Thursday, March 5, 2009

For the DFO, Any Fish is a Good Fish

In the previous post Alexandra Morton's "We the Fish People" petition made a bold statement-- that "Fisheries and Oceans Canada has always had the power to regulate the aquaculture industry to comply with the Fisheries Act, but has chosen not to."

To back Ms. Morton up on this one, here's an excerpt from Joseph Planta's online interview with Otto Langer in 2004. Mr. Langer is a biologist who spent 32 years in habitat management at the DFO:

Otto Langer: "I coined the phrase 'any fish is a good fish' when I was with DFO many years ago, and would annoy a lot of my peers… but when it comes to hatchery production or to sea farms I think it’s a very appropriate comment. It appears as though any time you’re producing fish in BC or maybe in Canada, the DFO would look upon that as a saintly thing to do, and those enterprises would be exempted from environmental impact reviews, pollution permits, that type of thing. And I always said, well as long as you’re making a fish, it’s a good fish… they just would never acknowledge the genetic impacts you could have on the wild runs, from the disease, and real problems that we’re seeing from fish farms.

And that’s quite unfortunate, and by that agency taking that view basically they've given fish farming almost immunity from the federal Fisheries Act.

(Interview continues...)

Despite the fact that we’ve had hundreds of violations of the Fisheries Act on this coast, not a single fish farmer has been charged under the Act, whether it be [for] pollution, destruction of beaches, and what I would call harmful alteration of habitat by the release of Atlantic salmon into our waters, and it goes on and on.

Basically the DFO has confused their mandate to preserve wild fish with their non-legal mandate, which is a political mandate, to promote fish-farming in Canada.”

Planta: "What do they say, do they just ignore you? Do they just deny there’s anything wrong?"

Otto Langer: "Oh yeah, you can play that game. They’re almost like the cigarette companies. [They say,] 'There’s no proof… Atlantic salmon aren’t doing any damage, even if they escape they won’t take, they won’t survive, well even if they survive they won’t get in our rivers, well if they get in our rivers they won’t spawn…'

They’ll just come up with all of these excuses, and that’s why I say they’re totally living in denial, and basically they’ll go overboard to defending the industry because that's what their political masters want... from 15 yrs ago, the federal government said, 'We’re going to promote fish farming in Canada' and there’s no new legislation giving them the authority to do so, and that responsibility was dumped on DFO in 1995.

And DFO has made that a higher priority than enforcing their protection of the environment or fish and fish habitat, which is a constitutional and legal mandate… so you can see politics is extremely important, and if you're a civil servant you can ignore your legislation and what the House of Commons wants you to do. But you can’t ignore what your Minister wants you to do.

1 comment:

  1. Another book to check out is "Salmon Farming the whole story" by Peter A. Robson. The author takes a fairly balanced view of the subject and provides some interesting and easy to grasp background surrounding the rise of the BC's fish farms, environmental issues, politics, and other topics.