Remarks at the Aquaculture Canada and Cold Harvest 2016 Conference

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Thank you Senator Manning, and good morning everyone.

You’ve just heard my colleague make a compelling case for aquaculture.  Its economic benefits are clear and not in dispute.

There are nevertheless contrasting views about aquaculture, particularly its potential impacts on the environment.  Some are based on facts and science, others result from misinformation.  There are also fears that there is inadequate oversight of the industry.

These are valid concerns.  But in our report and in our study of aquaculture, we believe that these concerns can be addressed, particularly if the government follows the recommendations in our report.

When it comes to the effect of aquaculture on wild fish stocks, there are clear regional differences, particularly when aquacultured Atlantic salmon escape into the wild.

If you’re in British Columbia, there is minimal risk to wild Pacific salmon stocks from escaped salmon.  They don’t seem to interact much in the wild and, more importantly, they do not seem to be able to successfully mate with wild Pacific salmon.

So there’s minimal risk of serious harm.

But here on the East Coast, research has shown that escaped Atlantic salmon can mate with their wild cousins — and that the resulting interbreeding may reduce the new generation’s ability to survive in the wild.

So it’s clear that we must use caution, and consider restrictions on salmon aquaculture operations that are near wild salmon populations, particularly those with endangered or threatened status.  Reducing the number of escapes is an important step as well.

More broadly, the location of any operation must be carefully examined to lessen risks to wild fish and to minimize near-field and far-field effects — to that end we should support researchers’ efforts to understand how aquaculture operations can affect their environment.

Fortunately, there is a strong foundation of aquaculture research and development in Canada, with an international reputation for excellence.

That research must continue so we can make wise policy decisions.

The committee also heard concerns about shellfish aquaculture.

Some operations in B.C. have been known to generate large amounts of debris, like plastic and Styrofoam, that is abandoned in the water and on the shore.  We were also told that certain operations leave equipment behind in the water instead of removing it.

Even though these types of situations are the exception to the rule, we unequivocally condemn this behavior, and we urge the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to strictly enforce licence conditions and provisions by conducting regular inspections.  This holds true for shellfish as well as for finfish operators.

We believe there is great value in the aquaculture industry — but only if it is operated responsibly and sustainably.

Respect for the environment ties in with concerns about industry oversight.  Canadians needs to know they can trust the industry to act responsibly.

That’s why we recommend that the federal government establish a publically-accessible database of aquaculture operators so Canadians can see what they are licensed to do and whether they are complying with regulations.  This national database will also recognize best practices and demonstrate industry legitimacy.

We believe this will address public concerns, and also go some measure toward ensuring aquaculture operations have the social licence that is so critical to maintaining good relations with their communities.

Ultimately, our committee believes aquaculture development is a worthwhile goal — and we know that it can be done sensibly, sustainably and responsibly.

We urge the government to pay close attention to our report. It provides a detailed analysis of the challenges and opportunities for Canadian aquaculture, and what we can do to maximize the benefits of aquaculture in Canada.

We have asked the government to respond and we look forward to hearing what they have to say.

Thank you very much for allowing us the privilege of speaking to you all today.


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