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Moratorium expected on north coast fish farm expansion

CANADA - A new moratorium on salmon farming expansion on British Columbia's north coast and the compulsory conversion of existing farms to closed-containment systems are among the recommendations expected this month from a government review.

The recommendations will be presented to the legislature later this month and arise from an 18 month study and community consultation by an NDP-led committee on aquaculture reform.
 
Mary Ellen Walling, B.C. Salmon Farmers Association executive director, said that she had received 'leaks' of details of the committee's report.
 
She said that several sources have told her the committee supports expansion of salmon farming along the southern B.C. coast, but wanted a moratorium on salmon farming expansion to the north of Cape Caution.
 
The committee also recommends that the government compel existing salmon farms to stop raising fish in open net sea pens within three years.
 
Instead, it wants farmers to convert to closed containment systems that would fully segregate farm-raised fish from contact with other marine organisms, including wild salmon, sea lice and opportunistic sea mammals looking for food.
 
"We know this is a long-term goal of environmental activists, and we expect the NDP are going to recommend this despite the fact that it's not a proven technology on a commercial scale," said Walling.
 
"It's not used anywhere in the world with salmon. We're always very interested in new technologies, but we have some concerns around blanket adoption of a technology that is largely unproven."
 
She said the committee also recommends that a seafood certification group based in London, England, be given the authority to determine what types of feed can be used on B.C. salmon farms.
 
"This is completely bizarre, from our perspective," Walling said. "They want all fish meat and fish oil used in feed in British Columbia to be approved by the Marine Stewardship Council as being sourced from sustainably harvested fisheries.
 
"There are no council-endorsed feed sources available on the scale that would be required for the B.C. salmon farming industry. This has implications for the entire agriculture sector, because fish meat and fish oil are also used as starter feed for swine and chicken," she added.
 
 
In 2002, the B.C. Liberals lifted a longstanding moratorium on salmon aquaculture expansion, but have not issued any new permits since that time.
 
Walling said B.C. is missing out on expanding market opportunities for farmed salmon in the U.S. and abroad -- and has foregone almost a half-billion dollars in revenue as a result of inaction since 2002.
 
"If we had achieved site approvals in a timely fashion, say six to nine months as is the case for other environmental approvals in B.C., stocked the farms and grown the fish out, we'd be looking today at $490 million in additional fish sales."
 
B.C. sells about $400 million worth of farmed salmon each year -- mainly to the United States.
 

the Fish Site Editor

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