Fishers and aquaculturalists get to the bottom of pesticide concerns

When you’re working the same water, you ought to get along — so is the logic behind a committee recently formed on the south coast of Newfoundland, bridging the gap between aquaculturalists and traditional fishers.

With finfish aquaculture booming in the Coast of Bays, and farms cropping up in saltwater coves along all shores, the fight for territory, human resources and the protection of wild fish ecosystems has been taken on by local fishermen.

“If man is going to go out and use this stuff in the ocean to kill the sea lice on the salmon, it’s going to kill everything else,” — Sid Stoodley

78 commercial salmonid site licenses (covering a combined area of 1,965 hectares) have been issued in the area — a number that is expected to double in the next few years. With employment in the wild fishery on the decline, it has longtime local fishermen like Sid Stoodley concerned and keeping a close eye.

“Once they start putting the cages around for aquaculture, there’s no limit to it. They want to fill ‘er up, fill ‘er full,” Stoodley says. “I think there should be a limit put in place.”

Committee formed, for what it’s worth

According to Mildred Skinner, a FFAW/CAW representative in Harbour Breton, fishermen have been skeptical of the aquaculture movement for some time. And it’s only since they formed a common committee in the fall of 2010 that plans for expansion have been shared with the original harvesters in the area.

March 31, 2011 marked the second meeting of the group, but the first to deal with any specific issues. At the table were representatives of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union.

“It went great, it went really good,” Skinner says. “We feel like we can accomplish something sitting around this table, and I honestly think we can work together.”

The burning issue at the meeting was sea lice treatment, and it’s potential for impact on wild fish stocks.

“That’s the real issue. We’re hearing so much stuff you know, from other areas. In New Brunswick there was lots of fish that died with the pesticide treatment up there because they had used a restricted pesticide.”

Lobster Tests

Local concern for the effects of sea lice treatment on wild shellfish prompted a study in 2010. Lobsters were placed beneath a cage where a pesticide was being implemented to treat sea lice on salmon.

Aquaculture sites around the island

Following the treatment period, the lobsters were taken to the Marine Institute for analysis. According to Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman, results proved to be favorable.

“There were no negative impacts found on these lobster, as a matter of fact,” — Clyde Jackman

“There were no negative impacts found on these lobster, as a matter of fact. It was conducted by our veterinarian, and then the lobster were in fact set off to UPEI, where they did an assessment… so it was an unbiased study.”

There were, in fact, lobsters that died during the treatment process, but Jackman says there’s no indication that the treatment had anything to do with it, suggesting that it was of a more natural cause — lobsters killing other lobsters.

Stoodley fishes both crab and lobster. He’s not open to being convinced by any tests.

“If man is going to go out and use this stuff in the ocean to kill the sea lice on the salmon, it’s going to kill everything else,” Stoodley argues. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out.”

“One of these days, there’s going to be lots of problems,” he says. “There’s just too much of it. I mean, all those sea lice on the salmon — has anyone ever figured out why? It’s like putting a bunch of us, you and fifty other people in one room right now…”

Jackman says the treatment will continue to be used on the salmon for a year and monitoring will take place for the duration. The committee will be kept up to date through the FFAW. Meanwhile, further tests are being carried out on the lobsters.

Part 2 of Aquacultured will run on Monday.

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