November 30, 2009
Minister Gail Shea
Dear Minister Shea:
Twenty thousand, two hundred forty-three (20,243) people have now signed the letter on my website www.adopt-a-fry.org insisting that you apply the Fisheries Act to “farming” salmon.
But the Norwegian salmon farming industry is now so far out of alignment with common sense and the spirit of Canadian law that the road to compliance is not simple. As you prepare to assume control of this industry as per the BC Supreme Court decision we, the public, are doing your job in your absence laying charges against this industry, removing firewalls, to protect our fish.
Twenty years ago the business of raising salmon was wrongly categorized as “farming” and assigned to the Province to manage. The Province is not responsible for wild fish and the feds were not responsible for fish farms, so no one has been responsible for impact of salmon “farms” on wild fish.
This Provincial regulatory scheme was recognized as unlawful and struck down by Judge Hinkson, February 2009. He gave government 1 year to sort this out and it remains uncertain if ownership of salmon (farmed or not) is even legal in the ocean.
At first it was assumed the Provincial government would somehow continue to run the industry, but shortly after the August 2009 sockeye crash, the Province backed away leaving Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) scrambling to design a regulatory regime. As a result a delay is being negotiated during which the Province expects to continue expanding the industry!
Expansion is crucial to Norwegian fish farmers because they have lost money for 3 years now and their share prices will rise only if they put more fish in the water. However, we just lost 10 million sockeye that passed through heavily fish farmed waters and Judge Cohen has “aquaculture” 3rd on his list to investigate with his Judicial Inquiry. It would be immoral to expand the industry during this moment of regulatory restructuring and investigation.
When you peel back the layers of the Fisheries Act the conflicting rules make no sense, except as firewalls. On the one hand the Pacific (Fishery) Regulations (1993) exempts Provincially licenced aquaculture from all fishing regulations which appears to give them unrestricted access to all the wild fish drawn into their pens by the lights and food. These fish are Atlantic salmon fodder and highly valuable sablefish,rock cod, salmon and herring.
Then as if someone recognized the preposterous enormity of this the Access to Wild Aquatic Resources 2004 was produced to licence fish farmers for by-catch, if the amount was deemed insignificant to wild stocks.
This was a good idea, but no one seems to have these licences. And how could they? The wild pink salmon Marine Harvest admitted to having in their boat last June 16 were from an age-class and stock so endangered millions of public dollars were spent to protect them. However, this is lost in DFO’s regulatory labyrinth. If Marine Harvest has no licence to possess by-catch, does that mean that the 1993 regulations come into effect to exempt them from all fishing rules including possession of an endangered wild fish stock? I hope we get to find out. Judge Saunderson issued a summons to Marine Harvest to appear in court for possessing these pink salmon. The Department of Justice could halt this case, but it would seem in the public interest for a court to hear this.
In October 2009 Marine Harvest also admitted to catching herring in the Broughton Archipelago and composting them with no reporting or licence. Was this legal or illegal? Does anyone know? If they had no licence for tons of herring by-catch are they exempt?
Herring fishing has been closed in Broughton for twenty years because the stocks are not rebuilding. Now we find out Norwegian “farmers” are killing them despite the closure with no apparent ramifications, no quota nor reporting. These fish farmers are out-fishing BC fishermen! Over-fishing is a global scourge. Minister Shea this is not right.
Nothing is straightforward. When 40,000 Atlantics escaped from Marine Harvest’s farm October 21, 2009, we were told they were worth a million dollars and everything had been done to recover them. But now we hear farm fish are worthless once they escape and only 1,200 were recovered because Marine Harvest was “confused” about the licence DFO granted them specifically for this situation. Does profit - starved Marine Harvest really want the expense of disposing of 40,000 fish? They did not do everything they could have to recapture their fish and section 55 of the Fishery (General Regulations) states no person shall release live fish into fish habitat. They must be charged and heavily fined to inspire compliance. This is the tool your Ministry uses on other fishermen.
It is disturbing that someone lobbied Parliament to disguise the industry as Provincial farms even though this must have raised legal red flags and then someone specifically exempted “provincial aquaculture” from the fishing regulations. This is Salmongate.
We are hosting guests who are pulling the tablecloth into their laps dragging the silverware, the food, the water everything out of our reach. Thankfully, Judges Hinkson, Slade, Cohen and Saunderson have nailed the tablecloth to the table.
However it is not up to the courts to manage fish. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is touring the National Aquaculture Strategic Action Plan Initiative to get feedback, calling aquaculture a legitimate user of Canadian marine waters.
It is indeed time the fish farmers became “legitimate.” It is time to remove their regulatory firewalls, open the farms to public scrutiny and silence decades of political interference that have given foreign corporations greater access to Canadian fish than Canadians. All this and these corporations are still losing money.
Minister Shea there is one job we cannot do for you. You must close the border to import of salmon eggs from the Atlantic to prevent introduction of ISA virus to the eastern Pacific. If you don’t you will see this issue go before the courts. ISAV strains are highly traceable. You say there is no “strong evidence” that it travels in eggs (3-11-2009) scientists say we are “guaranteed” to get the virus if you keep allowing Atlantic salmon egg imports.
Others and myself will continue to lay charges under the Fisheries Act with the help of lawyers who are working Pro Bono, and at reduced rates and thousands of people whose small donations are making this possible. The Fisheries Act specifically encourages the public to lay charges in the face of government “inertia.”
At the very least I ask that you do not stand in our way.