Will election bring closure to fish farm issue?

Dear editor,

Congratulations to the Mount Waddington Regional District and Living Oceans for initiating the recent study showing the impact of the marine economy on the economic health of the North Island. For the first time someone has got it together and analyzed the impact of the marine economy and shown the value of the various segments that depend on our ocean.

What this study shows to me is how all segments are important to the North Island economy  and the negative impact the continued operation of the open net caged salmon farms in their present locations will have on the economy and jobs.

Wilderness Tourism Association operators have personally witnessed and/or know of:

the devastation of sea lice incubated by the farms located on the out migrating salmon routes;  enormous pollution caused by wastes of farm fish including faeces and chemical treatment residues and the consequential damage to sea floor creatures; gruesome destruction of wild predators trying to get to the farm fish through the open net pens;  massive escapes of farm salmon and the intermingling of these farmed salmon with wild fish potentially causing degradation of  wild salmon stocks; and most importantly  we have witnessed  the swings in the  sockeye return to the Fraser River. We are aware of the testimony coming out at the Cohen commission indicating the possibility of viruses transmitted from the farms being responsible for the demise of the Sockeye on the 2009 return and other returns.

Salmon farms must move out of the water into closed containment in order to preserve our wild fish and those of depend on the wild fish including:  First Nations and commercial fisheries; the recreational fisherman; the tourism operators who run wildlife tours; fishing guides; the fishing lodges; and the processing jobs dependent on the above.

Just as important to the economy are salmon farming jobs which in our opinion are threatened because the industry is still in a state of denial of the damage it is causing and still getting a free ride at the expense of the environment. The salmon farm industry  is making no significant moves towards closed containment. They are stating  costs are too high and threatening to move out from our coast if forced into closed systems in order to save our wild salmon. Now is the time to ask every candidate in the coming federal election what their party will do to protect our wild salmon. Will they commit to help fund closed containment pilot projects? Will their party implement a transition plan with a firm timeline to move the farms out of the water? Unfortunately the lack of action by the open net cage farms is putting their employees and their families in jeopardy along with the many jobs that depend on healthy and abundant oceans..

Brian Gunn

President of the Wilderness Tourism Association