New Canadian coalition urges aquaculture reform

Frustrated with provincial and federal governments’ inability to effectively regulate Canada’s aquaculture industry and protect the marine ecosystem and fishing economy, a group of fishermen, environmentalists and coastal residents on Monday announced the formation of the Atlantic Coalition of Aquaculture Reform.

Among the concerns the new coalition raised is the sea lice outbreak at New Brunswick salmon farms and the use of pesticides — both legal and illegal — to prevent the spread of the disease.

The coalition claimed that the New Brunswick aquaculture industry is threatening the marine ecosystem, including the near-shore lobster habitat.

“Traditional fisheries have been negatively impacted by aquaculture practices that are contaminating our shared waters, and also by conflicts about resource and space use,” said Melanie Sonnenberg, project manager of the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association, one of the coalition’s members. “We want to ensure that government fully understands the importance of these problems and addresses them fairly and adequately.”

The Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association said that while the collaboration of stakeholders is welcome, it’s a misconception that salmon stocking density is too high.

“We grow our fish in the most natural way possible,” Pamela Parker, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, told New Brunswick’s Telegraph Journal. “Salmon, as any fish, are schooling animals and we farm them in a way that they are comfortable with because salmon simply will not grow if they are stressed. So our stocking density is based on fish health and environmental sustainability. We’re criticized for being too intensive, but the entire production capacity of our industry would fit into an area about the size of Yankee Stadium.”

In addition to the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association, the coalition consists of the Fundy North Fishermen’s Association, Fundy Weir Fishermen’s Association, Ecology Action Centre, Fundy Baykeeper/CCNB, St. Mary’s Bay Coastal Alliance Society, Friar’s Bay Development Association and Friends of Shelburne Harbour.

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