Fish farmers seek to raise output before Campbell government falls

Another sign of a looming provincial election: B.C. fish farmers have filed applications to massively increase production along the southwest coast.

In the 2005 election, coastal constituencies overwhelmingly supported NDP candidates, many of whom opposed the expansion of fish farming.

The fish farmers know that if they don't get their applications approved now, they might never get them through if the NDP forms the government after the May, 2009 election.

The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform has uncovered documents suggesting that one company, Mainstream, wants to triple its production in the ecologically sensitive Broughton Archipelago.

Cumulatively, Mainstream has applied to boost output at its nine operations from 7,310 to 23,521 metric tonnes per growout cycle, which is approximately 18 months.

Research by Alexandra Morton has demonstrated that wild salmon smolts passing by open-net fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago are infected with sea lice, and many have died.

The Gordon Campbell government has a moratorium on new aquaculture operations in northern B.C., but has refused to do so in the Broughton Archipelago.

This is despite requests by a wide range of groups and individuals, including broadcaster Rafe Mair, who say sea lice from fish farms pose a threat to wild salmon stocks.

CAAR—which includes the Living Oceans Society, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Georgia Strait Alliance—notes that Mainstream has also applied for a new farm at Providence Point   in the Broughton Archipelago to produce 3,100 metric tonnes per growout cycle.

To see  how much each farm plans to increase production,  go here.

Here are some examples cited in the CAAR document: the Sir Edmund farm application includes raising annual production from 1,000 to 3,100 metric tonnes; the Cecil farm would go from 650 to 3,645 metric tonnes; the Maude Island farm would increase from 860 to 2,925 metric tonnes; production at the Mt. Simmonds farm would go up from 675 to 3,400 metric tonnes; and the Wehlis Bay farm would rise from 675 to 2,800 metric tonnes.

In 2007, a special legislative committee issued a report recommending that adult fish not be placed in pens until smolts had migrated through the areas.

The committee also recommended moving to closed-containment systems, which would prevent sea lice from escaping into open water and infecting wild salmon.

The Campbell government has refused to mandate closed-containment systems.