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It Boggles the Mind

On several occasions when referring to (both) our governments’ continued commitment to ocean-based salmon aquaculture, I’ve used the term “boggles the mind.” And for very good reason, I’m using it yet again because just when we thought our provincial Liberal government couldn’t be fooled any more than they have been by Grieg and other officials of this plague industry, they skip stunned and go straight to turnip.

Yes, government’s decision to basically allow Grieg of Norway to establish its very own environmental assessment – which, to nobody’s surprise they passed with flying colours, – and start work on the massive Placentia Bay disaster-in-waiting project, simply boggles the mind.

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Fortunately, the Atlantic Salmon Federation is taking them back to court, where we hope government receives a once-and-for-all, rock-solid kick in the ass this time.

But this still doesn’t explain why government has been so hell-bent on proceeding with the Placentia Bay or any other ocean-based operation.

As mentioned in an earlier editorial, not every MHA supports this practice, and nobody can convince me otherwise, even though they haven’t come out publicly against it, regardless of concerns from the very constituents who elected them. Both Liberals and PCs have obviously been ordered to ignore all the facts against it and toe the party line.

And most recently, government decided to hand over almost $600,000 of our money to assist this multi-million-dollar, international company in recruiting/training workers and market its own products!

We can only hope that (a) this operation is not up and running before the next election, and (b) that Ches Crosbie will see the light if the PCs regain power next time around. As of yet, according to his response to a question I posed in the last issue of this magazine, he’s still putting the few jobs and minor economic benefits ahead of all that is wrong with these operations, though he did mention other options he’s willing to consider. Here’s his direct quote:

“The economic benefits to areas of the province I have toured are undeniable. But we can have economic development and needed jobs while protecting the environment. As to what protecting the environment requires, safety is always a matter of balancing risk with benefit. Land-based salmon aquaculture is not yet, to my knowledge, established as best practice. If and when it is, we should transition to it…

“In the meantime, the big aquaculture companies should be strongly encouraged to repopulate our depleted rivers with native salmon. There are now proven methods for doing this. Native species salmon repopulation should be a condition of the aquaculture social licence.”

Week after week we see reports/proof of the aquaculture industry switching to land-based operations around the globe. Even Grieg’s own partner, Aqua MoAF, is investing primarily in land-based salmon production! Apparently, though, Mr. Crosbie isn’t getting any of this information, so perhaps those of us who do see the proof can forward it to his office:  ches@chescrosbie.caor call1-709-552-CHES(2437).

If I were one of Ches Crosbie’s paid advisors, I’d present to him all the reports, “expert opinions” and other information I have in an effort to convince him that for every individual across the province who would vote PC if the Party continued to support ocean-based salmon farming at any and all costs, he’d lose four others. And judging by discussions I’ve had over the past few years with people all across Newfoundland and Labrador, my estimate here may even be on the “conservative” side.

Many of us are also still at a loss as to why fishermen in Placentia Bay and other areas along the province’s south coast aren’t more vocal against open-pen aquaculture. Folks, you know better than I that your livelihood is being destroyed! Why so quiet?

Even the strongest and most open of minds have to be confused by this whole situation. It simply does not make sense, financially or environmentally. Not only do the negatives outweigh the positives by a very wide margin, the current and previous governments have gone ahead with plans against the wishes of about 80 percent of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Some may suggest this number is a slight exaggeration, but I firmly believe that if a proper poll – more than the usual 400 surveyed – were conducted all throughout the province, they would discover that I’m not too far off the mark.

We elect politicians to generally look after our best interests, and then they go do this?

It’s nothing short of a disaster you’re supporting, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m no political scientist, but I’m pretty certain this isn’t how you get re-elected. At this stage of the game, you’re supposed to go around handing out funding for road work, visiting seniors’ homes, calling news conference after new conference to announce and re-announce projects for municipalities across the province, making promises that you know may not materialize, etc. etc.

As I’ve done virtually every time I’ve shared my views on this subject, I stress that this isn’t a criticism of the people and towns currently or hoping to be involved in this industry. It’s the “ocean-based” part of it that concerns us. Switch to land-based – which everybody knows or at least should know is quickly becoming the way of the future – and we’d all be satisfied; thrilled, actually, if we were to see these south coast and other towns booming and the unemployment rate dropping to near zero.

Jonathan Tsang of The Salmon Anglers of Newfoundland Guild was recently “messing around with numbers”and decided to share his informal findings on social media. Here’s what he came up with:

“If the provincial government gave 24 people a job to do absolutely nothing and paid them $60,000 a year for 30 years,” he began, “that would, in itself, be a better decision for the province, the environment, our wild salmon population, the human population – because we wouldn’t be contributing to the garbage food industry – and we would still have more than $2 million left over from the $45 million (at the time) we plan on gifting Grieg Aquaculture to come to our province and spoil our southern shore…

“Now, why can’t we be a forward-thinking province and an industry leader by using that taxpayer money to develop a cutting edge, land-based aquaculture facility that produces a superior product for human consumption without jeopardizing our wild salmon stocks or poisoning our pristine southern bays?”

On top of this, there’s been talk very recently about hiring foreign workers for the Placentia Bay project!

Mind boggling.

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