Salmon Aquaculture Heats Up
Last January, I wrote a column about net-cage salmon aquaculture that roiled the normally-calm editorial pages of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. Elsewhere — in Norway, Scotland, British Columbia — that form of aquaculture is extremely controversial. But not in the Maritimes. I thought we should be looking at it much more carefully. And now, it seems, we are.
In the column, I argued that salmon farming is a rather wasteful way to produce food – it takes 4kg of wild fish to produce 1kg of industrial salmon – and that salmon farming is a heavily-polluting industry at several levels. It pollutes the water with pesticides, antibiotics and industrial amounts of feces, and the fish that escape from the farms – and they routinely do escape – pollute the very genetic code of the wild stocks. The result is a catastrophe for wild salmon. You can read the original column here.
What prompted the column was an escape of 138,000 salmon into the Bay of Fundy from farms in New Brunswick – and a plan for two more huge farms in St. Mary’s Bay on the Nova Scotia side of Fundy. This kind of aquaculture has long been controversial elsewhere — but in the Maritimes, the siren song of job-creation has largely protected the industry.
No more, it seems. This month, the Nova Scotia government approved the farms, prompting a protest at the Nova Scotia legislature on June 17 by tourism operators, lobster fishermen, Mi’kmaq leaders and others. At the protest, lobsterman Sheldon Dixon of Tiverton made a point I hadn’t fully appreciated before, namely that licensing such farms amounts to privatizing the sea bottom – part of the insidious advance of creeping privatization that provides the context for so many of our environmental problems.
Stay tuned. The Green Interview is hoping to make a significant contribution to this discussion over the coming months.