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BC Fish Farm Moratorium Lifted

by Associated Press
Capital Press - September 20, 2002

Some say farm salmon could threaten wild salmon

VICTORIA, British Columbia -- A seven-year moratorium that severely limited the expansion of fish farming in British Columbia has been lifted now that new provincial waste control regulations have been drafted.

The new rules are the most comprehensive in the world, said John van Dongen, provincial agriculture, food and fisheries minister.

Van Dongen also announced a $3.3 million fund to support independent research into aquaculture and environment.

"We've worked very hard on these regulations to ensure that they do a proper job of protecting the environment in British Columbia," he said Thursday. "We are confident the regulations will do that and we are confident we have a regulation in place that is leading edge in the world."

Fish farming could bring as many as 12,000 new jobs and generate more than $640 million in economic activity annually over the next decade, he said.

The province's 90 salmon farms, mostly off Vancouver Island, employ about 4,000 people and generate about $384,000 annually, according to the British Columbia Salmon Farmer's Association.

Environmentalists and some scientists have warned that escapes of farmed salmon could threaten wild salmon. Fish farm critics, including Indian leaders, said the regulations would do little stop coastal pollution or protect wild salmon stocks from disease.

Van Dongen sidestepped questions on whether the province had reached agreement with Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the regulations. Canada's federal government is responsible for protecting wild salmon stocks.

Lynn Hunter, an aquaculture expert with the David Suzuki Foundation and a former member of parliament, said the regulations are too industry-friendly.

"It's like having a net at the bottom of your toilet and that's what they call sewage treatment," she said.

Van Dongen said tidal action will provide a natural cleanup mechanism.

"that is the general force of nature that takes place in the ocean," he said. "It's very temporary impact."

Fish farm association president Odd Grydeland praised the new regulations but said low salmon prices and tough international competition will mean no more than modest growth.

"We've spent the past seven years working with government, scientists, regulators, First Nations and local communities to ensure B.C.'s salmon farmers meet the environmental standards needed to remain a sound and sustainable industry, one with significant opportunities for coastal communities in our province," Grydeland said.

In the same issue of Capital Press
Farm Allowed to Dump Tons of Dead Fish

VICTORIA, British Columbia -- A Vancouver Island salmon farm has been given permission to dump hundreds of tons of dead fish off the west coast of the island.

It was the first such ocean disposal permit issued to the aquaculture industry by Environment Canada.

Dixie Sullivan, a program scientist with the department's ocean disposal section , said the government was allowing Greig Seafood to dispose of up to 2,8000 metric tons because the weight of the dead fish threatened to sink the farm.

Sullivan said the permit was issued under an emergency provision of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Two loads of dead fish were dumped this week about 20 miles west of the island, said Peter Gibson, managing director of Greig Seafood.

A third load was taken out Friday and the final load was to be dumped this weekend, he said.

Gibson said only 850-900 metric tons had to be dumped at sea because the remaining fish have survived.

The problem began Sept.2, when a toxic algae bloom never seen before in British Columbia began killing fish at the company's farm in Esperanza Inlet on the Pacific coast of the island, Gibson said.

There wasn't time to take the dead fish to the nearest fish-rendering plant in Vancouver or to a landfill, he said.

Environmentalists say the environment Canada permit sets a bad precedent.

Otto Langer, the David Suzuki foundation's director of marine conservation and a former federal fisheries official, noted the Fisheries Act prohibits dumping dead fish or offal into fish-frequented waters. "Anyone else can't do it, but fish farms seem to have immunity," he said.

Associated Press
BC Fish Farm Moratorium Lifted
Capital Press - September 20, 2002

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