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International News, August 2005

SFPG make waves in Norway

Salmon Farm Protest Group Chairman Bruce Sandison made a big splash in Norway during the AquaNor trade show – and he didn’t even have to leave his home in the north of Scotland to do so. Fish farmers from around the world could not avoid his smiling face beaming out at them from the front cover of the industry newspaper Intrafish.

“Man on a Mission” ran the headline that greeted thousands of visitors to the three -day industry showcase (the Intrafish newspaper is available to download for free. [Photo of the Intrafish front cover:]

“With little more than an internet connection and a few hundred bucks, Bruce Sandison is waging an effective guerilla-style media campaign against salmon farming,” wrote John Evans. “You may not like him but he's hard to ignore”.

“Cottage Industry” ran the inside story headline. “From his simple cottage overlooking Scotland's deep blue lochs, Bruce Sandison's war against salmon farming is being felt by fish farmers around the world”. Another photo outside his Highland home had the caption: “Command centre: Bruce Sandison has waged battle with Scottish salmon farmers from this small outpost”.

“What am I going to tell my 10 grandchildren when they can't see a wild salmon running in the river and they cannot catch a wild sea trout?” asked Sandison. “The Salmon Farm Protest Group is not alone in its fight to reform the salmon farming industry,” continued the article. “Sandison says the SFPG has supporters around the globe”. And many more after the August edition of Intrafish.

Offshore battle heats up in the US

Oregon’s state legislature threatens to block plans by the US Congress for huge offshore fish farms. At a meeting in August (3rd), the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association said that they would ‘only accept large-scale fish farming if substantial additional protections are built into the legislation’. Oregon also wants the right to refuse offshore fish farms in state waters and demands criminal penalties if there are any violations.

The memorial - HJM 37 – asked that the US “place a clear priority on the maintenance of naturally occurring marine resources” and allowed coastal states “to prohibit the siting of open ocean aquaculture operations in federal waters located outside the waters of the state”.

Oregan state also asked that the bond to be required of ocean aquaculture developers under the bill be “sufficient to compensate for the study and mitigation of the damage to the marine environment caused by the operations”. And it urged “criminal penalties for knowing violation of permit conditions in addition to civil penalties for failing to comply with permit conditions”. Given the industry’s predilection for violations and non-compliances this could throw a big spanner in the works.

Fishermen call for boycott of New Brunswick farmed salmon

“All along Cranberry Head Road, a pristine stretch of coastal wilderness a 15-minute drive west from Saint John, the white boycott signs are springing up like daisies,” reports Greg Mercer writing in Canada East (25th July). “Veteran lobstermen and locals in tiny Chance Harbour say a boycott of farmed salmon is the only way they can bring attention to a project they argue would compromise their way of life - and one of the last great stretches of untouched Fundy coastline in St. John and Charlotte counties”.

“The object of their frustration is a planned fish farm the size of seven football fields, which, if approved, would eat up the entire mouth of neighbouring Haley's Cove, and displace as many as 80 lobster traps” says the Canada East article. “This site, with its capacity to hold half a million farmed fish, would become the most easterly frontier of New Brunswick's $214-million aquaculture industry, and the closest salmon cages have come to Saint John. It's also the latest flashpoint in a brewing fight pitting fishermen and environmentalists against an industry that seems to be ever-expanding in the Bay of Fundy”.

“It would be the last of one of the last remaining stretches of undeveloped coastline west of Saint John. I don't know if there's any more coastline that is as scarce or as spectacular. It's almost sacred,” says Mike Bursey, whose family roots to the Cranberry Head Road go back generations. According to Canada East: “Inside his two-storey home on the Cranberry Head Road, Mr. Bursey's kitchen table has become ground zero for a grassroots fight to draw attention to Cooke's plans for Haley's Cove.

Half-completed signs telling buyers to avoid farmed salmon spill all over the place, mixed in with area maps and prints of the proposed site. He said a boycott is necessary because he feels he and his neighbours have no other recourse against an industry he says enjoys an awful lot of political support. Most consumers know little of the farms that produce their salmon and how those operations "industrialize" New Brunswick's shoreline, he said”.

Greg Thompson, whose Fundy North Fishermen's Association has some 75 members between St. Martins and Deer Island, said Haley's Cove is just another example of how the aquaculture industry is taking more and more fishing grounds from lobstermen. “Every new site takes something away from us. There's nowhere they can put a site in without taking bottom that we fish,” he said. “There's absolutely no benefit to the fishing industry in having aquaculture. Granted it creates some jobs, and so it has a place, but we'd prefer if that place was in somebody else's backyard”.

Close the cages say Canadian tourist operators

“An organization that represents 100 wilderness operations in British Columbia - including a lodge featured on the TV series Boston Legal - has plunged into the salmon-farming controversy,” writes Mark Hume in The Globe and Mail (4th August). The BC Wilderness Tourism Association issued a press release calling on federal and provincial governments “to immediately close salmon farms on migratory routes in the Broughton Archipelago and along the North Coast”.

The Wilderness Tourism Association, an important and growing part of B.C.'s booming tourism industry, said there should be a moratorium on the expansion of salmon farming “until peer-reviewed science shows minimal or no impact on wild fish stocks”. The WTA believes salmon farms, most of which raise domesticated Atlantic salmon, are spreading sea lice to wild Pacific salmon. “We cannot afford to sit around and wait for more science when the wild salmon in this province are known to be threatened,” said Brian Gunn, president of the BC Wilderness Tourism Association. “We believe that farms on the migratory routes should be fallowed”.

Craig Murray, owner of Nimmo Bay Heli-Fishing Resort, said wild salmon are the foundation of almost all the outdoor tourism operations on the West Coast and that they just can't be put at risk. “From kayaking, to bear watching, whale watching or resorts like ours, wild salmon are what it's all about. Without wild salmon, there's nothing,” said Mr. Murray, whose lodge draws tourists from all over the world. Mr. Murray said his resort may be famous, but people will stop coming if wild salmon stocks collapse.

“They were covered with 30 to 40 sea lice . . . there was up to 130 sea lice on one little fish. That tells me we have a problem. This does not happen naturally and something has to be done about it," said Mr. Murray. Mr. Murray said salmon farms, which have flourished in the narrow inlets of the Broughton Archipelago and have increasingly been the focus of complaints by environmentalists, are the source of the lice epidemic. “If the salmon farms didn't have a sea lice problem, they wouldn't be treating their farms with SLICE,” he said, using the commercial name for Emamectin Benzoate, a chemical widely used on West Coast fish farms to kill sea lice.

Battle for the Broughton

“I feel it is important to share what is happening to the Pacific Wild Salmon of the Broughton Archipelago,” writes Alexandra Morton from her base in the Broughton Archipelago – scene of an increasingly fierce battle for the survival of wild Pacific salmon in British Columbia. “First, thank you to all of you who can see the terrible things afoot and are stepping into the void to do something. Wild salmon will not easily survive our generation. While the situation feels hopeless it is important to remember Margaret Mead’s words: “Never doubt that a small, committed group of individuals can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has”.

Alexandra Morton– dubbed “The Erin Brockovich of the North” – is sick to death of the Canadian Government promoting sea-lice infested Atlantic salmon farming at the expense of wild Pacific salmon. “These lice-capades have become ludicrous. Europeans ask can’t you people even read, wondering why we ignore the lessons they suffered.

On the one hand we have peer-reviewed papers from around the world, saying sea lice from salmon farms damage wild salmon stocks. And on the other hand we have DFO blazing off alone in the opposite direction, without a single page of published science on this and they are the ones supposed to protect our wild Pacific salmon from industry. Hindsight is extremely alarming. As the vast Canadian cod stocks were plundered, DFO decision-makers refused to listen to their own scientists, rolled out plausible, but fatally unscientific flawed theories and the world lost a major food source”.

“It is absolutely time to winnow the gifts of this failed and dangerous behemoth and let the chaff fall away in the manner of every successful business venture,” writes Morton. “Don’t be fooled. Wild pink salmon in the Broughton are in serious jeopardy and these marine feedlots are affecting other BC stocks as well.

The tough part for me is telling you that I am failing to protect the wild Broughton salmon. Despite the science, collapsing salmon runs, election indicators, the efforts of our top environmentalists, this insatiable industry is demanding expansion in the Broughton and access to the waters off the Skeena River. Every last man, woman and child who thinks they might someday want wild Pacific Salmon must peacefully, but resolutely make it known in anyway that comes to you that it is not OK with you that we lose the Pacific Wild Salmon”. Read more from Alex’s ‘Bear Witness’ column via .