculture offers coastal communities, in this case first nations, but also a bit of background of where we come from. We are coastal people. We are resource-based. We are people of the sea. With the demise of forestry, mining and the fishing industry, it has left very little opportunity for the first nations communities on the coast.
Along with that is the high unemployment rate. Statistically, the unemployment in coastal communities is twice that of non-aboriginals. It can go as high as 80 or 90 percent in some of the communities. It is a challenge for our leadership. The association was started with the thought in mind of how the leaders in the respective communities could change some of the lack of jobs, if you would, in their communities, deal with their issues, and improve their education and future opportunities for their membership and young people.
I'm going to read a little bit of our executive summary. According to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, many first nations people live in Third World conditions as a result of substandard housing, together with inadequate availability of dietary and health options. First nations communities face rates of suicide, diabetes, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS that far exceed the Canadian average.
Many of these challenges can be directly related to the lack of jobs and economic opportunities. Unemployment rates for aboriginals continue to be at least double the rate of the non-aboriginal population, while the average individual income of aboriginals is only 50 percent of that for non-aboriginals.
Within B.C. the average unemployment rate for aboriginals living in reserve communities exceeds the non-aboriginal rate by over 300 percent. Within some B.C. first nations communities unemployment rates continue to exceed 75 percent, despite the fact that in many cases over half of the band members have been forced to leave their community due to lack of housing and employment opportunities. Those individuals forced to leave their communities face equally bleak prospects of finding employment in urban areas.
In an effort to create vital communities where the people can live and work in healthy environments, some B.C. coastal first nations have taken a long and careful look at the potential of aquaculture development. Those first nations proceeding with aquaculture development within their traditional territories have arrived at their decision with the utmost respect for time-honoured cultural principles, which emphasize that all human activity should be conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner.
As revealed in this submission, the capacity of aquaculture development to significantly impact the economies of first nations communities is a documented fact. What is equally important is that first nations aquaculture projects, including partnerships with large corporations, reveal that respect for the environment and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they can proceed hand in hand. The involvement of first nations in aquaculture therefore creates a unique and revolutionary model for the development of natural resources in B.C.
For non-aboriginals, environmental sustainability often becomes a buzzword. For first nations people, it is a way of life — a principle that has guided their culture for thousands of years. Given that many first nations are adopting aquaculture as a primary solution to the economic crisis facing their communities, and because B.C.'s aquaculture development will occur within first nations traditional territories, the province has an undeniable obligation to allow aquaculture policy development to be guided by substantial input from those first nations who are basing the survival of their communities and their cultures upon this industry.
Aquaculture is a glimmer of hope for coastal communities that are facing all of the issues that I have described here. The associations with the leadership of coastal first nations that are participating are moving forward in a manner that the creation and development of this new industry is going to happen.
We are taking a position that we want to work with governments, industries and interest groups to be able to develop an industry that can be sustainable in terms of job opportunities, protecting the values and the culture of the first nations people, as well as minimizing the impacts and looking after the environment that we choose to work and live in.
We have models of first nations success in aquaculture, be it shellfish….Comox First Nation is a very good model, if you haven't had a chance or if you get a chance in the future, to visit. In five years they have developed and implemented their business plan where they are over $1 million in sales now. They create 20 to 30 full-time employment.
The beauty of aquaculture is that it's sustainable. You can offer work that is year-round. It's not seasonal. It creates opportunities for people to begin to enjoy the amenities that the rest of society enjoys, whether it's mortgages or whether it's credit to improve their quality and standard of life that otherwise wouldn't happen.
The Kitasoo First Nation has asked me to speak on their behalf today. I gather the committee could not get into Kitasoo. I spoke with Chief Percy Starr yesterday. He has asked me to convey to this committee their successes and to be on record of their accomplishment. I'm going to read a bit of a brief that I have on the Kitasoo community, and this is from them.
Having relied for decades on an economy based on the commercial salmon fishery, the Kitasoo First Nation faced extreme economic hardship when the industry collapsed. The Kitasoo dealt with their change in economic circumstances by developing an economic revitalization plan focusing on aquaculture, forestry and tourism.
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The leadership of the community has always believed in community decision-making based on consensus. Therefore, the movement to these new sectors involved considerable community discussion and debate. The positive and negative aspects of every development, every proposed logging cutblock and every significant tenure application was examined and granted or revoked by the people, based on factual information and case study.
This inclusive process reviewed developments from an economic, cultural, environmental and social perspective. The community's review of salmon aquaculture took over one and a half years to reach consensus.
Kitasoo Seafoods Ltd. The Kitasoo band council formed Kitasoo Seafoods Ltd. in 1985 to construct and operate a new processing plant. This modern processing plant specializes in spawn and kelp, farmed salmon and sea cucumber. The company also manages fishing vessels and commercial fishing licences for various types of seafood.
Kitasoo Seafoods is managed by the Kitasoo Development Corp. The board of directors of the Kitasoo Seafoods company holds all shares in trust for the Kitasoo band members. Kitasoo Seafoods, Kitasoo Development Corp., Kitasoo Aqua Farms are all wholly owned and operated by the Kitasoo band.
The day-to-day operations of the Kitasoo Seafoods company are under the direction of a management team that is supported by a corporate lawyer, an accountant and a bookkeeper. The Kitasoo Development Corp. directors make all major company decisions, such as investments and major capital purchases. The processing plant is capable of processing a large variety of seafood products. Since 1985 it has processed frozen geoducks; sea cucumber; red urchin; wild salmon, fresh and frozen; salmon roe; and herring-roe on-kelp.
In September 2000 Kitasoo Seafoods began processing farmed salmon. The processing plant offers the following services: custom seafood processing; harvest and transport of seafood; aquaculture support services, including freight, anchoring, counting, size-grading and colour-grading; disposal of seafood waste products; leasing of commercial seafood licences; operation of commercial seafood licences; crew accommodations.
The Kitasoo Seafoods company employs 30 full-time-equivalent jobs when processing is at full operation. The operation of this plant has been an economic boon to the community, contributing approximately $1 million in wages to the village economy in 2002. This success has been the result of an intensive training process to bring the crew up to competitive efficiencies of operation. Kitasoo Seafoods company is also in the following joint venture with Kitasoo Aqua Farms and Marine Harvest Canada.
Kitasoo Aqua Farms Ltd. was created to direct the development of a salmon aquaculture industry for the Kitasoo people. From its inception Kitasoo Aqua Farms struggled with economic challenges. In 1993 the farm was forced to suspend operations due to low fish prices and a rapidly changing industry. To save their enterprise, Kitasoo Aqua Farms began to seek a multinational partner with a large capital base and investment potential.
In 1997 Kitasoo Aqua Farms began negotiations with Nutreco Canada, which is Marine Harvest Canada, one of the largest salmon- and salmon-feed-producing companies in the world. In late 1998 Kitasoo Aqua Farms signed an agreement with Nutreco.
Kitasoo Aqua Farms owns the tenures to two fish farm sites in Jackson Pass and provides the labour for the farms. Marine Harvest Canada owns the fish farm equipment. This agreement has created an additional 15 full-time-equivalent jobs for Kitasoo First Nation members, worth $450,000 a year in wages — benefits of the Kitasoo Aqua Farms and Marine Harvest joint venture.
By the spring of 2001 the plant had processed one million pounds of farmed salmon, generating approximately $260,000 gross revenues, which was primarily paid out as wages to Kitasoo band members — employees. During 2002 the Kitasoo harvested and processed more salmon each week at the band-owned processing plant than was produced in an entire year at the prepartnership farm.
The plant currently processes 1.4 million pounds of farmed salmon each month. At 2004 farm-gate prices, this production generates gross revenues of approximately $2.2 million monthly.
Kitasoo Chief Percy Starr says: "The benefits of our partnership with Nutreco have been significant — increased employment, capacity-building and a recognition that the salmon farm is an important contributor to the community. Kitasoo Aqua Farms Ltd. is an important step towards our economic self-sufficiency. Of the 100 Kitasoo employed full-time in the community, 47 are employed in salmon farming."
The partnership with Nutreco has also brought greater capacity to the community. Nutreco, the Kitasoo and North Island College deliver a customized and accredited six-month aquaculture training program in the community. Twelve Kitasoo have graduated from the program and are now working on the salmon farms.
According to Chief Starr, band members are given opportunities and training to rise to management positions at the farms.
Environmental sustainability of joint venture. The site selection of the farms was subject to an intensive community consultation process to ensure that there would be minimal impacts on traditional food harvesting sites. In addition, the agreement with Nutreco contained strict environmental monitoring requirements and limits on overall development. Chief Starr says: "While deeply aware of the need to provide jobs for our people, the Kitasoo also embrace the important environmental, cultural and ecological values of our territory."
Kitasoo Aqua Farms has taken the responsibility for commissioning an ongoing environmental monitoring of the two fish sites in Jackson Pass.
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The Kitasoo fisheries program provides a trained fisheries diving crew and a professional biologist to do this monitoring. This monitoring is above the standards set by government agencies and is conducted independently of Marine Harvest Canada. The monitoring also includes a regular sampling of local seafood — clams, prawns, sea cucumbers — which are sent to CFIA and Health Canada for contaminate determinations. To date there have been no significant impacts reported.
While Marine Harvest Canada has policies in place to control sea lice in the farm fish stocks, Kitasoo Aqua Farms is collaborating with UBC to develop survey and study techniques for analysis of the sea lice farm salmon–wild salmon relationships in the area. Kitasoo Aqua Farms is committed to closing down the farmsites if negative impacts are demonstrated.
The Kitasoo have also addressed the environmental concerns regarding the accumulation of fish waste. All fish waste is transported to Vancouver Island to be composted into garden fertilizer.
In conclusion, while the involvement in finfish aquaculture is controversial, the benefits to the Kitasoo first nations have been considerable. An increase in jobs — a total of 47 people working full-time — has brought not only increased wealth into the village, but it has increased self-esteem and self-confidence in young Kitasoo workers. For the first time they feel that they have some options for the future, as many of the skills that they require will be transferable to other jobs.
That is the position of the Kitasoo people. It's quite obvious that the benefits of aquaculture have been well received there. It's worked well for this community. They continue to grow and expand — keeping in mind the limited opportunities in these remote communities.
I'm going to give time to the directors and leaders from their respective communities to maybe give a brief presentation from their communities as well.
T. Williams: Once again, my name is Ted Williams. I'd like to thank the committee for an opportunity to make a presentation on behalf of Cowichan Tribes.
I guess where it started for me was back in the early 1980s when we started to see a turnaround in regard to employment and training opportunities in our own community. That time was when we really started to experience the downturn of the major industries that first nations people participated in on the B.C. coast. That would be fishing and forestry.
Back in 1980 and 1981 Cowichan Tribes had 48 of their youth commit suicide in less than a two-year period. A lot of that was relative to coming back from the 1960s and 1970s when we were experiencing great opportunity for employment in forestry and fishing industries.
After basically the crash of those two primary industries for first nations, the elders and senior administration in our community were scrambling to try to find answers about what we could do to try to alleviate not only suicides but foster care and marital breakdown. Many of the symptoms of an unhealthy community were rampant at that time. We were busy looking for answers.
I think that back in the 1960s we were comparable with the unemployment rate in the province for on-reserve and off-reserve, but now most recently, coming out of the early 1980s, we exceeded 90-percent unemployment rates.
My understanding in the province is if we reach 12 percent unemployment, we're in a recession. If we're in around 24 percent, we're in a depression. I wondered: what does it mean when you're 90-percent unemployed?
The only term I can apply to that is "suicidal," and that's what we've been experiencing — not only in Cowichan but in many of our coastal communities where our people were so totally reliant on those industries and unknowingly heading to the point where the employment and training opportunities were going to become virtually non-existent for our first nations people. I mean, to try to get into those industries today is virtually impossible.
What we've been doing in Cowichan is that we've set ourselves on a pathway to start reinventing ourselves. Knowing full well that those industries had basically dried up for us, we have started to get into other opportunities of employment. Since then, we have become the primary contractor for building natural gas pipelines in Victoria and, in fact, for the remainder of the Island. We were the prime contractor for Centra Gas and later on Terasen Gas on Vancouver Island.
We started to get into areas that were totally unfamiliar to us, but at the same time, we're in a position on Vancouver Island — located right on the highway — where we could in fact embrace opportunities that were virtually right out our front door. But in many of the communities that is not the case. A lot of communities are living in isolated areas on the coast of Vancouver Island or even further north, up in the northern part of the mainland. A lot of the communities just simply don't have those mainstream opportunities like Cowichan does.
We've managed to get ourselves into a position where we've been able to diversify and have gotten into a number of opportunities, but at the same time, over the last 20 years we've only enabled ourselves to get down to a 90-percent unemployment rate with a membership of 4,000 band members. So in spite of all our best efforts, we still continue to struggle and to strive to provide opportunities for our youth.
I think it's a well-known fact that our youth are not as successful off reserve as they are on reserve. So in order for us to really make a difference in our community, those opportunities are usually or generally birthed from within our own community. When we can direct that, we find we can create a lot more opportunity for our youth.
I'm the business development officer for the Cowichan Tribes, so I've been actively researching and
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developing businesses for the band for the last eight years. I've worked for the development corporation for the last 16 years, and eight of those years have been in economic development.
I've had firsthand experience in knowing what those struggles are and some of the successes we've enjoyed. But at the same time, I can see where there's opportunity for us, whereas I look at so many other first nation coastal communities that simply don't have much of an opportunity to get going. Aquaculture is one of those opportunities that we see can bring some relief to some of the first nation coastal communities.
Thank you for the opportunity to present.
A. Sewid: Alvin Sewid, Mamalilikulla-Qwe'Qwa'Sot'Em. I'd just like to say that I fully support Richard in what he's doing. I also agree with what Ted has been saying about reinventing yourselves. I'm here today because I have band members who work in the aquaculture industry, but today they're all out in Nitinaht for a commercial chum fishery. So they've reinvented themselves, and they've got two jobs going now, thanks to the aquaculture business. That's all I have to add to it.
M. Martin: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good afternoon. Good to see you again, Scott. I think the last time I saw you, you were up in Tofino. We were both thirsty.
S. Fraser: Well, water was the issue.
M. Martin: Actually, I haven't got much to add to what my three friends have already said here, except to tell you that the last time I appeared before this committee I got my hand slapped by one of my hereditary chiefs. You know, because at the time he didn't offer any alternative to what we're trying to do here, my response to him was: "Damn that. If I have to do it again to protect the few little jobs we have in the industry, well, I'll do it again." So here I am.
My relationship with Creative Salmon since that time has broadened a bit. We're now getting into a joint venture with them, and that in itself opens up other opportunities for my tribe. So we're still building our relationship, and I haven't got much different to add to what I've already stated to this committee. Thank you very much.
R. Harry: Perhaps in closing, I'd like to just comment to the committee. You have been given a task to make recommendations to the government of B.C. I want to remind you that the people that have been here for thousands of years need to play a role and will play a role.
You know, you have a choice of how you're going to make your recommendations. You're either going to stymie an industry that should be a healthy industry, or you're going to make recommendations that are going to support a viable industry, continue to create training, job opportunities and healthier communities, lending itself to improved infrastructure on the coast and increasing the tax base that this province continues to strive for. It has all of the ingredients that government should be supporting.
First nations that choose to get involved in aquaculture do so to overcome jobs deficiencies, social issues and just the health situation in their communities. Economic development is a vehicle to deal with a lot of those issues. When you've got healthy communities, the improvement in the education of our younger people will also grow.
You know, there's more than politics in what you're doing. I think you have a moral obligation to look at coastal communities and the opportunities that are there. Thank you.
T. Williams: I just wanted to make one last comment. I know for myself of the early 1980s incidence of mass suicides that were going on in our community. I had later run into this understanding about something that was said in Russia. In Russia they say that the quickest way to make a person kill himself is in fact to take his work away from him. Back in the early '80s and going forward from there, my experience has been massive suicides in aboriginal communities on this coast.
I know in the last 20 years, in our efforts with economic development that we've been able to…. I don't know how to say "bring suicides down to an acceptable level" because — you know what? — suicide is unacceptable.
Sustainable, environmentally friendly developments on our B.C. coast for our aboriginal people are absolutely necessary. If we can do it environmentally friendly and sustainably for the well-being of our youth and our children, I think there is great value in that. That's all I want.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much to all of you for your presentation. I'll open the floor for comments.
S. Fraser: Moses, you mentioned you got your hand slapped by…. This is obviously a difficult and complex issue for all of us. You as chief councillors see it. There are varying opinions within the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and the Ahousaht First Nation. I understand that you've engaged and are working with Creative Salmon in a way which you explained to us in Tofino.
We do have other nations that haven't made that step. All along the coast, we've had another…. There are those at the Kitasoo. We didn't go to Klemtu because the weather prevented us. Maybe we'll get another shot at that. I don't know. There's Kitkatla. There's an issue there. Again, a community somewhat split on whether or not they want to engage in finfish aquaculture.
But by far the most submissions we're had from first nations up and down the coast were with great
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concern to salmon farms within the traditional territories. It was usually around the precautionary principle, protecting the wild stock which has always been so inextricably part of the first nations history. So we do sometimes run into issues where we've got diverging opinions between neighbouring first nations, and it's difficult for us as a committee to reconcile that.
I don't know how many first nations you represent as a group on the coast comparatively or percentagewise. Certainly, those that have addressed our committee — most of the first nations — have had some great concerns about having salmon farms within their traditional territories. Can you comment on that or help us with that dilemma?
R. Harry: We have about 20 first nations members with the association. I see that growing as time goes.
Your comments with regard to the wild salmon. I'm a commercial salmon fisherman. I own a seine licence and a vessel and have the experience firsthand — you know, the impacts of the decline of the wild fishery.
The decline of the wild fishery really has nothing to do with fish farms. The two are totally irrelevant to each other. There are a lot more other reasons. You just said the word: precautionary. The application of that word to management of the wild fishery has led to the closures. It has nothing to do with the number of stocks. It is the application of policies — the wild salmon policy, the conservation. They want to preserve 100 percent and nothing for the socioeconomics of an industry that's always been fairly viable.
I don't mind sitting down another time with you and explaining more in detail whether interest groups have lobbied and had their way in the creation of these policies. The number of sockeye, for example…. We had a big run this year. We had a 30-hour fishery — two days. It wasn't because there was a lack of numbers.
You've got the species at a risk. There is a little creek. They want to save the fish, so you forgo a $50 million industry. That is what's happening. You need to better understand that if you're going to be making recommendations.
S. Fraser: Thank you for that. I understand your position, but what I'm saying is that there are many first nations chiefs, councils, elders along the coast that have a different take on that. With respect to their positions, they have concerns about whether or not they are consulted adequately around a number of resource uses, fish farms being one, and aquaculture in general being another. Some will not agree with you on that.
I'm not judging what you say is right or wrong. I'm just saying that you said to be mindful of first nations in our decision-making, and part of that mindfulness, of course, has to include the submissions we've got.
We've got a lot of submissions with first nations that have great concerns and do not share your confidence that fish farming can be safely done within the traditional territory. We've heard that a lot. I'm just saying that's a dilemma. I didn't really expect an answer to that. I was hoping somebody would give us an answer to help wrestle with that one. We do have a dilemma there — as you do within your own nations, I know, in some cases.
A. Sewid: Can I just add something to that on there. We have a problem up in the north end of the Island where one of the larger bands has sort of kidnapped a smaller band. They've sided with groups, and they've gone in and just bombarded the smaller bands with all the horror stories that are supposed to happen with aquaculture and everything. It's a political game that's bringing these people forward to tell you what they've been telling you. I don't know how to get through to them.
J. Yap: Thank you for your presentation. I want to commend you for what must be very difficult tasks that you face with the challenges — not just within your communities, but in communities in general — on this initiative you're taking to develop economic opportunities for your people, for your youth, in aquaculture.
Following along what my colleague Scott asked, what would you say to those who put down the value of the jobs that you're seeking to create for your people? It obviously sounds like you value them, and I'm interested in what you would say to those who would denigrate the jobs that aquaculture can provide.
T. Williams: It's been my experience that from my perspective — most recently, I would suggest, within the last ten to 15 years — we're starting to see some indication of turnaround in the economic development or the building of economies in first nation communities in British Columbia. I tested with the Osoyoos Indian band, the Cowichan band and a number of bands in British Columbia that are, in fact, starting to get onto their feet.
In many of the communities that are struggling today with many of the symptoms of having these incredible social issues, you will find generally that they have not embraced economic development in a way that is meaningful for their community. In the meantime, whether it's to do with forestry or fishing, at the community level sometimes their positions are unfounded about why they even disagree. They had enough information….
I think getting that information to the communities in a meaningful way that would help them to weigh these things carefully and possibly bring the benefit home to their own community and start to see where….
I know in our community — you know what? — we're basically sick and tired of handouts, and I think we're a lot more open to hand-ups. We want to get up, and we want to earn our own way. I think in a lot of other communities in the future, in aboriginal communities, you're going to begin to see that starting to happen.
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A lot of aboriginal communities can stand up and say, "You know what? We don't agree with all these things," but at the same time you have to ask them: "Do you agree with all the suicides in your community? Do you agree with foster care? Do you agree with all these symptoms that are in your community? Do you agree with that? Okay, because if you agree with that, and you endorse that…."
These kinds of opportunities can be brought into the community to alleviate that. They can't have one and not the other. That's what I'm seeing. Yeah, maybe we're still having five suicides a year, or less. To us that may be an accomplishment, and from a numbers perspective, it may be provincially acceptable. However, it takes a lot of hard work — we've been able, ourselves, to forge that way — to actually start making a contribution to our community.
I mean, you guys are all very aware of how difficult it is to be a competitor in this economy. Just by virtue of competing and producing goods and services in our community, we are attesting to how hard we're trying to accomplish these things.
J. Yap: You're finding, as you transition to this, that you're able to balance your traditions and your history in the context of pursuing aquaculture as economic development?
T. Williams: Our cultural beliefs and the foundation of our culture are entrenched into our policies in our development corporation, as related to work, and we totally respect that.
I mean, when it's a first nations community, it's just not as cut and dried as it is off reserve because of the cultural piece and the social concerns. That means we have to be that much more competitive to be successful in the mainstream. Yet for the last five years we've had 50 employees at our development corporation, and last year we shot up to 325 employees. That is not an easy thing to accomplish, but we're trying, and we're getting onto that pathway.
An interesting situation happened in our community. We went and applied for one labour man position in our community, and 400 young guys applied for that job. It may seem insignificant, but I was so excited to see that many young people come to try to apply for a job.
To me that was a fantastic indicator of where the mindsets of our young people are heading — they want to get out, and they want to try to work. They need a helping hand, and that's what we want to do. We want to help them up. We don't want to give them a handout.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I think the point's been covered, but just a comment. Certainly, as Scott has mentioned, this seems to be the fulcrum of…. The first nations either acceptance or complete rejection of any aquaculture seems to be the heart of our debate, and of course, all the bands are strategically located up and down the coast.
I don't know what words of advice you can give us in guiding us through this. You mentioned that you have 22 signed up now, Richard? How many, in total, of the bands is that?
R. Harry: Oh, I haven't done that work, but it would be between 10,000 and 20,000 people, I would think, in the communities that are a part of our association.
What we have been able to do since we started the association is that we've tried to put together the best information possible so that people can begin to respect and support what other people — their neighbours and the first nations — are doing. That seems to be what we will continue to do.
As time goes on, we have more first nations expressing an interest. I have first nations…. Pardon me for saying "I." We have first nations that are now in the process of acquiring tenures that a year ago had zero tolerance. So the bottom line is opportunities, jobs, education, well-being — all of the things that we strive for in our own personal lives.
So that is carrying on, and I see that improvement over time as well.
C. Trevena: I'd just like to follow up, Richard, if I might, with Ron's question. You say that 20 first nations signed up as part of the alliance. How does the aboriginal aquaculture alliance…? That's the title, is it?
R. Harry: Association.
C. Trevena: Association, sorry. The Aboriginal Aquaculture Association — how does it work? Do the member bands contribute to it, or how are you financed to do your education work?
R. Harry: We're presently funded under Fisheries and Oceans, under the AAROM program. That's the acronym. I'm not sure how that…. But that's our initial funding. We are working towards a multi-year strategy to be able to better assist first nations with their planning, species information, business plans. You know, lack of capital is one of the big challenges, lack of capacity. You need to start somewhere, and if we can assist and provide that support to communities to develop within, then that's what we will do.
C. Trevena: So the funding is solely from the federal government, then. That's what's keeping you going?
R. Harry: That's right.
C. Trevena: The other question is: is it possible that we could get a list of the bands that are members of the association?
R. Harry: Yeah. We just finished our annual general meeting a month ago here in the Pacific Exchange in
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Campbell River. Those people who attend are officers and directors, so you're welcome to that list.
C. Trevena: That'd be great, and all the bands.
R. Harry: Not all the first nations could make it, but we did have enough.
R. Austin (Chair): Great. Thank you very much to all of you for that presentation. I appreciate it.
I'd now like to call Pat McLaughlin up to the witness table.
We are currently running one hour behind schedule. As I mentioned earlier, we'll keep going until six o'clock, and if there are any people who we haven't heard from today or are unable to hear from, then we'll hear from them again when we have another hearing in Victoria.
J. Yap: I'm wondering if there's any opportunity to go beyond 6 p.m. I understand that some of us want to get away, but unless there are some staffing or technical issues, I wonder if we….
R. Austin (Chair): There are numerous MLAs who have to be elsewhere. That's the problem, unlike yesterday. Actually, yesterday we did go till quarter to eight and ended up with four of us here, and the witnesses were speaking to four MLAs, hardly the whole committee.
D. Jarvis: The Chair has to leave too — doesn't he?
R. Austin (Chair): Yeah. The Chair does have to leave.
J. Yap: Just for the record, we will have the opportunity for another public hearing?
R. Austin (Chair): Yes. There is a wait-list of people who want to present today already, so those people plus any who we don't get to today will speak to us again at another hearing.
Sorry, Pat. Please begin.
P. McLaughlin: I'd like to thank all of you for giving us the opportunity for this today. We, too, were on a waiting list, so I am pleased that we're able to be here.
My name is Pat McLaughlin, and with me is Shelley McKeachie. I've been a resident of Denman Island for 25 years, and Shelley and family have had property there for ten years.
We're here today to talk about the shellfish aquaculture industry. I understand that most of the presentations have been about the fish farming, so hopefully you will tune that out and tune us in.
R. Austin (Chair): Actually, we've had quite a few about shellfish.
P. McLaughlin: Oh, I'm glad to hear that.
We represent the Denman Island Marine Stewardship Committee, which was formed in 1998. Its mission is to ensure that all marine activities are conducted on a scale and according to a code of practice and conduct which conserves the diverse values of the marine environment. I know that those are very flowery kinds of words, but this is really what we stand for.
Baynes Sound is formed by the western shore of Denman Island and the eastern shore of Vancouver Island. We brought this along with us. I know it's going to be hard for you to see, but perhaps later on you might have a look. It does show Denman Island, Baynes Sound. It also shows the existing shellfish leases that take up over 90 percent of the coastline of Denman Island. This is quite obvious on the map, if you have a look.
S. McKeachie: As you can see, we're not high-tech. We apologize. If we'd had more time, we would have had a PowerPoint.
P. McLaughlin: It should be noted that Denman Island is one of 13 major islands between the southern British Columbia mainland and Vancouver Island. These were designated as trust islands by the provincial government in 1974. The trust mandate is to preserve and protect the trust area and its unique amenities and environment for the benefit of the residents of the trust area and the province generally.
I mention this because it's not something that is brought up very often, particularly in relation to Baynes Sound, where so much of the shellfish activity takes place — that Denman Island is a trust island and that its mandate is to preserve and protect the natural beauty of the island not just for those who live there, but for all of the province generally.
The trust islands are meant to be unique, and those who encourage and support the expansion of the shellfish industry must be cognizant of that fact. What has already been approved, supported and promoted by the government — creating the significant growth of the shellfish farming industry in Baynes Sound — has not acknowledged Denman Island as a trust island, nor have these waters adjacent to Denman Island been preserved and protected for the benefit of B.C. people. This should be a concern for all of us, I think.
The Denman Island Marine Stewardship Committee making this presentation was formed in 1998 because of our concern about the rapid expansion of the industry. We are particularly concerned about the siting of shellfish tenures adjacent to residences, recreation areas, tourist operations and other commercial operations. The previous speaker — I think it was Mr. Watson — talked about these conflicts and the siting as being a major concern.
Another concern is the unregulated activities of the shellfish industry. Thirdly, there is no government code of practice and a consequent lack of enforcement and regulation.
Fourthly is the continuing pressure for expansion of tenures in Baynes Sound, which we don't think is appropriate.
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Fifthly, the support and active promotion of the industry by the provincial government, with little obvious concern about the environmental, social and economic impacts of these activities on the people who live in the area.
Lastly, the lack of sufficient environmental studies prior to expansion.
Under our concerns, what should be understood is that the face of the industry has changed significantly from benign, unobtrusive, small enterprises suitable to our islands, operated by local residents, to much larger enterprises that use structures and mechanized equipment and are often operated by non-residents and, in some cases, by foreign-owned companies. For example, Island Scallops is owned by Edgewater Foods from Nevada, USA. That was only one that I picked out.
The fact that the industry is allowed to operate seven days a week, night or day, with its accompanying noise, smell and visual pollution of the foreshore and offshore in areas that are known to be important wildlife habitat and are often adjacent to residential and recreational areas does not make it appropriate for a trust island or for any similar area.
Apparently ignored in the pressure to expand the industry are those people who live adjacent to Baynes Sound, those who use it for recreation, swimming, boating, etc. and those who have other reasons for using the waters. For example, the Comox military base uses it for their exercises both for the naval cadets and for their own military purposes. Water bombers that scoop up water in times of fire hazard — we've noted that many times, particularly over the last few years. It takes a lot of space for a very large aircraft to scoop up water, if you can imagine. Log booms that travel Baynes Sound. Two passing each other will have difficulty during inclement weather. These are just examples of other uses of Baynes Sound that should not be given over to the shellfish industry entirely.
It's a sad commentary on our government that is supposed to govern for all its citizens that it has ignored the concerns of many. Instead, it favours and promotes an industry that has yet to show it can operate with respect for the environment and other stakeholders and without negatively impacting the existing and future potential of other industries. Nor does it provide meaningful employment in small coastal areas.
In the case of Denman Island very few tenures are locally owned and operated. Almost all the employees come by boat or by truck from Vancouver Island. They have to use the beach as a latrine because there are no facilities for them. This is not acceptable, especially in front of or on residential properties.
We would like to make it clear: we've never been opposed to the industry if it is sited in appropriate locations away from populated areas or where the upland residents have been consulted and have given their approval. Many years ago we were told that before there would be approval of a tenure the upland owner would be consulted and their approval requested. This didn't happen in the past, and it certainly doesn't happen at the present time. As long as the industry is located adjacent to residential areas and is increasingly more mechanized, there will certainly continue to be conflict.
In 1998 the government of the day, the NDP, planned to double the amount of area of Crown land to be leased to the shellfish industry, both intertidal and off-bottom, and quadruple production by 2008 even though, according to Dr. Leah Bendell-Young from a study:
"Little is known about the impacts of intensive shellfish farming on intertidal ecosystems. Baynes Sound is one of the most ecologically sensitive regions along the west coast of British Columbia. Ninety percent of its intertidal beaches are under shellfish tenure, with further expansions currently in progress. The use of the intertidal solely for shellfish purposes has been made in the absence of scientific study of how much of the intertidal region can be used for shellfish farming without compromising its ecology."
This was taken from a paper in Environmental Conservation by Dr. Leah Bendell-Young in 2006, so it is very current.
It is of interest to us that over the many years, the problems have existed primarily due to the industrialization and mechanization of the industry. We've had little or no positive response from the ministries responsible for the promotion and regulation of the industry. This is in spite of the many letters that have been written by our committee and the general public asking for solutions to the problems we have identified.
The following are our concerns. One: siting of tenures. In the past when the industry was small-scale and unobtrusive, it was not as significant that a tenure was adjacent to residential properties. In fact, often the upland owner was the holder of the tenure. However, the industry has changed significantly, and I can't emphasize that enough.
It has gone from being very unobtrusive, inoffensive and ecologically sound to something that is now highly mechanized, noisy, smelly — as someone pointed out of one of the other operations — and unacceptable when it's sited in an inappropriate area.
It also precludes the use of the foreshore and offshore for recreation and tourism and other commercial activities. With the increase in population in the Comox Valley that has already occurred and the probability of even more people in the foreseeable future, it is not sensible to fill Baynes Sound with ever more rafts, buoys, boats and all the rest of the paraphernalia the industry uses on the foreshore and offshore for the growth and harvesting of shellfish. One just has to go to Courtenay, Comox and now the proposed expansion at Union Bay to understand the population is moving in that direction. It does seem inappropriate to fill Baynes Sound with simply shellfish operations.
Another concern we have is that there is no government code of practice. In 2002 the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries began to develop a code of practice intended to be mandatory. The proposed draft
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lacked the legal foundation for enforcement. After many hours of giving our input to the government people designing the code of practice, the whole idea was dropped. Instead they decided they would rely on the B.C. Shellfish Growers Association code of practice. This is simply a list of good intentions but will bear no consequences if the grower doesn't live up to the code. In addition to that, not all growers belong to the association.
It was then determined regulation would be included in each tenure management plan. The outcome is that the industry is now self-regulated and complaint-driven, because whatever regulation there is, is written in the individual management plan. The public does not have access to the plan without going to freedom of information, at a cost to the person who might want to find that information. They have no way of knowing whether there is even cause for a complaint, and this is not acceptable.
Another concern is modification of the beaches. Large areas are covered with predator netting. If you have a chance to look at our pictures here, you will see large areas of the beach covered with predator netting. There are a couple of aerial shots there that show how much of the beach is covered.
Before the netting is put in place, the beach is raked. Rocks are removed. Other materials are removed. Rock walls are created. Sometimes they bring in heavy equipment to establish rock walls that help to confine the product. They use fencing and rebar.
Trucks drive on the beach. You'll also see pictures of trucks. As I said, I lived on Denman Island for 25 years. It was always our understanding that trucks were never allowed to drive on the beach. For goodness' sake, if a resident drove a truck on the beach, you would be reprimanded for sure by Fisheries. Now you see trucks driving on the beach and roadways that are obvious. They drive right out to low tide.
Streams are channelled. You'll also see a picture there of netting, but also of where a stream has been channelled. Certainly, our understanding many years ago was that this was an absolute no-no as well, but it's happening.
There are metal structures on the beach where they actually make kinds of rails. Again, you'll see that. All these things are not very obvious at high tide. If you drive up the Island Highway and look over toward Denman Island across Baynes Sound, you will see the floats and the rafts with the structures on top of them. But it's at low tide when you get a really good look to see what is happening there with metal and rebar and the hazards that are created for boaters and swimmers.
Of course, there is visual and noise pollution as well. As a result of all the equipment that is on the beaches, it restricts public access as well. That's greatly diminished.
Another concern we have is garbage from the industry on the foreshore. I don't know whether you saw any of the publicity that came from our beach cleanup on Denman Island. In 2005 it was decided that we would have a beach cleanup. The purpose of it was to bring people — residents and visitors — down to the foreshore to have a look at the foreshore ecology in the hope of educating people and at the same time clean up the mess that we assumed would come from the general public — from boaters and people who would be dropping coffee cups and that kind of thing.
Instead, what we found was that over 90 percent of the pollution on the beach, the garbage on the beach, was from the shellfish industry — which really surprised us, I must say. The elementary school participated in the beach cleanup, and as I said, over 90 percent of it was from the shellfish industry.
Then in 2006, this past May, we had a second beach cleanup — hoping that it wouldn't be necessary, that the industry would get the message. In spite of the fact that the B.C. Shellfish Growers sent out a letter to all the growers advising them to clean up their garbage before we had the community beach cleanup, we discovered again that over 90 percent was from the shellfish industry and that it was twice as much as the previous year.
S. McKeachie: Can you say, Pat, how many tonnes we carted away?
P. McLaughlin: Yes.
Shelley is reminding me that three tonnes of garbage was collected. This did not cover the whole beach on Baynes Sound. I dare say that it didn't cover one-third of the beach.
The debris is mostly plastic and metal, which is non-biodegradable. This time, this past year, the Shellfish Growers Association offered to contribute to the cost of taking the debris to the landfill in Cumberland. As you know, we have to take our landfill off the island. They paid the tipping fees of $176. The total cost to our voluntary organization was over a thousand dollars. This cost does not recognize all the hours of volunteer labour by the school children and the residents.
Another concern we have is the destruction of shellfish predators — starfish, crabs and moon snails. These are frequently destroyed by shellfish workers. This practice promotes further creation of a monoculture. You'll see a picture in here of all the moon shells that were discovered on the island that had been gathered by the industry and simply tossed into the woods. The picture says a thousand words.
Our concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears, so we're taking this opportunity to request that the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture, in its report to the Legislature, recommend the following.
Firstly, that there be no further expansion of the shellfish industry in Baynes Sound. As I mentioned before, there is already too much. There has been too much for a trust island for many years, and there should simply be no further expansion.
Secondly, that the government develop its own code of practice that protects the existing communities as well as the shellfish farmers. I think there is an obligation to let them know exactly where they stand and what the parameters are of their operations.
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Thirdly, that there be a consistent enforcement of its regulations. Right now you have to make a complaint to an inspector, who will then come out and observe. Unless that complaint is made, there is no inspection.
Fourthly, current unacceptable practices must be stopped. That's driving on the beach, metal and rebar fencing — those things that create hazards for the public.
Fifthly, that tenures located in inappropriate areas be moved to appropriate locations. This may sound like pie in the sky, but it's something that we think will help to resolve the problem.
Lastly, that further scientific studies be done to ensure that present industry practices are not negatively impacting the marine environment.
That's the end of our presentation. I want to thank you for listening. I would have made it lengthier. I wanted to go back and tell a little history of the situation on Baynes Sound, which goes back to 1983 when we first began complaining. Everything has changed — but for the worse, not for the better.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Pat, for your presentation.
S. Simpson: Just a couple of questions. Have you spoken or met with people in the industry or the companies directly involved? You're saying the growers association sent out some correspondence encouraging their member companies to clean up, before you did. But have you talked to the companies? If so, what kind of response did you get?
P. McLaughlin: In their code of practice, they suggest that they develop good relations between the upland owner and the leaseholder. In many cases, this happens. I'm certainly not condemning all shellfish growers. Our concern is the lack of regulation and the lack of code of practice.
I think we have a fair relationship with the Shellfish Growers Association. In fact, they did offer to help at our last beach cleanup. The executive director came and worked with the children on the beach, and offered to give a talk to the school children — from their point of view, of course. That was turned down by the school. We weren't in a position to agree or disagree, so the school said they didn't feel that was appropriate.
For one thing, one of the workers who helped with the beach cleanup works at the school and also happens to be a shellfish grower and also happens to be on our committee. So we do have input from a shellfish grower as well.
Yes, we do try to have good relations with them. I don't know that we feel it's our role to get along with them or support them. Our role really is to see where there are deficiencies and point them out.
S. Simpson: I'm not sure it's your role to get along with them. It's probably to engage them at least with your concerns, and you've done that.
The second question I have around that relates to ministries or government departments. What discussion have you had with government departments, either federally or provincially, about your concerns, and how have they responded?
S. McKeachie: Well, we've had many discussions. We were included in the discussions around the development of a code of practice. We've attended many meetings, spent many hours discussing with what was formerly BCAL and the progression as government changes down the line. So yes, we've had a lot of involvement with them.
We've also, as Pat said, had direct conversations and meetings with the BCSGA, but we have seen no changes to the positive with any of our concerns. That's why we're here today, hoping that this committee can take away our major concerns and somehow address them.
I just want to stress that it's very accurate to say that we do not want to see this industry shut down. That is not what we're about. We believe that the industry can be compatible with other users, but because it has changed substantially in the methods they use for production, it's no longer compatible. It's an industry now. It's intensely managed and mechanized, and these are adjacent to residential, tourism, recreational and other commercial operations.
In the past that was fine. Today it doesn't work because of the methods that the industry is using. It's made it non-compatible with those other users in many cases. We're talking noise in particular, although that's not the only thing. Remember, this is seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
They work to tides, so we're talking about a lot of this noise happening through the night. It's sited next to residential. This is why the conflict is happening. What we're asking today is that you look at these things and try to address some solutions. We feel, after many years of working on this, that siting criteria are essential and then of course the regulation of inappropriate…. No matter where it's sited, some of the activities are simply inappropriate and damaging to communities and the environment.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks very much, Pat, for your presentation. I appreciate it.
I'd now like to call Renée Mikaloff up to the witness table, please.
R. Mikaloff: Good afternoon. My name is Renée Mikaloff, and I live in Victoria. I would first of all like to thank the hon. members of this special committee for giving me the opportunity to share my views on salmon farming in British Columbia. My presentation is low-tech, but I'm hoping that my sharing of some insights will help this committee formulate their recommendations.
My interests in appearing before you are many. First and foremost, I am a very good friend of wild
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salmon. Secondly, I have a vested interest in the health of the coastal ecosystems, as I've spent years participating in various consensus-based planning processes, specifically the Kalum and north coast LRMPs.
I represented the conservation sector at the north coast, so I call myself an LRMP survivor. While at the north coast table, I became informed about ecosystem-based management, which ensures the coexistence of healthy ecosystems and communities and its intent of supporting a sustainable economy while protecting healthy ecosystems. I was thrilled when the provincial government supported this concept and the Great Bear rain forest agreement was announced on February 7, 2006.
For those committee members not familiar with the geographic areas encompassed in this agreement, it includes the central coast from Bute Inlet in the south to Princess Royal Island in the north and Tweedsmuir Park to the east, and the north coast from Aristazabal Island in the south to almost Stewart in the north. This large coastal area consists of about 6.4 million hectares, an area more than twice the size of Belgium.
This landmark agreement based on credible science was the culmination of years of collaboration between first nations, stakeholder groups and various industries. I think this model would work well in areas like Vancouver Island and the Broughton, where the salmon-farming industry and those opposed to it are here to stay.
This collaborative model could be incorporated into coastal marine planning, which the government has undertaken in many areas. Before I outline my recommendations to this committee, I'd like to comment on various sections of your terms of reference.
Section 1, which is: "The economic and environmental impacts of the aquaculture industry in B.C." I recognize the value of year-round employment and the economic benefits that this brings to communities where jobs in commercial fishing or timber harvesting have declined. I'm concerned that few have questioned why those industries declined or whether anyone has learned lessons that if an industry engages in unsustainable practices, the people and the jobs will not be sustained.
The economic benefits and the jobs from the aquaculture industry are only possible — and I'm talking about the salmon-farming industry here — because the industry uses cheap, inferior technology, which is the open-net-pens, that contaminates the marine environment.
However, the most serious environmental impact of the aquaculture industry is the threat it poses to young wild salmon as they swim near these floating sea lice reservoirs. The most recent scientific study, which showed a mortality of up to 95 percent of young wild salmon from sea lice, is conclusive evidence that salmon farms kill wild salmon.
It is arrogant to deny these results, as they confirm what people in Scotland, Norway and Ireland have said for years — that sea lice from salmon farms are killing wild fish stocks.
Hopefully, the aquaculture industry will deal with the sea lice problem responsibly rather than attempt to discredit this peer-reviewed report. We can't afford to waste more time dithering over science while young salmon continue to die.
There are numerous other environmental impacts that really concern me about the salmon-farming industry in B.C., such as escaped Atlantics; contamination of the marine environment with waste products, antibiotics and pesticides such as SLICE; as well as the killing of thousands of marine mammals and the recent killing of a grizzly bear on the Sunshine Coast.
The salmon-farming industry needs to become environmentally responsible and become a good corporate citizen in this province. Currently it is anything but.
Section 2 of your terms of reference: "The economic impact of aquaculture on B.C.'s coastal and isolated communities." When considering this, I suggest we also include a cost-benefit analysis of the ecosystem services that wild salmon contribute to these communities. They're feeding over 100 species of wildlife on the coast; fertilizing the river, stream and forest ecosystems, etc. Also, I would like to know: what is the value of uncontaminated clam, oyster or abalone beds?
Section 3: "Sustainable options for aquaculture in B.C. that balance economic goals with environmental imperatives." This really represents an interesting challenge for this committee and also those who really care about our coastal ecosystems and the communities they support.
It is indeed complex to balance economic goals within an environmental context and ecological limits, but my experience at the north coast LRMP convinces me that this goal is not only necessary but it's also achievable. History has shown that healthy ecosystems and healthy communities are mutually dependent, so I prefer we learn from past mistakes rather than repeat them. I hope that this committee will have the courage to find the right balance when making its recommendations to government.
Sustainability, to me, seeks to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural environments both now and into the future. Salmon farming currently practised in B.C. is not sustainable.
It takes two to four pounds of valuable fish protein, which originates from developing countries and is turned into feed, to raise one pound of farmed Atlantic salmon. You don't have to be a math whiz to realize that this is not the best outcome. It's net loss of valuable protein in developing countries, and it also cannot be sustained indefinitely. If the salmon-farming industry is serious about sustainability, it needs to raise herbivorous fish or provide herbivorous feed to salmon.
Secondly, the industry needs to become more environmentally and socially responsible by considering all future generations, not just their corporate interests.
Section 4 is: "B.C.'s regulatory regime as it compares to other jurisdictions." Alaska has banned all finfish farming, and many of its residents are concerned about fish farms expanding to the B.C.'s north
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coast, as Atlantic salmon escapees have already appeared in Alaskan waters. In 2003 California passed a law that prohibits raising farmed salmon, genetically engineered fish and other non-native finfish in California waters. Washington State has an expanding salmon industry that produces mainly Atlantic salmon but also chinook and coho salmon and Donaldson steelhead. Washington and the U.S. generally have stronger environmental laws that mandate a regulatory process.
Oregon currently doesn't have any salmon farms, although it approved the National Offshore Aquaculture Act amendment to give power to any state that does not want fish farms to exclude them from their waters.
Recommendations regarding the salmon-farming industry in B.C. I've split it into three different regions. For the north coast region, no finfish farms now or in the future. The area should be declared a wild-salmon-only, fish-farm-free zone.
This can easily be done by zoning and coastal marine planning processes that the government has undertaken already. The rationale is: the state of wild salmon in the region is healthy. According to the economic study for the Northwest Institute, wild salmon of the Skeena River watershed are the economic driver of the northwest economy and contribute almost $110 million annually.
The Nass River is another major salmon watershed located north of the Skeena River. Its lucrative fishery is managed by a joint committee. The value of the sockeye catch averages about $10 million annually, and benefits are equally shared amongst all stakeholders.
In August 2006 the Sierra Club of Canada issued the Nass River Salmon Fishery Report Card, which gave the fishery an overall grade of "B," which is probably as good as it gets in salmon fisheries management.
Given the importance of the wild salmon in the north coast region and the fiasco that has unfolded in the Broughton, there is zero tolerance for salmon farming in the region. I'm sure this committee has heard from people up there.
Should the government be arrogant enough to approve fish farm sites proposed near the mouth of the Skeena against the wishes of the people, there will be a war on the water that will rival the demonstrations over Clayoquot Sound, and the political backlash will be fierce. It is really unthinkable to have wild salmon put at risk in the northern portion of the Great Bear rain forest.
For the central coast region I recommend a moratorium on salmon farm expansion in there as well. My rationale is the following. The existing salmon farm in Klemtu has caused an escalation of tension between various first nations in the area. A process should be established to enable joint management of the marine areas in their shared territories to foster cooperative economic development that will benefit all first nations equitably.
For the south coast region I'm recommending a moratorium on salmon farm expansion. The existing salmon farms should be given the ultimatum of shaping up or shipping out.
The immediate step that this industry must take is to fallow the farms when the young wild salmon are migrating out of the rivers and streams into the ocean. Such action taken in 2003 in the Broughton significantly reduced the overall abundance of sea lice on juvenile pink and chum salmon. We know that sea lice are lethal to juvenile salmon.
The next step is to have independent scientists sample sea lice levels on B.C. salmon farms. Currently the scientists not affiliated with the salmon-farming industry as well as DFO scientists are not permitted to sample lice on fish farms.
Thirdly, the industry should be regulated and closely monitored by various government agencies. The existing salmon farms should be relocated away from salmon highways, which are the major migration routes.
Lastly, research funding must be prioritized to find alternatives to open net pens. The current technology used in B.C. is unacceptable. We and the environment deserve better.
Thank you very much for this committee.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Renée.
Do members have any comments? Questions?
S. Simpson: One question. When you were involved in the discussions around the LRMP and participated in that process, did discussions around fish farms and aquaculture come up in those dialogues?
R. Mikaloff: It came up when the first nations — and I'm thinking of Kitkatla — shared and presented to the table their land and marine planning. They presented, and the issue came up. Otherwise, it was not part of our mandate. It was only to do with land — the terrestrial part. But the issue did come up in Kitkatla specifically in their land and marine planning.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
I'd like to call Shauna MacKinnon. She's not here? As Shauna MacKinnon isn't here, I would like to call Leanne Brunt and Barb Walker.
B. Walker: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I'm Barb Walker, and this is Leanne Brunt. We're the co-founding directors of the First Dollar Alliance.
As this committee is already aware, of course, we are advocates for the hard-working resource employees and their families and communities. We're here to support B.C.'s sustainable salmon-farming sector and to discuss the sector and its sustainability within the context of resource families and their communities.
The objective of First Dollar is to increase the public's understanding of B.C.'s economy, especially the understanding of people who live in the bigger cities
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like Vancouver and Victoria, and to help them understand the fact that their urban livelihoods are very much tied to the activities that go on in resource communities like Campbell River, where we both live.
When we think about the debate in which you're all involved, we think about the great need there is today for better education on the importance of the kinds of jobs that the aquaculture sector provides. That education should be targeted at people who live in the cities and may be unaware about what we do in the resource regions of B.C. and how our actions contribute directly to the economic well-being of those that live here in the city.
When we first presented to you we told you that we'd be monitoring the committee's process, and we have been. We'd like to take this opportunity this afternoon to look back on the process and how we got to be at this point now.
You know, the creation of this committee was relatively big news in our community. Here was a group being asked, under the chairmanship of the opposition and with the majority of the membership drawn from the opposition ranks, to study sustainable aquaculture and to come back to government with regulations. That's a rather unique situation, and probably, for everybody involved in this process.
When the committee's terms of reference were announced, we actually saw it as an opportunity, a chance to educate British Columbians about the aquaculture sector. We knew we wanted to become fully engaged in this process.
When the committee announced written submission guidelines and public hearing schedules, we felt that a level playing field had been established for fair outcomes.
At the first three public hearings in Nanaimo, Tofino and Campbell River, committee members heard from a variety of speakers, and they reflected on the importance of the industry to their communities. The committee, for the most part, was organized. The public hearings were well attended by committee members, and they appeared interested and engaged in the process.
Soon after these hearings the committee announced they were extending the deadline for accepting written submissions to October 31. We know the anti-aquaculture activist groups lobbied for that extension. We know committee members asked anti-salmon-farming activists to get people on the wait-list, and we know that within a day of the committee's announcement about extending the deadline for written submissions, an anti-aquaculture activist group, using a large U.S.-based website, posted automated forms for critics to flood the Premier's office and the committee with canned negative responses.
This is when we started hearing from the people in our community that they were concerned that this process was becoming slanted.
The next set of public hearings took the committee to the north coast, where in Terrace, again, the rules were changing. The committee ignored their terms of reference and passed a motion recommending a moratorium on the expansion of salmon farming until such time as the committee completed its work. That motion, with limited discussion as far as we could tell, increased concerns about the process even further. Of course, as it turns out, those concerns were well founded, as you all heard this morning.
Then, instead of being mindful of the integrity of the process, there have been comments made by committee members to the media that have also fuelled very serious concerns.
Mr. Chairman, you yourself saw fit to recently state in the Northern Aquaculture that the memorandum of understanding signed between Marine Harvest and CAAR was "…an admission from the company that it had not been conducting salmon farming as well as it might have been in the Broughton."
With all due respect, sir, that is absolutely, of course, nothing of the sort.
The most recent prejudicial comments came from a committee member speaking out about a recently released sea lice report. That committee member was quoted in the Parksville-Qualicum News and Westcoaster, which say: "This puts to rest any doubt of what impact sea lice are having on wild stocks." With more public hearings scheduled and still much work ahead for the committee, he had already concluded that this industry is problematic and his mind had been made up. You can see why we're skeptical. These kinds of comments are just too frequent to be seen as anything but a biased attack on sustainable aquaculture salmon farming.
Opposition members from this committee — members from a political party that was once very closely associated with working people — seem now to be continuing to engage in partisan politics that ignore the livelihoods of the very hard-working men and women they profess to represent. We don't see where you've put the politics aside — not in the process and not in the public statements. Our greatest concern is that the committee will put B.C.'s sustainable aquaculture industry at risk and, whether intended or not, could do severe economic damage to coastal and first nations communities.
We were told at the outset of this process that each group would have an opportunity to be heard one time only. We respected this process, but at several public hearings we heard from people over and over again, and the rules had changed. So during the public hearing in Port Hardy we took advantage of the — unexpected, I might add — open-mike session.
At that time, Mr. Chair, you made a point of putting it on record that the committee had heard from us previously. I thought it might be helpful, also for the record, to mention the other groups who have presented to this group multiple times. Some of them are: the Georgia Strait Alliance, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, Friends of Wild Salmon, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Raincoast Conservation Society, Jay Ritchlan for CAAR and the David Suzuki Foundation, Bob Chamberlin from MTTC.
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We also respected the time limits, but it seems that this Chair has lost control of this as well, and yesterday was a good example of how the first two speakers, allocated for ten to 20 minutes each, were permitted to go on for two hours. This meant that by the time others were to speak, they were not able to because of the delay. We may be facing the same thing today. I think you really need to stop and consider that these people take a day off from work and come down here to do this, only to be told that we've run out of time, because the meetings aren't controlled.
We're lifelong residents. We are lifelong resource-community members who genuinely feel that we do bring value to this process, and we're happy to be here again to have another opportunity. But we want to be very clear to say that we feel that our views have been relegated to the minority by this committee.
There has been much talk among some of the members of this committee on the topic of fearmongering. Recently in Campbell River our MLA, Claire Trevena, referred to this several times, questioning industry speakers as to where the fearmongering is coming from, and this is not helpful. We actually find her comments quite ironic, as we can clearly see why people are fearful. The various statements made by some members of this committee through the entire life of this committee to date are very scary. The statements made by the Leader of the Opposition before the committee was struck, and dating back to the last provincial election campaign, contribute to the fear. To imply that people should not be encouraged to participate in the process regardless of their views is just wrong. It's just wrong.
Why isn't the same scrutiny applied to other speakers? The anti-salmon-farming activists build their campaigns on fear. You've all heard the statements: poison salmon. You've seen the websites. You've read the material. There's nothing positive. It's fear-based, and it's done for a reason. It's a deliberate strategy used to manipulate people. Our ENGO community needs to grow up.
As you go into your final deliberations — well, we thought final, but I guess this is turning into the never-ending tour — we ask you once again to put partisan politics aside, and again we urge you to separate fact from fiction and base your final recommendations on accurate information. You have the opportunity and the responsibility to get past the polarization that exists in this province about this industry and find the common ground that could benefit us all. We trust you will bear in mind that your recommendations, whether they are implemented or not, will have the potential to have a profound effect on our communities and our way of life.
We would like to better understand the rest of this process, what it looks like and how you proceed from here. Most importantly, are you satisfied that you've done your best to this point? We sincerely hope so — because 4,000 families are counting on you. Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Do you want to add anything, Leanne?
L. Brunt: No, I think Barb said it all, but there are a couple of things I would like to add. What I do with the organizations I work with is try to put out correct information. Both our groups are grass-roots groups — First Dollar and Positive Aquaculture Awareness — and really encourage people to participate. We want them to engage, and we believe very firmly in the public process.
In that regard, I was just at AquaVision in Norway, which was a fascinating conference. A lot of very good information was passed out at that conference, and I'd like to pass it on to you also. One of the reasons that we have problems here with our ENGO community is that we know how it operates over in the European countries, particularly in Norway. There was a very good presentation by Dr. Jason Clay with the World Wildlife Fund, and it's just a whole different tactic. I really would like to see you download this, because their strategy is first and foremost to get informed, and then they get involved.
They also understand the business case. I mean, I'm just reading right off his PowerPoint: "They understand the business case for better practices, and then they build consensus through dialogue with others." That's what we want. We want to build consensus. We want dialogue. We want everybody coming to the table, learning about this industry and working together. I mean, it's a fantastic industry. Information is very precious to me, and I don't like seeing it being manipulated for purposes that make absolutely no sense to me.
I'll just finish off with two other pieces of information, because I've heard it a couple of times today, and I think if I hear it again I don't know what I'm going to do about it. I'd like to refer you back to Alan Sutherland's presentation in Campbell River. It's called misinformation and rhetoric. Alan spent a long time putting together a very clear and concise explanation of the conversion rate.
Now, at AquaVision we had the general director from the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation, who did a very good presentation. It's full of graphs; it explains everything. It is not that we are taking fish from a developing country. It's a very organized commercial fishery down there that is extremely important to those countries. Here, he will go into another ENGO community in Norway called Bellona, which also works with industry, community and government. He will take what they say is their conversion rate and then apply it to what sort of rate their sustainable fishery is at. I would also recommend that you have a look at that, and I can leave these. I've only brought one copy with me, but I encourage you to read and learn.
S. Simpson: A couple of questions — and thanks. I want to go back to Barb's comments about who we engaged with and how we engaged in the process, just to kind of get it clear in my head. I think we've had 22 or 23 hearings in different communities around the province now. I think we've received about a thousand
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written submissions, something like that, so far. So we've heard from a lot of people, but we also have heard from a lot of people, but we also have heard from a whole lot of people who didn't get a chance to talk to us, who wanted to.
Leanne made the comment that your organizations, as grass-roots organizations, work very hard to make sure that you invite all of the participation you can within your organizations, to engage as many people and look to see where that takes you in terms of your work. Well, I think that to some degree — and clearly we're getting very different views from different people — there's an effort being made to do this.
I found it interesting that in the comments about where we did or didn't go, one of the criticisms we got yesterday — I think it was in Patrick Moore's presentation — was that we didn't go to Gold River. Maybe we should have gone to Gold River. Maybe that would have been a good community to go to. He identified that one, and maybe we should go there yet. But the effort is made to kind of get to those communities and get as much information as possible.
I do think that the committee…. I think it was pretty much a unanimous committee decision to extend that deadline to the 31st of October because we all agreed that there were a lot of people out there who wanted to give us information — people on both sides of this debate — and that we should do that.
My question to you around that is: do you think when we weigh the balance of either having the initial dates and the initial cutoffs — which would have meant not going back to Campbell River for a second day — that that would have been a better choice for us than the decision we made to extend that participation?
L. Brunt: One of the things I do in my work is deal with information. I deal with statistics; I deal with numbers.
This is where you've been. This is who you've heard from, and I can tell you that — you really need to get to Klemtu; that's very important — I see a little bit of imbalance here. I see you spent a lot of time up in the north coast. It's an important place to go, but you went there eight times. Down here in salmon-farming country, five times. You've been to the city three times. I understand you'll be returning again.
You went to two Vancouver Island communities well known for their attitude toward salmon farming, where you would get a whole different picture of it than from the people who actually work in the business. You know, I've got every speaker in here. I can sort that through a database and see who you have listened to.
When you changed the deadline…. I can tell you that First Dollar and Positive Aquaculture Awareness worked very hard at encouraging people to participate in this process. We were organized. We were on top of this. We knew when you guys got together, when you put that public hearing out. We really mobilized our people, expressing to them how important it was to be involved in this. And they all got on board. I mean, we worked really hard on that. You got a lot of submissions prior to that May 31 initial date.
So we get that all organized. We feel really good about it, and then all of a sudden we hear other groups coming to you from…. The Clayoquot Sound, I think, brought it up. The Georgia Strait Alliance brought it up in Nanaimo. "Can you please extend the deadline? We don't have enough time to get into it." But it was five months into the process at that time. So all of a sudden they've got this extension, which gives them time to be organized. When this is such an important issue, why weren't they organized in that initial period?
B. Walker: And even if they had been, my big thing here is that we knew — everybody knew — that this was an issue that there was going to be one side or the other. This isn't news here. But, especially given the makeup of the committee, it was about the fact that you laid out the rules. We followed the rules. We were prepared to continue following the rules right up to the end, but the rules changed.
How do you expect us to see it as anything other than something that…? It's not right. It wasn't right. I agree with Leanne totally. You know, just because we got busy…. We heard them coming to you and asking you to extend the deadlines. It just wasn't right.
S. Simpson: I respect that opinion, and I would say it was a unanimous agreement. You did do a good job, because we got about 200 form letters.
B. Walker: You didn't get form letters from what we did.
S. Simpson: Well, we got them from somebody. They may not be…. About 200 form letters that are part of that package that were very strong supporters…. I respect that every one of those people is a strong supporter of fish farms, and it doesn't matter to me that they signed that letter, because I'm sure it fairly reflected their views — what was in that letter. So that's good. But that's what we got. That's fine, and we don't agree with that.
I want to ask one other question, which is around information, and I think Leanne talked about misinformation and our need to deal with misinformation. One of the things that we were told early on in the process from folks on both sides of the issue, I believe — though I want to be careful about this — is this whole debate around what constitutes good science and bad science. Clearly there are scientists, as we spoke earlier today — very credible scientists — on both sides of this issue who put forward views.
You can have Dr. Saksida or John Volpe. They both are very credible scientists. We're seeing now peer-reviewed science, and we're seeing it on both sides. I see that there's also material coming out on both sides of this.
Should we be using the notion, for science, of peer review as some kind of measurement that at least this
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has gone through some kind of screening by people who understand scientific process better than we do? That doesn't diminish informed opinion at all. There are lots of people, many in the industry, who are very knowledgable about the industry, and they come forward with informed opinion. That's very valuable and can't be diminished, but it's different than science. They're two different things.
So, if peer review is what we use for science, should that be the measurement we use for science, or is there another measurement that we use on science?
L. Brunt: Well, we're not scientists, so it's difficult to answer.
S. Simpson: Neither are we.
B. Walker: You know what? That would be part of my answer. We're not scientists, and you're not scientists either, and you're facing all of this scientific information. So we on this side of the table can only hope that you will at least apply some common sense to some of what you hear, because there are two sides. You're going to hear two sides. I think you should look for the best information that you can possibly get, but common sense tells us the sky has not fallen. We farm salmon. We do it successfully. I hope you can find recommendations that make it even more successful.
L. Brunt: We are actually looking for it and hope that you can put together this group that you've been talking about — the group of scientists — have that open discussion, have the open dialogue and work from there.
S. Simpson: We hope so too. Thank you.
S. Fraser: Just because you, I assume, were quoting the…. Because P-Q news is my turf, I will respond to that.
I was asked by two sets of reporters if I accepted the science of that recent report in early October that came out of the University of Alberta. I said that I did, and I think I called it irrefutable science.
L. Brunt: Yes, you did.
S. Fraser: I was referring to the National Academy. This is from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. I did a Google search. They're real. This is a well-recognized, peer-reviewed journal — well-respected. The study was sponsored by the National Research Council of Canada, primarily, and also by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada along with that. They were the primary sponsors of that. So I personally accept that as science. That's what I said to the press, and that's the rationale for it.
On another issue that you raised. I know the Chairs have been pretty lenient on time lines and stuff, and that also reflects yesterday's meeting. I think the longest submission we've had to date in all the 22 meetings we've had was from one of your members yesterday. We must have gone on for an hour and a half. And Robin didn't stop that.
L. Brunt: I think Dr. Gottesfeld might be in the running for that one too, up in Terrace.
S. Fraser: Well, I did a quick time check on that, but I think Dr. Moore was…. I think he won that one. I think that was the longest.
B. Walker: I actually think it's irrelevant, because I think what's relevant — and what I'm trying really hard to say here — is that we feel, at the beginning, fair rules were put in place for all. We've abided by the rules. We think that everybody should have abided by the rules.
We don't think that people should have to come up here from Campbell River or Port Hardy, sometimes get a hotel for the night — the cost and the expense of coming up here. People want to come up here, and they want to tell you how they feel. I think that should be respected by there at least being time for them by keeping a little control on the meetings.
As far as what you said to the media, I have a hard time believing that you don't think that anything about that was wrong. You said you had made up your mind. You'd made your decision. You weren't even, at that point, halfway through the verbal submissions, let alone what I can only imagine are hundreds of pounds of written submissions. That wasn't helpful to this whole process. I'm going to say that I think you made a mistake.
S. Fraser: Well, fair enough. If you don't accept the science of the peer-reviewed journal, that's fair enough. I do. If you took the larger context of what I said…. I said we have to be mindful of jobs and the importance of that and protecting the wild stock in the environment. That's the balance we have to find. That was the context of my statement. I stand by that. You can't have one piece of it and not the other. We do have to accept science when it comes in, and we have to interpret what that means in our decisiveness.
You are a lobby. You write letters. You support the members here that you think support you. That is the reason that you're doing this. You're a lobby. We have lots of lobbies. We have to sift through all of that and try to find out what's real and what's not.
B. Walker: I think, though, Scott…. Do you mind? I really think you're missing my point. When that piece of information came to you, we weren't halfway through. Now how did you know that there wasn't another scientist that tomorrow would bring you new information…? And you still felt comfortable to say so early into the process that your mind on that issue was made up.
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Again, I'm going to tell you that I stand by my position. I think you made a mistake. But we'll both get over it.
S. Fraser: Okay. Fair enough. But your mind is made up, and I don't know if it was based on peer-reviewed science or not. My statement was whether or not it was peer-reviewed science — whether or not it was acceptable science. And it was. That's how we in the world determine acceptable science.
The interpretation of that? Well, that's up to all of us. But when it comes out of the National Academy of Sciences, I accept it as acceptable science. You may not. If you think that's a problem, well, we can agree to disagree.
B. Walker: We're going to have to, because I still think….
L. Brunt: I think she's making the point that we're in the middle of a public process….
B. Walker: I think it speaks to the integrity of this committee. I think it was wrong. I think you made a mistake. I actually think you…. Well, I think you made a mistake. I think that's good enough.
G. Robertson: Thanks again for another presentation. We've been trying, particularly in these later meetings, to figure out exactly who's who in terms of these presentations and who is funding who. There have been a lot of questions raised about the environmental groups and various interest groups that are at the table and who they represent.
You describe the First Dollar Alliance as a grass-roots organization. In the little bit of research that I've done from 2005 and the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, after the 2005 election the First Dollar Alliance was registered as a third-party campaigner in the election, raising $26,750 from corporations and $500 from individuals, which surprised me. It didn't sound like a grass-roots fundraising base.
B. Walker: I'm going to tell you that we've been a registered society for two and a half years, and I can tell you exactly how we were funded in our first year. It was: where is my purse? The second year…. Go ahead, Leanne.
L. Brunt: The second year we did literally…. We funded ourselves.
That election thing…. I submitted a letter to that after. And Claire knows that we worked with the Women of Resource Communities Conference. She attended it. That's where that money came from. We did get funding. We target different people to help us fund…
B. Walker: We do project funding.
L. Brunt: …our conference. Unbeknownst to me, who's not very politically astute in those kinds of things…. I wrote it all down and submitted it. We did put in a couple of ads at election time. I submitted all our things, all our money, for the last six months, and that captured the women in resource conference funding that we had received.
B. Walker: That's where most of that $26,000 went.
L. Brunt: I didn't know any better. I'm sorry.
B. Walker: We don't know the ins and outs of these things. That money did go to the Women of Resource Communities Conference, but the way that they record the money — we found out later — looked like all of that was political. It was not. I can assure you it was not.
G. Robertson: So you're saying that you're not funded by corporate interests, that….
L. Brunt: Project funding and most of our money that we have received we have used on our Women of Resource Communities Conference. I think we've got nickels and dimes, literally.
G. Robertson: Okay. It just doesn't…. I'm not clear on how that works out. What I'm hearing from you here is contradictory to what was filed.
B. Walker: No. Leanne did record the money that we brought in, in the time frame that they asked for, but then it makes it look like that money was spent on election ads. It wasn't. That money was spent on the Women of Resource Communities Conference. It was just in that time frame, so that's how it had to be reported. That's what Leanne's saying about us being naïve.
L. Brunt: If you would like, I'll give you the paper trail on it. There are faxes and letters on it, so it's a very honest mistake. It has nothing….
G. Robertson: Okay, but this is related to the source versus where your revenues were spent. The sources of your revenues — are they from grass-roots members, or are they from industry as well?
L. Brunt: We don't collect memberships. We have had donations from members. When we do our conference we have fees, but we try to keep them very affordable for people to attend. We have had industry donations. We've had donations at all levels of government. It's specifically for that conference.
B. Walker: We get a lot of in-kind donations where people will say, "Come to our conference and you don't have to pay. We would like you to be there," and things like that.
G. Robertson: Who would you say is your primary funder? What is the largest single source of funds?
[ Page 816 ]
Would it be your members — your grass roots? Or is it industry partners or government or…?
B. Walker: I'm not really sure.
L. Brunt: We have a conference coordinator that works with us on our conference. She actually puts together applications to different agencies to try to…
B. Walker: Community Futures.
L. Brunt: …source out funds for our conference.
B. Walker: But we do get funds from different and various industries, of course, because that's who we're representing.
G. Robertson: One point of clarification that I wanted to add just around the extension of the deadline. My recollection…. It seems like everyone has a different recollection of what led us to these decisions. We had very clear calls from tourism operators and commercial fishermen around extending the deadline, because both their meetings through the late spring and summer and into the fall and the submission period were in their busiest time of year. So they were industries that were particularly affected by aquaculture and feeling like they were too busy. We were hitting them in their busiest season. That was part of the rationale.
From my perspective, it was making sure that all the industries were heard from as well. Just to be clear on that.
B. Walker: All right.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks to both of you for your presentation.
I'd like to call Leslie Budden and John Volpe.
L. Budden: First of all I'd just like to thank you very much for this opportunity. Our executive director of the Canadian Sablefish Association, Eric Wickham, sends his regrets. I am Leslie Budden, and I work for the sablefish association.
What I'd like to do is shift your attention to a new species that's being introduced into B.C. fish farms, which of course is sablefish. It's also sometimes referred to as black cod. We're here to explain why this new species should be farmed in closed containment.
The Canadian Sablefish Association represents British Columbia's wild sablefish fishery, and this group has basically pioneered the concept of industry-government comanagement since the 1990s, when the fishery went to quota. They've developed a fishery that's become known as one of the best-managed fisheries in the world, which now contributes approximately $30 million annually to our economy.
Sablefish farming has been developing in B.C. over the past decade or so, and we've been closely monitoring its progress. It would be fair to say that, originally, we were concerned primarily with the impact it would have on our markets, but as we learned more about fish farming, we became far more concerned about the impact on the wild resource itself.
Unfortunately, the province had already approved close to 40 fish farms to introduce this new species, and we understand that the farms are reaching commercial viability. The hatchery is poised for some large-scale expansion. All of our efforts to get what we consider comprehensive and proper environmental impact assessments have had no luck.
So we've spent the last three years doing our own homework. We've commissioned economic and environmental impact studies. The most recent and, I guess, the most comprehensive and credible of those is put out by the UBC Fisheries Centre. It was co-authored by John Volpe, who I'm fortunate to have here today, and Dr. Rashid Sumaila, director of economics at the UBC Fisheries Centre. What I'd like to do is turn you over to John now to report on the study.
J. Volpe: Good afternoon. I am acutely aware that I'm the penultimate speaker this afternoon and stand between you and freedom, so I will be spare in my comments.
I'd like to start off by directing you to this document with the blue cover that I trust you have. This is the document referred to. Basically, the exercise was to take the salmon experience in terms of both ecological dynamics and economic dynamics and then use that as a calibration to look forward into the future and ask what kind of fate, both ecologically and economically, we might expect if we were to go down the road of sablefish aquaculture — again, mirroring the salmon experience.
This is the document that was produced. I'm not going to walk through the details of it. You can put it on your very large, I'm sure, stack of material to go through. But I would like to draw your attention to a couple of points.
First of all, we had to ascertain: what is the quality of the information with regard to the salmon experience that we had to work with? That would inform on the robustness of our modelling exercises to look into the future with regard to sablefish. What became very clear was that the quality and robustness of the data with regard to the experience of salmon in British Columbia was fleeting at times, more often nonexistent with regard to ecological interactions. Of course, this is a constant theme in this committee.
However, the economic data, because these things are much more easily tracked and are of much higher profile, are actually very robust. To illustrate the two points, I'll direct you to page 7, on which table 1 appears. This is a table I put together that asks the question: what is the quality of information we have regarding salmon escapees in British Columbia?
It looks at major salmon-producing nations in the world — B.C., Chile, Norway, Scotland — over a num-
[ Page 817 ]
ber of years. It looks at the production of Atlantic salmon in those years, reported escape numbers, and then estimates an average escape per number of fish produced. You'll see B.C. from 1998 up until 2001, when the industry became somewhat more fractious here in British Columbia, nears the experience in the rest of the world where on average one fish escapes for every 200 to 300 fish produced. Now if we're to believe the numbers that are coming out of British Columbia and DFO — federal and provincial government numbers — we are allowing only one escape per 712,745 fish.
Now either we are the most phenomenal fish farmers in the world, or perhaps the data are faulty. Given that British Columbia salmon farms operate in much the same way as their counterparts in the rest of the world — same standard operating procedure, same infrastructure, same policies, etc. — one would then conclude that perhaps the data are faulty, and not necessarily that the escapes are that low.
This is a theme that's repeated through the report. The ecology and our ability to identify in a robust fashion the ecological interactions between wild salmon and farm salmon are at times very problematic. I'm speaking here in terms of all of the interactions. Of course, sea lice is the issue of the day. That relationship is much clearer and becomes so by the day, simply because of the amount of resources that are being put into examining it.
We then turn to the economic picture. Okay, we know that over the time span this report covers, the quantity of farm salmon raised has gone up dramatically and the value of farm and wild salmon has diminished dramatically, so it is fair to speculate that a similar type of scenario is likely to occur in sablefish. So we asked: under a series of different conditions, what would this outcome be?
I'll ask you to turn to page 21, figure 10, which is pretty much the summing-up of this whole exercise where we asked…. Okay, we have a number of different scenarios here: we can basically go ahead as usual and look at if the farmed sablefish industry mirrors exactly that of salmon in terms of their economic and ecological interaction; if the negative impact on the farmed industry is only half that on the wild industry; or if there is no negative association whatsoever. In other words, the farm industry produces a particular amount of sablefish, and that has no effect on the value of the farm product.
We go through a number of scenarios, simulations here. Again, I'm not going to go through the details. They are all here for you if you wish to review them. We also asked what would happen if B.C. banned sablefish farming. That actually fell into two scenarios: just a straight-out ban, no other activity; and what about a ban that then also acted to favour or promote the B.C. product, that found a price premium in the marketplace, leveraging our super, natural B.C. kind of image?
The results are rather interesting. I'm just going to run through the four main results. They're actually pulled together in the abstract on page 2 in a rather concise form: "A decrease in the price of sablefish will ultimately follow an increase in sablefish supply to the market from aquaculture. The decrease will be at the expense of both sablefish farmers and fishers in Canada but beneficial to sablefish consumers, which in this case are primarily Japanese," because the vast majority of the product heads to Japan. "Thus, the benefits are exported, while the costs are entirely absorbed within Canada." I'll add that this is a very similar scenario to our current economic framework for salmon.
"At low aquaculture production levels small economic gains are possible if B.C. engages in sablefish farming under different ecological…impact assumptions compared to salmon." In other words, if the negative impact is somewhat less than what we now experience with salmon, there is an opportunity for profit to be made. However, that profit is very quickly eliminated once world production of farmed sablefish reaches, in our estimation, a very modest level.
Make no mistake. That's exactly what's going to happen. The technology, though developed in British Columbia, will be very quickly exported, just as we benefited greatly from the exportation of Norwegian salmon aquaculture technology.
Rather surprisingly, our study shows that a sablefish farming ban in B.C. would actually be beneficial to the province, in terms of GDP, if B.C. wild sablefish landings can be marketed in a way that would allow the province's landing to command a price premium of between 20 and 25 percent.
That is the key figure. The only way that sablefish is going to remain the economic engine that it is, according to this economic analysis, is if the price premium of a wild, sustainably produced B.C. product can be met in the marketplace with an attractive marketing campaign.
From the experience with salmon farming in British Columbia, it appears that sablefish farming is unlikely to add to B.C.'s and Canada's GDP, export earnings or number of people employed in the sablefish sector of B.C.'s economy.
That's it in a nugget. Again, I don't think it's prudent for me to walk through the details of this, but that gives you the picture of the story. By the way, we're talking a lot about peer-reviewed literature. The economic half of this analysis has already been published in the journal, Marine Policy, the most prestigious journal of its genre out there. The ecological story is in the process of being submitted to an ecological journal.
L. Budden: I guess what we really wanted to get across here today is…. I've been carrying this around. It's the Premier's Speech from the Throne. We were really impressed and pleased when included in the five great goals for a golden decade was the best fisheries management, bar none.
We have that here in British Columbia. It's amazing, considering the fisheries management fiascos that are going on today in other fisheries, but with sablefish
[ Page 818 ]
you have one of the most successful fisheries in the world and something to be proud of. I know our members are very proud of it.
Since the fishery has been co-managed, they've regarded themselves as stewards of the wild sablefish resource. Our question, which we would like you to consider, is: based on the fact that this report and the other reports in the 212-page electronic submission we've made all show a common thread of a very high, potential risk of damage to the wild stock and no net economic gain for the province, why would we risk this thriving, $30 million fishery when there's closed containment? Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thanks to both of you for your presentation. Does anyone have questions or comments?
S. Simpson: I have a question. I don't know. Maybe I'm needing direction from the Chair here. Dr. Volpe has bounced around a little bit in terms of some of his presentation. I wanted to ask a question that I may not get to ask him later.
R. Austin (Chair): You can ask that question another day. Let's just deal with what they're presenting today.
S. Simpson: I'll do that.
R. Austin (Chair): Now you don't have a question — is that right?
J. Volpe: I think you're going to get another kick at me later anyway.
D. Jarvis: I haven't really had a chance to read much of this at all because everyone was bouncing around. A little bit of humour there. How many people are employed in the wild sablefish industry today in B.C.? Where are we in the world market?
J. Volpe: When you say employed, are you saying on boats or within the processing sector in the larger…?
D. Jarvis: The whole gamut.
J. Volpe: That I don't know, offhand.
D. Jarvis: Where are we in relationship to other countries in the world as far as dollar value or percentage of fish caught and sold?
L. Budden: By dollar value, do you mean compared to, say, the United States, which is the only other country that produces sablefish?
D. Jarvis: I thought there were a couple of other countries that actually did it.
L. Budden: I don't believe so in commercial….
D. Jarvis: Well, you'd know better than I do.
J. Volpe: Alaska is the main fishery.
D. Jarvis: Alaska is the main fishery. What percentage of this entire industry would they have? Fifty percent? Eighty percent? Ninety percent?
L. Budden: I think we would be about one-quarter of the total. There's a fishery in Washington State as well.
D. Jarvis: Sablefish are — what? — the second most expensive fish on the market today, I guess.
L. Budden: That's probably fair to say.
D. Jarvis: Outside of Chilean — what do you call it? — bass.
L. Budden: Sea bass.
J. Volpe: It's certainly among the top two or three valuable fish from our waters. If we want to talk about bluefin tuna or other such species, that's fair enough. But from these waters, this is definitely a top-tier species.
D. Jarvis: Would it be safe to say, then, that sablefish are basically like black cod? They have a niche market. There is no big market for them in the world, is there?
L. Budden: Ninety percent of our product goes to the Asian market, to Japan. I believe it's the same for Alaska. Ours is valued at $30 million, and we're one-quarter of the total. I don't know what you mean by big.
Actually, bringing up the Americans just reminded me that they have…. The Governor of Alaska, the senator from Washington State have all written letters to the Premier, quite concerned about the overall sablefish stock because it intermingles between Canada and the United States.
D. Jarvis: The only thing that bothers me is…. We're in a free market system in the world. Basically, the world is in that aspect of business. What you're suggesting — now, maybe I'm wrong — is that you don't want it to be a free market. You want just one group of people to be able to fish wild cod.
J. Volpe: No, I don't think that's the message that we're trying to portray. Sablefish aquaculture is going to happen. There's no question about that. The technology was refined in British Columbia, and as a result, British Columbia will likely establish — well, it already has established — the first farms.
[ Page 819 ]
However, the open market being what it is, it's an assured bet that that technology will not remain in British Columbia. There will be other jurisdictions that begin farming sablefish very quickly, largely because the demand currently is not being met with the supply. Therefore, there's economic opportunity to produce a high-value product.
What this report says, though, is that it lays…. It asks the question: if we go down the same road as salmon — and various flavours of that road — against various levels of global production of sablefish, what is the return going to be to British Columbia taxpayers? The only positive scenario in an economic sense is that the sustainable commercial fishery that exists right now…. Frankly, there are only two commercial sustainable fisheries in British Columbia right now. I'll just leave that open.
The only way it's going to remain that way is if that sustainability and the value-added that that receives in the marketplace is celebrated. If we repeat the salmon experience, then the sablefish fishery will repeat the very painful experience of the salmon-fishing industry. That's all this report is saying.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Maybe you could explain to me what you mean by "celebrated." I don't quite get the conceptual drift here in this report. Of course, you did go over a thick document pretty quickly.
J. Volpe: Yeah. Well, I'll pick up on the last comment. It is a fishery that is comanaged. It is only one of two comanaged fisheries on this coast. It is sustainable. From every definition of the word, this fishery meets that definition. It is a celebrated product. It is highly anticipated, which then, actually, has transference into economic value too. In this day and age a sustainable commercial fishery, I think, deserves to be celebrated. And it is.
C. Trevena: I just have a question. Leslie, you say that if you're going to do sablefish aquaculture, do it closed containment. Closed containment for sablefish aquaculture — is there the technology there? If so, where is it being used and how?
L. Budden: For sablefish it isn't being used right now. I would imagine you'll probably be hearing from experts in that field. Our understanding, when we look at all of the aquaculture industry publications, is that closed containment is economically feasible and environmentally safe to our satisfaction globally. I've got a copy of an article on, I believe, a turbot farm in Spain, which actually is land-based. It's just one example that Eric wanted to send along to send the message that we know it can be done. It just requires the will to make it happen.
D. Jarvis: Let me try to see if I can get it straight again. You're trying to say that our wild sablefish fishery will hold its value and/or increase — whatever it may be — as long as we don't farm it and that it doesn't matter who else in the world farms it. We will still have….
J. Volpe: Not at all levels of production. Again, drawing you back to the figure, if the world…. At present circumstances, I can't imagine. I mean, the world would have to begin eating sablefish as they do salmon or tuna. Precluding that as a realistic option, then yes, your assumption was correct.
D. Jarvis: It probably won't happen, because it's such an ugly fish.
L. Budden: It is an ugly fish. But have you tasted it?
D. Jarvis: Yes. Oh, I have.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I guess I'm a little foggy on the math here, and maybe I should just leave this alone. But we would be, as we are now in salmon farming, a small player on the world's sea. You see that in the report. Is that not true? Am I correct in that? If you did go to sablefish farming, you'd be a small player. Is that not correct? I mean, using your salmon-farming analogy, we're only less than 10 percent, so I presume they would be the same in….
R. Austin (Chair): If I could suggest, John…. We've got 15 minutes left. Why don't you concentrate on giving some more detail of your report, because we can't rush through your next presentation.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I'll tell you what, Mr. Chair. I'll withdraw and read the report, and maybe we can do it with some more detailed comments. I think we got the gist of….
J. Volpe: Absolutely, and I'll be happy to provide whatever further comments.
R. Austin (Chair): Okay, we'll do that, then. Thank you very much.
D. Jarvis: But it was discovered locally in B.C. — wasn't it? — how to raise them.
J. Volpe: It's a B.C. technology, yeah — for sure.
D. Jarvis: And we destroyed them all with the technology we had, I understand. Millions of little fishes, and we just threw….
R. Austin (Chair): You can see it's getting late in the day for Dan.
J. Volpe: And I will take up the pace even more. I am cognizant of the late hour.
[ Page 820 ]
Just for the sake of completeness, I am not an employee or in any official capacity with the Canadian Sablefish Association. I'm an academic. I am a co-author of this report, and the association ends there.
Now I'll put my academic or my professor hat on. John Volpe, professor of marine ecology, University of Victoria.
I come today, in my assessment of the terrain around this issue, I think, as one of the few independent scientists who have a foot both in the ecological side of the issue and, also, another foot in the social-economic side of it. My home unit at the University of Victoria is the school of environmental studies, which explicitly embraces both of these things. I hope I can use my time here effectively to try and bridge the gap between those two oftentimes seen as disjunct areas.
You've been flooded, I know, with quite possibly literally a tonne of material. In the end, I think you're going to have to weigh the validity of the arguments based on the weight of evidence. When it comes time to evaluate the science — and I appreciate the fact that it's already been mentioned that you're not scientists and, therefore, are at somewhat of a disadvantage to uncover the nuances of a lot of this work — you will no doubt be struck by the weight of evidence, though.
For instance, with regard to sea lice, we have recently published a paper, which has gotten a considerable amount of press, that links for the first time quantitatively the role of salmon farms with wild salmon mortality. The independent scientific community speaks with a single voice with regard to sea lice and their effects on wild salmon. Salmon farms kill wild salmon. There is no debate around that. It's been known — acknowledged — in Europe for more than a decade.
As was already mentioned in a previous presentation, the relationship between the various stakeholders in Europe is completely different, largely because they've dismissed or have done away with the fractious rhetorical banter and actually got down to business. The industry there acknowledges that yes, the farms have footprints, sea lice being one of them. That doesn't dismiss the validity of using coastal waters, but it is the first step in actually moving towards a mutually beneficial solution.
Contrary views that have been expressed to this overwhelming weight of science are derived from belief, not evidence. The beliefs reflect the constituency of the speaker, to the person. Every — and I'm not engaging in hyperbole here — independent scientist speaks with a single voice on this, and I believe that the weight of evidence will bear that out.
This brings us to the proposed science meeting that I've caught wind of recently. I would request that you actually revisit that issue. Bringing together scientists who have already stated their data on this…. They've already heard from…. Constituencies are already made. There's nothing new to add.
[R. Cantelon in the chair.]
Frankly, bringing me and the other scientists into a room is not going to add anything. It's not going to change. It'll actually make things worse, because it will be very difficult not to engage in conversations that leave the science behind and begin speaking beyond the science.
The science has already spoken. The science has gone to peer review. International experts have weighed in and vetted the science. The science is what the science is, so bringing us together and having another round of verbal back-and-forth I don't see as being particularly beneficial.
I would suggest instead striking a blue-ribbon panel of internationally recognized academics and scientists who are beyond repute in terms of their credentials and experience, who are absolutely arm's length away from this issue and who have no vested interest, including colleagues working in Canada, because we are talking about DFO's interests here too. DFO is a powerful player in all of this with regards to scientific funding.
Ask all of the people involved who you would have invited to this scientific meeting to bring their raw data — not means, averages or processed data — put it on the table and walk out of the room. Let the acknowledged experts come to a conclusion on the validity and robustness of the data.
That said, will this yield an appreciable progress on this issue? No. For instance, sea lice. Sea lice epidemics occur because of the globalization of salmon. They don't occur because of shoddy management. They don't occur because of bad policy decisions. They occur because salmon is now a global, low-value commodity.
In the case of British Columbia, the British Columbia producers need to compete against Chilean, Norwegian, Irish and Scottish producers, all of whom have developed coastlines, roadways, transported material in and transported material out — very cost-effective. We do not have that luxury. The salmon farms in British Columbia are located adjacent to wilderness shorelines. All materials in and out have to happen by marine transport — very, very expensive. Every day it becomes more expensive as the price of oil increases.
However, the product has no value-added on the global market. Farmed salmon is farmed salmon is farmed salmon. Nobody really gives a damn whether it comes from Chile or anywhere else. So B.C. producers need to find ways to cut the cost of production to remain viable in this global marketplace. How do you do it? Bring all the farms and cluster them around transportation hubs — Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Campbell River, etc.
That way you gain efficiencies in moving materials back and forth. But what you also do is cluster farms together. Now rather than having one farm infected, you've got a number of farms infected, and very soon you've infected entire migration routes. That's how salmon lice epidemics and 95-percent mortality in wild populations have been…. The number gets bandied about, but I'll hasten to add that the numbers are actually 9 percent to 95 percent. That's how it occurs.
[ Page 821 ]
I've given you a paper. It's actually not published yet, but it will be very shortly. I want to direct your attention to table 5.1 on this page. It's a rather busy table, and it runs through the production in metric tonnes versus the price for that production in both the commercial and farmed industries.
For example, for chinook, during that period, production dropped 71 percent. People just stopped fishing chinook. Why? Well, because over that period the price for chinook paid to the fishermen dropped 43 percent. It just didn't make any sense to go out. So it goes with the rest — chum, coho, pink and sockeye.
However, we look at farmed salmon over that period, and farmed salmon took a hit too — a 55-percent drop in value — more than compensated for by the 895,000-times increase in production. Commercial fishermen obviously can't tweak the policies and extract 895,000 times the salmon to remain fiscally competitive — right? But you can adopt economies of scale in fish farming and do that, which is absolutely necessary if you are going to remain competitive with Chile, Norway and Scotland.
As Chile and Norway continue to expand, B.C. is forced to lower the cost of production to stay viable, and these are the scenarios that result in the ecological problems that we're all so familiar with. Escapes can be linked to the challenge of trying to produce salmon cheaply. The issues around contaminants in the flesh are about producing salmon cheaply.
The writing's already on the wall. The companies that are in play now…. In 1989 we had 50 companies farming salmon in British Columbia. We're now down to, effectively, two — both foreign-based multinationals.
In 1989 we had a collection of small companies operating locally and selling regionally. Today it is an export market, as you know. The writing's on the wall. These companies are shifting, moving to Chile. Our study in sablefish has shown that the industry as a whole is positioning itself to transfer from salmon to sablefish, halibut and other species because there's simply no value left in salmon in British Columbia. The profit margin is not enough to make it a viable option.
From my perspective, the industry is holding the province hostage, using the fictional scenario that tomorrow will be better. We need to expand to the north coast. We need to adopt those economies of scale to make it profitable. That's the only way we're going to beat Chile and Norway. Chile and Norway are doing the same thing, but they can do it cheaply — much cheaper than we can.
To facilitate this hanging on, we have agitators fabricating conflict — I heard Patrick Moore's name, a prime example — to propose to you and the public that, in fact, we have two camps here. We have the pro-salmon-farming camp, and we have the anti-salmon-farming camp. Nothing could be further from the truth. There's no ill will here. Nobody is wishing ill on salmon farmers. Salmon farmers, of course, want to make a living. We all get that.
Why not take our lessons from the forest industry? The forest industry has gone through all of this. We seem ill prepared or at least unwilling to learn from these experiences. Why not leverage the Super, Natural B.C. persona and engage truly sustainable aquaculture? Yields will be lower — no doubt about it — and prices will be higher.
Thanks to the mismanagement that has gone on in the past, the profile of farmed salmon has never been higher in the public consciousness. This is the ripe terrain in which an idea like this can actually begin to grow. The market is ready for an alternative that it can eat with a straight face.
Local and regional control — essential. More people will be working, wages will be higher and, if done properly, a coexisting wild and farmed salmon industry….
The data are here for you to learn….
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Mr. Volpe, may I interrupt you for a moment. We're trying to target for a six o'clock closing. As you know, I'm now sitting as the Chair, and we have lost a few members here. Part of my concern is that I don't want your remarks or subsequent presenters to not have the benefit of a more full attendance of the committee and also of an opportunity to question you.
I'm at the indulgence of the committee members here, but I would suggest that we reconvene and perhaps even invite you back to conclude your remarks and to give a more full opportunity for questions as well as for subsequent presenters to present their discussions.
J. Volpe: Can I read into the record one thing? Then I'll go away.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Yes, I'm hearing nods from the Chair, so carry on and wrap up, please.
J. Volpe: I was caught by this quote in the Globe and Mail. I believe this is a Saturday ago. It's in the business section. It's reporting on the spectacular success of the Okanagan wine industry. Then it quotes Minister Bell, the Minister of Agriculture.
To set the scene, it's the points of friction between grape growing…. Many, many people are ripping out apple trees and other hard fruits and replacing them with grapes to get in on what is, so far, the spectacular success of the wine industry in the Okanagan.
"Not all fruit production acreage is convertible to grapes, nor would it be appropriate for that to happen," Mr. Bell says. "What makes the B.C. wine industry successful is the focus on quality."
Australian grape producers have 20 times as many grapes on the vines each season as are produced in the entire Okanagan Valley. Here the analogue is to Chile or Norway.
"Australia is a commodity producer. It has scale. It can compete. B.C. doesn't, and it never will, have the
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scale to become a commodity player. But through your focus on quality and branding, you become a very successful niche player," Mr. Bell says.
Somehow the message has gotten through with regard to wine. My question to you is: why is there such resistance with regard to the fish-farming industry? I'll end there.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation. I think we'll entertain a quick question or two from the members, recognizing the hour. No? We'll hear a motion to adjourn.
This meeting clearly now stands adjourned. Thank you very much.
The committee adjourned at 6:01 p.m.
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