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When salmon farms mean a future

CANADA - Last summer the New Democrat-controlled legislative committee that's been studying salmon farming for the past year ordered up a consultant's report comparing salmon farming and the wild harvest.

It looked like a bit of a time-buying exercise to give some breathing room to the MLAs considering the extremely sensitive issue.

They're examining a controversial industry issue and the New Democrat MLAs are coming at it from a particular point of view.

The party is opposed to net-pen salmon farming and wants the whole industry moved on shore to closed containment systems.

The preliminary report from the consultants was submitted last month. It establishes that the industry the NDP is keen on restructuring is on a par with the combined wild salmon commercial and sports fishing industries. In some respects it's even bigger.

MMK Consulting reported to the committee that the direct economic impact of salmon farming was worth $371 million in 2005.

That's only slightly less than the impact of the combined value of the commercial fishery, worth $216 million, and the sports fishery, worth $231 million.

It's the same picture when it comes to the number of direct jobs. There were 3,045 salmon farming jobs, compared to 1,213 in commercial fishing and processing and 2,280 in the sports fishery.

The farmed fish industry doubled in size between 1997 and 2005, while the wild salmon industry shrank significantly.

Is it global warming, rampant overfishing and poor management? Or is it farm escapes, sea floor contamination or sea lice?

The report notes strong concern about the effects "if" wild stocks are depleted by salmon farming, but stops short of arriving at that conclusion.

It does note that farmed fish are driving prices down and the commercial fishery has lost most of the U.S. market.

Source: Times Colonist

the Fish Site Editor

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