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Closed Containment is not a Panacea

Closed containment fish farming is considered by anti-fish farm activists to be the panacea to all aquaculture problems.

However, problems such as land use, energy use, water use and waste removal are mostly ignored because the idea of separating farmed fish from wild sounds so easy without all the messy details.

Even wild fish hatcheries have an impact through land use, energy use and fish feed.

 

In September 2010 DFO did a financial analysis of 10 closed containment technologies. (emphasis added)

Closed-containment includes a range of technologies and operating environments, from ocean- to land-based production systems, with varying degrees of isolation and environmental interaction. Typically, the more closed a system is, the more complex it becomes, since its energy requirements are often greater and waste can be more of an issue.

… This analysis is a two-step process, involving 1) an overview of existing and developing technologies, along with a complete evaluation of the technical aspects and external risks of the most promising technologies; and 2) a financial assessment of the most promising technologies identified in the first stage.

The findings of this paper showed that closed containment is not an economically viable option for raising salmon to market size.

Closed containment salmon farming unlikely to be viable

Canada: A new report from the Canadian government suggests that only a full recirculation system on land could be the only type of closed containment that could have a hope of making a small return on investment

The new DFO report focused on a more detailed financial evaluation of the various systems, and “To begin the study, DFO conducted a preliminary financial assessment of all technology types identified by CSAS. The results indicated that only two of them—net pen and recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS)—were likely to show positive returns”. The RAS system showed a marginal return after three years of operation of 4% on an investment of some CAD$ 22.6 million- even after being given a favourable and perhaps unrealistic Biological Feed Conversion Rate (FCR) of 1.05 and twice the density of a typical net pen farm. In comparison, a conventional net pen operation with an initial investment of CAD 5 million would show a return of 52%, with a FCR of 1.27.

Anti-net pen aquaculture groups who rally behind the idea that closed containment is the only answer saw the report in a different light.

DFO study affirms viability of closed containment technology for salmon aquaculture

The Feasibility Study of Closed-Containment Options for the British Columbia Aquaculture Industry recognizes that land-based recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) are likely to show positive returns and that once the technology becomes more widely adopted within the sector, capital and operating costs may continue to go down.

“This new study shows that closed containment salmon farming is economically viable, something we have said for years,” says David Lane of T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation and CAAR. “In fact, numerous companies are moving ahead with plans for closed containment in B.C., creating a potential multi-million dollar sustainable salmon farming industry, with new jobs and an economic boost for coastal communities.”

This is a very optimistic reading of the DFO report. If this idea were brought to the dragons den with only a 4% return after three years it would be immediately turned down by all the panelists.

Closed containment is already used by all the salmon aquaculture companies to raise their eggs to the size needed before placing them in net-pen to grow to market size. RAS technology is currently being used at their hatcheries and further research into this technology is important to these companies.

Marine Harvest Canada had a need to enhance the management of its hatcheries and turned to the innovative use of the recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) where freshwater is filtered and reused. Today Marine Harvest operates nine RAS systems in its British Columbia hatcheries thereby enhancing the growth and health of young fish and reducing water requirements by 90%-97%.

The success of its RAS hatcheries has led Marine Harvest to consider the possibility of growing fish to market using land-based RAS. If this technological innovation proves viable technically and economically its use may address environmental and fish husbandry challenges that are of concern to the company and to society – but it may introduce additional challenges. At present it’s not at all clear that RAS closed containment is a viable option, but the company wants to find out.

Mainstream Canada’s parent company Cermaq is also interested in the development of these technologies.

CERMAQ´S POSITION

• Cermaq believes that present technologies for open net pens allow for sustainable aquaculture, and we aim to demonstrate this in our operations.

• Closed-containment technology does not currently represent a viable alternative, due in particular to its higher energy consumption and remaining risk of escapes.

• Cermaq will be following the development of closed containment aquaculture, and will consider testing of new concepts and explore the possibilities of closed-containment fish farming if suitable projects are presented.

The energy cost in a closed system will be significantly higher compared to the free energy given by the hydrodynamic forces in the sea. Although closed-containment systems are currently being described and promoted as environmentally-friendly alternatives to net-pen farming, there is an environmental cost associated with employing this technology which should be considered in any further evaluation of their environmental performance.

OUR INITIATIVES & ACHIEVEMENTS

• Cermaq is demonstrating that net-based salmon aquaculture is a highly sustainable way to produce salmon.

• Cermaq does not develop technology or technical equipment for fish farming, but is following technology developments closely, including the development of closed containment aquaculture.

• EWOS Innovation is testing closed containment equipment to build knowledge and network on such technologies.

These companies have invested a lot in their hatcheries and they know a lot about closed containment technologies. Salmon aquaculture companies are very interested in closed containment technology improvements, but they are realistic about the fact that, right now, closed containment is not the best choice for the entire life cycle of the fish.

Some small groups have built land based and ocean based closed containment facilities but they are proving to not be very profitable.

Farming salmon on land is a risky proposition only suitable for niche markets

Land-based salmon farming workshop brings farmers together
Campbell River Mirror, September 29, 2011 2:00 PM

Thue Holm, the CEO of Atlantic Sapphire AS, is currently working on developing a facility in Denmark capable of farming 1,000 metric tonnes of salmon on land. However, he offered some words of caution.

“It’s a niche product,” he said, pointing out that a small-scale facility such as his can’t compete directly with the main farmed salmon market.

Finding a specialized market for his product, as well as selling it at premium pricing, is important, he said.

Location is also crucial, said Steven Summerfelt, director of aquaculture systems research for the Freshwater Institute in West Virginia. Summerfelt spoke at the workshop about several projects he is involved with, including a planned land farm site in Washington State which can buy electricity for only two or three cents per kilowatt-hour (BC Hydro’s business rates are closer to 9 cents per kilowatt-hour).

Summerfelt said farming Atlantic salmon on land has potential “if you can pick sites with cheap power right next to the market.”

In order for land-based salmon farms to be profitable, he said, they have to farm fish at much higher densities than ocean net pens. Conventional net pen systems farm fish at a density of about 15 kilograms of fish per cubic metre at their peak size. In order for a land-based farm to be profitable, it would have to farm fish at densities close to 80 kilograms per cubic metre or even higher, he said.

There are other closed-containment pioneers.

Closed-containment fish farming initiative launched
Glen Korstrom, Business in Vancouver, February 15, 2011

Swift Aquaculture co-owner Bruce Swift farms a small amount of salmon in land-based closed-containment tanks in Agassiz and sells most of those fish to restaurants such as C, Nu and the Raincity Grill.

He supplements fish-farming revenue by growing wasabi, watercress and other crops, which are fertilized with fish farm waste.

Swift’s production is small, however. Overwaitea Food Group therefore sources supplies of closed-containment salmon from Washington state-based SweetSpring.

But SweetSpring owner Per Heggelund earns less than half of his revenue from selling fish to Overwaitea.

The balance is generated by providing training programs for saving endangered fish species in the U.S. and selling fish eggs.

This article also refers to the in-ocean floating solid-wall pen system near Campbell River.

Walker added that, more than simply being a sustainable option, farming salmon in closed tanks in the water instead of open-net pens is also good business.

“It makes sense to control your rearing environment. There’s an old saying, ‘You can’t manage what you can’t control.’”

Walker added that algae blooms wipe out millions of fish each year. But water for AgriMarine’s fibreglass and metal tanks is drawn from depths that reduce the likelihood of such blooms.

“We control the internal rearing environment so we supplement with oxygen as well so if there’s low dissolved oxygen then we don’t suffer from that,” he said.

AgriMarine lost $2.1 million in the six months that ended September 30, when it had a $14.6 million accumulated deficit.

It’s unclear how far the company is from achieving profitability. However, Walker told BIV that, unlike other companies’ past closed-containment experiments, which were done on land, AgriMarine’s water-based operation is scalable. That’s an important consideration in a sector where economies of scale often dictate profit.

“Land-based systems will be quite a bit more expensive – by orders of magnitude,” he said. “It’s a completely different technology. When a lot of people say closed containment is too expensive, they’re referring to land-based closed containment.”

But floating tanks in the ocean aren’t cheap either, and the DFO report on all the different technologies found that they would not be profitable at a large scale.

Odd Grydeland, fishfarmingXpert, November 26, 2010

The [DFO] report suggested that a system using rigid, floating ocean tanks to produce the 2,500 tonnes per cycle of Atlantic salmon would show a negative return of between -2 and -10%. This doesn’t bode well for the newly delivered tank for AgriMarine, Inc., which is installing such a system north of Campbell River these days, although they are using a larger tank and Pacific salmon.

One of the major financial backers for AgriMarine is a coalition of anti-fish farm groups. The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform has a very specific interest in closed containment projects. CAAR states on its site  that it “is a coalition of four leading environmental organizations working to transition the open net-cage salmon farming industry to more sustainable production methods. The groups involved are the David Suzuki Foundation, the Georgia Strait Alliance, the Living Oceans Society ,  and the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation.”

CAAR threw their full support behind AgriMarine’s farm:

…We are writing to express our support for the Agrimarine Middle Bay Closed Containment salmon farm. …We believe the Middle Bay operation shows there are real, viable alternative methods to dealing with the proven environmental impacts of open net pen aquaculture and will be a valuable contribution towards demonstrating the effectiveness and economics of closed containment fish farming. …Predator interactions or kills will likely be completely avoided as will farmed salmon escapes.

Alexandra Morton supported AgriMarine but did have some reservations:

A long-time opponent of open-net fish farming has given the thumbs up to B.C.’s first-ever closed, floating salmon-farming tank.

…Morton said she only has one concern.

“I’d prefer that they were completely out of the water, because the ocean always breaks everything that’s in it eventually,” she said. “But really, my hat is off to them [AgriMarine] and all power to them. I mean, this is what needs to happen. This is the answer—closed containment. It could be a B.C. industry. Once you go into closed containment, you can grow a lot of exciting things, like algae, for example. People should really look into that—sunlight and water and you are making food.”

Even politicians were jumping on the AgriMarine bandwagon.

BC opposition party still insisting on closed containment salmon farming

Canada: New Democratic Party MLA’s heralding new farming model yet to hit the water.

With only three months until the May 12 provincial election in British Columbia, the two main political parties- The governing Liberal Party and the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) are starting to manouvre into positions that they think can garner some votes.

…In a recent interview with Kris Schumacher of The Prince Rupert Daily News, two NDP MLA’s endorsed new technology being developed by Agrimarine Industries in Campbell River, using a set of floating, solid-wall tanks with seawater pumped in and circulated through the tank holding the fish before being discharged back to the ocean. Both Skeena MLA and fisheries critic Robin Austin and North Coast MLA Gary Coons were members of the NDP-dominated Special Committee On Sustainable Aquaculture (Austin was the Chair) that delivered a report almost two years ago, recommending that all salmon farms should be transitioned into closed containment systems.

There were some others with reservations:

Odd Grydeland

When the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans wants a scientific opinion about a certain matter, it often relies on the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) which coordinates the peer review of scientific issues for the Department. CSAS also coordinates the communication of the results of the scientific review and advisory processes. Four years ago, CSAS undertook an in-depth review of various forms of “closed containment” technologies that could potentially be used in the salmon aquaculture industry. Its 2008 report; “Feasibility Study of Closed-Containment Options for the British Columbia Aquaculture Industry” found- among else- that “A review of over 40 closed-containment systems from around the world found that none was producing exclusively adult Atlantic salmon and that many previous attempts to do so had failed. Reasons for failure were numerous and were often interrelated. These reasons included but were not limited to mechanical breakdown, poor fish performance, management failure, declines in market price and inadequate financing”.

With respect to the technology that AgriMarine has been promoting as environmentally superior to conventional, floating net pens was found to require almost five times the capital investment, and the CSAS report stated that; “The engineering challenges associated with various designs of floating closed-containment systems were modeled. Those constructed of rigid material and anchored to the bottom represent a particular challenge in terms of the tidal currents and wave heights that are typical of exposed areas, which may mean that site selection for those types of structures may be limited by these two oceanographic factors”. DFO conducted a preliminary financial assessment of all technology types identified by CSAS, resulting in the findings that only conventional net pen and Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) were likely to provide a return on investment, although the latter just barely.

The conditions around Vancouver Island proved to be too much for the rigid wall containment system and in March of 2012, after a severe wind storm, the tank was damaged.

2,745 farmed Pacific salmon escaped from facility of “leader in floating solid-wall containment”

Canada’s Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) disclosed yesterday (April 18) that 2,745 farmed Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) escaped on March 12 from the Vancouver Island/British Columbia demonstration farm of the “leader in floating solid-wall containment technology and production for sustainable aquaculture”, AgriMarine Holdings Inc. “An extreme storm event caused damage to the containment structure at their facility in Middle Bay, allowing some fish, averaging 2.1 kg, to escape…,” DFO wrote. This regrettable incident is noteworthy because closed-containment technologies have been hailed by many salmon farming critics and eNGOs as being ‘the future’ of marine finfish aquaculture, notably because they made fish escapes supposedly impossible… In noticeable contrast, no other fish escapes were reported from other ‘conventional’ salmon farms in BC. On March 14th, AgriMarine had reported “some storm related losses”. On March 21, Robert Walker, President of AgriMarine Industries, had told SeafoodIntelligence: “… Until we completely empty the tank we won’t know the final number, but at this time it appears that we did not lose any fish.” The Toronto, OTCQX & Frankfurt stock-listed firm did not, yet, communicate on the escapes. One (including investors) would be in a position to expect the same transparency from AgriMarine as from other (listed or not) salmon farmers. And since when did AgriMarine know? The firm said itself it had filed a report with the feds on March 14. Yesterday, a top salmon farmer (Cermaq) stated in its 2011 Report that “Closed-containment technology does not currently represent a viable alternative, especially related to energy usage but also [fish] escapes remain a risk in closed containment farming.

AgriMarine did put out a press release about the event but it leaves more questions than answers.

As previously reported by FishfarmingXpert, a couple of weeks ago AgriMarine reported that its floating, 3,000m³ tank had suffered some damage, and today it confirms that most of the Chinook salmon grown in the tank have been sent to a processing plant at about half of the projected harvest size- approximately four pounds (~1.8 Kg) dressed weight. The company plans to repair the tank and continue with the deployment of additional, re-designed tanks.

…As expected, AgriMarine is trying to put a positive spin on this catastrophic event, but some of its statements warrant some scrutiny;

  • AgriMarine is pleased to report the first commercial harvest at its Canadian demonstration site at Middle Bay in Vancouver Island, British Columbia
    • Comment: How can a company be pleased by having to harvest its crop at half the planned size due to the failure of its technology- advertised as superior to net pens?
  • Management feels that harvest results prove the commercial value of AgriMarine’s unique technology for sustainable aquaculture
    • Comment: How can AgriMarine suggest that this event proves anything regarding commercial validity without providing any cost figures?
  • The fish reached a harvestable size in 13 months, thus demonstrating excellent growth rates achievable in the AgriMarine System
    • Comment: How do these growth rates compare with Chinook salmon grown in traditional net pens?
  • It appears that there was no loss of inventory, and although final harvest numbers are not complete, we have so far harvested and sold over 95% of the original stocking numbers
    • Comment: This is obviously a premature statement. And this is also a surprising statement in as much as the inventory of the tank on September 15, 2011 was stated as 52,954. With some AgriMarine reports suggesting that the tank was originally stocked with some 56,000 fish, this would mean that less than 95% of the fish stocked had survived up to a time over six months ago
  • Only 3 sea lice were found in the entire crop of salmon, proving that the AgriMarine System effectively controls sea lice infestations
    • Comment: Sea lice is also typically at very low numbers on Chinook salmon produced in conventional net pens, making producers of these fish exempt from most of the routine monitoring that Atlantic salmon farmers must go through
  • The processing yield was 91%
    • Comment: This is surprising, as the gills of Chinook salmon are routinely removed during processing due to their rapid deterioration. The gills represent about 3% of the round weight of the fish, while blood and viscera usually add up to over 10%

Even the fish farm protesters can't agree about growing salmon for profit.
(There were no escapes from net pens during the storm and there is no evidence of stomach cancer in B.C. farmed salmon.)

Is closed containment the answer to all the woes perceived by anti-fish farming activists? To put it bluntly, no. The truth is that even if the aquaculture industry moved on to land the anti-fish farm activists would still send up a hue and cry about the negative impacts that are worse when farming fish on land as opposed to in the ocean.

To have a land based system that matches the volume of fish currently harvested from farms in B.C. would require a huge amount of land that would be better suited to other uses. The anti-fish farm activists would complain about how much land is being used for industrial purposes. The energy requirements for the land based systems would be extensive and would require an energy source such as coal or hydro dams. One choice is bad for air quality and one choice destroys fish habitat. Neither are better for the wild salmon than what is happening right now. There is also very little if any profit to current closed containment technologies. Even the current “successful” projects have to rely on a second form of income, or generous grants from governments and philanthropic foundations, to stay open. Water based closed containment is expensive and the risk of escapes are very possible.

This is an example of land used for a fish farm hatchery by one of the major salmon farming companies. You can see the company's latest investment in closed-containment technology, a multi-million dollar RAS system, being constructed at the top of the photo. To raise salmon to full size at current volumes would require many times more land.

No one in the aquaculture industry is turning their back on closed containment. It is a vital part of the hatchery process and any improvements to the technologies benefit the industry.

The reality is that calling for the end to net-pen aquaculture is not the answer. Continued improvements in all the technologies related to aquaculture benefit the farms and the ocean.

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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in News

 

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Fear mongering

Alexandra Morton got more press time today and yesterday after putting out a press release to promote her latest home made science experiment.

Fear mongering (or scaremongering or scare tactics) is the use of fear to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end. The feared object or subject is sometimes exaggerated, and the pattern of fear mongering is usually one of repetition, in order to continuously reinforce the intended effects of this tactic, sometimes in the form of a vicious circle.

This is the tactic used by Alexandra Morton and the supporters of the group Salmon are Sacred. They try to make people believe that fish farms are evil and should be feared, . They use repetition until people finally believe that sea lice will be the death of all wild salmon and fish farms are to blame. This despite the fact that research done by Morton herself has shown this to not be the case.

The survival of the pink salmon cohort was not statistically
different from a reference region without salmon farms.

At least here we have a scientific paper that can be referenced and reviewed. However, Morton’s newest favourite topic is disease transfer. If there is a disease on a salmon farm, there is a risk of it spreading to wild stocks. Even if in reality the risk of transfer is miniscule, Morton tries to get people to believe that any risk, even tiny, is unacceptable.

Even if there is no disease on a farm the wild stocks may still get sick and Morton and her friends will make sure that it will be the farms who are blamed. We has seen this with Morton twisting the genomic research of Kristi Miller to make it sound like farm viruses are killing salmon (even though Miller herself has made no such link and has stated it is probably NOT linked to salmon farms),

Of course this makes no sense and is bad scientific procedure. But for Morton the approach is to say “let’s find a disease, any disease, assume it’s from fish farms and find evidence to support this.” She used to be a respected scientist but I think her last few attempts at fear mongering seem more like grasping at straws.

Sea lice does not cause a higher morality rate and ISA is not proven to be in B.C. waters (if it were farms would be devastatingly affected). Those straws didn’t work, let’s try…. HSMI. It sounds scary. Most people in B.C. have not heard about it. Great choice to instill fear, yet again. But her science in this case is without merit.

B.C.’s salmon farmers, however, don’t believe the fish tested positive for the virus.”We are not seeing any indication of a virus with the impacts that she has described in the release,” said Mary Ellen Wallin with the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association.”I think that it is probably quite unscientific to test samples from a supermarket. There is no research design, the fish have no internal organs to sample and there is a lot of opportunity for cross-contamination.”

In the same article it is shown that Morton can’t seem to read and understand an abstract that she herself links to in her blog article:

Morton says the virus can spread easily from salmon farms to wild fish nearby. She says farmed salmon can recover from the virus but it can be lethal to wild salmon.

The study cited is: Longitudinal study of a natural outbreak of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation in Atlantic: salmon, Salmo salar L. “In conclusion, HSMI appears to be a severe disease with elevated mortality, morbidity close to 100% and prolonged duration.”

I don’t have a bachelors in science, like Ms. Morton, but I don’t see where it says that Atlantic salmon can recover from this disease. Morbidity close to 100% is extremely serious, like an outbreak of ebola would be for humans.

What is amazing is how many news groups and blogs are accepting her word without question. What ever happened to investigative reporting? Since the news media won’t ask the questions make sure you do before you get suckered by the age old tactic of fear mongering.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in News, Opinion

 

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The Gospel of Seafood

A great looking seafood display from a store in Mississippi.

Seafood shoppers have a lot of information to consider these days when making healthy food choices.

I put my money where my mouth is. If you like healthy, fresh, available year round, great tasting salmon, try Atlantic.

But opponents of fish farming, like the David Suzuki Foundation, want to you use your wallets to shun farmed fish.

Learn more about the seafood you like to eat. Get familiar with the online sustainable seafood guides, provided by SeaChoice or Seafood Watch to help inform your choices. Your actions in the marketplace can help realize urgently needed fisheries-policy reforms to end overfishing and habitat-damaging practices.

But what is the alternative? If you want salmon on the table, and you are told not to buy farmed, then you need to buy wild. Save the wild salmon by eating them. This does not make a lot of sense to me, but, if you are going to buy wild, what are your options for putting fish on your table?

Canned fish comes from wild caught sources. Some frozen prepared fish (fish sticks etc.) come from wild sources, but fish like tilapia are farmed. Trout, Atlantic salmon and tilapia found in the fresh seafood section are farmed but most of the rest is wild. Most of the pacific salmon available in the grocery stores in Canada are caught in Alaska. Is farmed fish “bad?” Is Alaskan salmon really wild? How do we know for sure what the best choices are for the oceans?

We all know that we should care for our oceans and that overfishing has caused many problems in the last few centuries (whale hunting and cod fishing immediately spring to mind). How do we choose which fish we should buy? There are many different labeling systems currently in use across the world. Marine Stewardship Council or MSC is one of the most global and well known certifications. Also, there are at least 4 different ones across North America. So we just look for a sticker that implies a “sustainable” fish source, buy it and feel good about what we are putting on our plate for dinner, right?

Labels like gospels

People promoting these labels expect us to accept them like gospel truth.

But how much faith can we put into these labels? Are they reliable? Consistent? Do they have motivations that go beyond the health of our oceans?

MSC is based in London, England and only certifies fisheries, not farms. They have offices worldwide and seem to have a very thorough process.

Eco-labeling programs evaluate the production process of a fishery with regard to established environmental standards set by an independent third party. If the process meets these standards, the producer or marketer may buy a license to use a specific eco-label in marketing efforts. In effect, the label conveys to the consumer information concerning a product’s environmental impact. The consumer is then able to choose among product alternatives, eco-labeled and not. In theory, if the consumer perceives benefits from seafood from sustainable fisheries, then the consumer will pay a premium for that product, creating a marketbased incentive for the fishery to become and remain certified, and for other fisheries to do the same. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) was created in 1996 through a cooperative effort of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Unilever, a multi-national corporation. The goal of the partnership was to provide a standardized mechanism for certifying and labeling sustainable seafood products from wild fisheries worldwide, thereby providing a market-based incentive to maintain sustainable fish stocks. The MSC has been independent from WWF and Unilever for several years.

However, Alaska fisheries recently announced they were no longer going to seek MSC certification. If one of the largest salmon fisheries in the world doesn’t want to be MSC certified what does that say?

And there are other critics:

“Does the MSC label provide sufficient information for the consumer to make a wise choice?  Typically it does not.  There are 5 choices of text that MSC provides to accompany their blue eco-label.  None of these contain any information on the geographic stock location of the fishery, the scientific name of the species, or the fishing gear used.  There is also nothing to distinguish fisheries that have conditional sustainability certification from those that meet all the MSC criteria.  Consumers must take the MSC eco-label on faith or visit the MSC website and do their own research to determine these important details. (1)

“Sustainable fish customers ‘duped’ by Marine Stewardship Council

Certification granted to controversial fisheries has prompted severe criticism of the sustainable fisheries organisation

Richard Page, a Greenpeace oceans campaigner, said decisions to certify some fisheries “seriously undermine” the MSC’s credibility. “I will go as far as to say consumers are being duped. They think they are buying fish that are sustainable and can eat them with a clean conscience.”

… Chris Pincetich, a marine biologist with the Turtle Island Restoration Network, said: “The MSC has rushed to accept applications from hundreds of fisheries around the globe in order to grow their business and network. Many of those are actually viewed by scientists as unsustainable. They should really take a closer look before they even engage with those fisheries.” (2)

“Greenpeace is of the opinion that no fully credible certification system for sustainable seafood currently exists. Although Greenpeace acknowledges the MSC’s professional operation and its transparency and stakeholder involvement at all levels, Greenpeace does not currently endorse the MSC. (3)

Greenpeace is vehemently against certain fisheries around the world but they don’t have much to say about salmon fishing. They are against fishing in BC because of the damage they claim the logging industry has caused to the “great bear rain forest.”

However, they do mention fishing in the North Pacific Ocean and the problems associated with it:

The Bering Sea seems so remote for most of us. However, the waters between Alaska and Russia are a rich marine environment home to a diverse array of wildlife.

Polar bears, seals, sea lions, walruses, whales and millions of seabirds make their home here. It is also one of the most productive fishing spots in the world. In fact, more than half the fish we catch in the United States comes from Alaska, including salmon, pollock, king crab, and Pacific cod.

But, the fragile ecosystem cannot sustain this level of commercial fishing without paying a price. Factory fishing ships are taking too many fish out of the sea-and leaving too little left for the animals whose lives depend on it.

They are also bulldozing the ocean’s seafloor, barely leaving a coral or sponge left standing. Even native communities are feeling the negative impacts of commercial factory fishing on their livelihood and traditions.

Greenpeace states that there is no fully credible certification system for sustainable seafood; however, they do have a campaign that encourages people to shop at stores that agree with Greenpeace philosophies about sustainable seafood.

Our oceans are in peril. Despite the sustainable seafood movement gaining steam globally, the devastation wrought by global industrialized fishing continues on a massive scale. In spite of overwhelming evidence and strong warnings from the scientific community, we continue to plunder our seas.

To learn more about how supermarkets play a role in ocean conservation, Greenpeace USA has released its fifth Carting Away the Oceans (CATO) report, our periodic snapshot of seafood sustainability in the US grocery sector.

In this guide Greenpeace has granted their seal of approval to Safeway and Whole Foods for working with third-party environmental groups.

“Companies like Safeway and Whole Foods are joining forces with independent third-party environmental groups like FishWise and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in order to improve their operations and to better promote sustainable seafood to their customers.”

Green peace also applauds Target, for removing farmed salmon from their stores and selling wild Alaskan instead and gives the company a good rating because it is consulting with certification programs:

Target is a member of the Food Marketing Institute’s Sustainability Task Force and its subsidiary, Seafood Working Group. In addition to working with industry groups that represent producers, processors, and conservation organizations, Target also consults with seafood scientists on its seafood sustainability and supports certification groups such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA). Information from the company suggests that new partnership endeavors are underway.

It is interesting that Greenpeace holds such a double standard. They don’t like certifications yet promote their own. And as we see here in their latest report that Greenpeace is giving a thumbs up to Target for working with MSC, Fish Wise, Monterey Bay Aquarium and GAA. They obviously don’t like MSC and don’t have total faith in any certification system. Not to mention the fact that GAA supports fish farming in B.C. Which Greenpeace seems to hate.

Greenpeace makes bold statements against certification programs on one page of its site but seems to say something else on other pages. What is a consumer supposed to do? If you decide that any certification system is better than no system at all then which guide do you choose?

Worldwide there is doubt about MSC, so what about the North American options? Here are four groups who all oppose salmon aquaculture but support Alaska’s “wild” salmon fishery: Monterey Bay Aquarium and their Seafood Watch program, Vancouver Aquarium and their Ocean Wise program, Sea Choice, and Fish Wise. But are they four different groups who came to the same decision after individual analysis by each group? No. If you look closely at each of the groups sites eventually you will find that they all work in collaboration with Monterey Bay Aquarium. This is an American aquarium which receives American funding which in turn supports an American fishery over Canadian options.

It is hard not to be a little skeptical about their good intentions. Especially when you consider that much of the Alaskan catch is not wild at all but “cultured” or “ranched”. In other words, Alaskan salmon is born and raised in hatcheries on land, fed flakes and then pellets made from wild sources of protein, moved to ocean net pen until they grow big enough to be released into the wild to be caught later by a huge fishing industry. And yet Alaska states that it is opposed to fish farms.

Greenpeace and Alaska stand resolutely opposed to fish farms, which generate lethal amounts of sea lice that threaten wild salmon,” said Jeremy Paster of Greenpeace U.S. “British Columbia is expanding aquaculture toward Alaska, a reckless move that endangers wild salmon stocks in both Canada and the U.S.”

Aquaculture is a huge industry in Alaska but because they raise pacific salmon and they don’t raise it to full maturity in pens they figure they can name it enhancement and leave aquaculture critics behind them. Here are two of the many examples of the hatchery companies in Alaska:

Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation (PWSAC) is a private nonprofit aquaculture association founded in 1974 by local fishermen and other stakeholders to optimize Alaska’s wild salmon resources. PWSAC produces hatchery-born, ocean-raised wild salmon for the commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries in the Prince William Sound and Copper River regions.

What is the NSRAA?

We are a private, nonprofit regional aquaculture association formed by a community of salmon fishermen back in the late 1970’s with the goal of enhancing and providing salmon opportunities in southeast Alaska. At our creation, the drive was to reverse the decline in the local salmon fisheries. To date, our efforts have been extremely successful. We are involved with a range of projects, from determining hatchery and fish dock locations to operating two large salmon hatcheries.

Instead of focusing on net pen aquaculture as an issue in Alaskan waters, climate change is a better answer to the ills of the ocean.

Whether the current magnitude of hatchery production in Alaska is impacting wild stock production has been debated, especially in relation to pink salmon production in Prince William Sound. The most recent analyses suggest that variable conditions in the marine environment over time, rather than the number of hatchery fry, best explain the changes in wild stock production.

If hatcheries are not to blame why are fish farms?

Here are some recommendations from a extensive report on salmon aquaculture in North America called The Great Salmon Run:

Recognize the role of hatcheries. Salmon hatcheries account for a significant share of North American “wild”  salmon catches, particularly of pink and chum salmon. There are important issues related to the effects of hatcheries on salmon ecosystems, as well as to the economic role of hatcheries in commercial salmon fisheries and markets. These issues should be explicitly recognized in analysis and policy discussions about North American “wild” fisheries.

Recognize that the choices are not between wild and farmed salmon. It is essential to move away from the simplistic perspective that policy makers and consumers face a choice between wild salmon and farmed  salmon. Salmon farming is a major world industry which is here to stay. Wild salmon is incapable of supplying the much larger domestic and world salmon market which has been created by farmed salmon. Natural wild salmon, hatchery salmon, and salmon farming all offer potential economic opportunities and benefits to consumers. All also have inherent risks. The real issues are how to take responsible advantage of the potential economic opportunities and benefits to consumers from both wild and farmed salmon.

If you want to serve sustainable seafood choices at your dinner table use these certifications as guides, not gospel. These guides are right that it is important that we are critical about how our seafood is brought to our table and we should be aware of the source of our seafood, even if it is labeled sustainable.

We should use all the information available, not just seafood guides, to make good decisions about the seafood we buy.

Additional Reading:

* Extensive article and conversation with Monterey Bay Aquarium about how Alaskan fisheries are assessed in the Seafood Watch guide and how that will change in 2012 – written by Bertrand Charron

* Fishyfellow writes a blog about eco-certification labels and specifically focuses on the MSC

Here is a link to an interesting interview of the CEO of MSC, Robert Howes, by Bob Searle of The Bridgespan Group… One concern may be Howes’ view that “From the consumer’s perspective, they don’t need to know this amount of detail [the complexities of the MSC standard and how it is applied to determine whether or not a fishery is sustainable]. They need to see the eco label and know that that fishery has been through an incredibly rigorous, often lengthy certification and assessment process.” This sounds a little paternalistic.  Don’t worry your pretty little heads, just trust us, we have everything under control.  Surely it is the right of the public to question and challenge decisions that a third party is making regarding whether or not a fishery accessing a public resource really is sustainable?

* Food and Water Watch published a paper about eco-labels and their inadequacies.

  • The eco-label certification programs reviewed in this report demonstrate inadequacies with regard to some or all of the following: environmental standards, social responsibility and community relations, labor regulations, international law, and/or transparency.
  • Eco-labeling programs may cause increased public acceptance of products from controversial farming operations, such as coastal shrimp ponds and open-water aquaculture.
  • Eco-labeling programs fail to promote local seafood options or account for the miles that imported seafood travels.
  • Existing eco-labels have the potential to override the authority of governments, particularly in developing countries.
  • Each of the examined eco-labels that certify wild fisheries fails to meet Food and Agriculture Organization criteria for eco-labeling and certification programs for wild fisheries.
  • Financial constraints have affected the ability of some otherwise eligible fisheries to attain certification.
  • For some programs, there is a conflict between the intent to promote change within a certain fishery and the product labeling program, which can place a seal of approval on a product from a certified fishery before it has made conditional improvements in ecological performance to actually meet the standards for the label.
  • Eco-labels should not be permitted for forage fish. These types of fish are processed into fishmeal and fish oil for use in various products, including animal feed. Depleting forage fish stocks can damage marine food webs and negatively impact food security in developing countries.
 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Opinion

 

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Transparency

Protesters, environmentalists, greens, whatever you want to call them, all ask that the companies they are protesting be more “transparent.”

As a result many industries have begun to put more information on the internet. The fish farming industry is a great example because they now post sea lice data for each of their farm sites on their websites and DFO provides data about them as well. You would be hard pressed to learn such specifics from traditional agriculture producers.

Protesters are groups of individuals. Some are loosely bound under a cause, with no named leader (such as salmon are sacred) and some are linked to larger non-profit groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation, which clearly does have a leader. Large or small, leader or not, why are these groups not more transparent with their finances and intentions, as they ask from industry? After all, fair is fair, right?

Here are some quotes from a Rex Murphy Article posted on the National Post’s website entitled “Thou must not question big environment.”

“The greatest advantage the greens have had is the relative absence of scrutiny from the press. Generally speaking, it’s thought to be bad manners to question self-appointed environmentalists. Their good cause, at least in the early days, was enough of a warrant in itself.

…There is no such thing as investigative environmental reporting — or rather very precious little of it in the established media. Environmental reporters rarely question the big environmental outfits with anything like the fury they will bring to questioning politicians or businesspeople. Advocacy and reportage are sometimes close as twins.

… The same rigor we bring to industry and government, in looking to their motives, their swift dealing, must also apply to crusading greens.

… Where does their money come from? What are their interests in such and such a hearing? What other associations do they have? Are they a cat’s paw for other interests? Do they have political affiliations that would impugn their testimony?

…some amount of transparency from all those environmental groups that demand “transparency” from everyone else is a reasonable ambition as well. Let us have some vetting of the vetters.”

Rex is referring to those groups opposed to the oil developments but the same holds true for “greens” of all colours.

Vivian Krause writes for the financial post and also has a blog. She is one writer who has done exhaustive investigations into groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation. She makes an interesting point that once the money trail has been followed, the motivations behind that money may not be in the interest of the environment at all.

Rethink Campaigns Blog:

“In some instances, environmental activism is funded by American foundations as part of marketing campaigns in favor of American interests. The publicity and media coverage of scientific studies from environmental organizations is one of the key tactics of these charity-funded marketing campaigns. The problem is, some of this science is seriously flawed, and in some cases, the findings have been falsely reported.”

Financial Post:

“The same day that the Hites study was published, the Alaskan governor issued a press release. He said, “It is important to note that this study is not telling people not to eat fish. It is telling them to eat more wild Alaskan salmon.”

In the London Times, Magnus Linklater called the Hites study “a sorry saga of flawed science, selective research and hidden commercial bias.” Sandy Szwarc wrote in a newsletter of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “An ulterior motive may be at work.… Facing competition from aquaculture, the wild salmon industries of California, British Columbia, and Alaska have allied themselves with environmental groups to promote wild salmon as the healthier and environmentally friendly choice.”

It makes people feel warm and fuzzy to think they are “saving wild salmon” but they don’t realize that while supporting these protesters they have been used by other people with less noble causes, such as supporting the Alaskan fishing industry that produces much of their catch in “salmon ranches”. These are essentially fish farms for pacific salmon which are then released into the ocean to come to full maturity, then to be caught by commercial fishermen. Most of the pacific salmon sold in grocery stores in B.C. were caught in Alaska.

If you are among those who believe that fish farms are “poisoning” our oceans why would you support a fishing industry that farms its catch? Would those pens not cause the same damage (if not more because they deliberately release the fish into the wild, possibly introducing diseases) than our local farms?

On the surface the comments made by the protesters make some sense but when you look deeper at their motivations or their ultimate intentions you may not like what you see.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in News, Opinion

 

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The “I’m Right and You’re Stupid” Argument

The word protest can be used as both a verb and a noun. As a verb it means “to object to,” especially in a formal statement; as a noun it means “a formal declaration of disapproval or objection issued by a concerned person, group, or organization or an individual or collective gesture or display of disapproval.” (thefreedictionary.com)

Protesting is no longer just sit-ins and picket lines. Social media has changed how protesters share their views. On any website published by any industry that allows for comments to be shared there will be protesters posting their strong opinions against that company or industry’s practices and or products.

Some of these comments are factual and reason-based and can be beneficial to the company. Many of these comments, however, fit into the category of “I’m right and you’re stupid.”

The people who post these comments believe so strongly in their causes that they are not willing to look at any information that disagrees with their opinion, whether it comes from the industry, a company, government or independently-reviewed scientific papers.

I will use the example of the fish farming industry because I have done the most research into its practices and the criticisms against it. Here is an example from the BC Salmon Facts Facebook page:

By the sounds of it Espen Schive didn’t even bother to read the information provided. He is of the opinion that only the information he likes is credible and anything that disagrees with it must be “BS.” Here is another example from the same website:

BC Salmon facts has stated numerous times on this Facebook page that that it is interested in hearing criticisms and having discussions about their posts. Greg Tyler, like the contributor in the previous example, believes that everything from this page is BS. Just saying the other person’s position is BS does not make your opinions credible unless you can back it up with evidence of your own.

Online discussions can be a great opportunity to share diverse opinions and compare information, leading to open discussion and even changes to policy. However, open discussion seems rare.

This next example is from the archived comments on the blog Salmon Farm Science.

James Wilcox clearly has strong opinions about salmon farms and is using this site as a showcase for his protest. However his “naked assertions” do not make for good protest literature.The library referred to on this site is a list of links to scientific papers from both sides of the fish farming argument.

Here is an example from Salmon Arm Observer. The letter written by Gary Marty, B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, is in response to an article in the paper. It is clear from the comments posted after the letter that these people won’t take his opinion seriously because he works for “The Government.”

Objecting to someone’s argument by saying their opinions or facts don’t matter because “they work for the government,” or “they work for the industry,” or “that opinion doesn’t agree with my own” is not a form of protest. It is ignorance.

Feel free to state your objection, just don’t expect everyone to agree with it. Have facts behind your arguments and don’t fall into the “I’m right and you are stupid” form of arguing.

If their facts don’t agree with your facts you have a few choices: 1. Agree to disagree, 2. Read their facts with an open mind and be willing to see the other side of the issue, 3. Share your facts with them and be open to criticism. This goes for both sides of any protest.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in News, Opinion

 

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Protesting Vs. Bullying

Where should the line between protesting and bullying be drawn?

A protest is defined (on dictionary.com) as an expression or declaration of objection, disapproval, or dissent. Peaceful (as in peaceful protest) is defined as characterized by peace; free from war, strife, commotion, violence, or disorder: a peaceful demonstration.

On Thursday March 8, 2012 a Norwegian delegation visited Campbell River to meet with First Nations leaders to talk about fish farms in their territories. Their plans to meet on Quadra Island had to be changed in light of threats made by protesters from the group Salmon are Sacred (SAS). For safety, the meeting changed venues to a golf club in Campbell River. The SAS protesters learned of the venue change and met the delegation at the club. The SAS claim that they put on a “peaceful protest” but their own photos, posted on their Facebook site, paint a very different picture.

Do these images look like a group of people who are all free from strife, commotion or disorder?

This man is clearly blocking the buses entrance to the event location and the bus driver is motioning for the man to get out of his way.

A blockade is defined (by Dictionary.com) as the isolating, closing off, or surrounding of a place, as a port, harbor, or city, by hostile ships or troops to prevent entrance or exit. Also: any obstruction of passage or progress. Thefreedictionary.com defines it as: something that prevents access or progress. These men have clearly created a blockade to stop this bus.

No one would define a blockade as part of a peaceful protest. The very act of blocking the bus shows the confrontational nature of these protesters.

This can further be seen as the “peaceful” protestors swarm the bus.

How is any of this an example of a peaceful protest “free from war, strife, commotion, violence, or disorder?”

Here is a picture of the same man who blocked the bus, clearly he is still confrontational and the woman he is speaking to is concerned for her safety.

Bullying (as defined on bullyonline.org) is persistent unwelcome behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, fault-finding, also exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings imposed, and much more.

Even with a quick look at the Salmon are Sacred Facebook page it is easy to see the aggressive and mean language used to talk about specific people working for the fish farming industry as well as the industry itself. They clearly enjoy using the internet as a platform for nit-picking, fault-finding, singling people out and humiliating them.

They save the unwarranted or invalid criticism and shouting (Norway go home) for their “peaceful” protests.

These protesters could have chosen a different approach. They could have protested at the doors of the building, they could have respected the ministers and the bus driver by letting the bus reach its destination. They could have left a clear path for all parties involved to walk to and from the door of the venue. The course they chose was confrontational and does not fit with the peaceful nature with which they believe they conduct themselves.

Peaceful protests are effective because they are so rare.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 10, 2012 in News, Opinion

 

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