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International News, December 2005

Chile: “Widespread abuse of environmental and labour laws”

A new report published in November by the Brussels-based Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements (CFFA) opens the can of worms that is the Chilean salmon farming sector. The report states that “the Chilean salmon farming industry uses between 75 and 100 times more antibiotics per tonne of salmon than the Norwegian industry” and “there is also evidence of widespread abuse of environmental and labour laws”.

According to CFFA: “Industrial salmonid farming in Chile has grown spectacularly over the last 15 years to become one of the most dynamic sectors of the Chilean economy. Total production increased from 71,000 gross tonnes in 1990 to almost 600,000 tonnes in 2003. Between 1990 and 2005 the value of exports grew by almost 1,000%. Worldwide, Chile is the second largest salmon producer, with its contribution to global supplies increasing from 12% in 1992 to 33% in 2004. By 2013, the industry aims to double production to reach targets of around 1,283,000 gross tonnes, equivalent to 40% of world production. This would place Chile as the leading producer of salmonids”.

“However, serious questions have been raised concerning the socio-economic and environmental benefits of salmonid farming in Chile. The industry operates as an ‘economic enclave’. On the one hand its uses the country, its local labour force and its natural resources (water, energy and feed from fisheries and agriculture production), and on the other it incurs major environmental, sanitary and social costs. These are not are not covered in the production costs of the companies, but fall to current and future generations of Chileans”.

New Brunswick Canadian escapes cause border tension with US

Canada and the United States are embroiled in a cross border dispute over mass escapes of farmed salmon in New Brunswick which are turning up in rivers across the US border in Maine. Maine’s Department of Marine Resources Commissioner (DMR) George Lapointe, estimates that between May and September, as many as 100,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from sea cages owned by Cooke Aquaculture in New Brunswick.

The American (15th October) reported that these Canadian immigrants have made their way across the US border. Pat Keliher, executive director of the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission, said that 30-50 “aquaculture suspects” have been spotted in the Dennys River and about 20 of have been caught in a fish trap on the St. Croix River. According to the ASF (16th November), the escaped salmon are a very real threat to the last vestiges of wild Atlantic salmon that are listed as endangered in the five down east Maine rivers: the Dennys, Pleasant, Narraguagus, Machias, and East Machias.

These cross border invasions are “one of the worst recurring nightmares” for the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “While the U.S. Government has made progress, the regulation in Canada is especially wanting,” said ASF President Bill Taylor. “Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the N.B. Government are doing little if anything to prevent and mitigate the recent escapes. There is no process to handle this kind of disaster that can occur at the hand of nature or people, and is especially prevalent during times of turmoil in the industry. This is just one of a series of escapes since the spring and still no action by governments nor do they feel any necessity to provide the public and the U.S. Government with information on the escapes”.

Norway: Farmed cod escapees given tracking devices

Norway and Canada are taking the potentially huge problem of farmed cod escapees so seriously that they are spending big money equipping farmed cod with acoustic transmitters implanted in their bellies. The transmitters emit an audio signal that is unique for each fish, and a number of sound buoys in the sea register the signals as the cod swim by.

“The goal is to find out where the escaping cod go and whether this technology can make it easier to capture escaped cod”, says Scientist Pål Arne Bjørn at Fiskeriforskning. Previous studies by Fiskeriforskning show that cod “are far more inclined to escape through holes in the cage than salmon”.

The Norwegian coast is a very important area for spawning and growth of wild cod, and the coastal fishery is of great commercial importance. Fiskeriforskning want to know as much as they can about the cod’s behaviour so they can evaluate potential environmental consequences for the ecosystem. The project is a collaboration between Fiskeriforskning, NINA, the Canadian universities The University of British Columbia and Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Laponia Seafoods.

Canada: Safeway’s ‘ingredients for extinction’?

A coalition of environmental groups, scientists, fishermen and First Nations have mounted an extensive ad campaign extending into the holiday season to tell the people of British Columbia that Safeway’s sustained support for farmed salmon represents a real threat to BC’s beleaguered wild salmon. As part of the Farmed and Dangerous campaign by the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR), the ads counter Safeway’s new branding initiative “Ingredients for Life” with billboards, transit shelters and bathroom ads throughout Vancouver and Victoria that read “Ingredients for Extinction?”

“The pressure on Safeway will continue to escalate until they listen to the scientists, the First Nations and the thousands of consumers who continue to ask the grocery chain to join the growing numbers of businesses that refuse to support open net-cage raised farmed salmon,” said Dom Repta, of Friends of Clayoquot Sound and CAAR.

“It’s deeply disappointing that one of the largest grocery store chains in North America continues to jeopardize the health of our coastal ecosystems by tolerating the fish farm industry’s irresponsible practices,” said Catherine Stewart of the Living Oceans Society and CAAR. “Safeway is in an influential position to demand a sustainably produced product from its suppliers; a step consumers increasingly expect to be taken by a corporation that claims to be responsible and committed to consumer health”.

Science: Cancer risks of farmed salmon

A new scientific study published in the Journal of Nutrition on contaminants in farmed salmon raises further concerns. Business Review (23rd November) reported that the study concluded that the pollutants in the farm-raised Atlantic salmon outweigh the recognized benefits in salmon; such as preventing sudden cardiac deaths and the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids present in the fish. On the other hand, the benefits outweighed the drawbacks when it comes to the consumption of wild Pacific salmon.

“The risks from salmon consumption are caused by the contaminants, which increase the risk of cancer,” Dr David Carpenter said. “In the developing fetus, some of these contaminants cause harm to the nervous system, leading to a reduced IQ and shortened attention span”. Last year, Dr Carpenter co-authored a paper published in Science on cancer-causing contaminants such as PCBs, dioxins, dieldrin and toxaphene in farmed salmon.