SPAWN responds to a Placentia Bay Aquaculture letter.

 Our president John McCarthy responded earlier this summer to a pro aquaculture letter that was published in the Evening Telegram .


I write in response to a letter written by Leon Fiander from Marystown.

Our group (SPAWN) has met with; Minister Perry Trimper and Provincial officials; Mark Lane and officials of the Aquaculture Industry Association; Gudrid Hutchings, MP for Long Range Mountains as well as officials from SCNL (Salmonid Council).

We have tried to establish exactly what is being proposed in Placentia Bay. We have a good track record of meeting and working with industry to mitigate potential environmental issues and have worked out of the public eye with Kruger and other industries successfully over the years. We continue to correspond with Mark Lane regarding the interaction between aquaculture and our environment.

Mr. Fiander’s letter appears to us to be more like a job application than an actual letter of approval for Placentia bay sea-cage aquaculture.

Norway’s aquaculture is certainly not in great shape as he suggests. A 2010 study (Aquacuture Environmental Interactions VOl 1:71-83 stated that escaped fish from sea pens are a threat to wild fish populations. Escapes from 2001 – 2009 were documented as:

  • 3.93 million Atlantic salmon

  • 0.98 million Rainbow trout

  • 1.05 million Atlantic cod

A 2007 study (EBSAS) by Nadine Templeton of DFO concluded that the NL Bioregion of Placentia Bay had the largest spawning stock of Atlantic cod of all the regions studied. How will sea-based aquaculture affect the numbers here?

An introductions and Transfers Committee (ITC) was set up by DFO to study and make recommendations regarding the introduction of a NEW strain of Atlantic salmon to the Province. The recommendations of this report have never been released, even though s peer review of the report has! This report should be released.

We can present endless statistics regarding Sea based aquaculture, but one basic statement sums all of them up. Wherever sea pen aquaculture goes local fish populations and local environments suffer.

In Bay d’Espoit, the Conne River salmon populations went from over 6,000 salmon to just over 1,000. We believe these remaining fish are not native wild salmon but aquaculture escaped fish.

Mr. Fiander states that NL has amongst the best in aquaculture regulations. A recently released report by Gardner-Pinfold, on aquaculture regulations, ranked NL regulations among the worst, just one up from the bottom of the list – among the worst. Their comments on the NL regulations were – “Dismal and no light in sight!”

We, as Newfoundlanders, are being told that a sea pen will sustain a North East storm and sea ice. Many of our boats and loved ones have fallen to its fury. These sea pens will also fail!

We feel our Provincial Govt., which has promised its people “transparency”’ has been anything but in dealing with this project. Perry Trimper, in our meeting, raved that over 200 extensive submissions against the project yet failed to order an EIS (Environmental Impact Assessment)?. They were puzzled when asked if they thought there were any issues with Bay d’Espoir aquaculture and answered “No”.

Banks, Insurance companies and creditors are walking away from these sea based companies while our government officials don’t see any issues and are willing to give $45 Million to a foreign company!

We feel that the momentum for this project is federally based to create much needed jobs in the Placentia area. We certainly have no problem with more jobs in rural NL, but we feel these jobs will be; seasonal; short lived; and below the numbers being projected.

In our opinion, sea pen aquaculture is on its way out. We, as Newfoundlaners and Labradorians can invest in the tail end of old technology, or get in at the leading edge of what we see as the future of aquaculture – land-based facilities.

Critics say that “Land-based” costs more, yet if you figure in all the “bail-outs” from govt. due to ISA, super-chill etc…Perhaps not? Remember, there are a lot of advantages to the province with land based facilities:

  • It will supply a great source of fish products to eastern NL

  • There is potential for secondary processing such as smoked salmon

  • A land based industry could be established anywhere in the province. Sea based can only be operated in a few Newfoundland bays. This industry can be available to “all” NL.

  • Critic say we can’t compete because of transportation costs. We disagree! NL has been transporting fish from the time of Cabot! If other countries can ship here, then we can ship there.

  • As Mr. Fiander says, Norway has been in the industry for years. So too have Sweden, Ireland, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. Land based facilities are doing well and their numbers are growing!

SPAWN recommends the establishment of a land-based closed system aquaculture facility in Placentia Bay. It’s the way of the future.

John McCarthy