Star forum - By Miranda Pryor
Dear Editor: I am writing to correct several inaccuracies contained in Frank Gale’s story about compensation to salmon farmers that appeared in the March 24 edition of The Georgian and The Western Star.
It’s disheartening to see allegations about our industry presented as factual information, especially since salmon farmers were not given the opportunity to respond. Bob Diamond’s comments show a blatant misunderstanding about how farming works in Canada. Infectious salmon anemia is a naturally occurring virus that already exists in the environment. Farmers do not create infectious salmon anemia, they have to manage it, just like all farmers manage and protect their livestock and crops.
Salmon farming is a food-producing industry just like the beef and poultry sectors. Sometimes our animals are impacted by disease, just like cows, chickens. Agri-business compensation programs exist in Canada for the benefit of Canadians and for the protection of our food supply. They don’t exist just for salmon farmers. Cattle, poultry and pork farmers are also eligible.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency compensation for animal health is not a business model. It is a way for the Canadian government to support the farming sector under very specific circumstances as defined by the Health of Animals Act. Farmed fish were only recently added to the CFIA program under the Health of Animals Act and the first claims by salmon farmers in Atlantic Canada were made in 2012.
Before that, there was no compensation program for the aquaculture sector in Canada. Disaster relief funding paid to salmon farmers in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s was also used to fund scientific research to learn more about infectious salmon anemia and oceanography and to support the development of fish health protocols, bay management areas, codes of practice and the development of new industry regulations.
Salmon farming companies bore significant losses and invested heavily in proactively managing the virus and leading new fish health research. There are no infectious salmon anemia positive farms in Atlantic Canada now, thanks to proactive measures taken by both the industry and by government.
In addition, the story incorrectly states that diseased fish were sold to consumers in 2013. No diseased fish were sold — only healthy fish from Canadian Food Inspection Agency approved facilities are ever sent to the marketplace.
Opponents of our industry are putting their own spin on the topic of compensation to try to convince the public that aquaculture is a drain on the public purse when, in fact, the opposite is true.
The salmon farming industry is one of this region’s biggest economic drivers, employing over 3,000 Atlantic Canadians and generating over $400 million to our provincial economies. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the aquaculture industry creates 1,000 direct jobs and has a production value of $197 million.
Over the past 20 years, salmon farming generated over $16 billion in economic activity in our region. Employment in our industry provided over $2 billion in wages; which in turn, resulted in over $400 million contributed to income taxes.
Our business model is to employ the best science and over 30 years of farming experience to grow healthy, nutritious salmon. This includes best practices for fish health management, bio-security, area management and responding proactively when fish health challenges arise.
We bring millions of healthy fish to market every year responding to a growing demand for our products from customers in the U.S. and Canada.
Atlantic salmon is one of the healthiest foods you can eat and our farmers and the people who work in our industry are an important part of our communities. I hope the public won’t be wooed by this misguided information that’s aimed at scaring people away from healthy, local food and misrepresenting an industry that brings jobs to coastal communities.
Miranda Pryor is executive director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association.