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