The Salmon Farm Monitor
An rud bhios na do bhròin, cha bhi e na do thiomhnadh
“That which you have wasted will not be there for future generations”
Don Down Under: Letter from Australia/New Zealand
The SFPG’s Don Staniford is currently ‘Down Under’ for three months investigating Antipodean aquaculture. Here he offers a personal insight into sea cage fish farming (salmon, tuna, kingfish and snapper) in Australia and New Zealand. Last year Don spoke to the European Parliament on “The Five Fundamental Flaws of Sea Cage Fish Farming” and was awarded the Andrew Lees Memorial Award at the British Environmental and Media Awards for his work in exposing illegal chemical use in Scottish salmon farming. He is currently conducting international research for his forthcoming book: “Cancer of the Coast: the environmental and public health disaster of sea cage fish farming”.
Green and clean New Zealand?!
Green and clean New Zealand?!:
The myth peddled by the New Zealand government and shellfish farming industry of a “Green and Clean” country is in real danger of being shattered. The advance of intensive sea cage salmon farming has already left a trail on pollution and contamination in its wake – now New Zealand wants to embrace kingfish and snapper farming. In allowing factory feedlots to discharge untreated waste effluent into pristine marine areas New Zealand jeopardises both water quality and its shellfish farming industry. During my New Zealand visit I will tackle these issues which have already rattled some cages. An article – “British activist rubbishes wild fish farming” - in the New Zealand Herald (29th September) labelled me the “fish farm bogeyman” on account of the fact that I’m green, hard to shake off and get right up sea cage fish farmers’ noses. It quotes me as saying: “Carnivorous fish farming is inherently unsustainable, whether it’s in Scotland, Chile or New Zealand. There’s no future in it – it is not environmentally sustainable. The situation in Scotland has been a nightmare scenario”. The full article, written by environment report Anne Beston, can be downloaded via: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3525894&thesection=news&thesubsection=general
Otago University visit:
The New Zealand leg of my three week visit (22nd September – 10th October) kicked off with a series of lectures and workshops at Otago University – New Zealand’s largest university. “Sea cage fish farming in New Zealand – the one that got away?” was the title of my lecture to the Marine Sciences Department. New Zealand is in danger of following Australia’s lead in trebling aquaculture production by 2010 – it clearly doesn’t want to miss the boat (also known as The Titanic). As well as speaking to MSc students on environmental campaigning issues there was a seminar with Graham Coates of the Marine Farmers’ Association who represents salmon, mussel and oyster farmers in New Zealand. Many thanks to Mark Lokman at Otago University’s Zoology Department who organised and hosted my visit to Dunedin (22nd-24th September) – a city that is so Scottish it felt like Edinburgh (the local paper is even called the Edinburgh News and the main street is George St). I am also due to speak at Waikato University in Hamilton (30th September) – many thanks to Dr Priya Kurian of the Political Sciences Department for inviting me to speak.
King Salmon farm visit:
Salmon farming production is centred in Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island in New Zealand. This is King Salmon country – the company responsible for 80% of New Zealand’s farmed salmon (Chinook) production and the GE salmon trials in Kaituna near Blenheim from 1994-2000. Nelson City Council therefore was the perfect venue to bring together government officials, shellfish farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and salmon farmers for my presentation: “Closing the Net on Sea Cage Fish Farming”. Paul Steere, chief executive of King Salmon, also spoke, answered questions from the audience and kindly showed me around one of their sites in the Pelorus Sound. Many thanks to King Salmon for an enjoyable and interesting day out. The Nelson meeting was featured the next day in The Press including a photo of me debating the future of sea cage fish farming with King Salmon’s Paul Steere:
“Fish farmers warned of bleak future” (The Press (Christchurch), 26th September)
The long-term future of fish farming was questioned by Scottish marine farming environmentalist Don Staniford in Nelson yesterday. The author of “The Five Fundamental Flaws of Sea Cage Fish Farming” (http://www.salmonfarmmonitor.org) is touring New Zealand until early October. His New Zealand tour follows his presentation at an Australian conference on the future of aquaculture in Queensland. Mr Staniford told Nelson fishing industry representatives the farming of carnivorous fish, such as salmon, was unsustainable because it took 3.16 tonnes of fishmeal to produce one tonne of salmon. Fish farmers should instead focus on herbivorous fish, like carp, that could be fed sustainably. Fish farmers use 35 per cent of the world’s fishmeal. The remainder is fed to pigs and chickens. “We have to draw the line on environmental sustainability; there is a limited fish-food supply out there,” Mr Staniford said. “And the harsh reality is that suitable areas for fish farming are often high-quality areas of water – and that creates added conflict and polarises debate,” Mr Staniford. New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Paul Steere said exporters had to meet stringent health and environmental requirements for their product to be accepted in international markets. The national marine farming industry would not survive huge growth and the fluctuations of boom and bust it would bring. All farming activities had an impact on something, and he rejected any direct connection between marine farming and toxic algal blooms. “People are only going to buy the product if they believe it is safe and comes from a safe environment. If they have doubts, we are not going to survive,” he said. Mr Staniford will return to Nelson in November for an algal bloom conference hosted by the Cawthron Institute.
Kaiaua Marine Farm Action Committee:
My visit to New Zealand is being kindly hosted by Shona Scott of Protect Peach Cove and Kathy Walsh of the Kaiaua Marine Farm Action Committee. Protect Peach Cove’s campaign against a kingfish farm was successful earlier this year when Moana Pacific pulled out of Peach Cove (http://www.protectpeachcove.com). However, Moana Pacific is now looking to farm kingfish at two farms off Ponui Island with at least another two kingfish farms planned for Kawa Island, north-east of Auckland. The issue is not attracting increasing public attention and made the front page of the local paper:
“Kaiaua association plays host to leading opponent of fish farming – differing views on fish farms” (Pohutukawa Coast Times, 26th September)
One of the world’s leading campaigners against fish farming is speaking at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron this Friday. British campaigner Don Staniford is in Auckland during which time he will be a guest of the Kaiaua Citizens & Ratepayers Association. Although Kaiaua residents have been campaigning mainly against marine (shellfish) farming proposals for the Firth of Thames, they are also concerned about the possibility of sea cage (fish farm) farms being established. Kathy Walsh, of the association’s Marine Farm Action Committee, says her committee is concerned at a submission by Moana Pacific Fisheries Ltd to the Auckland Regional Council’s Coastal Plan. This submission asks for two areas east of Ponui Island to be zoned as Aquaculture Management Areas for containing up to 25 sea cages for fin fish aquaculture. She says her association is not opposed to land-based fish farms, but is strongly against sea cage farming because of its threat to the environment and public health.
In a New Zealand Herald article Mr Staniford described sea cage fish farms as a “cancer on the coast and weeping sores on the face of the blue planet” (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3508558&msg=emaillink). In Scotland, for example, there were 13 incidents of fish farm pollution reported in 2002-3 including leaks of fish sewage, fungi, oil and scum deposits. In New Zealand, the Enterprise Northland Aquaculture Development Group has conducted research into marine fin fish farming. It takes issue with Mr Staniford and says there is no correlation between the intensity of fish farming in the Northern hemisphere and that in New Zealand. Salmon farming – often the source of pollution incidents – is not viable in Northland waters. Instead, research is focusing on the potential to farm kingfish, snapper and other warm water species which, says the aquaculture group, could generate 1,000 new jobs. Meanwhile on Saturday the Kaiaua residents group will be taking Mr Staniford to have a look at Ponui Island. He will also be taking part in a seminar this Sunday, and will speak at the Rodney District Aquaculture working party on October 1 at the council offices at Helensville.
Fishermen call for closure of New Zealand marine farms:
According to Intrafish (11th September), recreational fishermen in the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough regions are calling for the closure of several hundred marine farms in the top of the South Island as they claim these are compromising recreational fishing rights. Geoff Rowling, a spokesman for Tasfish, an organisation that represents recreational fishers in the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough regions, as well as the vice-president of the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council, told the Nelson Mail that the planned aquaculture law reforms would hopefully allow the situation to be addressed as long as Maori are not given the rights they want over the country's seabed and foreshore. “Anywhere there is a marine farm that is too close to the shore there is a problem,” he said. There needed to be about a 120m buffer zone between the shore and farms since that was where most recreational fishing took place,” he told the newspaper. Arguments over who owns the seabed have threatened to derail the aquaculture reform process and the lifting of the New Zealand moratorium on fish farming (scheduled to take place in March 2004). According to the New Zealand Herald (8th September) marine farming is “high and dry” (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3522191&msg=emaillink).
Australia making the same mistakes:
Last month (27th August) I fortunate enough to be invited as a keynote speaker at “The Future of Mariculture in Australia’s Marine Environment” – a conference organised by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Queensland Conservation Council – in Brisbane. The conference raised serious questions about Australia’s plan to treble aquaculture production by 2010 and was an opportunity for lessons from salmon farming in Norway, Chile, Canada and Scotland to be drawn. As I told an audience of Government officials, fish farmers, fishing representatives, environmentalists and community groups: “Australia is making the mistakes made in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, USA, Norway, Faroe Islands, Iceland and in Chile. The species farmed may be different but the environmental impacts are alarmingly similar: the discharge of untreated waste; mass escapes; spread of infectious diseases and parasites to wild fish; the use of toxic chemicals; the use of depleted and contaminated fish feed. The message is clear: clean up your act, introduce closed containment land based systems, or close down”. You can download the whole paper - “Closing the Net on Sea Cage Fish Farming” - via The Salmon Farm Monitor: http://www.salmonfarmmonitor.org
Eco-tourist not eco-terrorist:
The day after stepping off the plane in Australia I was labelled (and potentially libelled) as an “eco-terrorist” by the fish farming industry. The warm welcome came from Dr Julian Amos, director of Sun Aqua, who plan to litter Moreton Bay Marine Park with kingfish and snapper cages. According to The Courier Mail (26th August): “Sun Aqua director Julian Amos yesterday dismissed Mr Staniford as a headline-grabbing eco-terrorist with little understanding of the industry” (http://www.couriermail.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,7062165,00.html). Speaking to Dr Amos and two of his Sun Aqua colleagues at the conference over coffee and sandwiches (farmed salmon were not on the menu) I explained that I was an “eco-tourist” and certainly not an eco-terrorist. The previous day I had been an eco-tourist watching turtles, eagle rays, dolphins and dugongs playing in Moreton Bay Marine Park – the site of Sun Aqua’s proposed fish farm. “First they ignore us, then they laugh at us, then they fight us, then we win” is a famous quote from Gandhi that succinctly sums up the campaign against sea cage fish farming around the world. Whilst in Canada and Scotland the debate has moved on to the point where environmental groups are at least listened to and afforded a certain amount of grudging respect the level of public engagement and consultation in New Zealand and Australia has a long way to go.
Battle for Moreton Bay:
Dr Julian Amos of SunAqua also featured in a big splash in The Courier Mail (2nd September) headlined “Battle for the Bay – environmentally sensitive way of the future or a potential ecological disaster?”. “It always was going to be controversial,” states the article about SunAqua’s plan to farm kingfish and red snapper in Moreton Bay Marine Park. “Moreton Bay is Brisbane’s finest treasure, a playground of recreational, commercial and ecological significance. These are waters in which dugongs graze on seagrass meadows nearby, dolphins frolic and where many a pleasure craft passes as it plies between Moreton Island and the marinas of Manly”. Dr Amos protests that SunAqua “are not going out there to rape, pillage and burn” and promises to run fish farm tours to tourists. “You can’t be put off by the Luddites of the world or by people who have a fear of the unknown,” he argues. According to The Courier Mail: “Amos is not unused to controversy – or fish. The former Tasmanian Labor energy, primary industries and environment minister was at the centre of the Franklin Dam imbroglio in the 1980s and played a significant role in the growth of salmon farming there”. Given the current problems in Tasmanian salmon farming with disease, escapes and wastes it is not surprising that the vast majority of Moreton Bay residents are fighting SunAqua’s plans. For more details on SunAqua’s proposed fish farm in Moreton Bay Marine Park see: http://www.qccqld.org.au/savethebay/index.html
Sun Aqua shit hits the fan:
Sun Aqua’s plan to use Moreton Bay Marine Park as an open sewer have been dealt a body blow by the Healthy Waterways Taskforce, a group drawn from universities and government. The Taskforce have calculated that Sun Aqua’s estimates of nutrients from fish faeces had been based on European farms not sub-tropical farms and had overestimated the strength of the currents in Moreton Bay by 40%. According to The Courier Mail (2nd September): “The backers of a plan to farm fish in cages off Moreton Island greatly understated the amount of waste which would be dumped into the sea and exaggerated the projects’ benefits”. A letter to The Courier Mail (4th September) from Lisa Lombardi of Auchenflower highlights the depth of public feeling against the development: “The proposed SunAqua fish farm would require a sewage treatment plant if sited on land. Instead, the company wants to dump that waste into the pristine waters of eastern Moreton Bay, a designated marine park and RAMSAR listed wetlands. Great! When do I get to stop paying rates for sewerage and just run a pipe out to the bay?”.
Australia quarantines Norwegian farmed salmon:
The Tasmanian State Government is asking the Commonwealth as a matter of urgency to impose a total ban on uncooked salmon imports from Norway following the seizure in Sydney in early September of sea-lice infested farmed Atlantic salmon. The Sydney Morning Herald reported (5th September) that: “The contest over one of Australia’s top eating fish, Atlantic salmon, has turned lousy. A routine quarantine inspection in a Sydney bond store has found sea lice under the skin of raw salmon imported from Norway. It is the first discovery of disease in imported salmon since a Federal Government ban on imports was overturned in 2000. Tasmanian salmon farmers say the discovery fulfils their warnings that imported fish would bring exotic disease with them. They say the louse is a scourge of foreign salmon farms, and is the equivalent of foot and mouth disease on land” (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/09/04/1062548965869.html). The Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment Bryan Green said that three consignments of contaminated Norwegian salmon had been seized by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS). “Introduction of some of these diseases or parasites could wipe out not only our $170-million salmon industry but our recreational trout fishery, which attracts anglers from all over the world,” Green said. He went on: “The first consignment from Norway arrived with the heads still attached despite the protocol calling for fish to be head-off to reduce the risk of disease. The fact that these infestations have gone undetected by pre-dispatch inspection says little for the way the Norwegian protocols are being applied as they should have been identified at some stage through harvesting, processing, packing or inspection. I’m told some of the Norwegian companies are near bankruptcy, which may compromise their quality control. It would seem appropriate, in the circumstances, to immediately stop imports until these issues have been resolved”.