Yes, I researched this stuff in university. Here is a paper demonstrating how much digging it takes to be able to produce a knowledgeable writeup on something. It’s not about word count, it’s about value. I wrote this in university, but the skills I learned doing this remain with me today. I don’t think I realized what I was getting out of this while doing it. But it really does train you on how to look for information when you need it, which is applicable in many working professions.
This is written academic style, so references are at the end.
Aquaculture Policy in Canada
Chronology of Events
1995: The Federal Aquaculture Development Strategy states that Canada is not meeting its potential to be a “world leader” in the aquaculture industry (qtd. in Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
1997: B.C. releases the Salmon Aquaculture Review (SAR), the findings of a two-year study that questioned the environmental safety of salmon farming and aimed to provide solutions to risks. Conclusions drawn in the report state the environment is not threatened by fish farms but the industry needs more attention, such as regulatory enforcement and encouragement of safe and new farming habits. The provincial Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) later takes swift action on the recommendations, most of which are made manifest in 1999 (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
1999: The Salmon Aquaculture Implementation Advisory Committee is created by the B.C. government. The committee aims to coordinate cooperation between stakeholders to see recommendations of the Salmon Aquaculture Review fulfilled (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
1999 (October): British Columbia Salmon Farm Siting Policy is announced. The new policy contains plans to make fish farming sites more environmentally friendly and socially acceptable by rearranging their locations. The government also makes provisions for 10 new operations, half freshwater and half saltwater, that will use both “conventional and closed-containment technologies” to encourage the use of the latter (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
1999 (November): The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans agrees unanimously to thoroughly investigate finfish aquaculture in Canada. Research is to begin in January, 2000 (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2000 (August): Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Herb Dhaliwal announces a five-year, $75 million plan for “the sustainable development of Canada’s aquaculture industry.” Goals of the plan are to sooth relations between stakeholders in the industry to ensure its success. To achieve this, incentive is given to undertake “leading-edge research and development,” reaching improved health standards and creating new regulating laws (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2000 (October): New Brunswick introduces a new policy regarding the location of aquaculture sites, called the Bay of Fundy Marine Aquaculture Site Allocation Policy (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2000 (December): The Auditor General of Canada scolds the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the Report to Parliament, saying the ministry is not taking adequate measures to ensure B.C. fish farming is environmentally safe. The focus of the report is on the risk posed to wild salmon (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2001 (May): The Aquaculture Commissioner publishes Legislative and Regulatory Review of Aquaculture in Canada, naming 36 “urgent” changes that are needed in the industry’s regulatory sphere, including “a clear definition of aquaculture” (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2001 (June): The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries echoes and expands the requests and arguments of the Aquaculture Commissioner in its report titled Aquaculture in Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific Regions (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2001 (November): The David Suzuki Foundation aids the firing up of government at all levels by sponsoring the report of the Leggatt Inquiry Into Salmon Farming in British Columbia. The report, titled Clear Choices, calls for an end to salmon farming and its propagation by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The B.C. and federal governments boycott the inquiry (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2002 (January): B.C. attempts to strike a balance between environmental and businesses interests in the British Columbia Salmon Aquaculture Policy by announcing new heightened standards for salmon farming that will ensure environmentally safe production of fish while at the same time opening the door for new sites to be built, a turn from the preexisting moratorium on fish farms (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2002 (May): The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans releases the Aquaculture Policy Framework. Taking into account a document created in 1995 on the issue, the new policy aims to convince Canadians that fish farming is safe while it also aids the industry in becoming a world leader in aquaculture (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2002 (November): The Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (PFRCC) advises B.C. and Ottawa in a report to safeguard pink salmon passing through the Broughton Archipelago. Fears are raised in light of a recent drop in salmon returning to spawn and the blame is on sea lice produced through aquaculture (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2003 (January): The PFRCC attacks aquaculture again in another report, this time titled Making Sense of the Salmon Aquaculture Debate: Analysis of issues related to netcage salmon farming and wild salmon in British Columbia. The demands are restrictions to be put in place on the industry in favour of wild salmon (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2003 (April): The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans releases the findings of its two-year study on the Canadian aquaculture situation. The report concludes that aquaculture should continue to expand to meet its full and high potential while at the same time government should ensure the “responsible development of aquaculture” (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
2004: The Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans launches the Marine Research Project to investigate the effects of sea lice on wild salmon, especially in the Broughton Archipelago. While 2003 results of the same study found miniscule risks to wild stocks, the 2004 team finds startling results in comparison to the previous year, suggesting an increase in danger to wild salmon and confirming the argument of the PFRCC (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2005).
2005 (June): A coalition of anti-aquaculture organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, file a complaint via the Sierra Legal Defence Fund to the Auditor General, claiming the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not fulfilling its responsibility to protect wild stocks from disease caused by fish farming (David Suzuki Foundation, 2005).
2006 (March): Simon Fraser University releases a press release stating that researchers Rick Routledge and Alexandra Morton have discovered a direct link between sea lice from aquaculture sites and infestations among wild salmon in the Broughton Archipelago. The report is titled Mortality Rates for Juvenile Pink and Chum Salmon Infested with Sea Lice in the Broughton Archipelago (Simon Fraser University, 2006).
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs):
NGOs seem to be clearly bent on limiting aquaculture practices as much as possible. Some, like the David Suzuki Foundation, have made the radical suggestion that fish farming be banned altogether. Others, like the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (PFRCC), make strong suggestions to place restrictions on the aquaculture industry. They all, however, are concerned with the environmental effects of fish farming and espouse the notion that protecting wild salmon stocks should be the government’s first priority when making policy decisions related to aquaculture in Canada.
The PFRCC has been pivotal in raising the issue of sea lice produced through salmon farming. After noting a decreased number in salmon returning to spawn in the Broughton Archipelago, the organization blamed the issue on sea lice. A subsequent study was undertaken by the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans, called the Marine Research Project to look into possible hazards posed to the wild stocks due to infections of sea lice in the water. This organization maintains a professional atmosphere, seeking to influence government though scientific publications, such as their landmark report entitled Making Sense of the Salmon Aquaculture Debate: Analysis of issues related to netcage salmon farming and wild salmon in British Columbia (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003, PFRCC, 2004).
Other NGOs, such as the David Suzuki Foundation, the Georgia Strait Alliance, plus umbrella groups like the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform and Sierra Legal Defence Fund, have taken more radical steps. Of the most notable is the 2005 complaint by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund to the Auditor General of Canada that accused the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of being irresponsible in its handling of the aquaculture issue, creating hazards for wild salmon in B.C. It also makes the claim that Canada should have regulatory policies in place to prevent pathogens in its waters just like governments in the European Union and United States. It blames government for not bringing these measures into existence or even taking adequate initiative to research the issue (Georgia Strait Alliance, 2005, David Suzuki Foundation, 2005).
In 2001, The David Suzuki Foundation angered all levels of government by sponsoring a report by the Leggat Inquiry Into Salmon Farming in British Columbia called Clear Choices. The published work suggested the Department of Fisheries and Oceans drop the aquaculture development mission altogether and put and end to salmon farming. The report was later boycotted by both the B.C. and federal governments (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) frames the aquaculture industry as the epitome of all evils, naming its own Web site “Farmed and Dangerous” and using catchy phrases to label some of its reports, such as “Diminishing Returns” and “Farmed Salmon: Is it really what the Dr. ordered?” Holding no confidence in government’s current measures to protect wild salmon, the organization submitted a report to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2005 titled Why the new Wild Salmon Policy fails to protect wild salmon and the public interest from aquaculture impacts. Through their Web site, the organization contends that farmed salmon is not only bad for the environment, it also negatively affects human health and the economy. However, the organization does not necessarily call for an end to fish farming, but rather, absolutely safe farming practices. It can be credited to them that they work with industry leader Marine Harvest to undertake research initiatives and adopt alternative ways of carrying out business, such as using closed-containment systems and relocating farm sites (CAAR, n.d.).
Industry is where we find a split. The salmon farmers advocate their practice, ensuring audiences that aquaculture is a profitable and safe profession. Some seem to be willing to collaborate with other stakeholders to make moves towards alternative methods to farming fish that will not harm the environment. One such company is Marine Harvest. Others, like the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, claim they are doing their job fine and the environmentalists are raising issues that are not really issues. The wild stock harvesters however, disagree with the practice of aquaculture, claiming that it is taking a toll on their business and the environment. They generally make the same arguments as the NGOs.
Salmon farmers present aquaculture as a vital part of the economy and a contributor to human health, as demand for seafood has risen over the last few decades. They make aquaculture seem like a public good. The B.C. Salmon Farmers, in an attempt to normalize the practice, mention that aquaculture, along with land agriculture, has been around for thousands of years. In answering attacks on salmon farming, the association points the other way, arguing that the practice of using chemicals is found not only in salmon farming but also in plant and livestock farming. They also argue that, “the enormous health benefits of eating fish far outweigh any potential health risks.” In its response to the B.C. formation of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture, which is assigned the responsibility of researching the impacts of aquaculture and comparing local regulations with those abroad, the association claims that “farmed and wild salmon can easily share the vast resources of the ocean” and makes the point that aquaculture has created thousands of jobs in areas where employment is hard to come by (B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, 2005). These are the general arguments put forward by many other aquaculture organizations. They all make known their commitment and responsibility in protecting the environment and present their own scientific evidence that shows how safe fish farming is (Marine Harvest, n.d.). It appears they would rather regulate their own industry than have the government do it for them, though they hold a cooperative attitude towards government so as not to thwart their operations.
The Canadian Sablefish Association would rather see fish farms disappear. They work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in finding solutions to problems, though they are not passive at all about their views on fish farming and advocate against it. Their 2004 report, Canadian Sablefish Association Position On Sablefish Aquaculture addresses the licensing of 50 new sablefish farms in B.C. They make the claim that farming sablefish will greatly harm the wild stocks and that things were doing great before licenses were approved to farm sablefish (Canadian Sablefish Association, 2004). It seems their livelihood is at risk due to fish farms and it is in their best interest to stop them.
The B.C. Seafood Alliance, however, takes a more middle-of-the-road approach. Though they don’t make outright accusations against aquaculture, they do believe in the responsible running of its operations. They echoed the PFRCC’s report, Making Sense of the Aquaculture Debate: An Analysis of Issues Related to Netcage Salmon Farming and Wild Salmon in BC, and wrote a letter to both levels of government in support of the recommendations. Though they don’t vilify the salmon farmers, they take the stance that not enough is being done to regulate the industry, and their first call to fisheries ministers is that “the protection of wild fish and shellfish is given priority in government decision-making” (B.C. Seafood Alliance, n.d.).
Government is concerned with making aquaculture competitive on the world market. It claims that the aquaculture industry is not meeting its full potential and could be a world leader in the seafood market. However, in order to compromise with environmental, and thus public, interests, it has put certain regulations in place to ensure the safety of the practice. These include escape prevention and pollution control. It also promotes research into developing new technologies for fish farming.
John van Dongen, former B.C. minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, set out to “allay fears, dispel myths and set the record straight” in his 2002 opinion editorial titled Why B.C. Lifted the Moratorium on Fish Farms. Representing the government’s viewpoint on the issue, he makes many counter arguments to attacks on aquaculture, claiming that fish farms are causing absolutely no harm to the environment or population. Afterwards, he mentions aquaculture’s potential $1 billion contribution to the economy within the next decade. He ends with the assurance that the environment and wild stocks will continue to be protected as usual. Interestingly, he claims that B.C. has “the most comprehensive regulatory framework for salmon aquaculture in the world,” which runs contrary to the beliefs of the NGOs (van Dongen, 2002).
However, the B.C. government has taken measures to ensure safe aquaculture practices and to research the issue. In 2005, the B.C. Pacific Salmon Forum was established to investigate the issues surrounding controversies in aquaculture and to make recommendations to the government regarding future policy (B.C. Pacific Salmon Forum, 2005). It should also be mentioned that while the moratorium on fish farms was lifted in 2002, at the same time standards and regulations for the industry were heightened. Going back to 1997, the B.C. government released its paramount Salmon Aquaculture Review, the findings of a two-year study that investigated the environmental risks associated with aquaculture, and attempted to provide a solution to those risks. The result was the creation of the Salmon Aquaculture Implementation Advisory Committee, which sought to fulfill the recommendations of the Salmon Aquaculture Review (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans). These attempts by the B.C. government show its efforts at clearing the way for what it calls the “sustainable development of the aquaculture industry” to ensure its success.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) echoes B.C.’s stand on the aquaculture issue. In its Aquaculture Policy Framework, the former minister of Fisheries and Oceans,Robert G. Thibault, wastes no time in getting to his point about the economic benefits of aquaculture in Canada. The startling numbers (14,000 jobs with a 12 per cent growth rate, plus $1 billion in economic activity) show that aquaculture is an industry that Canada cannot afford to take lightly. However, the DFO also supports the notion of “responsible growth and sustainable development,” making mention its efforts and responsibility in working with various stakeholders to ensure that the industry grows in a safe manner (Thibault, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 2005).
The federal government has also taken steps to ensure that the aquaculture industry can grow in an environmentally sound and peaceful atmosphere. When the PFRCC claimed that sea lice were affecting wild salmon in the Broughton Archipelago, the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans launched the Marine Research Project to investigate the issue (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2005). Also, in 2000, then minister of Fisheries and Oceans Herb Dhaliwal announced a $75 million plan to carry out the government’s intentions outlined above. The plan also gave incentives to undertake “leading-edge research and development” and heightened regulatory standards on the industry (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
The problem in this document is that the government and private sector want to expand the aquaculture industry but there are concerns by other groups who believe fish farming to be an unsafe practice. Until these concerns are addressed and solved, the industry will be limited in its endeavours to become a world leader in seafood exports and the public will continue to question the integrity of the practice.
However, the issue is framed so as to depict that aquaculture has the vast potential to boom and greatly benefit the Canadian economy, but environmentalists, traditional fish harvesters and some First Nations groups are trying to barricade the industry’s progress by claiming it has adverse effects on wild stocks. They make these claims despite studies that say fish farming has no harmful effects on the environment.
The solution to the problem is that the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans, through the government of Canada, will put in place regulatory measures that will ensure the safe practice of fish farming and gain doubtless public confidence in the industry so that it can get back to business.
As a result, the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans is the hero, pleasing all sides of the debate. The Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans is depicted as the protectorate of Canada’s oceans, vested with the responsibility given to them by the Government of Canada to protect creatures living underwater while simultaneously ensuring the safe utilization of the water’s resources. They are fighting for the vast economic benefits of aquaculture and the provision and security of jobs to thousands of people in rural communities.
The villains in this document are stated as “environmental groups, the traditional fish-harvesting sector and, on the West Coast, First Nations” who are trying to limit and, in some cases, even stop the aquaculture industry based on false claims from “outdated information” (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
The word “potential” is used often to describe how much farther the industry needs to go to make the best use of the resources and technologies available to it, and how important it is for the industry to be unhindered in these efforts. The industry has “potential for growth” and the “potentialto contribute” to the economy. However, the document, interestingly enough, also uses the word “potential” to describe the limits of pollution caused by aquaculture. There is only a “potential impact of salmon aquaculture and sea lice” and a “potential threat posed by salmon farm escapees.” Likewise, there exists merely “the potential for salmon farmed fish to transmit disease to wild stocks” (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
The word used most in this document is “sustainable.” The government wants to “enhance the sustainable development” of aquaculture and supports the “sustainable utilization of Canada’s fisheries resources.” “Sustainable,” in the context that it is used, seems to be exchanged as a synonym for “safe.” The document often puts it near “development,” suggesting that the aquaculture industry will continue to meet its full potential, but environmentalists and the public should not worry, since the expansion will be “sustainable.” In fact, “sustainable” is paired with “increase the public confidence” at least four times. The government must “increase public confidence in the sustainability of aquaculture” and “increase public confidence that aquaculture is being developed in a sustainable matter.” The report itself puts it most beautifully when it includes in its conclusion the following sentence: “[The Department of Fisheries and Oceans] will have to demonstrate that it has put in place the tools to ensure that the industry is truly sustainable, and that “sustainable aquaculture” is more than just a buzz phrase” (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, 2003).
A comparable report to The Federal Role in Aquaculture in Canada: Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, is the 2005 Delaware, U.S.-based document, Recommendations for an Operational Framework for Offshore Aquaculture in U.S. Federal Waters. This document was created by a group of professionals who were funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce. They claim that, in their country, “offshore aquaculture is currently hindered by the lack of an appropriate governance framework for aquaculture in federal waters” and that “without a lead agency for offshore aquaculture, conflicts between regulatory agencies frequently occur, leading to confusion about environmental requirements, appropriate siting, permitting, and oversight and monitoring of offshore aquaculture facilities” (Cicin-Sain et. al., 2005). With this context in view, the document provides detailed recommendations to the federal government on how, and what kind of, a regulatory environment should be created for offshore aquaculture, since there currently are no standards set in place.
Like the Canadian document, this report also raises environmental concerns. However, it does not make the concerns seem like they are coming from ignorant, “evil” stakeholder groups like the environmentalists in the Canadian document. It outlines the environmental issue as an important part of the process of creating a regulatory sphere for fish farming. Despite this, the focus of the report, like the Canadian one, is to create the right conditions for the aquaculture industry to grow and meet its full potential. Whereas the Canadian document lays the responsibility of regulation on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the very authors of the report, this document actually recommends the creation of a governmental committee to oversee the operations of the aquaculture industry. The stakeholders presented in this document are mainly other commissions that have contributed research reports to this policy process and the document commends and elaborates on their work.
Two factors make this report fundamentally different than the Canadian one. While Canada’s aquaculture industry is well developed, this report reminds its audience that fish farming is in its baby stages in the U.S. Therefore, the reliance of the U.S. on imported seafood provides a backdrop for the creation of the report in the first place. Secondly, the report places importance on the increasing demand of seafood supply, and since the U.S. has vast oceans on both sides of its territory, it suggests the country could also be a major supplier of seafood products. It does not aggressively mention the economic importance of the industry like the Canadian report, but rather makes the issue look as though the world is running out of seafood and America has the available resources to supplement low stocks.
With regard to wording, the U.S. report also uses “potential” and “sustainable” in the same ways as the Canadian document. There is currently a “loss of economic development potential of U.S. federal waters” and a “potential for supplying farmed seafood to the U.S. market.” However, there are only “potential environmental ramifications” involved. And, just like in the Canadian document, the document seeks to influence the “development of sustainable marine aquaculture” by creating a “detailed operational framework for sustainable offshore aquaculture” (Cicin-Sain et. al., 2005).
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