Activists, fish farm end talks
May 27, 2012 - 4:11am By KEVEN DREWS The Canadian Press Share on facebookShare on twitterShare on linkedinMore Sharing Services
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VANCOUVER — A unique relationship meant to reduce conflict between environmental groups and British Columbia’s largest salmon farming company has fallen apart.
The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform and Marine Harvest Canada confirmed Saturday that the project, known as the Framework for Dialogue, is officially over.
It appears the two sides could not agree on research related to sea lice and closed-containment farming. What remains unclear now is whether more conflict is coming to the often testy debate over salmon farming.
“The industry growing salmon in British Columbia is continuing to improve,” said Clare Backman, a spokesman for Marine Harvest Canada.
“Along the road to improvement and reducing impacts, folks can find things to take issue with, and they’re going to continue to do that. In terms of more conflict, I can’t say. It would depend on issues that people choose to take issue with.”
When it was signed Jan. 12, 2006, the Framework for Dialogue included nine environmental organizations and First Nations, as well as Marine Harvest.
Participants agreed to focus on the industry’s environmental, social and economic factors, reduce conflict and change practices when information showed there was an impact on the environment and wild salmon.
But in recent years the membership dropped to just four environmental groups, including the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, T. Buck Suzuki Foundation, as well as the company.
Backman said the company was informed of the coalition’s decision by letter last week.
But one environmental group said Marine Harvest had ceased to be an active member 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 spokeswoman for the Georgia Strait Alliance.
Berry pointed to research on sea lice, saying the coalition was still awaiting results on tests. A report contrasting the economics of raising salmon in closed-containment systems versus open-net farms in the ocean was only three-quarters complete, she added.
The company also cancelled a pilot project to build a closed-containment system, she said.
The decision to end the agreement has been in the works for some time. “We get tarred a lot for not caring about the economics of communities and the value of industry in our neighbourhoods and in the region. 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.”