The Daily News, Nanaimo, BC
Published: Monday, June 08, 2009
We need to support our local salmon farming industry.
This province ranks number four in the world in producing farmed salmon, behind Norway, Scotland and Chile, but the biggest challenge for our farmed salmon producers is selling into local markets.
A report released last week also reveals that farmed salmon is now B.C.’s largest agricultural export, worth about $800 million a year and employing an estimated 6,000 people.
The opponents of fish farming have needlessly turned this issue into a political one. While some may claim they do not want to destroy the fish farming industry, such claims ring hollow.
It would be easier to work with the industry and regulators to make sure that concerns about the impact of farmed salmon on wild salmon are addressed. Instead there has been an ongoing and intense campaign to vilify the industry and boycott farmed salmon.
There is no denying that salmon farms can do things differently and better. So can the environmental movement; by accepting the reality that fish farming is now an important part of B.C.’s economy.
Despite the fact that environmentalists have tried to damage and discredit the fish farming industry with everything from misinformation to court battles, the industry thrives. And no matter what they do it will continue to thrive.
This is a clear case of the need to drop the opposition or risk their concerns no longer being taken seriously. Nothing succeeds like success, and their participation — instead of opposition — can enhance that success. By the environmental movement dropping its opposition to farmed salmon and working with the industry we have a better chance at a successful industry with cleaner and better practices.
Many people believe that a closed-containment salmon farming system is the ideal, and it is. Then there’s the reality; that the costs are too high and certain technological problems have yet to be overcome. Whoever can overcome those problems and create a successful closed-containment salmon farming system will become very rich indeed.
The desire to eat wild over farmed salmon has a certain logic akin to eating food grown “organically”. The reality is that so-called “non-organic” food is more economically viable for most people.
Leaving aside the fact that more and more foods labelled “organic” are about as close to natural as Cheez Whiz, the reality is that farmed salmon is becoming a necessary commodity on the world food market.
It’s not that we don’t have enough food to feed the global population; we don’t have enough quality food.
One of the emerging trends defining the difference between rich and poor is that the rich on both a global and a local scale have greater food choices. Whether it’s pesticide-free fruit or vegetables, or farmed or wild salmon, economics is no longer dictating how much people eat, as once was the case, but what they eat.
As we consider what needs to happen to feed 6.7 billion people, the reality is that production facilities such as fish farms are now as much a necessity as slaughterhouses.
With 43% of all fish-related food products in the world now being farmed, there is no turning back. Fish farms are one reality that we need to accept as a necessity to feed the current global population.
If B.C. misses out on this industry, with our coastline and technology, it would be like failing to cut and sell timber from this province.
And salmon farming does not have to repeat the mess that our wood industry has become. Salmon farmers don’t want operations that are not environmentally sound, even though opponents can make it sound like don’t care.
Salmon farmers are as concerned as anybody with solving these environmental challenges.
Critics need to be part of that solution because this industry will survive long after they are gone.