Clare Backman, spokesperson for Marine Harvest Canada, confirmed the end of a project launched with environmentalists. (Photo: Marine Harvest)
Salmon farming dialogue project disbands
Tuesday, May 29, 2012, 03:40 (GMT + 9)
The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) and Marine Harvest Canada have confirmed that project Framework for Dialogue has fallen apart. It was meant to reduce conflict between environmental groups and the company.
“The industry growing salmon in British Columbia (BC) is continuing to improve,” said Clare Backman, spokesperson for Marine Harvest Canada. “It appears the two sides could not agree on research related to sea lice and closed-containment farming. What remains unclear now is whether or not more conflict is coming to the often testy and confrontational debate over salmon farming.”
When signed in January 2006, the Framework for Dialogue included nine environmental groups and First Nations as well as Marine Harvest. Participants agreed to focus on the industry’s environmental, social and economic factors, reduce conflict and alter practices when data showed the environment and wild salmon were being harmed.
But recently, membership dropped to just four environmental groups and the company, The Canadian Press reports.
While Backman said Marine Harvest was informed of the coalition’s decision by letter, one environmental group said the firm stopped actively participating before the letter was sent.
“What we’ve found over time is they have pulled out of any significant joint work that could actually have any positive results,” said Ruby Berry, a spokesperson for the Georgia Strait Alliance.
She noted research on sea lice, saying the coalition was still awaiting results on tests, and commented that a report contrasting the economics of raising salmon in closed-containment systems versus open-net farms in the ocean was not yet completed.
Marine Harvest also cancelled a pilot project to build a closed-containment system, she said.
“The attempt to collaborate with Marine Harvest was an attempt to reform the industry rather than to just throw it out because we recognize the value to the economy,” said Berry.
Even though the company said it has made incremental changes in its operations over time, the coalition is only interested in raising salmon in closed-containment systems, Backman said.
“What we were always aware of, of course, is that CAAR was fundamentally opposed to growing salmon in nets in the ocean,” he said. “And so it was difficult to maintain the relationship with somebody who’s basically opposed to your fundamental core business.”
He stressed that closed-containment farming is expensive. Marine Harvest spent about USD 500,000 on preliminary engineering research for one pilot project and selected a site, but was forced to postpone it when farmed salmon prices dipped due to an oversupply in the market.
Backman said the company wants to amplify the use of closed-containment systems for growing salmon smolts and even larger fish before they are transferred to the ocean.
He added that Marine Harvest will hold discussions with the coalition’s groups on an individual basis.
By Natalia Real