Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Taking a stand and putting on pressure.....


For Immediate Release
Oct. 27, 2009


VICTORIA - The escape of 40,000 Atlantic salmon from a fish farm in the Broughton Archipelago highlights the B.C. Liberals’ failure to protect wild salmon stocks, say the New Democrats.

Despite the escape, the Liberals will still not commit to implementing closed-containment technology, a system that would have prevented the escape from the open-net Marine Harvest fish farm Friday.

“The legislature’s all-party finance committee has recommended the implementation of closed containment as a benefit to the economy and to the environment, but the B.C. Liberals continue to sit on their hands,” says opposition agriculture and lands critic Lana Popham.

“This latest escape is a shameful, yet shining example of why closed containment is needed in B.C.’s waters,” said Popham. “Forty thousand mature, alien fish have escaped into the wild, meaning they’re competing with native wild stocks for food, looking to spawn and increasing the potential of passing on disease and other pathogens.”

Opposition environment critic Rob Fleming says there are fears the B.C. Liberals are fast-tracking seven new fish farm licenses before they transfer oversight of aquaculture to the federal government in February.

“We’ve just passed a summer in which the Fraser River sockeye returns were dramatically lower than expected,” said Fleming. “A significant stock is in crisis, but the B.C. Liberals are still blithely carrying on as if there is no problem.”

In Question Period Monday, the opposition asked Agriculture Minister Steve Thomson to commit to not fast-track those seven new licenses. Thomson indicated that despite the stocks in crisis and regardless of the escape from the Marine Harvest site, it was business as usual for his ministry.

The opposition has called for the province to commit to three immediate steps:
- No expansion of open-net fish farming activities or approval of new sites on B.C.’s coast.
- Implement the bi-partisan recommendation of the B.C.’s Select Standing Committee on Finance to move finfish aquaculture to closed containment and world-leading sustainable practice.
- Immediately begin open, transparent and complete stakeholder consultation on the February 2010 transfer of fisheries aquaculture management responsibility so that B.C.’s long-term interests in a sustainable fishery are represented in any transfer agreements.

Bob Simpson, the opposition critic for aboriginal relations and reconciliation, says First Nations leaders have expressed significant concerns over the further expansion of aquaculture and the transfer of authority to the federal government, but the B.C. Liberals have turned a deaf ear to those concerns.

“First Nations must be consulted before such a fundamental change takes place that would have a profound impact on their way of life,” said Simpson.


Media Contact: Tim Renneberg 250 361 6314

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do you care about our wild salmon stocks?

Here is a portion of the transcript from the budget estimates I did focusing on aquaculture on Tuesday. There is some interesting answers regarding open net salmon farms........

To see the complete transript click on this link:


L. Popham: I think there has been a statement by the Minister of Environment on the lack of confidence in DFO that the public has regarding the aquaculture management situation and the collapse of our wild stock. I'm just wondering if the minister has confidence that DFO is capable of sustainable aquaculture management and is capable of protecting and helping bring back the salmon stocks in B.C. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: Firstly, I don't think it's appropriate in my estimates to comment on the competency of a federal regulator, but what I can say is that, as part of our discussions that we are having and will be having with the federal government over the next months responding to the decision, provincial interests will inform the discussion and be a significant part of that discussion. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
And I also can say that we are working closely with my colleague the Minister of Environment as part of these discussions, ensuring that the concerns that he has raised are taken into account as we work on this arrangement with the federal government. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: Can the minister tell me how long he expects the transition to take? I know that there has been a discussion that it might be February, but in the briefing I had prior to these estimates, there was an indication that it could take longer than that. Is there an end date for these discussions? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I would like to know the nature of those discussions –– if there have been any stakeholders invited into those discussions. And I would also like to know, while the discussions are happening and while our province is still undertaking the management of the aquaculture and fish industry: will the minister be putting a hold on the permits that are pending right now? And I would also like to know: how many pending permits are there? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: A number of questions there, so just to go through them. First of all, the court decision set out that the jurisdiction was to be transferred by February 9, 2010. That was the direction of the court, and that is the objective that we're continuing to work towards with the federal government. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
You asked about stakeholder engagement or consultation, and I can let you know that the federal government, as a courtesy, has advised us that they intend to have broad consultation on the new regulation, and in the process. That will take place over the next few months. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
You asked about the nature of the discussions. The nature of the current discussions are around essentially how well the federal government regulates and administers that portion of the regulation that is to be transferred to them as a result of the court decision. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
If you look at the court decision, you also know that in that transition period between now and then, the courts directed that the province will continue to administer and have responsibility for the industry under our current set of regulations and current management structure. We will continue to do that over that time period. That was what was directed by the courts. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
You asked about the number of new applications or number of applications. There are currently seven finfish aquaculture new applications that are in a process now of review, consultation. It involves very significant first nations consultation, environmental assessment. Those processes are continuing on those seven new applications. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: Regarding the seven new finfish permits that are pending, I would like to know if these are separate applications from expanding current sites, and if there's a different number for those. I would also like to know if the minister believes that any of these permits will be approved before the transition is finished. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: Yes, the seven are separate. There are a number of other amendments in an application, requests in for…. These are amendments to tenures, licences — a number in the Broughton area, which I think is an area you may be asking about. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
In terms of the approval process, as you know, those applications go through a rigorous environmental assessment, a very significant level of first nations consultation — requires local government involvement in that. I'm not in a position to be able to speculate as to whether any specific number or any of the new finfish applications may be approved within that time frame. Those depend upon that very rigorous process. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
We've got the strongest, strictest environmental regulation on the industry probably in the world and with the level of consultation that's required before an approval. I can't speculate as to whether any specific number of those will be approved within that time frame before the February 9 date. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: Could the minister tell me how many permits are expansion permits? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: We're having some difficulty in very quickly getting that specific information for you. I think what I would like to say is that we're prepared, as a follow-up, to provide you with that information. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
There are a number of different kinds of applications, as you know, related to licensing renewal. Some, as you said, asked some expansion. I think to be fair, rather than provide a number that may not be completely accurate here, what we can commit to do is provide you that as a follow-up — a breakdown of the number of additional applications that we have currently in the system and under review, in addition to those seven new finfish applications that I talked about earlier. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: I would just like to state that it makes me very uneasy to think that we would be considering giving permission for new finfish aquaculture operations to begin as we're transitioning into a different type of jurisdiction with those. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I think the constituents around B.C. are very concerned about the sustainability of the current aquaculture situation. I think people are really concerned that we should be moving from open-net containment to closed-containment aquaculture. I want to know if there's any money in the line item to help fish farms transition to closed-net containment systems. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
[D. Horne in the chair.]

Hon. S. Thomson: No, there is not a specific allocation of dollars for closed-containment work, but we have committed and have our staff resources working in that area. We have significant expertise that we have built up over the years in the industry within our staff — some very, very good staff who are working with organizations and people interested in closed-containment technology. Part of the work of our staff is to do that and to work, looking forward, and researching that technology. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
We do work with organizations directly, like the coastal association of aquaculture reform and the Save Our Salmon society. We're working with those. I've recently met with them, as well, to discuss their interest in these areas. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
We'll continue to ensure that our staff resources and expertise that we've built up continue to contribute to the research and the investigation of that type of technology. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: I would like to know…. Given the court ruling that open-net salmon farming is a fishery and not agriculture, will the industry's tax assessment change from farm tax to industrial tax? Industrial tax is much higher than farm tax. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: Yeah, a good question, and not one I have a specific answer for, but I think it's certainly something we can look into. I think it was also one that was appropriate to be canvassed under the Ministry of Finance estimates, as well, because that's where the tax policy decisions rest. But I think it's a very good question, and I thank you for raising it, and it's something we'll look into. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: What does the minister believe will be the status of the B.C. sustainable aquaculture report now that there is going to be a transfer to DFO? I am concerned that all of this work and the money spent and the hours spent will be lost in the shuffle, and I'm hoping that the minister will be bringing it to the table. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: Yes, that report and information will be used to help inform our discussions with the federal government. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fishy Business.........

Part of my job as MLA for Saanich South includes being the Critic for Aquaculture. Even though the formal responsibility for Aquaculture in BC will be transferred to the Federal Government in the Spring, I don't believe we should be walking away from our responsibility to hold our BC Government accountable for time up until that transfer happens. We still have a budget for Aquaculture until that time.

We are in serious trouble with our wild stocks. There are many things we can do to help reduce the risk to our salmon. One major change we could make as a province is to require all fish farms to be "closed containment" systems. This is a safer way of farming fish in the ocean.

Here are some frequently asked questions answered by The Living Oceans Society. The Living Oceans Society Living is Canada’s largest organization focusing exclusively on marine conservation issues. They are based in Sointula, a small fishing village on the Central Coast of British Columbia.

What is Salmon Farming?

Salmon farming is the practice of growing large numbers of hatchery-origin salmon for human food in large floating mesh net-cage pens located in sheltered bays along the coast.

How can you tell if fish is farmed or wild?

In Canada neither retailers nor restaurants are required to label their seafood as farmed or wild. In the US, supermarkets are required to include this information on the label but the regulation is poorly enforced. However, if you see Atlantic salmon on a menu or a supermarket shelf it is farmed, there are no commercially viable Atlantic salmon fisheries left in North America. Atlantic salmon is the most commonly farmed species, but some B.C. farms raise Pacific Chinook (spring or king) and coho salmon. Retailers and restaurants often advertise “fresh” salmon. This usually means fresh from the farm—not from the fisherman. Be sure to ask restaurants and retailers if their salmon is farmed or wild. If it is farmed (Atlantic or Pacific), don’t buy it.

Is canned salmon farmed or wild?

Salmon used in canning is primarily wild salmon, although some can be farmed. The label on the can usually name the species of salmon-- pink and sockeye are the most common canned salmons. Neither of these species are farmed so you can enjoy your canned salmon with confidence.

Does eating farmed salmon help protect wild salmon because there is less pressure placed on wild stocks?

Salmon farmers often claim their industry is helping to “feed the world.” In truth, the salmon farming industry accelerates the depletion of wild fish stocks and strains the food supply for people in poorer nations. On average, it takes three to five kilograms of wild fish (used in the feed) to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon. Most of the wild feed for B.C. farmed salmon is taken from the southern hemisphere, diverting local protein to raise a luxury product for northern consumers. Farmed salmon also pose a threat to wild stocks by transferring parasites and diseases to passing wild salmon stocks. The open net-cages used in salmon farming do not allow disease and parasites to be contained, and a growing body of research has documented the decline of wild salmon stocks near salmon farms. Eating farmed salmon does not save wild salmon, it places them more at risk.

Are the levels of antibiotics and other chemicals higher in farmed or wild salmon?

Antibiotics and other chemicals used to treat parasites or keep net pens free of algae are commonly used in salmon farming. As a result, farmed salmon can contain antibiotics and chemicals you would not find in wild salmon.

I’ve heard farmed fish is naturally a grey color and that it is dyed pink or red – is this true?

Wild salmon range in colour from pink to red because of the food they eat. Since farmed salmon do not benefit from a wild diet, colourants (canthaxanthin and astaxanthin) are added to their feed to alter their flesh from an unappealing grey to a marketable “salmon” colour.

What are Sea Lice?

Sea lice are small marine ‘ecto’ (surface) parasites that occur naturally on many different species of wild fish. Sea lice feed on fish by attaching to the outside, usually on the skin, fins and or gills.
The two native species of sea lice in British Columbia, Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Caligus clemensi, share a similar lifecycle (planktonic larvae maturing into juvenile and adult parasitic stages), with the main difference being that L. salmonis requires a salmon host to complete its lifecycle while C. clemensi can survive to reproduce on salmon as well as other fish.

If sea lice are a natural part of the ecosystem, why are they considered a problem?

Salmon farms are unnatural reservoirs for parasite populations. Not only do the high density conditions of salmon farms increase infection rates on farmed salmon, the location of salmon farms near the mouths of rivers puts them on the path of out-migrating wild juvenile salmon. Before salmon farms started operating on the B.C. coast, juvenile and adult salmon were separated. This kept sea lice that adult fish can carry from infecting juveniles who are too vulnerable to withstand infection. Wild pink and chum salmon are the size of a triple A battery and have no scales when they migrate past farms in places like the Broughton Archipelago. As a result, sea lice put these salmon runs at the risk of extinction, affecting the 137 species that depend on wild salmon as food.

What are PCBs, and why are higher levels found in farmed salmon?

Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs, are persistent, cancer-causing chemicals that were widely used from the 1930s to the 1970s and are now banned from North America. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, are chemical fire retardants used in several products and are found in the environment.A study published in the American journal Environmental Science and Technology on August 10, 2004 found on average higher levels of PCBs in farmed salmon than in wild salmon. The authors of the study concluded that frequent consumption of farmed salmon is more likely to boost exposure to PBDEs than wild salmon.The economic incentive to speed the growth of farmed species has led to the use of an increasingly high-energy diet, which means farmed salmon have a higher fat content than their wild counterparts. This makes them more vulnerable to contamination by fat-soluble pollutants (i.e. PCBs) that accumulate up the food chain. And, since feed ingredients are sourced from fisheries all over the world, “local” farmed salmon can contain contaminants from distant seas. Read the CBC’s 2002 story on Vancouver geneticist Michael Easton’s study that found even one meal a week of B.C. farmed salmon could pose health hazards.Find out Health Canada’s position on PBDEs.

What are the solutions to salmon farming problems?

Separate wild and farmed fish.

Remove open net-cage salmon farms from the B.C. coast and rapidly transition to land or ocean based closed containment systems.

No new open net-cage farm sites in British Columbia.

Until the transition to closed containment is complete, provide safe migration routes for juvenile salmon via the emptying of farms along these routes.

No increase in production levels at current farm sites.

Fish meal and fish oils used in farm fish feed must be harvested from verified sustainable sources.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving Saanich South

As our main harvest season comes to an end I want to express my gratitude to the people who are participating in sustainable food production.
My gratitude goes out to those who choose to make farming a career. I want to express my thankfulness to those who frequent our farmers markets. I am appreciative to those who are growing food in their own backyards or in any place they have access.
Thanksgiving is a celebration of a harvest season coming to an end. It's a celebration of food, family and friends.
On Vancouver Island we are fortunate to have a long growing season and many of us are still harvesting tomatoes, but that soon will change and we will be moving into grocery stores for our purchases.
As our own gardens put themselves to sleep for the winter, as the farmers markets close down until Spring, and as consumers, we are presented with foods from other places, I hope an awareness can accompany us over the winter months.

We grow many crops that store well over the winter. One of these crops is apples. As our BC apple crop comes into the market we also see apples from other countries. In order to protect our agricultural viability of this province we should be purchasing BC produce first. Buy BC apples until the BC crop has been sold. It's a vote for for sustainability and BC food security.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, October 9, 2009

Question Period - BC Olympic Wine - Oct 8 09

Olympic-sized Deceptions

What do these three bottles have in common? They are all sold as "BC Wine" and yet not one of them contains a drop of wine made in BC.

Look closely and you will see the wine bottle in the centre of this picture has the official BC Olympic logo. Yes, this is a wine we are presenting to the world to showcase the best of BC - and yet, the grapes are not grown in BC and the wine is not made in BC.

Today I rose in the Legislature and asked the Minister responsible why the government is letting this happen. You can read the transcript by clicking here.

Have you heard that the Cowichan sweaters being sold as official Olympic gear are not in made by Cowichan knitters. The cultural designs were just appropriated and the sweaters have been mass-produced and shipped into BC.

It is the same problem: local industries that should be hard at work getting ready for the Olympics are left out in the cold.

I believe the government will have to soon stop selling imported wine as "BC wine" - it is just too deceptive and too unfair to BC wine-makers. I won't stop pushing until I see this change.

I am just as determined that government stop ruining the reputation of our world-class B.C. wines by allowing cheap foreign plonk to be sold under the B.C. Olympic logo.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Community Garden - Our First Harvest!

Hi Saanich South,

We are so excited that our community garden is already producing. We picked our first bunch of Swiss Chard last week. Greg Holloway, a Saanich South Constituent, was at the right place and the right time and took a bunch home.

Chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla), also known by the common names Swiss Chard, Silverbeet, Perpetual Spinach, Spinach Beet, Crab Beet, Seakale Beet and Mangold, is a leafy vegetable and a Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima. Although the leaves are eaten, it is in the same species as the garden beet (beetroot) which is usually grown primarily for its edible roots.

I love swiss chard as a leafy green and use it a lot in my meals. I think chard is a bit of a mystery. What do you do with it? The answer to this question is exciting....EVERYTHING! Add it to pasta sauce, into soup, add it to mashed potatoes, into scrambled eggs, put it in a frittata, or my favorite, saute it with garlic, olive oil and a bit of butter. Delish!

In case you didn't know, our Saanich South Community Garden is open during office hours.

Don't be shy, come on by! We would love to see you!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Don't Cut Autism Therapy for Children!

Sheri and Evan Peterson

Dear Friends,

Many of you have heard that the BC Government plans to cut funding to critical therapy for children with autism.

The decision was made hastily, without public consultation and on the basis of outdated information.

The facts are clear: funding such therapy saves taxpayers' money. Children with autism who do NOT get early intensive therapy will cost the public far more in long-term health care and social assistance than those who do get it.

If we make enough noise, I know the government will reconsider.

Our leaders are women like Hollie Davis and Sheri Peterson: moms who have seen the lives of their children profoundly improved by early intensive therapy. They are working flat-out to save this programme because they can’t bear to think of other kids losing this chance.

The true cost of this cut is horrifying. I’ve heard story after story of children who could not make eye contact, be in the presence of a stranger, make friends, hug their mothers or even stop hurting themselves. Cutting this programme will deny many children the chance to escape this fate.

Because of early intensive intervention, many children who suffered in this way are now like typical kids: their communication and social skills improved enormously and they are even able to attend regular school. When they grow up, they will be able to work and pay taxes, to give back to society, and to reach their full potential.

Please email Minister Polak (mary.polak.mla@leg.bc.ca) and ask her to reconsider the decision to cut funding to the EIBI programme. Believe me, it will help! Thank you.

Click here for more info and to join a facebook page of great folks working on this cause.

There is a rally this Wednesday, starting at 12:30pm at Bastion Square and marching to the Legislature. Hope to see you there!