Feds announce good news for aquaculture

EVANSVILLE—The aquaculture industry received some very good news earlier this month from the federal government, the latter of which is putting in place measures to make aquaculture more economically viable and environmentally sustainable.

“This is a really, really important step for the aquaculture industry,” said Mike Meeker of Meeker’s Aquaculture in Evansville, about the announcement. “Things will still move relatively slow, but the fact that it is moving forward is important.”

“The difference between this new announcement and previous announcements is like planning a trip and actually getting in the car and going somewhere,” said Mr. Meeker. “It’s huge for our industry and the steps being taken by the government should actually make a positive difference.”

“The bottom line is that they mention precautionary principles and what is best for the next 10 years,” said Mr. Meeker. He said the federal government “has not looked at this in the past to this extent, and growth has been difficult for the industry. So the announcement shows a definite, positive change.”

“The Government of Canada is committed to making aquaculture more effective, efficient and environmentally sustainable. Together, with Indigenous, environmental and industry partners, we will lead the way towards a more prosperous and sustainable aquaculture industry,” said the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Global demand for fish and seafood as a high-protein food source has increased significantly in past decades. This demand is projected to further increase as the world’s population continues to grow, said Mr. Wilkinson. Combined with unprecedented pressures on many global fish stocks in oceans, environmental groups and other stakeholders must work together to ensure they have an economically viable and environmentally sustainable path forward.

“On December 10, the government of Canada announced that it is moving forward with a suite of initiatives that will ensure our aquaculture sector is economically successful and environmentally sustainable. Key initiatives in our renewed approach include a study on the alternative technologies for aquaculture, including land- and sea-based closed containment technology. This will enable us to determine gaps that limit commercial readiness and help to inform future technology development efforts. The study will be conducted in partnership with Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the Province of British Columbia.”

Another key initiative is the government’s “moving towards an area-based approach to aquaculture management to ensure that environmental, social and economic factors are taken into consideration when identifying potential areas for aquaculture development, including considerations relating to migration pathways for wild salmon,” the release says.

The government is going to develop a framework for aquaculture risk management based on the precautionary approach, which will ensure the sustainable management of aquaculture and will be the overarching framework for future policies. “We will work with provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, stakeholders and the scientific community.” As well, it is “creating a single comprehensive set of regulations, the General Aquaculture Regulations. This will bring more clarity for industry, stakeholders and the Canadian public about how aquaculture is managed for responsible growth in Canada.”

“These measures will change the way aquaculture is done in Canada by establishing a more holistic approach to the management of aquaculture, creating more jobs and protecting our environment. Earlier this year, our government asked Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer to examine, by leading an expert panel, how we can strengthen aquaculture science and how it informs decision-making.”

“The government of Canada will continue to work closely with provincial and territorial governments on aquaculture management as we help seek to grow the sector in an environmentally sustainable manner across the country,” the release notes.

“It’s a scientific fact that commercial fishing does not meet the needs and demands of the market,” said Mr. Meeker. “And the United Nations says we need to grow more fish or we will eventually not have any high protein meat or fish to choose from. And Canada is lagging behind the majority of countries in the world in terms of the amount of fish we grow. Everyone I talk to from other countries says Canada has all the natural resources and is growing less fish than they are. This includes countries like Germany, Denmark, et cetera.”

“We have to grow more fish,” stated Mr. Meeker. “And the government says it is going to follow up on the precautionary measures. We don’t want carte blanche, we want growth in the industry and to continue to do the environmental testing. We wouldn’t agree to anything less, and we have and will continue to do this.”

The release continues, “Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been using the Sustainable Fisheries Framework to guide fisheries management decisions and how the precautionary approach is implemented for fisheries. Building upon our existing risk management framework on how we make fishery decisions while incorporating the precautionary approach, we are seeking to clearly outline and explain how we make decisions on aquaculture including how we use the precautionary approach specifically for aquaculture decision-making when there is scientific uncertainty.”

“This directly responds to recommendations from the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development, industry and from Canadians who have asked for more transparency on how aquaculture decisions are made, the information that was used in making decisions, and how the precautionary approach was used,” the release continues. “The framework for aquaculture risk management will outline a step-wise process to be followed, and includes a commitment to publishing decisions, policies and the scientific advice that was received in support of aquaculture decisions. We will be advancing this initiative in partnership with the public, environmental groups, Indigenous peoples and provincial governments.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also moving forward in creating a single, comprehensive set of aquaculture regulations, called the General Aquaculture Regulations, which will bring more clarity for industry, stakeholders and the Canadian public about how aquaculture is managed for responsible growth in Canada.

“It’s big, it’s important and will help move our industry forward,” added Mr. Meeker.