The federal government is considering a new regulation under the Fisheries Act that would allow aquaculture facilities (mainly fish farms) to add deleterious substances to water frequented by fish. In the letter below, Waterkeeper objects to the proposed regulation.
BY EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
December 5, 2011
Manager, Aquaculture Management Directorate
Program Policy, Stewardship Unit, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
200 Kent Street, 14th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1A 0E6
Dear Manager, Aquaculture Management Directorate:
Re: Fisheries Act, Notice of intent with respect to regulations for fish pathogens and pest treatment
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is writing to express our concern regarding the notice of intent to develop regulations under the Fisheries Act to control fish pathogens and pests in aquaculture facilities. The notice was published in the Canada Gazette, Part 1, on November 5, 2011.
Waterkeeper is a Canadian charity working to restore your ability to safely swim, drink, and fish in the Lake Ontario watershed. We believe in a swimmable, drinkable, fishable world: where every person can safely touch the water, where the water is pure enough for drinking, and where it is clean and wild enough to toss in a line and pull out a fish for your family.
Waterkeeper objects to the development of regulations under s.36(5) of the Fisheries Act with respect to aquaculture facilities. Our objection is based on the fact that the proposed regulation will increase harm to wild fish and fish habitat. Such a regulation directly contradicts the spirit of Canada’s Fisheries Act.
It is well-established that fish farming in or near open water poses a serious threat to wild fish and fish habitat. Diseases and pests from aquaculture operations are not contained within those operations; they spread to the natural environment, compromising the integrity of natural fish populations.
Information prepared for the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River [the Cohen Commission] confirms that increased aquaculture is one factor correlated with increased mortality in wild sockeye salmon populations.*
In light of the negative impacts of aquaculture on the natural environment, the Government of Canada should do more to protect wild fish and fish habitat. Instead, the proposed regulation benefits and facilitates harmful aquaculture operations, enabling them to continue operating in risky ways. It allows such facilities to locate in or near open water. It encourages such operations to introduce new contaminants into the natural environment. Most alarmingly, the regulation encourages the release of more “therapeutants” into the natural environment; these include pest control products and drugs.
The most effective, logical way to ensure that aquaculture has no negative impact on the natural environment is to require that all such facilities be self-contained, with no exchange of water between fish farms and open water. This is the only way to ensure that natural fish populations are protected.
One purpose of the Fisheries Act is to prohibit pollution. Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act could not be more clear; it prohibits the deposit of any deleterious substance into water frequented by fish. It is one of the strongest fish protection provisions in Canadian law. Aquaculture operations are unwilling to comply with the Act, which is why this regulation is being proposed. The regulation will replace normal environmental standards for aquaculture operations and authorize the deposition of a deleterious substance into fish habitat.
In short, the very purpose of the proposed regulation is to enable pollution.
If aquaculture facilities are producing or spreading pathogens or pests harmful to wild fish, they should be prosecuted under the Fisheries Act, not rewarded for their harmful behaviour. Contact between such facilities and natural fish habitat should be prohibited, not encouraged.
We strongly encourage you to abandon the proposed regulation. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this submission at 416-861-1237 or email@example.com.
President and Waterkeeper
*See B. Connors (2011), “Examination of relationships between salmon aquaculture and sockeye salmon population dynamics”, Cohen Commission Technical Report 5B, online here.