Article by Bill Bryden
By all standards, the Grieg Proposal to infiltrate Placentia Bay with farmed, non-native, genetically mutated salmon does not pass the basic environmental sniff test. But in a province gluttonous for job creation, even of the lowest order and pay, the provincial government is not only pandering to a notorious Norwegian billionaire, but ready to offer up our ocean and our wild fish in exchange for a few hundred unstable jobs producing a food inferior to our organic species.
Now, if you are looking for a “fair and balanced” article on the circumstances shrouding this proposal, you’ll have to read up on Environment Minister Eddy Joyce’s public comments about why government broke its own laws, and why it continues to treat the company like they were our only hope. “We ‘ave to find a way to make this ‘appen” expounded Joyce, with all the finesse of a boxer selling you a used lemon.
The familiar pitfalls of fear, desperation, complacency, selfish bias, and good old greed that is sending us down this river reek of a Muskrat Falls-Sprung Greenhouse aroma. But, this article is about the real story, so pick up a mirror, plug your nose, and join me.
NL’s Open Net Salmon Collapse
The Newfoundland and Labrador open net pen salmon farming industry started collapsing in April 2012, and paused somewhat by April 2014, while a never before seen bloom of hundreds of kilometers of blue goo smothered our remote south coastlines. Tunicates and salps love rotting salmon it seems, and eat wild fish larva after exploding in numbers. They provide the blue goo when they in turn collapse in an ecosystem thrown into chaos.
You don’t recall? Not many will, but the people in the community of Harbour Breton certainly will remember. Just two weeks before Christmas, the 150 plant workers got no notice their jobs had decayed along with the rotting diseased salmon infected with ISA virus. The entire industry imploded under the weight of diseased fish just like it did in Chile – twice.
For two years, this community would endure divorces, mortgage foreclosures, and Christmas morning tears before anything would change. Virtually the entire community would be forced on to the familiar make-work projects train heading to nowhere, “not that ya can live off what they were pay’in anyway,” commiserated one former aquaculture worker.
But forget a community in crisis, millions in provincial taxpayers’ investment loss, aquaculture companies bankrupt, and the tens of millions of our federal taxpayer dollars they took with them as the federal government “crop insurance” disease compensation pay outs ($32.4M and then $55.6M a year later). As shocking and frightful as all that was, it pales in comparison to what the real story here is … I have seen the monster, kind reader … and it is US.
Me, you, the media, and our leaders have simply not learned anything from the global ecocide that is open net pen salmon farming. All that matters is that this industry can make money in a boom-and-bust ecocidal drug addled cycle. Industry open net pen practitioners rely on people’s superhuman ability to ignore even recent self-inflicted history.
In the shadows of our ignorance, apathy, lack of time, and “doesn’t affect me” thinking, is where all mega-projects gone horribly wrong are spawned.There is simply no spotlight on the madness. Don’t speak, or Johnny might not get his stamps.
If I tell you that a billionth of a gram (0.000 000 001 gram) of just one of the neurotoxins to be used by Grieg to treat sea lice, kills the largest crustaceans we could find to test the pesticide on; and that we use 400,000 to 600,000 grams a year ( before Grieg’s proposal to more than double these figures), you might be alarmed.
But what is more alarming is that this is the first media outlet to truly inform you about such figures.
Similarly, the $89 million that salmon feedlot owners like Per Grieg ran off with in NL during the 2013 and 2014 industry meltdown also pales in comparison to the more than $250M of taxpayers’ money which has been paid out to date. F*ck the havoc and possibly irreversible damage these biblical scale disease outbreaks undoubtedly caused among the wild fish. Who in NL cares about wild fish – we got a saviour, net pens!
The $250M is peanuts compared to the damage done by the tens of thousands of metric tonnes of antibiotic, anti-fungal, antiprotozoan drug-laced feed pellets dumped into our bays of once pristine wild fish habitat. The hundreds of strains of new harmful finfish viruses that these floating sewers have created with their dismissal of basic ecology taxes the lyrical mind. While the CFIA very quietly reports these, as demanded by our trading partners, to the OIE – mainstream media ignores this ecocide because it’s not sexy and engaging enough.
Our $45M offered to a Norwegian billionaire that wants to use a production model no longer allowed in his native country due to the ecocidal damage it causes, pales compared to the over $600M CAD he’ll save in lease fees by poisoning our bays instead of his own.
$4/ha vs $11-$13M CAD a site they were auctioned off for in Norway when last legal in June 2014?!, hell even Mother Teresa might be tempted. Hundreds of millions in freebies, environment Minister for a cheerleader, and virtually no fines EVER. Surely, a management system even Monsanto couldn’t dream up! In fact, government is depending on your NOT consulting Dr. Google on such matters. That is why the recent biblical scale VHSv – a known aquaculture virus – outbreak across the western Atlantic was ignored while many of the affected herring stocks collapsed.
Spring 2016 saw the entire south coast seine herring fishery closed for the first time in history.
Salmon-loving species, like the endangered porbeagle sharks, giant blue fin tuna, etc, that constantly try and correct the obvious overpopulation, parasites, and disease problems these cages create are simply killed. In the open net pen model, they are not population health professionals but the enemy.
In fact, nature is just a parking lot to be dumped in, and anything that touches the balance sheet is the enemy. These protected yet killed fish are then simply added to the pile of rotting net pen fish and wild fish made into wasted feed pellets. These massive predators tear and bite holes into the plastic netting at such an alarming rate that a team of divers specific to the task can’t keep pace with sewing them shut. Reporting of escapes is the responsibility of the industry itself and no one is watching.
Entire cages have been lost and never reported and genetic introgression from the purposefully left unmarked escapees was recently found in 17 of 18 NL rivers tested – kiss the wild salmon listed as COSEWIC “threatened” good-bye. The story is an old one repeated many times now in every region these net pens are allowed. By all accounts this industry is self regulating, has total regulatory capture, and hides all damning data. This is especially true for data that is required to be made public in other jurisdictions, like the one Per Grieg is running from.
Despite government’s protest to the contrary, there are no limits on neurotoxin use; nor any criminal charges for smuggling in and using banned neurotoxins. A $7,000 ticket recently issued to the now bankrupt Gray’s Aqua wouldn’t cover the smuggling costs! In fact, all three major NL open net pen schemers have been caught doing similar – Cooke twice!
Fear and Loathing
Fear … yes, there is fear in Placentia Bay, and there is loathing.
The fear is that induced by a transnational company hell-bent on high profits in a boom and bust cycle, all the while our bay and wild fish will be threatened even further.
There is loathing that investors who are the antithesis of Grieg, recently and privately funded a totally land-based closed containment salmon rearing facility. They raised the $140M CAD capital needed to fund this innovative project in the blink of an eye!
Loathing, as our province has repeatedly been listed as having the worst environmental aquaculture regulation by several independent analyses.
Loathing that instead of trying to undo the mismanagement of our salmon and wild fish stocks, our government leaders want us to sit down with blinkers on, watch “Honey Boo Boo” and click bait soundbyte news, and eat pig scraps that wouldn’t go in a sausage fed to fake, dyed fish. Fish I call “spamon,” with an Omega 3 content so low that a recent MUN study “could not measure it.” Sausages with scales and slime loaded in diseases and toxins. Yum. We can describe what a real salmon tasted like to our grand kids.
No wonder the likes of Per Grieg Jr is here to try and grab a $45M political scheme-gone-wrong MOU, signed by the then Premier Davis to try and buy some desperately needed votes. All done without any public consultations; nor evidence-based analysis.
This MOU was signed the same week that Chile banned all egg imports from the same hatchery our eggs would have come from due to VHSv found in the eggs being shipped!
But before you start pointing fingers like I am forced to do, pick up a mirror and your Google keyboard – our future in NL depends on it.
Google: “Grieg expelled Shetland,” “Grieg breaks quarantine requirement laws,” “Grieg manager jailed for lying to court about lice numbers,” “Grieg family sells shares,” “Grieg shares bought out by Marine Harvest,” “Grieg shuts down Shetland mere months after starting,” “Grieg ISA Norway,” Grieg furunculosis Norway,” etc etc., and then just think …why wasn’t this mentioned by anyone, especially our own provincial representatives who were elected to protect our interest?
Fear and loathing in Placentia Bay is a nightmare that we may never come out of. HOW did it come to this?