Term Paper: Aquaculture Industry in Canada

Pages: 5 (1462 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues  ·  Buy This Paper

Aquaculture industry in Canada is focused on the farming of Atlantic salmon on the coast of British Columbia. While the industry generates stable income flows for the province, these flows come at a cost. Aquaculture on the coast of BC brings with it increased incidence of sea lice that infect wild salmon populations, and the increased risk of salmon escaping from the farms. Because the farms focus on Atlantic salmon, a non-native species, there is risk that escaped fish could endanger indigenous wild salmon stocks. The controversy around aquaculture therefore tends to pit different stakeholders against each other. The industry touts its economic benefits and cites claims that aquaculture's dangers are overstated. Opponents -- a loose coalition of native bands, environmental activists and other local stakeholders. The governments -- the federal government having the greatest jurisdiction over the nation's fisheries -- must weigh the needs of the different stakeholders in determining how they govern aquaculture. The benefits of aquaculture tend to accrue to a few; the costs to many. As an environmental policy expert, my opinion is that while some aquaculture in Canada is relatively benign, such as shellfish farming -- the risks posed by the farming of Atlantic salmon on the Pacific coast outweigh the benefits. I do not support the salmon farming industry in British Columbia.

Benefits of Aquaculture

There are several benefits to aquaculture in Canada. According to Young and Matthews (p.5), the industry in British Columbia produced 72,000 tonnes of salmon, valued at $364 million. This is larger than the wild salmon industry has averaged from 1998-2006 (p26). Most salmon farms are owned by major fish companies, many of which are multinational firms. The farms are located typically in remote locations along the south and central coast of British Columbia. The farms create some jobs in these local communities. While these jobs are relatively high-paying and stable (p.16), there are few of them. With estimates for national aquaculture employment in the 5000-6000 range, only a minority percentage of those would be in salmon farming in BC. The stakeholders who benefit from aquaculture, therefore, are the multinational firms that own the farms, and the hundreds of people employed in the industry. These companies also contribute a limited amount of tax revenue to the provincial and federal governments.

Environmental Concerns and Risks

From the perspective of an environmental policy expert, the environment is the key point of concern about salmon farming in BC. There are several points of concern, all of which create apprehension among the industry's external stakeholders such as the environment (and environmentalist groups) and native bands. The authors identify four main components of the risks created by aquaculture. These are environmental, human health, rights and rural development. As an environmental policy expert, I accept that the latter three issues are not necessarily within my field of expertise. However, I have enough understanding of the basic issues to understand that the issue of rights in particular mounts a significant obstacle to the acceptance of aquaculture.

However, it is the environmental issues that concern me most. The most important environmental issue with respect to aquaculture is whether the safety of the environment is at risk as the result of aquaculture activities. There is a philosophical argument that aquaculture represents an "industrialization of nature" (p. 7). This is a quaint notion, one that ignores the reality that all human activity affects the external environment, however minor or seemingly benign. Environmental policy needs to be driven by science and fact, not by philosophy and certainly not be selective drawing of lines in the sand about what is acceptable human interaction with the environment.

One environmental impact is that smaller fish are harvested to provide food meal for the farmed salmon stocks, and some argue that this depletes those resources. Whether this depletion is at sustainable levels or not does not appear to have been determined. A bigger concern is with the waste generated by aquaculture. The industry occupies water in small bays, fjords or inlets, which are relatively closed systems compared with the open ocean. Fecal matter and uneaten food escapes the fish farms into the local environment (p.8), which depending on the specific underwater geography may or may not be able to properly process that matter or remove it. There do not appear to be any studies that indicate whether this is specifically detrimental to the environment, but the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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