By Greg Bennett
There were no pro-fish farm protestors this time, but the message was at least in part the same.
Marine scientist Inka Milewski told a crowd of more than 75 people gathered in Shelburne on Thursday, July 12 that a moratorium on fish farm licenses is needed until the ecological damage that open ocean farms cause is better understood.
Last summer people coming to hear Milewski at a Shelburne talk were greeted by dozens of sign-carrying pro-fish farm supporters. The only indication of anything similar this time around was a lone pro aquaculture sign posted on a telephone pole outside the venue.
During Thursday night’s talk, the marine scientist offered some new evidence on the environmental impacts of fish farms and she gave a guided tour of the sea bottom in Shelburne Harbour, under the site of a decommissioned salmon farm.
The seafloor imaging and sampling survey at the old Sandy Point salmon aquaculture site showed a considerable degradation of the bottom, she said.
Results of the survey indicate the area of sea bottom below the decommissioned site was highly contaminated and had a very low biodiversity rating.
“It is generally a biologically depleted environment,” she said. “The harbor needs time to recover.”
She said the results of the survey suggest that the entire Inner Shelburne Harbour may not have the capacity to assimilate the "organic waste load" from multiple farm sites and that additional, sustained, cumulative organic waste loading may prove disastrous for salmon farm operators in Inner Shelburne Harbor.
In April, Milewski sent a copy of the report and her findings to Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Sterling Belliveau.
In that report she recommends that the Inner Shelburne Harbour be cleared of all salmon farm sites noting that the farm sites are preventing the Harbour from recovering,” says Milewski.
At Thursday’s talk, she also questioned the federal approvals of two fish farm sites in Jordan Bay, noting that scientific modeling shows the sea bottom near the sites will quickly be overwhelmed by uneaten fish food and feces, once fish are in place.
Milewski also called on the government to release all environmental monitoring data for all existing salmon farm sites.
Asked why governments seem to ignore scientific tools designed to protect the environment, Milewski said department managers are often tasked with implementing policies to promote industry.
“The scientific outcomes are presented to someone trying to implement the government’s agenda,” she said, noting that governments are more often more interested in job creation than environmental impacts.