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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Environment Canada lays charges against east-coast salmon farming operation

There are some things that we all know not to do. You don't tug on Superman’s cape. You don't spit into the wind. You don't reveal to the world that the Lone Ranger has poorly maintained eyebrows by pulling off his mask.

And you do not poison lobsters in the Bay of Fundy.

This should be common sense. That is the heart of lobster country, after all. Poisoning lobsters out there would be like knocking over a really long row of Harleys at a biker rally, because:

- People are going to notice, and
- There will be consequences

An east-coast salmon farming company is learning this the hard way, after allegedly releasing into the water an illegal pesticide, resulting in lobster deaths.

Environment Canada has charged Kelly Cove Salmon (a division of New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture), Cooke’s CEO, and two managers with 11 counts each of ‘depositing a substance deleterious to fish into fish-bearing water’, which is a violation of Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act. The deleterious substance in question was a pesticide based on a substance called cypermethrin. Cypermethrin is “highly acutely toxic” to aquatic organisms, and as such cannot be applied directly to aquatic environments in Canada.

The allegations stem from an investigation that was triggered by the discovery of hundreds of dead and dying lobsters in lobster traps during 2009. Environment Canada’s analysis of tissue from the lobsters revealed exposure to cypremethrin, and roughly one year ago, they executed search warrants on 8 separate Cooke offices.

Environment Canada now says that they have identified 11 separate release incidents. Each of the eleven counts of the indictment carries a maximum fine of $1 million and three years in prison.

If guilty as charged, why would the company use a banned and highly toxic pesticide on their salmon farms in the first place? The answer lies in the growing resistance of sea lice to the standard treatment - Slice™ (emamectin benzoate). Slice™ is routinely used by salmon farms in BC, the Maritimes and Europe. Problem is, as with most pesticides and antibiotics, repeated use over long periods of time can lead to ‘super bugs’, resistant to the chemical. The treatment loses its effectiveness and the farms turn to other measures. In this case, apparently, illegal measures. A DFO official told Living Oceans that salmon on some of Canada’s east coast farms had up to 300 lice per fish. The fish were literally being eaten alive.

The aquaculture industry in both BC and the Maritimes are now pushing government for a “wider” and “more modern” range of treatment options for sea lice. As long as they are raising hundreds of thousands of fish in the confines of net-cages and exposed to ocean waters, parasite outbreaks are inevitable. So the salmon farm industry is asking our government to please approve a whole new range of toxic paraciticides that can be used in our oceans. It seems industry would rather choose that option than isolate their fish from the parasites by moving them to closed containment.

1 comment:

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