Transcript: September 8, 2011 Hearing Transcript

Summary: Today’s continued questioning of the “Perspectives on Aquaculture” panel included discussion on the appropriateness of siting criteria; the sufficiency of regulation to protect wild salmon; and disease control in open net-pen salmon farms. Questioning also probed the expertise and background of witnesses and concern was expressed about the absence of First Nations representation on the “Perspectives on Aquaculture” panel of witnesses.

Questioning of the “Perspectives on Aquaculture” panel included discussion about:

  • Whether the migratory route of Fraser River sockeye was considered in the siting of open net-pen farms in the “Wild Salmon Narrows” (around the Discovery Islands).
    • Clare Backman and Mia Parker expressed that the migration of salmon is captured in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) review for the siting of all farms and that the siting of farms 1 km from salmon bearing streams is testimony to Industry operating on the basis of the Precautionary Principle.
    • Alexandra Morton expressed that the density of farms and extreme tidal effects of this area increased the potential for the spread of pathogens.
    • Catherine Stewart expressed that, in accordance with the Precautionary Principle, current knowledge of the impacts of open net-pen farms “demands that the issue of siting needs to be revisited.”
  • The economic potential of closed containment and the validity of Worley Parsons report commissioned by the BC Salmon Farmers Association. “Perspectives on the Technical Challenges Associated with Closed System Aquaculture for Grow-out of Salmon in BC – prepared for the Aquaculture Judicial [sic] Inquiry.
    • Catherine Stewart expressed that “externalized costs” (e.g. waste disposal) need to be considered in a valid comparison between open net-pen salmon farms and closed containment and that this is being considered in a report commissioned by the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR).
    • The costs of waste disposal are not currently being born by Industry. Mia Parker stated that in the past, annual waste fees were paid to the Ministry of Environment.
    • Catherine Stewart expressed that some reporting on the potential of closed containment also does not appropriately evaluate greenhouse gas impacts.
    • The report by Dr. Andrew S. Wright and commissioned by SOS Marine Conservation Foundation, Technologies for Viable Salmon Aquaculture – An Examination of Land-Based Closed Containment Aquaculture” was entered as an exhibit. Clare Backman stated that he disagrees with the conclusions that land-based closed containment is technically and economically feasible.
  • The current absence of license fees to Industry.
    • All witnesses agreed that there should be license fees.
    • Catherine Stewart expressed that such fees should go to science and remediation instead of general revenue while Industry “transitions out of the ocean.”
  • The absence of Fish Pathogen and Pest Treatment regulations.
    • Catherine Stewart expressed that this regulatory “black hole” as a great concern since pest treatments continue to be used by Industry.
  • Federal support for issues related to Industry.
    • Catherine Stewart expressed the concern that there appears to be a priority to provide Federal financial support for Industry (e.g. Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program support of research on Kudoa thyrsites – the “soft flesh syndrome” parasite) while conservation and research (e.g. the work of Dr. Kristi Miller) is underfunded.
    • Catherine Stewart put forward perceived cases of where Federal (DFO) dollars were used to lobby for Industry.
    • Clare Backman expressed that Marine Harvest is also in negotiation with the Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program (AIMAP) for closed containment
    • Catherine Stewart expressed that DFO worked with Industry to draft standards in order to seek organic certification for open net-pen raised salmon. This draft standard for certification included allowing the use of the antibiotics in organic certification.
  • The appropriateness of Alexandra Morton’s communication including specified blog items on related to testimony at the Cohen Commission.  Questioning also probed Alexandra Morton’s education, scientific rigor, scientific findings, campaigning and the peer-review process in scientific publishing.
  • The sufficiency of the conditions of aquaculture licenses to protect wild salmon.
    • Catherine Stewart expressed concerns about Industry self-reporting.
    • Mia Parker stated that self-reporting is appropriate.
    • Clare Backman expressed that Marine Harvest has been ISO certified for 20 years and that this certification is a 3rd party annual adult.
    • Disease control and whether “Methods for Disease Control” are only reactive or allow for preventative control of disease.
    • Catherine Stewart and Alexandra Morton questioned whether biosecurity is possible in open net-pens that are in direct contact with the marine environment.
    • Alexandra Morton expressed that Canadian regulation is insufficient to prevent the importation of ISAv.
    • Catherine Stewart and Alexandra Morton expressed concern about the potential of pathogens being present in blood water and the regulation of such wastewater.
  • The appropriateness of not having First Nations representation on the “Perspectives on Aquaculture” panel of witnesses.
  • The sufficiency of First Nations consultation by Industry and the potential of open net-pen salmon farms to infringe on the Section 35 rights of First Nations living along the migratory route of the Fraser River salmon.
  • The willingness of Industry to experimentally fallow farms and continue to operate under one-year license renewals until issues are resolved.
  • The opposition by some First Nations to the presence of commercial salmon hatcheries and open net-pen salmon farms, and how this may be contrary to the reporting by Marine Harvest on the social and cultural benefits of the Industry to First Nations.


Witnesses – Aquaculture:

  • Clare Backman – Director of Environmental Compliance and Community Relations, Marine Harvest Canada
  • Alexandra Morton – Executive Director, Raincoast Research Society
  • Mia Parker – formerly Manager, Regulatory Affairs, Grieg Seafood BC Ltd.
  • Catherine Stewart – Salmon Farming Campaign Manager, Living Oceans Society


See evidentiary documents page for a listing of key exhibits discussed at the hearings.

News Coverage resulting from September 8th Cohen hearings: List is updated as additional media is published.

  • CBC Radio; September 9, 2011; “On the Island”
  • Globe and Mail; September 8, 2011; “Fish farm opponent apologizes to commission for blogging while under oath”
  • Campbell River Mirror; September 8, 2011; “Salmon farmers confident Cohen will not link wild fish decline to farmed fish”